'Representing the Deafblind Community in Victoria'

New resource – learn the Auslan alphabet from text

There are many styles of communication in the Deafblind community. Some deafblind people grew up using spoken English and now want to learn Auslan. However, most resources for learning Auslan are visual. DBV has produced a new resource for blind and deafblind people, with a text description of the the Auslan alphabet showing each letter’s handshape, position and movement. This resource can be accessed in braille, through a screen reader, or in large print. There are two versions: one for right-handed people and one for left-handed people. This resource was developed by our wonderful volunteer KJ who continues to support DBV from home while we are in lockdown. We welcome feedback! Let us know if you found this guide useful, or if we can improve it in any way. You can download the resource here:

DeafBlind tips #6: QR code cards by Heather Lawson

I created the card called QR code card. I tested it by showing staff who work in shops, café, supermarket. They took the card from me for them to read while writing in the QR book or typing on QR device for me and gave the card back to me. I know they did it.

Why I use the QR code card? I am blind. I cannot see where the QR screen are at any shops so I can’t scan it by my iPhone. Only way I could try at the shop counters showing the lamination card I keep in my bag or coat pocket.

I feel more in control to use the QR card. No matter if I go out with Commguides or friends or on my own. I have the control to do this independently.

You may want to try yourself in different ways of communication needs. It depends if you have or not have the iPhone or your iPhone may not work well. It’s best to have back up  to use card. I have the message in my iPhone voice mail saying

Photo description: Laminated white card with large black print that says “I am DeafBlind. I can’t photo QR code. Please add my details to the written list: Mary Poppins, M:0394838171 sms only”

“hello Heather here. I am deafblind, I can’t hear you talking on the phone so please SMS me and I can read your text  by using my braille device thank you”

See photo and text description of a sample of QR code card to the right hand side of text:

Here is a short video of Heather demonstrating how to use the QR card in a Melbourne café.

By Heather Lawson – email: dbvheather@gmail.com

Assistive Technology – lunch and learn workshop by Guide Dogs Victoria

Deafblind Victoria attended the Lunch and Learn online workshop held by Guide Dogs Victoria on Tuesday the 7th of September, 2021.

Presenter Glen Morrow discussed the new Apple iOS15 for iPhones and iPads, as well as various accessibility settings like individual app settings for high-contrast, dark background with white large text, adding descriptions to photos as well as using dictation on Samsung smart phones.

Every month, Guide Dogs Victoria will have regular half-hour workshops covering many different topics relating to accessibility and technology for people with low vision needs.

Here is a short video of Deafblind Victoria member Andrew Howard talking about the assistive technology workshop he attended in Auslan.

Translation of video :

“Hello DBV!

They explained about AT (assistive technology) on mobile phones and iPads, and using apps on them. If the app’s background is white, it can be hard to read. You can change the background to black. That’s good! You can set it for any app.

The second thing was photos. There is a VoiceOver description for photos. It connects to braille so you can read it in braille too. That works for any app.

The third thing is… ummm…. dogs, shopping, technology… [Andrew tries to remember]

iOS 15 will be released soon – some time in the next few weeks. That’s all. Bye!”

DeafBlind tips #5: Raised dots and Braille labels for appliances

For many years I have used a microwave oven to cook or heat up food. I stick raised dots on to the screen of the microwave on top of the stop and start button. This helps me to feel which dots to press for restart or to stop cooking. Also when travelling anywhere and staying at any accommodation such as motel, hotel or at friends, where there are no raised dots, I find ways to be independent. I bring my own blue tack and make small dots to stick on temporarily. It works well. Your choice whether you prefer to have raised dot or braille labels for your microwave oven. You can buy raised dots or braille labels from the Vision Australia shop through your NDIS funds.

Heather Lawson – dbvheather@gmail.com

Photo description: Microwave with digital in flat pad and there are 4 blue tack dots to attach on the pad so you know where to press on correct place of button. The digital “90.00” as shown on the right top corner with pad number under the digital clock
Photo description: Microwave with digital in flat touchpad and there are 2 adhesive dots attached on the pad so you know where to press on correct place of button.
Photo description: Microwave with flat touchpad and there are 2 adhesive braille labels attached on the start and reset buttons, as well as two more braille labels on the 1 minute and 10 minute buttons.

DBV Newsletter #6, August 2021

Click here to download the latest DBV newsletter. There is another Deafblind Tips article about how to make microwave oven buttons accessible, a report about a new smartphone app, a story from a DBV member about their experience with Covid vaccination, and more. While we can’t meet in person due to lockdowns, the newsletter is a great way for members to stay in touch with each other. Submissions are now open for the next newsletter – send us an email with your story!

NDIA awareness training workshop

On Tuesday 3rd August, Deafblind Australia (DBA) teamed up with Deafblind Victoria to run a DeafBlind awareness workshop for NDIA workers in metro Melbourne.

Photo description: Michelle seated at a tactile interpreting table demonstrating her Braille display to access her smartphone.

Photo description: Joe presenting in Auslan with Heather sitting nearby with a tactile interpreter.

The workshop was held at Ross House on Flinders lane but because of Covid-19 restrictions DBV could not give their usual DeafBlind-experience activity for the participants to experience. Instead DeafBlind Victoria gave the workshop online by setting up the presenters as a group in a single room and the workshop was held online on Microsoft Teams.

This had been the very first time that DeafBlind Victoria successfully held a Deafblind workshop for NDIA staff members online. Four DeafBlind presenters worked together to present information to further develop the NDIA’s understanding of the DeafBlind Community, DeafBlind culture, language, barriers and technology.

Photo description: Heather sitting with a tactile Auslan interpreter. Attendees and interpreters stand nearby. Another interpreter stands by Heather’s shoulder using haptic interpreting.

We believe this training will help give NDIA staff a better understanding of DeafBlindness and hope it leads to improving future support services and funding that are available to members of the DeafBlind community.

Photo description: Alex presenting with an Auslan interpreter standing by his left side. Michelle is sitting nearby with a tactile Auslan interpreter.

We wish to thank Deafblind Australia for working with DeafBlind Victoria for this workshop.

We would also like to thank the four DeafBlind presenters, Heather Lawson, Joe Monteleone, Alex Sar, and Michelle Stevens along with their interpreters and Commguides.

Thank you everyone for making this a successful day!

Deafblind Awareness Week 2021 report

What a great week! There were six different activities for DBAW 2021. On June 23, we celebrated with an event at Ross House. It was attended by 15 Deafblind people and a number of supporters, including representatives from the Tree Project and Melbourne City Library. DBV members spent the morning decorating trees and poles in Flinders Lane with colourful yarn bombing creations alongside a window display outside Ross House. The yarn bombing was made mostly by DBV members, who set up a craft group with a grant from the Tye Recreation Fund. Crocheted and knitted squares were also donated, including a number from the Country Women’s association Boroondara. Thank you!

We held an exhibition in the pedestrian underpass, Campbell Arcade, that connects Flinders Street station to Flinders Lane. The exhibition, titled “Deafblind Awareness: a tactile imagination“, features photographic portraits by Jessica Leane and showcases achievements of Deafblind people, including arts and crafts, tactile Auslan and interpreting tables, braille and parenting. The exhibition was up for the whole month of July.

DBV also gave a workshop to Auslan students from Melbourne Polytechnic, with DBV members Heather Lawson, Alison Rawson and Alex Sar presenting. We raised funds by selling Deafblind awareness t-shirts that will be worn and seen in the community, and we had a special week of video posts from DBV members on our Facebook page all week, showing the diversity of our community.

A big thank you to all the wonderful DBV members and volunteers who made it happen.

What’s on in Deafblind Awareness Week 2021

Deafblind Awareness Week is held each year around Helen Keller’s birthday (June 27). This year the dates are June 21 to June 27. DBV has planned a number of activities to celebrate.

DBV craft group members showing their crocheted squares
  1. Yarn bombing. DBV members have been meeting every fortnight to crochet, knit and make pom poms for a tactile art project that symbolises the coming together of the Deafblind community. From 23 June in Flinders Lane, outside from the DBV office, two trees and other objects will be wrapped with the colorful creations made by the group. This is part of an international event to raise Deafblind Awareness.

  2. An exhibition of photo portraits of Deafblind Victorians from June 27 to Aug 3, at the Capsule art space in Cambell Arcade, the pedestrian underpass that connects Flinders Street station and Degraves st. The photographer is Jessica Leane, and subjects include Gina Pontelandolfo, Joe Monteleone, Paola Avila, Heather Lawson and Trudy Ryall. The photos show something that each individual has achieved.

  3. A celebration for DBV members on Wed 23 June at Ross House. RSVP is essential due to Covid restrictions – limits apply. Members will enjoy pizza, cake, a tour of the yarn bombing installation and a preview of the photo exhibition.

  4. A Deafblind World workshop for Auslan students at Melbourne Polytechnic will take place on Monday 21 June.

  5. Videos from members posted on the DBV Facebook page throughout the week to promote visibility and show the diversity of the wonderful Deafblind people in our community.

  6. Deafblind awareness T-shirt fundraiser – click here for a video in Auslan with a voiceover and transcript

Consulting with Coles about Deafblind Accessbility

Coles truck logo

On 8 January, DBV’s Michelle Stevens consulted with the Coles disability accessibility team. They wanted to know more about deafblindness, and how their website and app might be more accessible to deafblind people. Melanie O’Brien from Coles gave a presentation with Michelle, and Michelle talked about her experience shopping online using a braille display, a smart phone and a computer. It’s great to see how technology can help deafblind people shop for groceries independently – when the service is accessible, and the deafblind person has the skills to use it. The feedback from the team at Coles was positive:

“DBV ran an inspiring and insightful session on accessibility and inclusion for our Human Centred Design Team. The feedback from our UX designers and service designers was great, everyone learnt a lot about the benefits of designing experiences for people who are Deaf Blind. I highly recommend any organisation who has focus on inclusion to reach out to DBV for info session and presentations.” Melanie O’Brien – Accessibility Lead, Coles Group.