'Representing the DeafBlind Community in Victoria'

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Newsletter #3, October 2020

DBV newsletter issue 3

The third DBV newsletter is available now. There is a story from DBV member Robert Toseland about his experience making a community radio show, as well as the regular Deafblind Tips and Tech Talk segments, and news about National Self Advocacy Week.

Click here to download the newsletter as a Word document.

Click here to read it online.

Another inspirational Deafblind woman in Victoria

Some of you may or may not be aware that there are many inspirational people with Deafblindness in the world.

What a pleasure to see another inspirational story about a Deafblind woman in Victoria who is one of our DBV members, Maree Heenan. She is well known in the Deafblind community. 

Here is an amazing interview about her sharing her life and her love of swimming at the local Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre.

Such an amazing story about her passion for sport and her family as well. 

Click on this link to read the full interview below:

Inspiring Women of PARC: Member Maree Heenan who is deafblind

Deafblind tech talk #1

Hi everyone! For those who may not know me, my name is Michelle Stevens. I am the Policy and Grants Officer for DBV. Each month I hope to write an article on adaptive technology and answer your questions. I have used adaptive technology for many years. On my computer I use JAWS screen reader for Windows and a Focus 40 braille display. I also use an iPhone with a Focus 14 braille display.

Speech to text (STT) software is a computer program that converts words that are spoken aloud to text. SST is also known as dictation, or speech recognition. STT lets someone speak into your phone and shows their words as text. You can read the text as large print or braille.

It is easy to set up. One of the things I really like is that you can braille or type your response back to the shop keeper, or ask questions just like a conversation. You can save the conversation for later, which is a great way to take notes.

It is not possible to always have a commguide or interpreter with you. I have used STT on my phone in some short appointments. It does not replace an interpreter but can get you out of tricky situations.

Email for more information: dbvmichelle@gmail.com

Video of Michelle signing in Auslan about Speech to Text phone app

Deafblind tips #1: Bananas

DBV’s Heather Lawson has some useful suggestions for living as a Deafblind person. You can read her regular section in the DBV newsletter. Here is the first tip, in English and Auslan:

Hello, I would love to share one of many tips with you all to learn of my tricks. I have my commguides or friends assist me for food shopping. I usually buy seven bananas for a week. As I am deafblind, I cannot see the colours of green or yellow bananas. So how do I know the different colours? My supporters tell me the colours then I usually have a way to know the colour difference. The four yellow bananas I pull them off the bunch so they are individual bananas. Then I keep the three green bananas in a bunch for later use. I put all bananas in the fruit bowl.  Every morning I feel and pick ne yellow banana and eat it. Yummy! When yellow ones are gone then I break the green ones off the bunch that turn yellow later in the week.  One thing I never found the “bananas in pyjamas” named B1 and B2. They probably hide from me, scared if I accidentally take them home! 

Heather Lawson’s Deafblind Tip #1 in Auslan

Donation from Hardware Lane Costumes

Hardware Lane Costumes

A lovely lady, Zoe who is the owner from a fancy costume shop called Hardware Lane Costumes contacted DBV to donate some costumes! She is sadly closing up her store, but because she has had many Deafblind clients over the years that came for costumes for the Deafblind camp, she wanted to reach out to give us some. How lovely of her! Ntennis picked up two big bags from her which includes different costumes which I am sure you will see in the future at DBV events or cafe. It will be fun seeing these costumes get put to good use in the coming future and it will be great to see people dress up especially for Christmas!

New resource for blind and deafblind women: ‘Our Right to Safety and Respect’

In 2018, Women With Disabilities Victoria (WDV) developed a guide about violence, abuse, safety and respect. The guide was made by and for women with disabilities. Versions were made in plain English, Easy English and Auslan.

WDV saw that the resources may not be accessible to women who are blind or deafblind. These women already face barriers accessing support services and information when experiencing intimate partner violence or other forms of violence.

WDV recently adapted the resources and produced new versions in braille (grades 1 & 2), audio and audio-described video. Deafblind Victoria consulted with WDV on braille versions of the guide. The new resources were released on 2 July 2020. Deafblind Victoria is proud to support this project and its contribution to the safety of women in the Deafblind community.

T shirt fundraising for Deafblind Awareness Week

Happy Deafblind Awareness Week 2020!

Image of T-shirt design: “Hear by Touch, Speak by Sign”, and the Auslan alphabet

Deafblind Victoria (DBV) are raising funds to advocate for the Deafblind community, to improve awareness of deafblindness and to promote our rights with the government, the NDIS, technology, Auslan communicators and the wider community. DBV are working towards creating a more inclusive community and reducing isolation and barriers that the Deafblind community are challenged with in everyday life.

The shirts promote community awareness of Deafblind communication, with the slogan “Hear by Touch, Speak by Sign”, a picture of tactile signing and the Auslan alphabet (see photo below). This shows that we can communicate with anyone who is Deafblind – for families, friends, professionals, interpreters, communication guides, volunteers and people from the general community who are interested.

T-shirts $20; Long-sleeved polo shirt $35

Both in navy blue with white print.

To order shirts or for more information, email dbvfinance@gmail.com

Please help support the Deafblind community by sharing with your networks so we can make a positive change for Deafblind people.

Thank you for supporting Deafblind Victoria.

Auslan video about DBV T-shirts

Deafblind Awareness Week 2020

Helen Keller was born 27 June 1880. Her birthday marks Deafblind Awareness Week.

Deafblind Victoria is excited that the Deafblind Awareness week (DBAW) will be coming up in June this year. This is a special time to celebrate the Deafblind community and a time to raise awareness to the wider community.


This year will be a bit different however – in the past this event was always in person, but this year it will be online via Facebook. This is the time to connect with the Deafblind community, make friends and learn about what is happening with people who are Deafblind around Australia. 


Deafblind Victoria are working alongside Deafblind Australia and other Deafblind organisations and services to organise this special event of DBAW. We would like to invite you and your family members, friends and anyone who is interested to learn about the Deafblind community to be part of this fun and entertaining Facebook event, for more information, please have a look at this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/525552598124378/

Email us for more information or even if you are not able to access Facebook, please let us know.

Guide to Zoom meetings for Deafblind braille users

Health advice during the Covid-19 pandemic includes keeping physical distance from others. This can be challenging for Deafblind people who rely on touch for communication. Some DBV members have been exploring if the popular Zoom videoconferencing service can offer anything to Deafblind people.

Although Zoom is mainly for live video and audio, it also supports live text chat, which can be accessed on a braille display. A live captioning service can be paired with Zoom, so words spoken in a meeting can also appear as text. Note that live captions require fast braille reading – the average speed of spoken English is about 150 words per minute. However, if a meeting is moderated well, we found it to be a good option for some.

DBV’s Michelle Stevens has drafted a document for braille users who want to try Zoom – click here to download it. Please get in touch with DBV to give feedback, or to discuss details about how we used Zoom, live captions and braille.

DBV member survey 2020 – results

Thank you to all who filled out a survey – the results are in! They paint an interesting picture of the lives of deafblind Victorians, the barriers they face, and what they want from DBV. You can download a full copy of the report by clicking here (3 page PDF file).

Download the survey report here

The survey shows that communication is the biggest barrier that deafblind people in Victoria face. They also experience barriers to travel, and a lack of support services. Most members use communication guides and interpreters, and a lack of these services was a big concern for DBV members. Every person who uses them has had to cancel plans due to not being able to get a commguide or interpreter.

Members wanted DBV to continue to educate the wider community about deafblindness. In particular, they wanted hearing/sighted people to have more patience, respect and knowledge of the diversity of deafblind people.

They value the monthly Deafblind Café social events, and the most popular topic for a future café event was emergency services – stay tuned! Many also said they didn’t know what “advocacy” means, and many don’t feel confident to speak up when something is not right. DBV will continue to work to strengthen the deafblind community as self-advocates.

The survey is still online and we are taking more responses for a future update. If you haven’t filled it in yet, you can do so by clicking here.