'Representing the DeafBlind Community in Victoria'

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.

DBV member tells Kokoda story in Hireup video

Jess (commguide) and Joe in the Hireup video

DBV’s Joe Monteleone used “Hireup” to support him in walking the Kokoka Track.

“I’d been told that I couldn’t. People said it’s just going to be impossible. I really had to ignore that negativity and try and overcome the barriers and prove them wrong.”- Joe

The Hireup website has the full story with a video and transcript: hireup.com.au/post/hireup-had-a-way-kokoda-was-the-story

Expression of Interest – Facilitator for workshops


Exciting Opportunity to join an ongoing project with Deafblind Australia.

Over the next 3 years Project Officers Adrienne Harper-Pike and Ben McAtamney will be facilitating a project aimed at addressing the concerns of the Deafblind community around information gaps and specifically the NDIS.

The project will involve a series of workshops to be held around the country and as part of designing and planning these workshops, they are seeking people with deafblindess to form a reference group to help the Project Officers plan the content that will make up future workshops. They are also asking for expressions of interest from Deafblind community members who are interested in becoming (paid) facilitators of these workshops further along in the project.

Please follow the links here for video information in Auslan with English voice over and English captions:
Call for Expressions of Interest: https://youtu.be/kKrDim78RyI
Frequently Asked Questions: https://youtu.be/yR5zvMrAdfI

DBA looks forward to hearing from you and, with your help, to putting on some fantastic, informative and engaging workshops.

To take part in the project please send your personal contact details to Ben.McAtamney@deafblind.org.au by 22nd May 2020.

Social isolation is not new to us – Podcast with DBV’s Heather Lawson

John McKenna is a disability advocate, blogger and podcaster

Heather Lawson was invited to participate in an interview for a podcast program which was two minutes long with John McKenna – “So.. podcast”.

It was published on Friday 3rd April 2020. It is called “social isolation is not new to us”. The episode featuring her is episode number 13. There is an Auslan translation of the podcast below.


Here is the link to the episode:

Here is the link to the transcript:

Here is Heather’s

Hi everybody, my name’s Heather. I live in Victoria, Australia, and I’m deaf and blind. I use sign language. You can hear a man’s voice at the moment; he’s my interpreter. When I heard about the coronavirus it stopped me from travelling on train and taxi, and other forms of transport. I used to visit friends and go to a gym, and go swimming, but now I’m stuck. It’s very difficult.But, what I do, I try and think positively. I have to change my plans, set up a new routine, and I’ve brought a lot of things with me, like board games, a computer, a phone with a braille display. I’ve brought gym equipment, and a box of clay for pottery. I’ve also got a braille book from Vision Australia. I love my cat also, whose name’s Champagne. I’m here, and I’m slowly settling in to a new environment. It’s new for me. At times it’s frustrating, losing my way, but I try and speak openly with my sister to make sure that everything is smooth around me. I’ve stayed in contact with friends, family and colleagues on SMS, email, Messenger, etc, etc. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk with my sister; we go walking through the countryside looking at the green hills. We try and take different routes each time. It’s very relaxing. I want to say thank you, be safe and look after yourselves. Thank you.

Here is the Auslan translation of the whole podcast:

DBV member Survey online

DBV have created an online survey for DeafBlind people to do at home.

This survey will help DBV find out from the DeafBlind community what they would like DBV to achieve and what information they would like DBV to share.

This will help with the development of future projects and resources for the DeafBlind community and general community.

In the past, DBV have asked the DeafBlind members at one of our cafe events to fill out a paper survey. However this time, we are making it a bit easier by having it online.

The form is now online, here is the link – https://forms.gle/XMsvJBA3d5TcX3FD8

If you are finding it difficult to complete the online form or need assistance, please ask a Commguide or contact DBV and someone will be able to assist you.

If you have already filled it out on paper instead of online, then there is no need to do this survey again.

Thanks for your time in doing the survey online as it will help DBV to know what you would like from DBV in the future. Please know all the information is confidential and won’t be shared with other people.

Thanks again for your feedback in doing this survey,

DBV team.

Deafblind World workshop, NDIA ILC branch, Geelong

The first Deafblind World workshop for 2020 was on Tuesday 10th March. The DBV team were proud to make our first trip to Geelong by mini bus along with commguides. Three Deafblind members ran a special workshop to the ILC Branch of the NDIA in Geelong. The ILC team run part of the NDIS, so it was a great opportunity to raise Deafblind awareness in the NDIS. There were 30 participants who attended. As usual we ran activities for the participants to do wearing pinhole goggles, blindfolds and earplugs. We shared stories and information about our Deafblind life, Deafblind technology, support from interpreters and commguides, DBV’s peer support program and how Deafblind persons can succeed in their lives. We received so many questions from the participants. They could see how interpreters work together with Deafblind presenters in a workshop, including tactile sign. Feedback was very positive. Participants found the activities confronting as they tried to communicate and move around without vision or hearing, and they learned a lot about deafblindness and what it feels like to be Deafblind. Here are three comments from evaluations:

  • It was very powerful. Keep it up!
  • Understanding the challenges from people with lived experience is much more rewarding for me, and makes me appreciate how I can make a difference better.
  • I learnt about inspiration, resilience, courage and hope.

Peter Whelan farewell

Peter Whelan standing left, Michelle Stevens seated with tactile Auslan interpreter

On the afternoon of Thursday 12.12.2019, DBV attended a City of Melbourne event to farewell Peter Whelan, who is leaving his role as MetroAccess Project Coordinator. In this role, Peter has worked with people with disabilities in the City of Melbourne to improve community services and make the city more accessible.

Peter had been a great supporter of DBV over the last few years and his support has helped our organisation grow and become stronger. Through Peter, DBV has also provided a number of Deafblind World workshops to raise deafblind awareness among council staff. We are sorry to see him go, and want to express our great appreciation for his support and to wish him all the best in whatever is next for him.