NEWMARKET, ON, May 8, 2018 /CNW/ - Like many of life's challenges, deafblindness is on a spectrum. Some individuals who receiveservices from DeafBlind Ontario Services require individualized supports to be independent. Some, like Dawnelee Wright, just need a hand to live their best lives. Which, in the case of this Thunder Bay resident, is as
DeafBlind Ontario Services is a not-for-profit organization that helps individuals who are deafblind increase their independence and improve their quality of life through specialized services.
Ms. Wright has congenital glaucoma; in other words, she was born visually impaired. But she only acquired hearing loss in 2016. Her mom "always wanted her to be as 'normal' as possible."
"We exposed her to a lot of things like horseback riding and downhill skiing," continued her mother Linda. "Activities that other children were doing – but we had to modify. And she went to a regular school rather than one for the visually impaired."
This continued through to University, where Dawnelee moved to Ottawa and scored top marks for the first of three Bachelor degrees – thanks in part to support from friends. And then back to Lakehead University, for two more degrees, where her mom became her primary reader of text books.
"And that's how she ended up pursuing her own degree," added Dawnelee. "She kicked my butt in the course we took together."
Looking back, Dawnelee credits her mom for helping not only with the necessities, but in socializing and building relationships with peers. "That encouragement and support has always been there, right from when I was little to raising my own children, and in navigating life as a middle-aged adult."
Indeed, Dawnelee is the primary caregiver for nine-year-old Brynn and 11-year-old Carter, and it has been a full-time job where she's had to be "really hands on."
"You literally have to follow them around – you're exhausted by the end of the day," she adds.
"And I've had to adapt how to do things and be creative, for example, when chasing and feeding a toddler."
All of the above may seem overwhelming for someone with 20/400 vision in one eye (and a prosthesis in the other), not to mention hearing impacted by tinnitus, which makes understanding sound difficult in crowded environments.
Yet Dawnelee manages to carry on a fast-paced conversation by phone.
She explains that she works with an intervenor 10 hours a week. Her intervenor serves as a communication bridge, supporting her to make informed decisions and be an active participant in all areas of her life. This includes providing communication support at medical appointments, shopping, "and anywhere I might have difficulty navigating. She acts as my eyes and ears in the community."
But this is a shared relationship, with Dawnelee giving back as a volunteer by serving on several committees and projects. She has written one book, is working on a bill of rights for individuals who are deafblind, and has been in discussions with DeafBlind Ontario Services to write a patient advocacy guide.
As for goals, she is optimistic about the future. "Maybe run for public office – that's sort of on the bucket list. I'm looking at rebooting my career now that the kids are getting older. Public office has always intrigued me."
Dawnelee adds: "My main message is that we all have challenges – and mine is vision and hearing loss. You can still achieve all of your goals as long as you have the drive – and support – which make all the difference."
To learn more, visit www.deafblindontario.com.
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SOURCE DeafBlind Ontario Services
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