Deaf-blindness is not an insurmountable obstacle

18 September 2012 | Story by Newsroom

Cyril AxelrodTactile communication: Cyril Axelrod demonstrates that one of the ways hearing people can communicate with him is by spelling words in the palm of his hand.

Cyril Axelrod, a deaf-blind priest, candidly shared how he deals with this disability in his everyday life as part of UCT's Deaf Awareness Month.

South-African-born Axelrod lives alone in a London flat and travels widely training and giving seminars on deaf-blindness. He was born deaf. In 1980 he was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which accounts for his deafness, but which also meant that he gradually lost his sight.

He explained that the key to his independence is planning.

"A deaf-blind person's life must be organised. I feel it's my responsibility to assist people to understand my needs hence the planning."

Axelrod has two guides that assist him with various tasks at home. He pays their salaries from a grant that he receives from the British government. They don't help him cook or dress, but accompany him when he goes shopping or read his email and answer telephone calls on his behalf.

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