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Giving the deafblind a new lease on life


Posted on April 18, 2013

3 min read

Gina is a very young person in her late fifties. She is the only deaf member of a big Italian family and learning English was very difficult for her when growing up. She communicates using sign language with her deaf friends.

She grew up doing crafts and worked as a seamstress when she was younger. She can turn her hand to sewing, painting, knitting, crochet and now she is making mosaics. Her clothes are stylish and mostly hand-made, however, her remaining vision is now too poor for her to continue with many of her crafts.

Gina believed her lack of English was a major obstacle for her in learning to use the computer. She didn’t feel confident writing emails and had difficulty making sense of the internet.

Just recently she bought herself an iPad and an iPhone. She loves her craft apps, her games and mostly being able to communicate directly with her family and friends.

Gina is a long-term client at Ablelink (a unique e-communications centre for people with deafblindness and dual-sensory loss), that is run by Able Australia and she is now participating in a digital literacy training program being developed by Able Australia in partnership with Telstra.

At Ablelink’s drop in centre, Gina has scanned in hundreds of photos from her family albums and has copied them onto her iPad and this has become her best communication device with everyone she meets.

Family members now crowd around her to view her archives, when once they felt they couldn’t communicate. Even the kids, who felt estranged to their great Aunty jostle to get close to her, to browse through the photos on her iPad.

Now that she has mastered the art of uploading photos to her iPad, she wants to learn about tagging and how to share the photos on Facebook. Gina writes her own emails and even plays hangman to improve her English!

Last week, Gina received a letter from her Aunty in Italy, written in Italian and has managed to use a Translation App to read the letter and write a reply to her Aunty.

Gina believes the iPad is providing the opportunity for her to reconnect with her Aunty in Italy and have ongoing communication; she is even thinking about the possibility of visiting her Aunty in Italy.

New communication technologies like apps are transforming people’s lives and unlocking the potential for everyone to thrive in the online world.

Participating in digital literacy training such as the program being developed by Able Australia in partnership with Telstra assists people like Gina to make the most of these technologies and thereby ‘stay connected’ with family and friends as well as the broader online community.


Gina writing a letter to her Aunty.

For more information about Able Australia please visit their website.