Moving out of isolation

Times-Herald Staff
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Tyler Legare couldn't imagine what it would be like to be deafblind.

Tyler Legare, daughter Cypress Legare and fiancé Tiffany Romeyn stand outside of their Moose Jaw apartment. Legare spoke to the Times-Herald about the difficulties of being blind in Canada. He said no one will hire him and programs to help blind people become self-suffient are lacking.

Legare, a 26-year-old blind Moose Jaw man, told the Times-Herald that no one will hire him because of his visual impairments,  and he said he can barely afford to manage his expenses with the $1,600 he receives from the Saskatchewan Assured Income for the Disabled program (SAID) for his fiance and their two children.

"I've tried getting a job and they say sorry, I can't help you,"  said Legare, who became 100 per cent blind in an explosives accident when he was 13. "If you are blind and deaf, I couldn't not even imagine."

According to Dana Heinrichs, executive director of the Canadian Deafblind Association (CFA), one in 3,000 Canadians are deafblind and it's expected to rise as the population ages.

This week across the country is Deafblind Awareness Week and Heinriches believes it's important to create awareness so families know there are others out there and so the government learn more about the disability.

"It can't just be blended in with other disabilities because it does stand out because of unique factors," she said.

In a deafblind person the individual has combined loss of both vision and hearing, to such a degree that neither senses can be used as a primary source for gathering information. This leads the person to need the help of a intervener.

"Having an intrevener by your side to give you that information can help you through your college years or help you find a job," Heinriches said.

Because of the reliance on an intrevener, many deafblind individuals often feel alone.

"Isolation is a very strong thing that comes into play for deafblind individuals, because when you can't see or hear what is going on around you," she said

The problem according to Legare is that there aren't enough programs to help blind people become self-sufficient. As a resuld they have to rely on government funding.

"Instead they say here is your checque, shut up and that's it," Legare said. "But they could get you off the program and make you into a tax payer. That's economics 101."

Heinriches told the Times-Herald that the CFA has three group homes in Saskatoon, but admitted the organization is limited in the services they offer.

"As an agency we don't have the funding or resources to be going out to the community to support someone who is newly deafblind," she said. 

However, she encourages those who are deafblind to contact her at 306-374-0022. As she gains a better understanding of the needs of the deathblind community, she will be able to more clearly know the amount of services and programs needed.

Daryl Stubel, executive director for the office of disability issues, believes their office needs to do a better job making the public aware of services available.

"There are lots of programs and services but one of the things that comes up all the time is people aren't aware of them," said Stubel, before adding that the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre and the Saskatchewan Abilities Council are two resources deafblind individuals can pursue.

Nathan Frank can be reached at 306-691-1263.

Organizations: Times-Herald, CFA, Canadian Deafblind Association South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Saskatchewan Abilities Council

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

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