Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Helen Keller's Birthday

Submitted by Mark Gasaway, DeafBlind Advocate

Helen Keller signToday, Thursday, June 27, there will be a birthday celebration in Tuscumbia, Alabama in honor of one of the city's well-known residents of long ago. Helen Keller was born and raised there. She was known throughout the world for the many things she did; advocating, speaking, writing, and educating. But in Tuscumbia they have a weeklong celebration in her honor that brings a lot of people into the city in northwestern Alabama. This celebration is a good cause as it continues the legacy of someone who opened the eyes, ears, and hearts of the world to the plight of people with disabilities.

Helen Keller, as many know, was a person who was deaf and blind. Back in her time people said she was deaf, blind, and mute. Times have changed and deaf and blind evolved into the term deaf-blind. Now, in a more conscious society deaf-blind is evolving into deafblind. Why the changes in terminology? To make the knowledge of the changes short; deaf-blind means a person has both a hearing and vision loss. The hyphen inserted between 'deaf' and 'blind' is an illustration of deaf-blind becoming more of a medical term than a single disability. Many people who are deaf-blind believe they have a dual disability of hearing and sight loss that in reality should be categorized as a single disability written as deafblind. They feel it is easier to distinguish between medically used terms and terms that give the disability more resemblance. So, the term deafblind is being used more often among disability communities.

But back to Helen Keller. She was an individual who has been highly honored as an inspiration to many people, and it should be noted that there are many deafblind individuals around the world who are more able to function independently in the world than Helen Keller was in her time. Maybe it is because resources now are much better than they were in the 1880s or maybe it is because in Keller's time people with a hearing and vision loss were seen as people who were limited in being able to function independently. We may never know but the point is that many deafblind individuals in modern times can be as inspiring and show more dedication than Helen Keller was able to do.

Picture of Helen KellerSome people like how Keller helped 'open' doors to the needs of the blind and people with disabilities. Some admire her writings about life as a deafblind person. Others may concentrate on the organizations she helped to establish or agencies that honor her name. Still others may want to focus on Keller's beliefs of equality, education and principles she held close to her heart. These are all great resources to use and be aware of but there are other things that may mean more to some people and those things are the many quotes Keller used. Her quotes have really been taken seriously and have been used as building blocks to improve the lives of many people the world over. Her quotes mean a lot to many people who are deafblind as the quotes become inspiring topics to help people endure and challenge themselves. Keller's quotes are things that can be used as solid resources and help deafblind individuals learn how to develop their own quotes to use in their everyday activities. Of her many quotes my favorite is “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Helen Keller was a wonderful person and a great inspiration to many. She had a very strong and effective influence on many people. Influences that were often seen different among individuals in the communities that serve those with disabilities but in all truth, Helen Keller and other deafblind individuals before her did indeed open doors and build bridges for all walks of life. Thus bringing a wonderful reason to celebrate her birthday on June 27, in Tuscumbia and everywhere!

For more information on Helen Keller and the deafblind community visit these websites:

Helen Keller National Center

Wikipedia - Helen Keller

American Association of the Deaf-Blind