Did you know that there are deaf-blind people who live all over Northeast Ohio? We are in Portage, Summit, Lorain, Lake and Cuyahoga Counties. Maybe you have seen us with our special signing into each others' hands. Or maybe not. But we are here, and we won't hide away.
There is a new organization called the Northeast Ohio Deaf-Blind Association (NEODBA.) I am the leader and co-founder. The organization has two main goals. First, we present workshops to teach people about deaf-blindness, and how to work with someone who is deaf-blind. Our second mission is more exciting. We gather deaf-blind individuals and assistants and go out into the community to have fun.
On Sunday, June 24th, NEODBA attended the Lorain International Festival. We had 4 deaf-blind people, 5 assistants and 2 guide dogs. The International Festival committee and Port Authority were kind enough to allow our assistants free admission for the festival and boat ride. This is so important because our volunteers work hard to assist us. We do not believe it's fair to make them pay to work. I am always so thankful when the management agrees to this request.
What can a bunch of deaf-blind people do at a festival like this? Just about the same things anyone else does. We just need a little help to make it happen.
For example, we went on a boat tour of the Black River. I could feel the rocking of the boat, the vibrations of the motor, and the hot sun against my skin, the warm breeze and occasional splashes of water when the waves got rough.
I could smell the water, which was sometimes good and sometimes bad. I could also smell gasoline. Even I could hear the loud blast of the boat's horn as we came to port.
I saw it all through the descriptions from my assistant. She interpreted for the captain, as he gave historical facts about the area. She also told me about what she could see. She described the houses and buildings along the shore, the sail boats and motor boats out in the harbor, the trees and birds, the people out fishing and even the boat wrecks visible under the water's surface. As she signed to me, I created a mental image of everything she mentioned. My pictures might not have been totally accurate, but they were real to me.
Next, we hit the food stands. Everything smelled so good. I picked up on sweet, tangy scents, hearty meat scents, barbecue scents and even the smell of cabbage. We all got different things to eat. I had a Greek Gyro and a bowl of cookie dough dippin' dots. I was thrilled with the ice cream. It was the first time I even heard of such a thing.
Finally, we went shopping. There were so many different ethnic items that we could feel and touch. I liked the African hand drum. I could work it myself, feel the vibrations and even hear the thud as the little balls hit the drum pads. I felt jewelry and clothes. They had the fanciest little baby outfit and cute tiny sandals. There were fancy crafts and hand-made baskets. Each of us bought something unique.
I got a beautiful Henna design on the back of my hand. True, I can't see it. But other people can, and they all liked it. I would never get a real tattoo, but I am fond of the temporary kind.
We were having so much fun that the end snuck right up on us. It felt like we had only been there an hour, when it was actually 4.5 hours. That's always the sign of a good social activity.
It's nice to live in an area that offers so much to do and new things to experience. It's summer now, so we will do what people around here always do in the summer. We are going to Cedar Point! We will soar through the air, up-side-down, cork screws, flips, drops and more. We may be deaf-blind, but we are just like you.