Why I volunteered for Sense for 25 years

Woman supporting a young girl in a pink tube down a slopeI first started volunteering for Sense almost 25 years ago. I was a key-worker for a blind woman with communication difficulties who often asked to go on a Sense Holiday. In the days before the internet it took me a while to eventually discover what she was referring to! But finally I went along with her.

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Time for parties to commit to social care

Lady caring for an older manFollowing Theresa May’s surprise announcement that we would be having a snap general election, all the political parties have jostled for air time, trying to capture the public’s imagination with their key messages.

So far, Brexit has remained top of the agenda.

However, there are vital domestic issues facing the country as well, top of my list would be the crisis-stricken social care sector.

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Being part of a special event in someone else’s life is a privilege

Marie with her family
Marie with her family

I started visiting Marie as communicator guide in her nursing home in December 2013. I took this up as part of my care role at the Sense Tanglewood residential home, mainly to do something a little different. Marie’s previous communicator guides had to travel a long way to be with her and I lived quite close by. It was through this role that I had the opportunity to assist Marie on a rare visit home.

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Five commitments to put disabled people at the heart of the general election

Blank note pad with pencilThe general election on 8 June 2017 is an opportunity for the next government to listen and respond to the concerns of disabled people.

We know that in 2017, disabled people continue to face barriers to access to a range of services, and especially for people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments, or complex needs, it can be a struggle to find the right tailored support.

That’s why we would like to see the next government put disabled people at the heart of their agenda, and ensure that they are supported to live full, independent lives and realise their aspirations just like everybody else.

We want to next Government to commit to:

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Pairing a landline phone to my hearing aids

A man holding a landline cordless phone
A DECT phone being discussed at a Sense technology training day

As a user of hearing aids, my latest technology experiment has been to hook up a new Bluetooth cordless DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) home phone to my Oticon Streamer Pro – this is a Bluetooth streamer allowing the sound to be transmitted directly to my hearing aid.

I have always used an ordinary cordless DECT handset and have sometimes struggled to hear the person on the other end of the phone line clearly. In the past I’ve resorted to plugging in wired headphones with a boom microphone connected to the handset. However, even this was prone to problems with quiet connections, and I couldn’t increase the volume level any further.

This is why this new setup, using the Bluetooth wireless technology is so brilliant. Not only in removing those pesky wires, but it also has the ability to increase the volume level. Even better, I can turn off my hearing aids’ own microphone to cut out all background noise and boost the clarity of the incoming call. This means that I can now have a complete hands-free operation and have perfect clarity of sound of whoever is talking to me.

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How can we help employers to get it right when employing disabled people?

Two women in red uniforms in a supermarketWhen we spoke to people who are deafblind about their experiences of employment, it was clear that many had been through negative experiences with employers, including a lack of understanding about how to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments in the workplace.

This lack of support and understanding has meant that, for those people with sensory impairments that wish to work, they have come up against additional barriers like inaccessible recruitment processes and failures to adjust the working environment to suit communication needs.

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Cochlear implants six months in – There have been no eureka moments, but I’m told I’m doing well

Steve with his guide dog Kasper
Steve with his guide dog Kasper

In November last year I wrote about my first experience with cochlear implants. I have now had my cochlear implants for six months and it’s official: I can hear better now than I could prior to implants.

At least that’s the result of the tests from a few weeks ago, where I had to retake the tests. I was tested with very low sounds to see exactly what I could hear and random sentences to see how much I understood. Finally I could make out individual words. The results showed a marked improvement over what I was hearing a year or so ago.

When I last wrote four months ago, I was hopeful that things were going to get better. While they have, there have been no eureka moments, it’s more a case of suddenly realising that I am doing something I haven’t done before.

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How supported living helps me to live independently

A man seated as part of a panel
Joe giving evidence at the Houses of Parliament

I was recently invited by Sense to speak at the Houses of Parliament about the future of supported housing.

In particular I was going to tell the MP’s how important Sense supported housing is in helping me, as a deafblind person, to live an everyday life as independently as possible.

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How my marathon run inspired students who are deafblind to get involved

A man and boy smiling
Ben and a student from Rothwell Resource Centre

My first step into a career in the care sector began three and a half years ago when I became a Learning Support Assistant with Sense College’s Rothwell Resource Centre.

Ever since then, my life has taken off. By the end of that first week I knew that this was where and what I wanted to be. I am passionate to provide the best service for our students; it is the reason I work here and why I am running the Milton Keynes Marathon on 1 May, raising money for our centre.

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How my parents inspired me to run the London Marathon

Young man with his mum and dad

Growing up as an only child with two profoundly deaf parents meant I experienced first-hand the challenges of living with the loss of a sense. There are so many difficult situations that come with sensory loss that go beyond simply not being able to see or hear, such as the ability to communicate.

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