June 27th in the United States is Helen Keller Day! Helen Keller Day celebrates the life and achievements of Helen Keller and is observed annually.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the last week of June as DeafBlind Awareness Week, a week to commemorate Helen Keller’s life and learn more about people who are deaf-blind.
According to the National Center for Deaf-Blindness, "deaf-blindness is a rare condition in which an individual has combined hearing and vision loss, thus limiting access to both auditory and visual information."
This week we remember Helen Keller and others who advocate for people with disabilities. Continue reading for four ways to celebrate in 2023.
Image Description: Quote from Helen Keller: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."
1. Read about Helen Keller and her legacy
Helen Keller broke boundaries and advocated equal access to people of all abilities. There's no shortage of content out there about her life.
Take some time this week to see the incredible life of Helen Keller. Here are a few resources:
- The Story of My Life is Helen Keller's autobiography. The book is available at most independent and national booksellers and details Helen's early life, especially her experiences with her teacher, Anne Sullivan.
- National Today published a rich history of Helen Keller's life, a timeline of events leading up to this week, and information about people who are deaf-blind.
- Twinkl’s Article on Helen Keller shares details about Helen Keller's life, including facts, the history of the week, and resources for educators.
- Read UsableNet's blog about Helen Keller's life and legacy. Guest writer Lily Mordaunt discusses Helen's life, including facts you may not have learned about or know. Lily also shares how Helen's legacy lives on today.
2. Learn about the experiences of people who are Deaf-blind
With somewhere between .2% and 2% of the world’s population being deaf-blind, use this week to understand who they are and their experiences.
The National Center of Deaf-Blindness does a great job explaining what deaf-blindness is and shares the profiles of eight children who are deafblind.
Read the memoir of Haben Girma, a disability justice lawyer, speaker, advocate, and the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. You can also listen to Haben's Ted talk or follow Haben on Linkedin.
Watch “Feeling Through,” an academy award nominated short film starring Robert Tarango. who is deaf-blind and plays a deaf-blind character in the movie. Available for purchase at the link, "Feeling Through" is the first film to feature a deaf-blind actor in a lead role.
Listen to this podcast from DeafBlind Awareness Week in 2022; hosts from Bold Blind Beauty On A.I.R. (Access, Inclusion, and Representation) sat down with Sherri Rodgers, a person who is deaf-blind and has Usher Syndrome. Sherri shares experiences, including how she communicates and common misconceptions about people who are deaf-blind. Listen on YouTube.
"God made me blind and hard of hearing for a reason. He knew I could do it. He knew I could go through life. Be the success that I feel I am without any regret." - Sherri Rodgers
3. Make sure your website is accessible to people with disabilities
This week could also be a good week to check and optimize the accessibility of your digital assets like your website and mobile app. UsableNet offers a free automated test on our website. You can get your results within minutes. We’ll email your report with conformance issues, code errors, and recommended fixes. Try a free test now.
For guidance on starting your digital accessibility initiative, download our checklist on achieving and maintaining digital accessibility.
Talk to your teams about how you can improve accessibility and inclusion. For inspiration on having these meaningful conversations, read our recent blog by Jeff Adams, our Director of Accessibility; Read the blog, "Building Your Arsenal: Empowering Conversations for Web Accessibility."
4. Get involved and support the deaf-blind community
DeafBlind Awareness Week is a week to raise awareness around those who are deaf-blind and advocate for accessible experiences for the deaf-blind community.
To make a difference, look for nonprofits that support the deaf-blind, where you can donate and volunteer this week or any time of the year. A couple of nonprofits that you might consider are:
Helen Keller Services
Helen Keller Services’ mission is to enable individuals who are blind, have vision loss, are DeafBlind, and/or have combined hearing-vision loss to live, work and thrive in their community of choice. HKS offers services and programs through two divisions: Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults and Helen Keller Services for the Blind. For more information, please visit www.helenkeller.org.
American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or have low vision. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. In addition to publishing the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, the essential professional resource for information about visual impairment in the field, AFB is also the proud steward of the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. To learn more, visit www.afb.org.
Today, let's celebrate Helen Keller and work to make the physical and digital world more accessible to people of all abilities.