What's going on in your basement
“I am blind, but I see; I am deaf, but I hear "
Imagine standing blindfolded somewhere in the middle of this world. Everything around you is dark, hidden. You don't know where you are; just know that you can't stand here forever. You are listening Do you hear anything Maybe a rustle of leaves, a car, or other people talking? Is there music playing back there? Or is a dog barking? No, there is nothing. You hear absolutely nothing. There is total silence around you. Isn't that a little creepy? What could happen in a single step? You could run into people, run on streets, or fall down cliffs. So how do you orientate? You breathe in, sniff around a little. Does it smell like rain or the sea? Or is it more like heating air and Chinese food? Where could you be You kneel down and run your fingers across the floor. Is it asphalt or a soft carpet, a sand path or maybe the linoleum floor of a gym? You get up again and look up. Do you feel the rays of the sun on your face or is the wind making your ears cold? A picture of the place you are slowly develops in your head, it is still completely blurred and you do not know whether it really looks like it does in your head in this place. Carefully you take small steps forward, your hands always outstretched in case something is in front of you. This is how you walk around, maybe you can feel chairs or flowers or even other people. The picture in your head is slowly becoming clearer, but will it ever correspond entirely to reality? Will you ever be able to determine that without the two senses that are most used, sight and hearing?
In Germany at the moment there are an estimated 9,000 deaf-blind people who master every day in a wide variety of ways. One of the most famous deafblind people is Helen Keller, who lived in the USA from June 27th, 1880 to June 1st, 1968. As a result of meningitis, Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of only 19 months. With the help of the teacher Anne Sullivan-Macy, who was specially committed to her, she learned to communicate with her environment, despite this significant limitation. The finger alphabet, which some deaf people use today, played a major role. Keller learned the words by her teacher spelling them in her hand with the finger alphabet, so she could feel the signs on the palm of her hand.
A short thought game in between: How do you manage to recognize the connection between something that you feel on the hand and an object or thing? Helen Keller is said to have understood the word "water". She is said to have first felt the water on her skin, then what was spelled in her hand. As far as I can still get: You understand that these two things could have a connection. But did Helen Keller really know it was water? Or did “water” have a different name in your head? Did she know (and if so, how from?) That one sign is a "W", the next an "A" and so on? Or did she associate the whole word with the wet feeling on her skin?
In any case, this is how Keller got to know her world. She also learned Braille, the "standard Braille" with its small bumps in different places, depending on the letter.
Here the mind game continues: Because here at the latest, Keller had to have got a feel for the individual letters, i.e. connected a letter in the finger alphabet with a letter in Braille. But here, too, I ask myself whether, for example, the letter "A" in your head was also an "A", how we see it as seeing and hearing people, i.e. how it looks and how it sounds to us. Or did Keller have her very own language in her head, consisting of a mixture of signs and Braille? Maybe even without sound? A component without which I can hardly imagine a language.
Despite her disability and with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, who accompanied her throughout her life, Helen Keller attended Radcliffe College, where she learned French and German and completed her bachelor's degree with summa cum laude in 1904. She also tried to learn to speak again despite being deaf after quitting when she was just under two years old.
Now I wonder how someone manages to learn to speak if he neither hears the others nor sees their lip movements. Helen Keller probably learned lip movements by placing her hand on the lips of a person speaking and then trying to recreate them. Because in this way she was able to link the individual signs or letters of Braille with lip movements and try to form words from them. Only now could a connection between their language and the different sounds of the language of the sighted and hearing be come about.
In the course of her life, Helen Keller stood up for the concerns of other deafblind people, demanded equal treatment and fought against the rumor that disabled people are less intelligent. She was also committed to women's rights, as well as the rights of people of color. She founded the Helen Keller Endowment Fund, in which she was active both nationally and internationally and was also a member of the American Foundation for the Blind. Here she campaigned for the spread of Braille. She also wrote many books, some of which were very autobiographical and dealt with her life and her teacher. The most famous books are "Out of the dark" and "The story of my life".
Even after her death, Helen Keller remained a very well-known person in the United States. There have been series and films about her life, commemorative coins and even today numerous schools around the world are named after her. For a woman who must have felt very lonely in her world in some moments, but who still has not given up trying to communicate with other people in any way and to make her point of view clear. As Helen Keller is supposed to have said shortly before her death: I am blind, but I see; i'm deaf but i can hear.
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