The deaf communicates by sign language, and the blind can speak and read braille. what if you are both deaf and blind? This means you can’t speak, hear and have no sight, learning braille becomes a challenge. But not for Helen Keller.
Helen Keller was born on 27th June 1880 in Alabama. She could see and hear until she was 19 months when she got ill and lost her vision and ability to hear.
The illness was presumed to be scarlet fever. At the age of 6, she was examined by Alexander Graham Bell, yes that one, the inventor of the telephone. Alexander sent the Keller to a talented teacher; Ann Sullivan who would later be her lifelong friend. Anne was working at the Perkins Institution of the Blind in Boston.
Keller learned to feel objects and associate them with words she spelled with finger signals on the palm of her hand. She could read sentences by feeling raised words on the cupboard and she made her own sentences by arranging words in a frame.
She learned braille at the Perkins Institution. She started learning how to speak under Sarah Fuller of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston. Keller learned lip-reading by placing her fingers on the lips and throat of the speakers as words were spelled out to her, genius, right?
She schooled at Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York at age 14. By 16 she was enrolled in the Cambridge School for Young Ladies in Massachusetts. In 1900, she was admitted to the Radcliffe College where she graduated in 1904 and graduated with distinction.
Keller started writing about blindness. This topic was considered taboo to women since it was majorly associated with venereal diseases (sexually transmitted diseases). Her articles were accepted by The Ladies’ Home Journal and other magazines later did the same.
She wrote books about her life namely The World I Live In, Helen Keller’s Journal, Light in My Darkness, Optimism, and The Open Door.
With the help of an interpreter, she began lecturing for The American Foundation for the Blind. She went on lecture tours all over the world, later Keller co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920. ACLU champions constitutional rights in the United States. She also championed the removal of the disabled people from asylums where they were placed and better treatment was accorded to them.
Keller died in her home in Connecticut on 1st June 1968 at the age of 88. Her legacy forever lives through Helen Keller International. It was founded by Keller and George Kessler to help soldiers that had been blinded during World War I.
The global health organization is dedicated to eliminating preventable vision loss, malnutrition, and poverty diseases. Her actions have inspired many. Keller wasn’t limited and her disability didn’t hold her back. Neither should yours.
BY ERASTUS GACHACHA