Helen Keller Awareness Week – June 24th to June 30th

This year, Ramona Rice chose five agency leaders to be recognized by Utah Governor Herbert on May 30th, 2019, at the Capitol Hill, for their hard work improving the lives of deafblind consumers.

The following recognized people are:

Sarah Brenna, State of Utah Vocational Director, who leads her office with professionalism and good work ethics. Sarah believes in the inclusions and a hands-on approach to assist and support the deafblind community, and she took ASL classes personally so she can communicate with the deaf and deafblind consumers. Sarah is positively looking forward to supporting the Helen Keller Awareness Week this month.

Lisa Nelson, State of Utah State Library Program Manager, who has been working for the Utah State Library for 17 years. She always has a smile on her face to assist any deafblind consumer with an accessibility difficulty, and by showing her support for the deafblind community, she showcased Walk in My Shoe book at the Capitol Hill for several months during the New Nations Exhibit. She also created Walk in My Shoes book volumes in Braille for her library’s readers.

Erica and Victor Villareal, Youths Advocacy for Deafblind Community, who have been amazing advocates for Utah deafblind youths including their son, Antonio. Because of Antonio’s inspiration to both, Victor and Erica, each became special education teachers for children with cognitive disabilities. Antonio has gracefully inspired and taught the community of medical professionals about his syndrome, CHARGE Syndrome, until his passing two years ago. To continue Antonio’s hard work both Victor and Erica are on the board of Multi-University Consortium Advisory Council for the University of Utah’s deaf-blind teacher training program.

Stephen Ehrlich, Adult Advocacy for Deafblind Community, has spent most of his life advocating to improve the lives of the deafblind community, and currently, he had been teaching Asl/Tactile classes for communication access, creating social classes to help deafblind consumers from possible depression and isolation, and is encouraging the deafblind people to use I-Bill Bankingnote Identifier. The device would enable a consumer independently to identify a bill of different denominations.

Governor Herbert, as always, was very charming, genuine and appreciative to have met them including Colleen Eggett, State of Utah Library Director and Paul DeGraw, Asl/Tactile interpreter, and he praised each of them for their consistent, hard work in paving paths for current and future blind/deafblind people to find resources necessary to their needs.

Governor Herbert accepted and signed our declaration proposal to support our deafblind community and the celebration of Helen Keller’s accomplishments. (see below of signed declaration).

WHEREAS, Utah is highly accomplished, respected and well-known for its services to deafblind children, youth, and adults; and

WHEREAS, deafblindness is a severe and unique multi-sensory loss affecting mobility, communication and information access; and

WHEREAS, June is the birth month of Helen Keller’s, an individual who was deafblind, known around the world for her perseverance and achievements, and an inspiration to the deafblind community; and

WHEREAS, to educate the public’s view of people with these sensory loss experience extreme isolation/independence, depression/anxiety, and the inability to access the services and information; and

WHEREAS, we encourage the citizens of Utah state to promote education, employment, housing and recreational options for deafblind people, thus maximizing their opportunities for a productive life in the community and lifestyle of their choice; and

WHEREAS, it is appropriate to celebrate during the week of June 24th the achievements of individuals who are deafblind, and to recognize that increased public awareness of this disability is crucial to increase opportunities for those who live with it; and

WHEREAS, to recognize the abilities and potential of fellow citizens who have a combination of vision and hearing loss and to recognize them as an example of courage, hope, determination, and achievement.

Now, therefore, I, Governor Gary Herbert, governor of the state of Utah, IN RECOGNITION THEREOF, DO HEREBY DECLARE JUNE 24-JUNE 30, 2019 as “HELEN KELLER DEAFBLIND AWARENESS WEEK” IN Salt Lake City, Utah.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the state of Utah to be affixed this 30th day of May 2019.

submitted by Valerie Kinney –