So I started to visit a Deafblind client in a local town, and a new friendship with this sociable and outgoing man has rewarded both of us. He tactfully showed me how to communicate clearly with Deafblind people, both one-to-one and in groups, and how to guide them effectively in public places. I'm familiar with British Sign Language, so he helped expand my understanding of Northern Irish Sign Language's differences.
I greatly enjoy our weekly chats at his home, and make new friends through our shared Deaf social circles. Escorting him outdoors motivates me to get out more often and explore our local communities, and also makes me see them afresh as his guide.
My client benefited whenever I solved his occasional computer problems and helped him navigate internet services too difficult to see. I could also assist with small household tasks and making arrangements for friends' visits. He discovered more about nearby towns, shops, and tourist sites such as riverside walks and beaches, with me to guide him and describe our surroundings in sign language.
For instance, on a rare sunny summer's day, I drove us to Portrush East Strand: we staggered safely over the soft sands, paddled in the invigorating seawater, and I described the beach's rock formations, surfers, bathers, distant boats and Dunluce castle. My client became blind later in life, and hadn't visited this beach for some years, so he appreciated rediscovering it.
Action on Hearing Loss staff do invaluable community work, but a volunteer can also offer a less formal, more intimate service, as we often share and empathise with the experiences of the Deaf people we meet.