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Colourful displays around the world bring people together for deafblind awareness

Throughout June, large trees, fronts of buildings, fences, and lampposts in community spaces across Canada will be decorated with vibrant knit and crochet squares – a form of street art, known as yarn bombing – to raise awareness during National Deafblind Awareness Month.

Deafblindness is a combination of hearing and vision loss. Over 1% of Canada’s population or approximately 466,420 people are deafblind, 211,250 live in Ontario, including Peter.

With the support of Val Huffman, an intervenor that acts as his ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’, Peter communicates using a form of sign language called Adapted Interactive Tactual Sign Language (AITSL). AISTL is hand-over-hand sign language, where the person ‘listening’ is feeling and reading the signs with their hands.

Communication is just one of the essential ways that DeafBlind Ontario Services’ intervenors connect people with deafblindness to their community, increase their independence, and enrich their lives.

“We continue to expand Peter’s world by providing him with new opportunities to make choices and teach us his preferences… for the past year, this has often been crocheting,” said Val. “Peter communicates that he wants to crochet by placing a crochet hook into a choice bag.”

Much like communicating with AITSL, Peter hand-over-hand crochets. With his hands on or under Val’s, he feels as they form rows of stitches with yarn and a crochet hook. Together, they have made dozens of squares, some will be part of DeafBlind Ontario Services’ yarn bombing installations.

The Ontario-based non-profit provides an array of services to people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, non-verbal, and deafblind, including Peter. With services in remote communities and urban centres, DeafBlind Ontario Services’ yarn bombing displays can be found in several locations this month, including: Ottawa, London, the Greater Sudbury Area, Peterborough, and more.

Each of these yarn bombing installations is made up of knit and crochet squares created by people supported by DeafBlind Ontario Services, intervenors, friends and family, local knitting clubs, along with community members from across the province.

This year marks Deafblind International’s (DbI) second global yarn bombing initiative, with over 70 regions around the world participating, including DeafBlind Ontario Services and other organizations and individuals in the field that come together each year to celebrate National Deafblind Awareness Month in Canada.

“DbI’s yarn bombing initiative is truly connecting the world one stitch at a time, uniting us in building a better understanding about people with deafblindness and the need for essential services like intervenors,” said Roxanna Spruyt, CEO of DeafBlind Ontario Services.

June is the birth month of Helen Keller, one of the most internationally recognized people with deafblindness. Landmarks across Canada will also be lit up in blue to commemorate June as National Deafblind Awareness Month.

Visit yarn bombing installations across the province, learn more:

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