Understanding Helen Adams Keller
By Kelvin J Adams, June 2022
Like many I had heard about Helen Keller growing up. My basic understanding of her was that she was a blind and deaf girl that learned to speak and even become a famous author. This was the extent of my understanding of Helen until the summer of 2014 when she started to become a personal part of my life.
I had started on a journey towards blindness back in 2013 which left me totally blind in my left eye by the end of that year. In the beginning of 2014 my right eye was starting to go blind also. With aggressive eye treatments we were managing to keep some functioning sight in that eye but there was no promise it would remain. After being on the road working that summer, I was home between jobs. I was on the patio with my partner of several years enjoying a wonderful lunch she had prepared us. She asked me a interesting question about what we would do for money if I went totally blind. Being a person of faith, I never worried that much about it since things have a way of working out. It was clear she was concerned and wanted an answer. So I smiled and said, “ I will become an author and write a best selling book.” That did not sit well with her, mocking me she responded, “ how will you write a book if you can not see?” Defending myself I responded,” why not Helen Keller could not see or hear and she wrote a best selling book when there was no computers”.
As I found out a few months later it would not matter to us since she had already started making plans to move on without me. For me it would matter because Helen Keller was now becoming a personal part of my journey in life. The thought was deeply seated in my mind, how did she overcome her challenges and move forward? She is truly an endless inspiration to all that travel the road of total blindness and severe vision loss.
Helen Adams Keller was born to Kate Adams Keller and Arthur H Keller on June 27th 1880. When she was only 19 months old an illness robbed her of her sight and hearing. By the age of 10 she had learned sign language and braille after which she was determined to learn how to speak. She attended the Cambridge School of Weston from 1896 to 1900 then Radcliffe College from 1900 to 1904. It is claimed that Helen had an IQ of 160 that she put to good use before her passing on June 1st 1968. Besides being a famous author, she was an educator, disability rights advocate, political activist and a lecturer.
Just a few days ago I had the pleasure of listening to a woman speak of her journey with being blind and deaf. With severe loss of sight I struggle with many things I once had taken for granted. One of them is depending on others to get around leaves one feeling isolated at times. As she told her story I was totally inspired by her. Never before did I imagine what it was like to not see or hear. As this woman told us, “ imagine not being able to see”, which many of us listening knew personally, “then imagine also not being able to hear.” Living life in the dark and total silence all the time. Helen had a room with a lock that was off limits to everyone. I have a feeling it was her safe place. A place where she could enter and be alone and rest assured she was alone.
There is no doubt in my mind that Helen developed a strong desire to leave her world of being alone that she was in 140 years ago. To overcome the barriers in her life and learn how to communicate with the silent dark world around her, and be included in that world. For me my journey towards blindness started the better part of 10 years ago. My fear of losing the life I once had and most of all to feel I was not alone pushed me to find solutions. One of the solutions I found was the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). A organization started almost 80 years ago by blind war vets across Canada. Our organization is run by the blind, blind/deaf and those with limited sight. Over six years ago I become part of this group and began to set aside my ego and learn new tools to help me overcome the obstacles in my life. When people see me using a mobility cane (white cane) they might see only a disability. For me I see, a Overcomer, someone like Helen that has the courage to overcome the obstacles and be included in society.
Understanding Helen Adams Keller