A BIT OF HISTORY
Public interest towards deafblindness appeared at the end of 19th century when not very experienced teacher Ann Salivan helped deaf-blind Helen Keller (she lost vision and hearing at the age of 18 months) get back to the world of words.
When the girl met with Ann, she was 7, and was a speechless uncontrolled creature. There were no methods for rehabilitation of such kids. The teacher through painstaking work almost by a miracle (there is a well-known play which describes this work – “The miracle worker”) managed to make a deaf-blind child match finger letters with objects of the world around in her mind. Thus she returned to the world of word culture. Helen grew up, graduated from school and college, then university and became a community leader. She had a long life (1880-1968).
Almost all her life Ann was near. This extraordinary story became possible because next to a deaf-blind child happened to be an adult who was ready and able to dedicate her life to compensate at least partially the child’s lost sensor functions.
In the Soviet Union also there was a famous deaf-blind girl, but she lost hearing late so she was able to speak.
It was Olga Skorokhodova (1911-1982) who wrote letters to Gorky (famous Russian writer – comment of translator) and wrote a famous book about her perception of the world around. Olga was found in a wooden house where she was left alone after her mother had died, she lost vision and hearing when she was 5 after cerebral fever.
Olga’s teacher and mentor was the founder of education for deaf and blind in the USSR – professor Ivan Afanasievich Sokolyansky (1889-1960). Olga reached a lot. She became a Ph.D. in psychology, a person whom listened Soviet party leaders and who was a symbol of soviet science achievements as an opponent to famous deaf-blind American.
Experimental work started. They created specialized orphanage in Zagorsk from which they selected four deaf-blind teenagers best in learning. All of them entered psychological department of Moscow State University and graduated from it. After the death of Ilenkov and Mescheryakov expensive experiments aimed at high education of deaf-blind people were not carried out by state any more. However by personal feat and with the help of relatives certain deaf-blind people managed to overcome all the obstacles connected with the absence of inclusive mechanisms in Soviet system of high education and got a degree. Though degree doesn’t matter. There are examples of high professionalism and personal realization among deaf-blinds who didn’t have formal degree. Here you can read some of life stories.
Usual standard scheme of life for a deaf-blind child in the USSR was: in case of severe mental retardation it became a patient of specialized institution for disabled people with all the coming consequences.
In the deaf-blind orphanage there were privilege conditions. Deaf-blind children were taught and developed according to special methods. However the orphanage had no right to issue certificate on secondary-level education. And for children who lost hearing late and had developed intellect this place was more likely a place of degradation.
But still it was better than the majority of orphanages for disabled children. Orphanage graduates became workers of special enterprises of All-Russian Blind and All-Russian Deaf Societies.
It was considered that deaf-blind are good workers because they don’t abstract from work to talk.
After the collapse of the USSR, the system of social welfare for disabled people with no hearing and vision almost died.
Though in some places such enterprises remained, disabled people work on them without manufacturing things for minimal salary (in Moscow it comprises about 4-7 thousand rubles a month), mainly they work there for communication. However, employment of such kind is available for the most rehabilitated ones.
A lot of deaf-blind people do not have opportunity to work or simply leave their home regularly…