IN ART, Carol O’Connor feels comfortable and relaxes. It also keeps her mind active.
Ms O’Connor is deaf-blind but has always been continuing to adapt to live her life to the fullest. Born deaf, Ms O’Connor has always had poor eyesight but was diagnosed blind in 2010 and has since been adapting and preparing for the day when she becomes completely blind.
Art has been a fun outlet. Ms O’Connor travels by train to Melbourne where she can take classes with Able Australia.
“I learnt how to paint different materials...two years ago, a woman was teaching me to do a paint mixed with oil. I’d never seen anything like this before,” Ms O’Connor said. “My brother John did art when he was younger and I thought I’d like to follow what my brother did. I ask a lot of questions. I’m told my brother is very proud of me.”
Ms O’Connor said it was important to keep working her eyes. Sewing is now difficult and while colours can be confusing, Ms O’Connor has help to mix shades.
Most of her painting is from memory, or made up, but there is one of a horse crafted from a photo now hanging on an Able Australia wall. Ms O’Connor beams with pride every time she sees it.
Learning to sign with Auslan is a whole other art that Ms O’Connor is still trying to refine. Brought up using oral communication, it was in joining Able Australia that Ms O’Connor know uses a mix of technique. This also allows her to talk to more people.
“I know for some deaf-blind people it can be difficult for them to sign so they learn other ways,” Ms O’Connor said. “I’ve picked up all of these modes of communication to help when I do become blind. I’m learning how to do deaf-blind finger spelling. I like to be two-handed – spelling on one hand I’m not up to yet, but I’m learning.”
Speaking with The Courier through an interpreter, the conversation is fast. Ms O’Connor likes to use Auslan where one movement can mean a single sentence.
She is also learning Braille, slowly. Ms O’Connor said life was too busy to spend the time she needed to really pick it up fast.
Life in Ballarat for Ms O’Connor can be lonely so she tries to get out as much as possible working the dog or shopping in town. Ms O’Connor loves trips to Melbourne where she can catch up with deaf-blind friends.
Her favourite activities are usually Able Australia outing days, like a boat trip from the city to Williamstown, or a plane ride from Moorabbin out over the bay, or picnics.
Ms O’Connor is proud to promote how much is possible for deaf-blind people ahead of next week’s Deaf-blind Awareness week.