Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Deaf, Blind and Active

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Deaf, Blind and Active

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

Having a physical disability does not necessarily mean being confined to the house. Jane Picken finds out how deaf and blind Thomas Lafferty only needed a helping hand to lead a full life

From bowling to swimming, with regular gym sessions in between, there is little 67-year-old Thomas Lafferty, from Forest Hall, North Tyneside, cannot put his mind to.

He socialises in the pub, takes part in bowling tournaments and only retired six years ago ( despite being deaf from birth and registered blind since he was 32.

Thanks to help from support worker and communicator Debra Innes, Thomas is able to maintain an active retirement and go for gym sessions at which he can easily clock up one-and-a-half miles on the treadmill or work up a sweat on the step machine.

The pair communicate using deaf-blind manual, whereby they sign out words and phrases using each others' palms as a base, as well as British Sign Language.

"Thomas has never let his disabilities stop him from doing anything and he's got a great outlook on life," said Debra, who was put in touch with Thomas through charity Sense North, which provides support to deaf and blind people.

"I started working with him two years ago and back then it was about trying to get him doing things which would get him out of the house and keep him fit.

"Now we go to the Parks leisure centre in North Shields around two times a week and he really loves it.

He has his hobbies at home ( such as model-making, but if he didn't have the chance to get out here he would be confined to the house a lot of the time.

"It's not just the gym ( he goes out swimming in Tynemouth Pool and goes bowling. As long as he's got someone to help him along he gets on really well."

When you ask Thomas about the gym he smiles straight away, signing to Debra that he loves the step machine and giving a double thumbs-up to show how good it's been at keeping him trim.

Debra, from Bedlington, Northumberland, learned British Sign Language while caring for her 65-year-old deaf mother Anne Cousins, but the invaluable tool is not enough for Thomas. …

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