8 October 2001 Media Statement
Government supports deafblind services
New government funding for deafblind services is the first official recognition that deafblind people have unique
support needs, Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said today.
Ms Dyson said the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind would receive $325,000 a year in new funding to enhance its
Speaking at the 7th Helen Keller Deafblind World Conference in Auckland, Ms Dyson said she was delighted that the
Government had officially recognised deafblindness was a unique disability.
"Deafblind people are not blind people who happen to be deaf. Nor are they deaf people who happen to be blind. They face
unique challenges that require special methods of communication, mobility and learning."
Ms Dyson said the funding would enable the Foundation for the Blind to enhance the services it was already providing for
"The new funding will enable the foundation to provide more specialist support for deafblind people, and improve their
access to general services."
Ms Dyson said deafblindness was relatively rare, and all service providers need to be trained to deal with it.
"Deafblindness affects around 15000 people in New Zealand. However, with an ageing population this number is predicted
to grow. So it is essential that our general support services – teachers, therapists, doctors, home help services and so
on – are all equipped to deal with it.
"The same is true for aged care providers. Older people are the biggest – but least visible – group in the deafblind
population. Too often, they are isolated in their own homes without enough support, or moved into residential care where
their dual sensory loss is not noticed or considered an inevitable part of growing old."
Ruth Dyson congratulated Deafblind New Zealand for hosting the Helen Keller conference, which is being attended by over
300 people from 46 countries, and for its efforts to get deafblindness recognised as a condition in its own right.