About Deafblindness: A Sharing Session by Tye Lovato

As SADeaf gradually eased its restrictions on gatherings in tandem with Singapore’s opening up after the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, we held our largest gathering since 2020 at the SADeaf Hall on 15 June 2022, Wednesday, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm (though it eventually overran the allocated time and ended at 10pm). And aptly enough, this was for a talk on deafblindness which opened up minds on the topic.

An audience of around 50 from the Deaf community, including Deaf and hard-of-hearing clients, two deafblind persons, hearing allies and members of the public turned up. There were also attendees who attended the event remotely via the live notetaking link provided.

Tye is standing and gesturing on stage. Behind him is his PT and projected on the stage wall is the presentation slide.
Explaining what PT is and its benefits, with a PT in support!

The sharing session was conducted by Tye Lovato, an intern with SADeaf’s Community Service department and was facilitated by SADeaf’s Communication Access department. Tye is from the United States and a third-year undergraduate at the renowned Gallaudet University, pursuing a dual degree in Social Work and Deaf Studies. During his ongoing internship both on-site and remotely, he would be helping with SADeaf’s Deafblind programme.

Tye describes himself as “DeafBlind proud” and has three Deafblind siblings. It was indeed a rare opportunity to hear and learn from Tye, who has much lived experience of navigating life as an independent Deafblind person, especially as we in Singapore are in the nascent stages of setting up our own Deafblind programmes and support systems.

Tye is seated and holding up the hand of his PT, also seated. Standing on their side is another PT.

During his presentation and sharing, Tye was supported by his Protactile (PT) interpreters Jennifer Furlano and Janis Cole. Tye spoke on his personal background, his life experiences, strategies in independent living and the benefits of pro-tactile interpreting. These topics held the audience spellbound, especially the hands-on demonstration of PT interpreting. Tye also gamely tackled the various queries raised by the engaged audience during the Q&A segment.

We are grateful to Tye, with the help of Jennifer and Janis, for doing this insightful session. We also wish to thank interpreters Teo Zhi Xiong and Evelyn Chye – who Tye had requested to voice interpret for him – for their presence and assistance.

Our thanks go, too, to the SADeaf team who worked together and lent their time, energy and resources to ensure the event ran smoothly, including emcee Li Dunrui, interpreters Rashidah Zulkifli and Barbara D’Cotta, notetaker Grace Tan, as well as Ho Yi Lin, and our numerous other unsung backend crew.

And, not least, Tye has a message for everyone: “Thank you for letting me have this opportunity and meeting each of you with many faces and able to touch each of you in my journey. Break the barrier, go through the “can’t” and journey on. I will bring my Singapore experiences back to the United States to share the journey and pass along to many generations of DeafBlind Community.”

Tye is seated with the interpreters and audience participants crowded all around him. Some people are standing, some are seated.
Demonstration of PT interpreting and usage
Tye and his two PTs are standing together, holding soft toys, and smiling.
A photo of Tye, Jennifer and Janis with token of appreciation, the Merdeaf soft toy – thank you for the presentation!
Group photo of the entire audience, team and presenters from a high angle. Most people are waving with both hands.
All together now..
Group photo of Tye in the centre with staff and interpreters.
The (accidentally) perfectly coloured-coordinated staff and interpreting team group photo!

Text and photos by Alvan Yap

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