Donate a smartphone - or hold a deafblind morning tea - and make a huge difference to Australia's deafblind community

Duncan Armstrong
Friday 19th June

People across Australia are being urged to specifically lend a hand to help people in Australia's deafblind community as shocking figures show an estimated 288,000 Australians now have hearing and sight impairments.

Able Australia - the national not-for-profit organisation that works extensively with people with sight/hearing impairments - highlights deafblindness is very much Australia's forgotten disability. It points out that - according to research - over 1 million Australians will have no hearing and sight by 2050.

This year's campaign is entirely focused on showing people a number of easy-to-do positive actions they can take to actively help Australia's deafblind community ... in a big and significant way.

Able Australia's Scott Darkin - who is coordinating the appeal - said, "As a leading not-for-profit we are doing all we can.  Hundreds of thousands of Australians have huge issues with hearing or sight. It's a growing problem."

Able Australia says it wants deafblindness to be clearly recognised as a disability in its own right – highlighting many people are aware of hearing or vision loss but not the combination of deafblindness.

Scott Darkin says there are two easy-to-do simple actions anyone can take to actively help people in the deafblind community.

Firstly Able Australia wants people to simply donate any smartphones* (plus chargers) that they no longer need.  Prior to reusing the phone all data will be wiped for privacy reasons.   Able Australia's Claire Tellefson said, "We have a unique program called Ablelink.  The focus this year is to ask people to donate phones they may no longer need.  We have many people who could make incredible use of your unwanted phone and its connection ability."

Claire Tellefson highlights that Able Australia can easily take an unwanted smartphone* and then train clients to use it. This is then connected to a Braille machine through Bluetooth technology. Clients can then use the phone instantly to stay in touch with others and even use it to navigate their way around in the community.

Claire said "For instance, one client Gina has used this powerful technology to amazing effect.  She's written - using a smartphone and tablet - to her Aunt Zia ... in Italy!"

The appeal for phones is a partnership between Able Australia and MobileMuster.  MobileMuster is the only not-for-profit Government accredited mobile phone recycling program in Australia.  It is an initiative of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.  The program is focused on keeping old mobiles and accessories out of landfill and ensuring they are recycled securely and ethically.

Rose Read from MobileMuster said, "It is currently estimated that there are over 22 million unwanted mobiles in homes around the nation.  Our program is very successful.  What we love about this Able Australia initiative is that working smartphones* that are no longer needed and are lying around in drawers at home, will be put in the hands of deafblind people to make their journey a little easier.  That is fantastic."

Rose Read, Recycling Manager, MobileMuster, highlights that it couldn't be easier for people to help out.  Anyone wanting to donate a smartphone* they no longer need should go to www.ableaustralia.org.au.  Donors can then access a FREE reply paid label which can be put on the package so they can send in their phone at no cost.

Rose highlights that while smartphones* are what's needed, people are welcome to drop off any old mobile phones and accessories at their nearest MobileMuster collection point. Simply visit www.mobilemuster.com.au to find your nearest drop off location.

Scott Darkin said, "Something as simple as an unwanted smartphone* will help connect deafblind people into the world around them and their friends.  One client - Robert – says his phone helps keep him alive and gets him to places that otherwise he could not get to."

Able Australia says it is a very powerful gift that helps deafblind people with issues around social isolation and depression.  It is now estimated 9 out of 10 people who are deafblind, experience depression and anxiety. 

For this year's Deafblind Awareness Week campaign, Able Australia is also urging people to organise a small morning tea with a difference - a silent morning tea.

Able Australia's CEO Kaye Collard explained, "We just ask people to host a morning tea at their workplace or home on Friday 26 June.  During that time, we ask people to take a minute or two to close or blindfold their eyes and try communicating with others without speaking."

"It is only then that you can start to get an idea of how much we rely on our sight and hearing - and what it feels like when you don't have either. Getting involved is easy – simply visit ableaustralia.org.au for more details.”

Kaye said, "We want more action on deafblindness because this is an issue that will continue to grow across cities and regional areas. Far too many people with this condition have to survive on incredibly tight budgets and very little money.  The number of people in Australia affected by deafblindness is predicted to triple in the next 40 years.  That is clearly very alarming."

Olympic Gold Medallist Duncan Armstrong has been a long-time supporter of Able Australia.  Duncan Armstrong said, "I have a son who has a disability.  He has been a massive inspiration to me.  Anything I can do to get the community to support people in the world of deafblindness is something I will do.  I have seen firsthand the remarkable and passionate work being done by Able Australia."

Kaye Collard added, "What makes us proud at Able Australia is the fact that, with the community behind us, we can change people's lives.  We can help people and give them tools to make their journey a little easier."

A number of deafblind people supported by Able Australia will be helping with this year's campaign.  This includes Michael Doherty - who is essentially deaf and blind.  Despite his challenges, he loves swimming, trips to the museum and touching someone's hands using Australian sign language, to see what they have to say.  Gina Pontelandolfo has Usher's Syndrome.  She loves trips out and cooking.  Colleen Dehne has limited sight, no hearing and is a huge fashion lover. She is a regular contributor to the many recreational days Able Australia runs for deafblind people.

To find out how you can donate an unwanted smartphone*, please click here or go here to find out how you can hold a 'deafblind' morning tea.  

*Ideally iPhone 4 and above, Samsung Galaxy S4 and above, LG Nexus 7 and above and Nokia Lumia 540 and above. Phones should be operational and be in good condition (no cracked screens).