From language to golf, becoming deafblind hasn’t stop me learning

Simon knows what it’s like to feel excluded and unable to access the world around him. In his forties, he suddenly had to adjust to life as a deafblind man, a transition that came with many challenges. But with support from Sense, he’s broken every barrier.

Without Sense, my life would be really quiet. I grew up using sign language because I’m Deaf, then, about seven years ago my eyesight also started to deteriorate. This is how Usher syndrome affects people, senses can change over time and leave people deafblind. 

My daily routine – even using my language, which is very visual – became a struggle. My independence was reduced, and my world shrank. 

Simon and his Sense communicator guide, Martyn.

With all these new challenges, my family recognised that I needed some extra support. I already had a connection with Sense through Martyn, who was part of my local Deaf club. I knew he worked at Sense, but this was the first time I’d approached him for advice.

Martyn was able to set me up with Sense and become one of my communicator guides. He was there to support me to adapt to life as a deafblind man, and to access all the hobbies I’d had before. There were a lot of challenges to face, but it was nice knowing I wasn’t alone. 

Learning a new language at 41

I live with my parents, my mum and dad, and they’ve always looked after me a lot. But as they got older and I started losing my eyesight, communication started to break down. It became more difficult to sign to each other, as I wasn’t able to see clearly, and hard for them to support me. 

I knew that if I wanted to keep up with my hobbies, like going to the gym, I’d need to learn to use a cane. And if I wanted to connect with people around me, I’d have to learn how to understand hand-on-hand sign language. The idea of learning a new language at the age of 41 was daunting. I’m really glad Martyn was there to help. 

Hand-on-hand signing is where you feel the signs being made by someone’s hands, rather than seeing them. This is how I engage with the world around me now. Martyn translates things into tactile signs so that I understand what’s happening and can sign back (using regular British Sign Language).  

At first, I wasn’t confident communicating this way. But over time, Martyn has calmed those nerves. I feel able to go out and try new activities and meet new people. I joined a drama group and started a job in a Deaf café. I don’t feel so anxious or isolated now. 

Since he started coming to Sense, I’ve really seen Simon flourish and achieve a lot. He’s a great role model for deafblind people. If Simon can do it, you know, other people can do it.

Martyn, who supports Simon
Martyn, Simon and Craig, Simon’s golf instructor, out in the golf buggy.

Teaching through touch

The more confident I felt doing things in the community, the more I wanted to try out. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play golf. When I told Martyn about this, he found a golf course in Wolverhampton where the staff had worked with Deaf people. I met Craig, the coach, and started some lessons.  

At first, Craig would write things down and Martyn would sign them to me. But overtime we built our own way of communicating. Now he teaches me through touch. He can tell me if I need to putt gently or give a hard swing and let me know if I’ve got the ball in the hole. 

Having something I can do independently – and with someone who doesn’t sign – has been a big confidence boost. I feel more comfortable communicating and connecting with other people.  

I really like being able to take part in activities like this, it means a lot to me.

Our impact

Sense works to ensure that no one is left out at any stage of life. Our support reflects people’s individual aspirations and evolving needs; we want to see everyone enjoy the same opportunities to learn, explore new things and live independently.

Find out more about the work we do and the difference your support makes: