Helen Keller : Deaf, Blind and Mute
21 Jul, 2011
When anyone talks about a lady who has been a lecturer, political activist and author, that mental image is that the person is bound to have excellent oratory skills, keen eye for detail and has to be a good listener to be able to play such diverse roles. But I am sure it would take everyone by surprise when I reveal the fact that this woman is actually deaf, blind and mute at the same time. Most of us would think that achieving such a feat is impossible, but Helen Adams Keller of American origin changed this perception and fought against all odds to emerge successful.
- Born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama, Helen Keller was a normal child when she was born. It was after 19 months, that she contracted an illness. According to doctors, it was an acute congestion of the stomach and brain. Her sickness which has been termed as brain fever did not last long, but it left her deaf and blind. As she entered childhood, she had become wild and had little knowledge of her surroundings. Unable to enunciate properly, she started using signs to communicate with her family.
- Helen’s life completely changed at the age of 6 when Anne Sullivan came to her house as her teacher. Anne who was visually impaired herself was 20 when she entered Helen’s life and was solely responsible for transforming Helen from a rude, irritated child to a girl who became the first deaf-blind to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. Anne was her teacher and a lifelong companion for 49 long years till Anne’s death. Their inspiring story has been turned into a play and movie named ‘The Miracle Worker’.
- Anne taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand. The first word that she taught her was ‘doll’ which she got for Helen as a gift. Slowly, she started identifying other words through the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand. She mastered the language and expressed a desire to go to college. In 1888, she went to Perkins Institute for the Blind. It was in 1904, that she earned the prestigious bachelor’s degree at the age of 24.
- Helen had a successful stint as a writer for almost 50 years. Her famous works include ‘The Story of my Life’ which has been published in over 50 languages. She wrote frequently about social issues, blindness, women’s rights, etc. Helen dedicated her life and strived hard to improve the conditions of the deaf-blind around the world through her lectures in more than 25 countries making people across the world aware about the plight of the disabled and also giving a ray of hope and courage to millions of blind people.
- She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is one of the highest civilian honors of America by President Lyndon B. Johnson in September 1964. Since 1961, she was confined to her house at Arcan Ridge due to a series of strokes and spent much of her time reading and around her close friends and family. She passed away in her sleep on June 1, 1968, a few days before her 88th birthday.
Helen Keller is undoubtedly an inspiration for people who yearn to live life as normal human beings irrespective of their disabilities. It was her undying quest for knowledge, desire to learn, determination and sincere efforts for other disabled people that she’s remembered today as a noteworthy woman in world history. She surpassed all barriers to make a mark for herself and gave a lot to society at the same time.