by Donald Jerry Bartley
(Barefoot Bay, Florida USA)
I was born with full hearing. At the age of three, I came down with meningitis and suffered a profound loss of hearing from battling the illness. My ability to lipread developed fairly quickly and as a result my hearing loss was not discovered until I was in the second grade. I was fitted with powerful hearing aids and continued my education in a public school system with hearing peers. I did okay in school, but felt like an outcast at the time due to difficulty communicating with my classmates.
In 1966, I saw “The Miracle Worker” for the first time. Finally, I had a role model to help guide me. Within a week after watching the movie, I checked Helen’s autobiography out from my school library. I had to learn more. I saw Helen Keller as a person with a disability greater than mine who was able to overcome her limitations with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, and be successful. Her amazing story compelled me to try harder in school. With hard work and the help of some amazing teachers, I graduated from high school with honors.
In 1984, I had an ear infection that left me completely deaf in one ear and a 95% nerve loss in the other. In 1993, I developed an ear infection in that ear which left me totally deaf in the other. I was operated on and received a cochlear implant device later that year. While recovering from the operation and adjusting to the new hearing system, I reread Helen’s biography. Her amazing story once again inspired me. I decided to attend a local university and get a degree. Every time I got discouraged in my studies, I picked up Helen’s book and reread select passages. I went on to earn a bachelor and master’s degree of Science.
I was ten when Helen died. The contributions she made for the deaf and the blind and others is exceptional. Helen may not have achieved the success she had without the help of Anne Sullivan. It is for that reason, I included Anne Sullivan as one of my favorite people in deaf history. I am hoping to use my education and life experiences to help others in the deaf community.