How do you explain colour to someone born without sight? How do you describe music to one who has never heard? How do you communicate with a youngster born deaf-blind?
This intriguing, sensitive Trusadh documentary opens a window into the lives of some exceptional people for whom communication takes on a different meaning. From the west side of Lewis to urban Glasgow, central Edinburgh to Tarbert, Isle of Harris we connect with deaf, blind and deafblind individuals going about their day to day.
In Stornoway, the centuries old Highland Society for the Blind, now part of Sight Scotland, has just opened its first ‘One-Stop’ drop in centre for people with single and (age related) dual sensory loss – The Western lsles Sensory Centre. It’s a pilot scheme which, if successful, promises to be re-modelled across Scotland.
The programme spends time with the sensory Centre’s front man John Gill, a well known television sign language presenter and teacher. There are an estimated 1,012,000 people in Scotland with some degree of hearing loss (of whom approximately 546,000 are over the age of 60).
Cathy Macleod a deaf mum of three visits the shop and John shows her a selection of equipment available in the market to aid independent living. Cathy’s family can communicate perfectly with her and her children learnt to sign “just as easily as learning any language” according to her husband Donald.
Cathy currently works as a cleaner but is hoping to become a sign language teacher and realise her potential. She gives an impromptu lesson to two visitors to the centre, brother and sister Kevin and Kerri O’Hara who have limited vision. Kerri is keen to learn so that she can have a direct relationship with Cathy and other deaf people without depending on a translator.
After a quick lesson on the sign language alphabet Cathy heads South from Stornoway to Tarbert in Harris to visit deaf siblings Chrissie and John Norman Macleod. They often feel isolated and lonely as very few can communicate with them fully in language both can understand. Cathy crosses this divide and we see a small snapshot of life growing up in the islands for the older generation with hearing loss.
Conaltradh (Communication) offers a different perspective on the world and with the impression that ‘normal life’ as we know it is really is just one interpretation of living.