BORN deaf, Molly Watt (right) was just 14 years old when her sight started failing as well, leaving her with a mere 5 per cent vision.
While most people would find this double whammy crushing, Ms Watt has powered on, and at 22 she travels the world inspiring other deafblind people.
Setting up her own consultancy, along with the Molly Watt Trust, she advises electronics giant Apple and multi-national hearing aid company ReSound on making their appliances more user friendly for the sensory challenged.
She scored the Apple gig after a blog post on how the company’s watch helped in her daily life, including navigating unfamiliar streets, went viral. (Guide dogs can’t read maps but the watch can be set to vibrate when a left or right turn is needed).
The UK based Ms Watt flew into Fremantle last week for the 10th National Deafblind Conference; she’d come directly from Silicone Valley in the United States where she gave talks on accessible ways to design new technology.
More than 80 people from around the world were in the port city for the conference, which wound up with a weekend at Woodman Point Recreational Camp.
“People think you are not capable, I’m spreading the word they are,” Ms Watt says.
At coffee break the Esplanade Hotel conference room was filled with people with a variety of sensory disabilities, many communicating silently with sign language, some spelling out messages with their hands for those who couldn’t see.
The conference was a chance for the deafblind community to connect with each other and with allied health professionals, medical and nursing staff, educators and researchers to learn more, peak body Senses’ Deafblind services manager Matthew Wittorff says.
Canadian doctor Walter Wittich presented his research on the rehabilitation of older adults with combined vision and hearing loss, which is a growing problem worldwide.
To find out more about not-for-profit organisation Senses go to http://www.senses.org.au