For many of us, accepting who we are is a long and difficult road, marred by insecurity and angst. So it was for Kevin Richmond, whose struggle to come to terms with his identity has lent an unexpected richness and depth to his life, both personally and professionally.
Growing up Deaf, Kevin had difficulty when he began experiencing symptoms of blindness as a result of Usher Syndrome, an inherited condition that affects hearing and vision. Initially he was reluctant to identify as DeafBlind. “I wasn’t comfortable with it,” he says today, “and I felt isolated and alone as I grappled with defining myself in those terms.”
It was during a trip to Seattle, where Kevin underwent a “cultural immersion” in what it means to be DeafBlind – that he, quite literally, turned his life around. “I spent two weeks learning about what’s effective for DeafBlind people, and I learned how to rely on support services. It was a revelation,” he says.
That revelation has led to a robust career, first teaching ASL at UVM and working with the UVM Medical Center to help us improve access for our Deaf and DeafBlind population. “It’s so important to do this education in hospital settings,” he says. “In some cases, the issue of access can be the difference between life and death.” He’s now also on the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, where he assists in producing videos for outreach and training.
From this experience, Kevin has started his own business, ASL and DeafBlind Consulting and Services, LLC, through which he hopes to help organizations around the country provide education for staff in how to provide full access for the Deaf and DeafBlind populations. “It’s really about consciousness-raising,” he says. “In a way it’s about giving people a sense of what it would be like to be in my shoes. There’s tremendous value in sharing that perspective.”