COCO WHO?

Thirsty for information on who this v/blogger is, who tactiles your world?

I was born Christine Amanda Roschaert on January 5, 1980 (do the math) in Ottawa, Ontario – the REAL Capital of Canada to hearing parents. I was sent to the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in 1984 to start a lifelong education in Deaf Culture. My parents, Robert and Jillian, went on to learn sign language, as well.

When I was eight years old, amidst speculation when I would bump into posts or trip over objects on the floor, I was sent to the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston, Ontario for field vision and genetic testing. There, my family discovered I had Usher Syndrome Type I a recessive and domnant genetic affliction that would eventually cause my vision to deteroriate to complete blindness.

I continued attending Sir James until 1997 when I had the fortune to be exchanged to Germany for an entire year, studying at the Landesbildungszentrum fuer Hoergeschadigte in Oldenburg. In that year alone, I had made a lot of new friends, became literate in German writing, reading and sign language.

I returned to SJW in 1998, completed a post high school program and enrolled in Gallaudet in 1999.

Trials and tribulations in my undergraduate career at Gallaudet led me down many paths – some good, some bad and some challenging. My vision deteroriated even more and I found I could not completely understand signing all the times, so through a very difficult phase I decided to learn how to use a cane and how to use tactile to understand sign language.

Notable moments during Gallaudet:

– Class of 2003 Vice President (1999) and President (2000) and ex-officio (2001-03)

– Internships: The Philippine Islands, Jagna School for the Deaf in Bohol (2002); Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind (2005) and the American Association for the Deaf Blind (2006)

– Travelled to Europe (2001) and Thailand all by myself (2002)

– Leader for World Federation for the Youth Deaf Camp (2003) in Montreal, Quebec

– Majored in Social Work (2002), English (2003) before settling for Communication Studies (2004-06)

– Chairperson for the Holmes/Hoffman Student Body Government Commission on Disabilities (2004)

– Director for Ethics & Conduct, Higgins/Hogue Administration for SBG 2005/06

– Alpha Sigma Theta Sorority Sister, Pi Pledge Class 2005; AST Sister of the Year 2006

– Alpha Sigma Pi Sweetheart of the Year, 2004; Kappa Gamma Queen 2006

– Kappa Gamma Queen of the Year 2006

– Representative for the DeafBlind and Deaf Plus, Fac/Students/Staff/Alumni (FSSA) during Unity for Gallaudet Protests May 2006 and October 2006; Hunger Strike Participant, 11 days, October 2006 (15 pounds loss)

– Member of Metro Washington Association for the DeafBlind, American Association for the DeafBlind

Post graduation accomplishments:

= Motivational speaker: 2007 Louisiana Acadiana Deaf Blind Citizens, Inc Picnic (April), Ottawa Area Sign Language Interpreters of the National Capital (May & September), University of Vermont (October), Ottawa Deaf Centre and the Community (October), San Francisco Bay Area Deaf Counseling and Referral Agency (DCARA and the Bay Area Deaf Community (November), Fremont School for the Deaf California Usher Support Group (November), Voluntary Services Overseas Ottawa Headquarters (November); 2008 Northeastern University Deaf Club and Interpreters Club of NU (February) and Boston University Deaf Literature Class (February)

– Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Teacher, Federal Department of Education and Immigration, January – July 2007

– Volunteer at the Lighthouse for the Blind and the Deaf Blind Service Centre, Seattle (December 07- January 08)

– February 2008 – ? Birnin Kebbi School for the Handicapped, Kebbi State, Nigeria through Voluntary Services Overseas Canada. Work with the school to develop a curriculum to establish a classroom for Deaf Blind children who currently lack any form of sign language and english instruction. HIV/AIDS prevention presentations to Deaf community across the country. From March to June 2009, I worked with the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) as an advocacy advisor and made important visits to the World Bank, UNICEF, Deaf schools, and so on. One of my pet projects was to enable the Nigerian Interpreters Association to grow professionally and they became government-recognized in October of 2009.

– In January of 2009, I backpacked through Europe alone, visiting and giving lectures in England, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and touring Ireland, Scotland and London.

The new Year of 2010 brings me to New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Singapore, Cambodia and several more Asian countries in search of enlightenment, Deafblindhood and advocacy.

My life is “go with the flow and learn as many lessons from mistakes as I go”. I support ASL education and will forever advocate for the rights for humans and education for the Deaf Blind.

21 Responses to COCO WHO?

  1. Bryen says:

    Thanks for a great and inspiring website. Please feel free to contact me at hello@bryen.com to chat more, as I would love to chat with you outside of blogosphere.

  2. Elizabeth Sweeney says:

    Please contact me – I would like to disscuss issues surrounding accessibility with you.

  3. Shana says:

    Hi Coco,

    I just want to tell you that a friend passed the link about you because she knew that I work with Deafblind clients at the DBSM organization and thought she’d share with me. I read some of your blogs and all, it was awesome to read and I am gonna keep up with reading your blogs and such. It is just awesome and amazing to see how you are doing and what you are going through, experiencing life at different places and such. I truly am in awe of what you are doing these days as a DB person. Enjoy your journey at wherever you are and I will keep reading your blogs. It is soo interesting! 🙂

    P.S. I did read your xanga blogs in the past. I kept checking in to see if you have typed any blogs lately but nothing since November and I was wondering how you are doing til that friend passed the link to me and I am glad to find you again blogging but in a different website. 🙂

  4. How do you do, Coco. I came across your blog while browsing the internet. I’m not blind or deaf, but I have a dear friend who is 70% deaf and almost completely blind due to retinitis pigmentosa. Actually, I wonder if it’s really Usher’s, rather than RP. I don’t read sign language, so I’ll depend on others to translate your vlogs. I do have to say I’m impressed with your blog and look forward to reading more of your adventures.

    By the way, I’m a writer and have a bunch of blogs myself!

    Anyway, nice to meet you!

    Margy

  5. Juliette says:

    Hello Coco! I just wanted to say that you are amazing and a true inspiration with everything you have accomplished! I am actually working on a research paper on Usher’s Syndrome right now and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. Please email me if you have any time. Take care!

  6. Debby says:

    Hey Coco,

    I’m enjoying reading your adventures. Your blogs brought me some memories of my time in Namibia.

    Please give me your email address, so I can write more to give you my support.

    Hang in there and enjoy your time there,
    Debby

  7. terena says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent blog and for sharing your experiences with us. My daughter is Deaf-Blind and I am learning everything I can from people. Hearing your perspective helps me understand my daughter more and gives me ideas to help her grow and thrive. I started a blog to meet other parents and people with disabilities, and I’m adding your’s to my blog roll. Thank you so much.

  8. Inspirational!

    You really are amazing. I love what you do. I am facing some scarey times with my sight at the moment. I havn’t lost any but I have had symptoms that could be the beginning of something worse. At times I feel like grabbing a gun and shooting myself, but you really have shown me that there is still life!

    Even if my tests show I have no issues that could impact on my vision I am going to help the blind people however I can.

    God bless! You have an amazing gift, just keep on working.

  9. Elizabeth Nirenberg says:

    Hello Coco, I came across your website to thanks to the good folks at google. I haven’t had a chance to read a lot of your blog as of yet but just reading your run down of what you have done is amazing and exhausting! I am just a couple months younger than you, I have lived over seas but you have done some wonderful things with your life. I have RP and it gets worse everyday. They say about 20-30 years left before it’s gone. I’m quite sure it will be sooner than that. I’m going to keep coming back to your blog as I have a feeling it will keep me inspired to get up in the morning and try to tackle something new.

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  11. Hi Coco,
    My name is Luke Williams. I came across your blog because I was searching for anything that concerns the sense of touch. I’m a designer/researcher and have studied the world of touch for my dissertation at the Université de Montréal. I am now working with 2 architects and a musician. They created auditive walks for different art galleries in Montreal. They sought me out to include tactility in those walks. We now have 4 projects running and are always interested in any ideas that we can come across. One project we will be doing with the RAAM (http://www.raamm.org/). We want to create an auditory walk in the city with tactile regions. I have never met blind people and would like you, if possible, to guide me in what a blind, deaf-blind person would be interested in such a walk?
    In your latest blog (march 31), you wrote that you wanted to be able to tactile with your friend. What do you mean? Is this another type of language?

    Again many thanks.
    Ciao COCO!

    Luke

  12. Diane says:

    Inspiring, coco you are so brave!
    Enjoy Fiji islands (Mana Island)

  13. Jacqui says:

    Hi Coco,
    I was at the talk you gave at Ross House in Melbourne. I was sooo impressed. I left feeling very ordinary about my life but also inspired. I am currently employed at the Self Advocacy Resource Unit which resources self advocacy groups. As part of my job I providing some support to the DeafBlind Advocacy group of which Heather is a key member. I am really just learning at this stage. I have also been researching information on the net to help me learn more about the deafblind community. Have found some great Youtube clips! Anyway I will be following your journey and if at any stage in the future you are again in our neighbourhood we would love to organise for other communities to hear you speak!
    I wish you the best in your journeys and your spreading the word is an invaluable contribution to the world.
    Kind Regards
    Jacqui Ward

  14. Brad says:

    Greetings from Australia Coco – great reading on your blog. As mentioned elsewhere, I’m looking to reading many more of your posts. Keep it going mate.

    Cheers,
    Brad

  15. Coco,
    I ran across your story as I was researching stories of victory in the community of the disabled. I have a website (www.passion-4-life.org) called Dismantling Disabilities, and my next post will be about your success as I want the world to know that Disabilities does not mean defeat!

    Blessings, my new friend,

    Michael

  16. David Murray says:

    Hi Coco, WoW WOW, you are truly inspiration person with no limits. I have ushers type 2, and I am currently studying social work; it is such an amazing subject to project ourselves and assist others. I am willing to share with you if you have the time to correspond with me.

    Take Care

    David Murray

    • Hello hello, friend.
      You are most welcome to correspond. tactiletheworld at gmail.com
      Its always great meeting people with Usher’s. It makes for a bigger, and growing community.
      Namaste

  17. Beth Greene says:

    Dear Coco, I’m in Scotland and have acquired deaf blindness. I try to involve myself in as many organizations and disability rights campaigns as possible, having read your blog your inspirational in what can be achieved and remind me of the courage and strength of Helen Keller. I don’t sign but use finger spelling or note taking to communicate, the laws in Scotland restrict accessibility to these services and others so I forever challenge it. I would love to correspond with you and perhaps learn something from your amazing determination.

  18. susana stiglich says:

    Greetings from Lima, Peru, love your blog and potsings! I am deaf and graduated from Gally in both 66 and 98 and been living in my hometown ever since. In Peru there we have a small deafblind community. Are there any materials in spanish so we can share it in here. Perhaps I can help with that? Best regards

  19. Britteney says:

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  20. Donna-Sue says:

    I look forward to meeting you!! You truly know how to Live !!

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