For almost two decades, Ridge Euler has struggled with serious hearing and vision loss, a result of contracting life-threatening encephalitis and meningitis in 1997. "I couldn't move, walk, talk, or eat on my own for three months," Ridge said.
His illness took almost all vision from the 47-year-old Rochester, Minn., man. He saw double for some time, then "blind spots" appeared in each eye. Vision in his right eye is now limited to mostly shadows and movement and he is legally blind in his left eye.
He lost his hearing gradually, over 16 years. "It sounded like if you have ever tried to talk to someone underwater," he said. "It was distorted and quieter than normal." He can now hear some amplified music, but can’t make out words.
His disabilities made traveling to see friends and family impossible and daily outings difficult, he said. When he learned about iCanConnect, also known as the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, on a Minnesota-based email listserv for people who are deaf-blind, he had no idea his life was about to change.
The equipment and training he received through iCanConnect, including an iPhone 6s Plus and iPad Pro, have allowed him to reconnect with the world.
He uses Facebook, email and text to stay in touch with friends in Arizona, where he lived previously. And he communicates with his cousins in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. He also uses his equipment to take online classes through the Hadley School for the Blind, and to connect with others in the deaf-blind community.
His hearing loss made him less outgoing, he noticed. "I have always been a very social person. Even in the Mayo Clinic waiting rooms, I would visit with others. Since my hearing loss, it is much more difficult to communicate. I don't go out of the house as much."
His new equipment changed his life, he said. "I didn't know what I was missing and how much I was struggling until I received my new equipment and training through iCanConnect."
"I love iCanConnect!" said Ridge. "It has allowed me to be on par with people who can see and hear. I can communicate with friends and family every day and not have to worry about feeling isolated again."