Personal Stories

Maria Shutlar

A 93 year old enjoying life to the fullest and enjoying her Pacific Island heritage.

Maria Shutlar…
(As told to the Pacific Islands Co-ordinator)

Tell me something about yourself Maria…

Well I am Fijian. My mother was half Fijian and half Australian - My father was Australian. I have been at the Rita Angus Village for 12 years now. It got to a stage where I realised that very soon I would not be able to manage at home anymore – it was not safe and I needed a smaller place. So here I am. I am 93 and half years old.

Tell me how you came to be a member of the Blind Foundation…

I have always had trouble with my hearing – the vision loss started later. Anyway my daughter’s mother in law had Glaucoma and she encouraged me to go get my vision tested. So I did. It was found that I had Glaucoma in both eyes as well as Macular Degeneration in my Left Eye. However I still believed that I did not need to join the Foundation.

When I got to Rita Angus I met another resident who was very involved with the Blind Foundation – she told me about all the services and the support and encouraged me to register…I still did not.

As time went on I got to a point where my sight and hearing just went down and down and I got very depressed. It was then that I decided to get myself registered.

So tell me about your experience with the Foundation.

 Well as I said I became very depressed. Once I was registered a Needs Assessor who also happened to be the Pacific Services Coordinator came to visit and completed an assessment. We talked about how I was feeling and at the time I was still very depressed. The Needs Assessor suggested that I have a talk to the Counsellor about how I was feeling. I agreed. Talking to the Counsellor; one of the things he told me was that not many people with Glaucoma actually go blind – they still have abit of sight. I felt better hearing this information - and decided to look at other services the Foundation provided.

My hearing is worse than my sight.

Together with Deafblind services and Hearing Therapists I have tried hearing aids of different varieties, none of which have worked for me. I now have the basic hearing aids and they will do. Some days my hearing is better than others but for the most part I get the other person to write what they say. This is where the black Artline pens suggested by the Foundation come in very handy – I love them. I also loved reading; I tried the Talking Book machine, but again because of my hearing that was not an option.

An Orientation and Mobility instructor also came and helped with my mobility when I was out and about. I did not feel I needed a cane. She too completed an assessment and made sure I was safe in the route to the doctors – you know the lumps on the ground they were good guides as to where I needed to cross the road. So that was good.

I have had a vision and hearing impaired badge; this has been good when I am with people who do not know of my impairments.

 How do you feel now?

Good! Much better thank you. I was not well enough to go to Helen Keller day last year but I did go the year before. I was very pleased to be asked to provide an article for the Deafblind website.

Any final words Maria…

I am very happy with the Blind Foundation and its services. The people that have visited have been very good – they always so helpful. I am proud to be a Fijian and love the visits and support from Pacific Services. I know that when I ring because I need something, she will come and talk with me to see that the right person comes to visit.

Thank you.



Living life amongst the shakey earth in Christchurch.

 Maisie Aydon

My name is Maisie and I am an 85 year old woman living in Christchurch who has experienced being home at the time of both the large earthquakes which caused so much damage.

I have been blind for many years but did not actually have this diagnosed until my 40’s when it was confirmed I had no side vision past my nose on my left side. This would explain why I was always considered a clumsy child by my mother as I would trip over or bump into things all the time.

When the first earthquake struck I was asleep so I missed most of it and thought of it as a non-event really until the phone started ringing and all my friends were asking if I was alright. As I inspected the house it was found that the chimney had cracked and the walls would need to be repaired.

The second earthquake found me to sitting in the living room with a friend and although it was severe and I thought the floor was going to come up to meet us, I still thought nothing of it. We immediately put the TV on to see what had happened. A lot of people had lost power but we did not. We did however lose water for about 4 hours but I was okay as I had some stored. We were not allowed to flush our toilets for about 4 days.

As I live on the South West of the city we did not experience any liquefaction but as I was keen to see it I encouraged a friend to take me about a mile away to have a look. During this earthquake only a few things got broken; I had some toys fall off pelmets but no cupboards opened and nothing of value was broken. The biggest problem I had was having to move out of my home for the repairs. They sent packers in to pack up and everything was put into boxes and put in storage. On my return to my home I then had to find everything in the boxes which was a nightmare. I have been back in my house since July and to this day I still have not found my printer. I have found my cuckoo clock but no weights or pendulum. When I got home all my picture hooks and curtain rods had been taken down to re-wallpaper and I had to get someone to come in and put them all back up for me. When you hear about the earthquake it sounds like it was bad everywhere but it was not as terrible everywhere.

As for being blind it is dangerous especially with cars, but I find deafness to be my greatest problem. I have been with the Blind Foundation for years and have two hearing aids but still miss a lot. You become unsociable with hearing loss as people do not like repeating themselves. Over the years my vision has slowly got worse and being both deaf and blind has made things more difficult but being deaf meant I did not hear the earthquake coming which is a blessing in some ways.



Merv’s Story

ThePresidentshares his life story...

Merv Cox, current President of Deafblind (NZ) Inc.

I am married to Cheryl. We have 3 adult children and 5 terrific grandchildren. I run my own landscaping business with the support of my wife and staff.

I was diagnosed with Ushers syndrome 2 in the 1980’s. I was living in Australia when I was diagnosed and after a period we decided to return to New Zealand to be closer to our families. I had difficulty finding a job because nobody was prepared to employ me because of my deafblindness. I therefore decided to set up my own business.

Two years ago we moved from Wellington to Marton to live on a life-style block. This allowed me to realise my lifelong dream of living in a rural setting surrounded by animals.

I became President of Deafblind (NZ) Inc in 2004, a position I still hold. I believe that deafblind people can speak for themselves and do whatever we choose to do. There may be barriers erected but there are always around these if we look. I don’t believe in “can’t” and see these barriers as challenges to succeed.

When I first returned to New Zealand I became very isolated, very frustrated and very difficult to live with as I fought against accepting my blindness. Cheryl’s threat to leave me if I didn’t seek help from the Blind Foundation became a reality, and only after I joined the Foundation and accepted help did she come back. Although my friends and family stuck by me I found it frustrating that they could all still lead “normal” lives and my world appeared to be getting smaller and more limited.

I joined the Foundation in 2001 and wish to this day that I had joined earlier due to the tremendous support given to help me deal with my situation. In 2003 I attended my first deafblind camp run by the Foundation where I met up with other deafblind people and I finally realised I was not alone with deafblindness; there were others just like me who showed me that my life could continue in any way I wanted it to.

I enjoy being the President of Deafblind (NZ) Inc. as it gives me the opportunity to help others make the transition that I made in accepting my deafblindness. I also get great pleasure hearing other peoples’ stories and realise that while we are all different our stories are often very similar. I also enjoy advocating for the deafblind community and firmly believe that given the right tools and support we can all live very satisfying and rewarding lives.

From time to time I still struggle with my blindness, but talking to friends and other deafblind people helps me to carry on and accept who I am.

As a deafblind person we CAN do it, we CAN knock down the barriers or we CAN go around them.

John and Louise

A wonderful deafblind love story....

John and Louise

Fourteen years ago a friendship blossomed between a Liverpool lass with Usher syndrome 2 and a farmer, a good sort called John, who also had Usher 2. They initially met at a relaxing deafblind get together in beautiful Devonport for lunch. No romantic bells rang at the time but John (Mcpeak) and Louise(Smith) kept in regular contact. He would pop in for a cup of tea and a laugh whenever he was in town.

Fast forward to 2004…. Louise was looking for a boarder and John just happened to get a new job close by (nudge, nudge –wink, wink) and took up Louise’s offer of boarding there. It all started to come together romantically from there. After going on day outings together, lengthy conversations and lots of laughs, love started to grow.

Louise has three adult children, 2 daughters and a son. She also has three grandchildren. John inherited a ready-made family of whom he jokingly refers to as “no school fees and no nappies”. John very proudly escorted Louise’s daughter Elisa, down the aisle on her January 2013 wedding day.

Louise and John also enjoy travelling and have been to Perth to visit Louise’s son Tim and his family. They went sightseeing and enjoyed copious cafes and attractions.

Over the years they have both been actively involved in activities with the Blind Foundation, and enjoy the friendships and support they receive. They are a very active couple, enjoying a healthy lifestyle, and tramping the Milford track in 2011 features as a highlight for them. John was very proud of Louise for completing the four day tramp.

Louise enjoys walking and walks with the Papakura RSA walking group twice a week. She also practices yoga. John is very fit and does a lot of cycling, especially in the summer. After competing in the Lake Taupo race 6 times he has no intentions of slowing down.

John’s background, since he left school, is in farming and he is still fattening cattle to date. In 2007 he and Louise started working at a recycling company, called Eco Stock Supplies, which has since won the 2013 business award for their recycling initiatives. “Every day we are saving the planet when we go to work,” says Louise with a big smile. Still working there after 7 years they have seen a lot of changes with the machinery, and the small staff of 5 has now grown to include 6 trucks and runs 24 hours per day with a large team of warehouse staff.

When John misbehaves he disappears downstairs to enjoy his model railway which is starting to take shape. John says it is a great stress reliever watching the trains go round the tracks when you have had a rough day. Louise finds cooking and baking a relaxing pastime and her apricot muffins never last very long so she is always baking new batches – using Splendor, no sugar, got to stay healthy.

John says that at the end of the day we are a very happy couple. We have our “moments” and our frustrations but we talk about it and hope for the best. Louise says some family members refer to them as the NZ version of “George and Mildred”. If anyone wants to make a remake in a Kiwi version we would be happy to feature in it.

PS John’s tip when washing your socks – join them together with a safety pin.