Post date: 
Friday, 9 June 2017
Photo of John Churcher in climbing gear standing on a snowy mountain

Combined sight and hearing loss is more common than we think, with an estimated 394,000 people affected. For Deafblind Awareness Week, we are trying to help raise awareness of people like John who are living with dual sensory loss.

John from Birmingham was born with 50 per cent hearing loss, and after being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome as a teenager his sight gradually deteriorated too. He is now left with just three per cent vision, which is fragmented with parts missing. He wears two hearing aids and relies a lot on voice and digital equipment, as well as his guide dog Daisy and an army of supportive friends and family.
John says he doesn’t let his condition get in the way of his love for sports and keeping fit. “I am lucky enough to have a guide runner who lives locally and we run together each week.”
Back in 2010, John’s world changed forever when a friend introduced him to climbing. “I loved it from the very beginning! I immediately wanted to take it further and it wasn’t long before I was invited to join the Great Britain Paraclimbing Team”, said John. “I climb with a sighted guide who gives me all the information I need about the route. They will describe the positions of the holds in relation to a clock face...As I wear hearing aids, I can use a radio microphone to hear what the guide is saying to me”, he continued. 

In 2015, John realised a dream he could never have imagined and became the first blind person to summit the Eiger, a 13,000 foot mountain in Switzerland. John said he felt “totally elated” and enjoyed the challenge of not only the climb, but the entire project, including sourcing support, finances and equipment.

John has been reselected for team Great Britain in 2017. National sight and hearing loss charity, Deafblind UK is supporting him by recruiting a specialist volunteer to drive him to climbing centres and to be his belayer (someone to anchor the end of the rope) and sight guide.
John is taking part in a Twitter Q&A for Deafblind Awareness Week on Thursday 29 June from 1-2pm. If you would like to ask him a question, all you need to do is Tweet it using the hashtag AskDBAW and John will answer.

Further information

  • Deafblind Awareness Week runs from 26 June to 2 July.
  • A series of events will take place across the country including a sight and hearing loss information day at Deafplus, Trinity Centre, Key Close, Whitechapel, London E1 4HG on Tuesday 27 June.
  • Deafblind UK will also be hosting live question and answer sessions about sight and hearing loss on Twitter between 1pm and 2pm from 27 to 30 June. Tweet your questions with the hashtag #askDBAW for an expert to answer.