Unstoppable Elio: Blizzard

Deaf, blind, and fiercely independent, Elio Reggillo is looking for Ontario’s Liberals to backtrack on changes to the intervenor program

By CHRISTINA BLIZZARD, Queen’s Park Columnist

Elio Reggillo is hard-working, fiercely independent and lives life with more courage and dignity than anyone I can think of.

Regillo, 39, is a devoted husband to wife Tracey, the proud father to three kids. He works two jobs to put food on the table.

The fact he’s deaf and blind doesn’t stop him from working a 40-hour week at a grocery store and part-time at George Brown College where he teaches a deaf/blind intervenor program and American sign language in the only program of its type in Canada.

The Thornhill Food Basics store where he was employed closed its doors last week. Reggillo is determined to find a new job, but he’s fearful changes to a government program that provides him with intervenor services will prevent him from doing so.

There’s a schism within the community between those who were born deaf/blind and those who acquired the condition.

In an attempt to fix what was seen as an inequity between the two groups, the social services ministry introduced an assessment tool that placed a heavy emphasis on health and personal care issues — which someone as independent as Reggillo simply doesn’t need.

Reggillo has a congenital condition called Usher Syndrome. He was born deaf and later lost much of his vision.

Reggillo is president of the Ontario Usher Syndrome Association and advocates on behalf of the deaf/blind.

He’s worked in grocery stores for 23 years — the last 10 at the store that’s closing.

Without intervention, he can’t communicate, he can’t work, can’t take part in his children’s education, can’t be part of the community.

But he’s determined to support his three children aged 14, 12 and 8.

Ironically, someone as independent as Reggillo, who can shave and bathe and function very well on his own, would get fewer hours under the plan the ministry is proposing.

The fact he’s so proudly independent actually works against him.

“I won’t be able to go for interviews for jobs.

“I won’t be able to look for jobs, explain my experience and what I am able to do — and that I can do it,” Reggillo explained as Tracey translated through hand-on-hand sign language.

“They will just look at my disability.

“And I can do it. I can work. I want to have an equal life like everyone else.”

Reggillo is pleased Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur now appears to be backing away from the proposed assessment tool.

“I’m excited because recently I heard that the government is willing to listen to our concerns, but I won’t believe it until I see that it’s done,” he said.

It doesn’t matter whether a deaf/blind person was born that way or acquired it — they all need intervenor services, he says.

“We can’t fix our eyes and ears. It’s something we’ve had happen to us. So I want the assessment tool to be fixed and it needs to be done now,” he said.

Even a simple task like grocery shopping is impossible for a deaf/blind person, he says, since few products are labelled in braille or in large print.

It’s heartening that Meilleur seems to be making the right noises backing off the proposed changes to the intervenor services.

Let’s hope this isn’t just lip service and empty promises to get them past the October election.

With quiet dignity and determination, Reggillo has overcome overwhelming odds.

He’s not asking for hand-outs.

All he wants is a job — and to maintain his intervenor support so he can continue feed his family and hold his head high.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask.

christina.blizzard@sunmedia.ca Twitter: @ChrizBlizz

Reproduced from http://deaftimes.com/usa-l/unstoppable-elio-blizzard/