By Angela Zapke, Huntington Patch | October 1, 2019

Original article on Patch’s website

With Yukiko Yamanouchi, the spouse of the Consul General of Japan in New York, Mrs. Akie Abe met with participants and staff to learn about issues affecting individuals who are DeafBlind.

Sands Point, NY…September 25, 2019…The Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults (HKNC), a division of Helen Keller Services (HKS), was honored to host two distinguished guests this week, Aike Abe, the spouse of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, and Yukiko Yamanouchi, the spouse of Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi, the Consul General of Japan in New York. Mrs. Abe was in the United States while Prime Minister Abe attended the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and requested the opportunity to visit HKNC’s headquarters in Sands Point, New York, accompanied by Ms. Yamanouchi.

“We were thrilled and honored when we learned that Mrs. Abe wanted to visit us,” observed HKNC Executive Director Susan Ruzenski, “but nothing could have prepared us for how warm, caring, and engaging she was with the participants and staff. During our interactions while Mrs. Abe toured the program she even demonstrated Japanese sign language for us. Through her translator and HKNC’s sign language interpreters, Mrs. Abe took the time to speak with the participants about their lives, aspirations, and what they hoped to accomplish at the National Center. It was very moving. We all came away with the feeling we had made a new friend.”

Authorized by an Act of Congress in 1967, HKNC is the only organization of its kind in the United States to provide training and resources exclusively to people age 16 and over who have combined vision and hearing loss.

HKS President and CEO Kim Zimmer was also present for the tour and appreciated the significance of the visit by Mrs. Abe.

“Helen Keller Services was founded more than 125 years ago and continues to set the standard for serving the blind and DeafBlind communities,” she noted. “Technology evolves and the world changes but what remains constant is our commitment to inclusion for individuals who are blind, have vision loss, or who have a combined hearing and vision loss. It is that commitment that first drew Mrs. Abe and Ms. Yamanouchi to our National Center. Meeting these women of character and compassion was a privilege. I speak for everyone at Helen Keller Services when I say I hope we have the opportunity to host them again in the not too distant future.”

In addition to its Sands Point headquarters, HKNC maintains 10 regional offices serving New England, Mid-Atlantic, East Central, Southwest, North Central, South Central, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, and Northwest. HKNC also partners with other agencies across the United States to build their capacity to work with individuals who are DeafBlind.

Founded in 1893, Helen Keller Services offers services and programs through two divisions: Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults and Helen Keller Services for the Blind.  For more information, please visit

Original article on Patch’s website

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