Kim and Philip Norton’s son Henry was born deaf, diagnosed with Usher Syndrome—a disorder resulting in deaf, blindness or deafblind—at age 4 and began losing his vision soon after. As a result, the Nortons founded Accessing Independence—HHSH (Help Henry See and Hear) in 2012 to encourage Henry to become independent. Today, their son is an inspiration and he’s helping others do the same.
What services does the charity offer?
Free American Sign Language classes; a Santa for children who are deaf, blind or deafblind; tuition assistance to attend summer camp at Liberty Lake Day Camp with the necessary support person—all at no cost to the family. Most importantly, we have created an amazing network of families who can refer teachers to and discuss strategies.
How is the community involved?
Liberty Lake Day Camp in Bordentown accommodates children with sensory needs enthusiastically. Home Depot of Mount Laurel has provided an accessible craft every single year for our annual event for families and the Movement Lab in Hainesport, a Parkour gym, has always opened their doors to our community of families. The owner of the gym, Chris Wilczewski, has worked with Henry for three years. He picked up sign language to communicate with Henry and accommodates for his visual needs.
How have families benefited?
Seeing successful children and young adults with vision or hearing loss or both is imperative. The diagnosis [and] not knowing what to expect is frightening, but knowing that others are successful and advocate well for themselves is comforting to [those] families.
How is Henry an inspiration?
Henry is living up to the name of our organization [as] he is accessing his independence. He advocates and trusts himself and demands independence. We cannot ask for anything more of an 8-year-old [with] deafblindness.
For more information or to get involved, visit AI-HHSH.org.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 3 (June, 2016).
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