Brazilian teacher helps deaf, blind friend follow World Cup

Summarized by Rachel Janis, staff writer

By building a miniature soccer field, Hélio Fonseca de Araújo helped his deaf and blind friend Carlos experience the game between his home country Brazil and Croatia during the World Cup 2014. It was a very hands-on experience, as Hélio guided Carlos’ hands up and down his crafted soccer field to imitate the movement of the game.

Hélio, a sign language instructor, met 27-year-old Carlos nine years ago. Hélio told the Daily News that Carlos had come up with the idea, and Hélio began to carry it out for him, searching “Measurements of a Football Field” on Google and buying materials to create the miniature replica.

Carlos had normal vision until he was diagnosed with Usher syndrome at the age of 14; since then, he has been gradually losing his eye sight. Because he can only see shapes and countours, Hélio said, Carlos was unable to continue watching soccer matches two years ago.

With the help of another interpreter, Hélio decided to try something new to help Carlos feel the emotions of the game alongside his fellow Brazilian fans.

Hélio said, “We want him to feel the same sensations that (people who can see and hear) feel.”

At an international conference a year ago, Hélio learned several techniques to help people who are blind and deaf; he immediately began using them on Carlos.

To prepare for the game, Hélio paid Carlos a visit and guided Carlos’ hands around the miniature soccer field, explaining the positioning and the players’ movements. He also explained details such as fouls, players’ numbers, and the red and yellow cards used to signal warnings or penalties. The two even stopped to participate in the national anthem, where Hélio placed Carlos’ hand over his heart.

Watching the live game on the television screen, Hélio guided Carlos’ hands across the board to follow the movement of the ball. Carlos, the avid fan wearing a Brazil jersey, caught on to the movements and expressed understanding, shaking his hands in frustration whenever Croatia scored a goal, as Hélio told him so in sign language.

Carlos equally responded to Brazil’s goals, raising his hands in the air and drumming on the mini board. After all of Brazil’s near misses, Carlos was ecstatic to experience Brazil’s first goal that led to the team’s eventual 3-1 win. During Brazil’s third goal, Hélio even directed Carlos to celebrate with his audience, telling Carlos to point to the camera, which was videotaping Carlos’ experience with the mini soccer board.

Before the introduction of the soccer board, Hélio said that Carlos had prayed to God to ask for someone to relay the game to him. Carlos reflects that Hélio’s help was beyond his expectations.

Since then, Carlos has been watching all of the games. Although Hélio can’t be there for all of the matches during the World Cup, he will be sure to guide Carlos through all of Brazil’s games.

Hélio says of the video capturing Carlos’ experience: “When I posted the video, I was aiming to show that for everything in life there is a solution, so that other interpreters (can) use this with their friends or deaf and blind clients.”

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