On a rural road outside of Almonte, a red station wagon stops beside a mailbox at the end of a driveway. An arm reaches out of the back window, opens the mailbox door, carefully places several envelopes inside, secures the door and raises the flag.
The mail deliverer is Lorianne Casselman, who has been distributing mail to this route's 539 clients for over a year. Lorianne is deafblind.
Being unable to see or hear, Lorianne uses touch, taste, smell and the help of intervenors to navigate the world. She and her intervenors use two-handed manual sign language to communicate, holding hands when signing to feel the words the other person is expressing.
"Lorianne did a lot of the training with us. She showed us her signs, taught us her signs, taught us how to use them with her, and would correct us if we were wrong," says Freda Clark, an intervenor who has worked with Lorianne for ten years.
When a friend asked Lorianne if she wanted to help deliver mail along a rural route, her intervenors knew she could easily do the job. On Lorianne's first day, April Georgeadis, an intervenor who has worked with her for five years, showed her where the mailboxes were, how to open them and how to raise the flags.
"Within three mailboxes she was doing it by herself, completely independently without my help at all," says April, who admits that many of the mailbox doors are stiff or don't latch easily. But Lorianne makes sure she gets all the mail in the box, even if the envelopes are bulky and barely fit.
For most of her life, Lorianne lived at the Rideau Regional Centre, one of the last three government institutions for people with developmental disabilities thatÂ is closing its doors on March 31, 2009. Lorianne has been able to build on the experiences she had at the Rideau Regional Centre and is now thriving with the new opportunities and supports she is receiving in the community. Nearly 1,000 people have moved to new homes from these institutions since 2004. Across Ontario, the government is helping people with developmental disabilities get the supports that can make it easier for them to live more independently and participate more fully in their communities.
Freda says that since Lorianne moved into a new home in the community nine years ago, she has changed from a quiet woman to one who has flourished and grown. "The change I've seen most in her in the ten years that I've known her is how much she has just discovered about life and how much she enjoys it."
Lorianne's determination and her thirst to learn has even led to her starting her own baking business, called Lori's Unforgettable Treats. Community members place orders for cakes and squares in time for holidays. "She loves to bake," says Freda. "She makes an unbelievable, absolutely to-die-for Skor cheesecake."
Between delivering mail, participating in day programs, gardening, doing chores, going bowling and swimming with friends, and baking, Lorianne is always on the go. Like her baked goods, she truly is a remarkable and unforgettable person.