Ausnew Home Care | Being blind and deaf hasn't stopped carpenter Tony Meli, who makes ornate creations in his workshop by touch

Being blind and deaf hasn't stopped carpenter Tony Meli, who makes ornate creations in his workshop by touch

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Tony Meli may be blind and deaf, but in his personal workshop, he is capable of things that defy belief.

The 54-year-old from Jerrabomberra in southern New South Wales communicates using a special form of Auslan where he holds peoples' hands while they sign to him.

This enhanced sense of touch is part of what gives Tony his remarkable talent with tools.

After transforming his backyard with landscape structures, brickwork and decking, the carpenter has now turned his hands to making ornate chair benches and fruit bowls.

A row of ornate wooden chairs.
Tony finds his carpentry so fulfilling he says he often loses track of time.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)

"When I'm working in the workshop, I feel that I do have more power, I have control," he said.

"I love it, it just makes me happy."

While navigating his garden might sometimes prove difficult, he laughs off the challenge as a reality of his everyday life.

"I put stuff in the wheelbarrow, and often I'll find I've taken a path less travelled and I've ended up somewhere where I really don't want to be," he said.

"So you've got to laugh."

Handmade square fruit bowls.
Using mainly touch, Tony makes ornate chairs and fruit bowls in his workshop.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)

With touch his primary sense, Tony relies on feeling his way around his work to make sure they meet his very high standards.

"I can feel whether it's too far apart or if it's slightly off, it's not square, and if it's not right I'll take it apart and redo it," he said.

And Tony said his passion for carpentry often meant he lost track of time, working late into the day without noticing.

"Time just goes so quickly when I'm doing these sorts of things because I'm so occupied, and before I know it, it's dark," he said.

'I have to be strong, like a table'

A man in a beanie using a buzz saw.
Tony says when his vision began to fail, he knew he didn't want to sit around doing nothing.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)

Tony was born profoundly deaf and worked as a certified carpenter in Canberra for more than a decade before his vision started deteriorating.

The loss of his vision at the age of 32 forced him to retire early, and caused him a lot of anguish.

"Over time I did notice that my work was changing, and I began to get really seriously concerned and upset, very sad," he said.

"I didn't want to just be sitting down in a chair doing nothing, I didn't want to do that.

"It was really that I wanted to work, I wanted to go to work."

A printed photo of a man at a workbench, seen on a workbench. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Tony worked as a carpenter for more than 10 years before the loss of his vision forced him to retire.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)

Tony said none of the procedures he did now had changed much since he lost his vision, but that he instead took extra care to ensure his safety.

He said his faith also provided a daily source of strength and guidance in his work and life more broadly.

"Every day I do pray, and I do ask that Jesus looks after me, and he watches over me," he said.

"And I thank him at the end of the day. I'm tired, and at night I do thank him for looking after me."

Tony said being a deafblind carpenter meant he had to have a lot of inner strength, like the pieces he builds.

"I really do have to be strong, strong like a table," he said.

Inspiring others to find their strength

A man and woman smile as they hold each other.
Tony says his wife Angie supports him, and lends an eye to some of his work.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)

Tony said his wife Angie was an amazing support to him and his work, and that he occasionally relied on her sight to make sure his pieces were perfect.

"Sometimes I can't see a spirit level and whether something is perfectly level, so she comes along and I use her eyes to see if something's level," he said.

"She's just a beautiful person, she's a lovely lady, she does so much for me."

Tony said he hoped to sell his work to people in the future, and that sharing his pieces with other people with disabilities would help them find the strength to live happier lives.

"Being deafblind, it is hard, but I have my wife, I have my family," he said.

"I have the things that other people have, and they give to me an awful lot of strength, so I'm feeling very strong."

YOUTUBEThe deaf and blind carpenter defying belief with his beautiful creations
Source: ABC

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