Deafblindness is described as a unique and isolating sensory disability resulting from the combination of both hearing and vision loss or impairment with significant affects to communication, socialisation, mobility and daily living.
A person is deafblind if they have a combined sight and hearing impairment that causes difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility. Deafblindness is known throughout the world as the most isolating of all disabilities.
These difficulties can occur even when hearing loss and vision loss are mild, because the two senses usually work together and one usually helps compensate for loss of the other. This is why deafblindness, (combined sensory loss) has a significant impact on a person’s life, even when they are not totally blind or deaf.
The nature and impact of deafblindness is affected by many factors including whether it is congenital (born deafblind) or adventitious (acquired). There are variations within every group and each person brings individual perspectives and experience to living with dual sensory loss. No matter what the extent of loss, it may affect all or some of the following:
- orientation and mobility
- confidence and self-esteem
- independence in daily living skills
- access to information, education and employment
- access to interpreters and aids and equipment, because of cost
All of these can cause fatigue and frustration in dealing with everyday situations.
How do deafblind people communicate?
We all have a need to interact and communicate with people around us to share knowledge and information; to exchange greetings; to convey our needs; to express how we are feeling or to make choices.
This interaction may be informal or formal and may take place between one individual and another; or there may be a group of people who are communicating with each other.
When we are communicating with other people, whether it is in an educational, employment or social situation, the interaction connects us to others.
Communication preferences for people who are deafblind may involve the use of a combination of methods that have been adapted depending on:
- whether the individual is congenitally deafblind or they have acquired dual sensory loss
- the extent to which the person’s vision and/or hearing is affected
- acquisition of language
Communication methods that may be used with people who are deafblind
- Lip reading
- Auslan (Australian Sign Language)
- Signed English
- Key Word Sign (formerly known as Makaton)
- Tactile Signing
- Signs used on the body
- Co-active signing
- Visual frame signing
- Deafblind manual alphabet
- Printing on palm
- Social Haptics
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Object symbols
- Written (large print writing or typed information)
- Use of communication devices
There are many technological aids which may be used by people who are deafblind. Technology developed for people who are blind or have a vision impairment, or for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, or technologies which span both as well as devices developed specifically for people who are deafblind.
There is more general technology becoming available to deafblind people all the time, in this age of technology, so always ask us.
For more information, please go to: Deafblind Information
Deafblind Information by Senses Australia This website was established to ensure that individuals living with a combination of vision and hearing impairments, their families and support members, professionals and service providers, have an accessible, web-based resource available to them.
Deafblind Australia (DBA) An important role of DBA is to help empower people who are deafblind in regard to self-determination and self-advocacy.
Able Australia We reach out to people with multiple disabilities including deafblindness, supporting them in achieving self-fulfilment and connection with the greater community.
Sense International We have put together a list of useful links to some other organisations which represent people with deafblindness and support and promote deafblindness.