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File:Helen Keller.jpg

Deafblind American author, activist, and lecturer Helen Keller in 1905

Deafblindness is the condition of little or no useful sight and hearing. As with the word "Deaf," it can be capitalized to indicate that it is a culture; some prefer the spelling "DeafBlind". Deafblind people have an experience quite distinct from people who are only deaf or only blind.

Communication[edit | edit source]

Deafblind people communicate in many different ways determined by the nature of their condition, the age of onset, and what resources are available to them. For example, someone who grew up deaf and experienced vision loss later in life is likely to use a sign language (in a visually-modified or tactual form). Others who grew up blind and later became deaf are more likely to use a tactile mode of their spoken/written language. Methods of communication include:

Multisensory methods have been used to help deafblind people enhance their communication skills. These can be taught to very young children with developmental delays (to help with pre-intentional communication), young people with learning difficulties, or older people, including those with dementia. One such process is Tacpac.

Causes[edit | edit source]

There are over 70 known causes of deafblindness[1]. Causes can be categorised into two groups: acquired and congenital.

Acquired[edit | edit source]

The majority of people with sight and hearing impairments have had both sight and hearing throughout most of their lives, and experienced a loss of those senses through illness, injury or age. According to, about 4% of people over 60 in the UK have both hearing and vision impairments. Most people with acquired sight and hearing loss retain some useful sight and/or hearing. Some people have congenital deafness and acquired blindness (such as glaucoma or cataracts) or vice-versa.

Congenital[edit | edit source]

Children born deaf and blind are described as having congenital deafblindness. This condition may be due to prenatal infection (such as rubella), genetic/chromosomal syndromes (such as Down syndrome), birth trauma or maternal heavy alcohol and drug use. Some congenital conditions will not cause deafblindness until later in life. reports that the biggest cause of deafblindness in children in the western world today is 'unknown.' Maternal rubella was once the major cause of deafness and deafblindness in the west, but is now rare due to widespread vaccination programs.

Usher syndrome is also a major contributor to deafblindness. It is a genetic condition of people born deaf or hard of hearing, who gradually start to lose their sight. The sight loss usually begins in late childhood and is caused by an eye condition known as Retinitis Pigmentosa. Early symptoms include night blindness and loss of peripheral vision. It affects 3-6% of the people in the UK who were born deaf or partially hearing (

Deafblind people in history[edit | edit source]

  • Francisco Goya (1746–1828): a Spanish painter, deaf and blind by the time of his death. [2]
  • Victorine Morriseau (1789–1832): First deafblind person to be educated in Paris
  • James Mitchell (1795–1869): congenitally deafblind son of Scottish minister
  • Hieronymus Lorm (19th century): inventor and novelist
  • Sanzan Tani (1802–1867): Japanese teacher who became deaf in childhood and blind later in life, communicating with students by touch.
  • Laura Bridgman (1829–1889): first deafblind child to be successfully educated in the US
  • Mary Bradley (?–1866): first deafblind child to be successfully educated in the UK
  • Joseph Hague (?–?): second deafblind child to be successfully educated in the UK
  • Julia Brace (1807–1884)
  • Eliza Cooter (1841–1860)
  • Robert Dewar (1860–1877)
  • Ragnhild Kåta (1873–1947): Norway
  • Yvonne Pitrois (1880–1937): French biographer
  • Helen Keller (1880–1968): author, activist, and lecturer
  • Alice Betteridge (1901–1966): first deafblind Australian to be educated. Teacher, traveller, writer.
  • Jack Clemo (1916–1994): British poet who became deafblind as an adult
  • Raimo Williams (1917–1945)
  • Robert Smithdas (1925–): the first DeafBlind person in the US to receive a master's degree.
  • Georgia Griffith (circa 1930–)
  • John J. Boyer (1936–)
  • Richard Kinney (?–?): Educator, lecturer, and poet; president of the Hadley School for the Blind from 1975 to 1979.
  • Danny Delcambre (born 1959)
  • Theresa Poh Lin Chan (born c. 1944)
  • Aletrishe Nietrà's granddaughter Sillian (1989-1994)

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ - What is deafblindness?
  2. ^ - a partial list of causes of deafblindness
  3. ^ - an NGO working with deafblind people

External links[edit | edit source]

Information to nurture, empower, and instruct children who are deaf-blind

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