No. It is common for people who are Deaf-blind to have some residual hearing or vision.
Deaf-blindness is a combination of vision loss and hearing loss that prevents access to communication, the environment and people. A person who is DeafBlind may or may not have other physical or cognitive disabilities. Each individual is different.
Other terms for deaf-blindness include dual sensory impairment, combined vision and hearing loss, dual sensory loss, and dual sensory disability. Some people spell the word deafblind with a hyphen, or a slash between “deaf” and “blind.” When the word DeafBlind is capitalized, it connotes cultural identification (see Why do you keep capitalizing “DeafBlind” like that? below).
People who are deaf-blind can exist in every generation, ethnic background, social class, gender and geographic location in the world.
Deaf-blindness is a disability of access to sights, sounds and information. All people with dual sensory loss face similar challenges, including:
Hearing loss causes difficulties communicating with people using spoken language, and vision loss causes problems using visual languages, such as sign language. With limited or no access to the sights, sounds, conversations and interactions of the environment, you can imagine the difficulty deaf-blind people have in traveling around town, going shopping and visiting the doctor.
However, when their needs are accommodated, people with dual sensory loss can live full, satisfying lives. (See What can deaf-blind people do? below.)
Deaf-blind children and adults thrive in a variety of work and family settings when their needs are supported. Many deaf-blind adults have families, are gainfully employed, and live independently.
Self-determination means being able to control your own life, reach your goals and take part fully in the world around you.
Disability rights laws, support personnel and assistive technology increase a deaf-blind person’s access to visual and auditory information. Through consumer advocacy groups, people with disabilities and their allies unite to work toward better accessibility and quality of life.
Some of these methods include tactile sign language, close-vision sign language, fingerspelling, writing notes in large print or Braille, print-on-palm, cued speech, gestures, pictures, lip-reading, tactile symbols and touch cues. Some people with dual sensory loss are able to use auditory methods in which the speaker talks in slow, clear, speech a short distance from the listener’s ear or assistive listening device. For more details, read an illustrated article called Different Types of Communication used by Deaf-Blind Patients.
Usually an individual will have a favorite method but probably adapts his or her communication method or style to meet the needs of others. The choice of communication method often depends on whether the individual lost their hearing first, vision first or both simultaneously.
For children who are developing language and a means of communication, every option possible must be tried in order to find a communication method that will meet each individual child’s hearing and vision losses. For those children and youth who have other physical or cognitive disabilities, a system of gestures, cues or tactile cues may be all that is used at first.
For clear advice about how to interact with a person who has a visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive disability, see Effective Interaction: Communicating With and About People with Disabilities in the Workplace.
Tips on How to Communicate Effectively with Deaf-Blind People is an article that deals with practical considerations and awareness of DeafBlind cultural norms. See also CUEmmunication: Beginning Communication with People who are Deafblind.
Materials that are in regular print can be put into accessible, alternate formats for people with dual sensory loss. Some of these formats include large print, Braille, text file on computer disk and audio recording. See also The Blind Readers’ Page for information on accessible formats and other topics related to vision loss.
Most people with vision loss receive training in Orientation and Mobility (O&M). O&M allows them to use a white cane or other tools and techniques to safely and independently navigate unfamiliar places.
After they become proficient in independent travel using a white cane, some people decide to get a specially-trained guide dog. A guide dog does not make decisions about where to go, how to get there, and how safe the route is. Instead, the blind or deafblind person must use orientation and mobility skills to make those decisions and then give the guide dog brief commands like “forward” and “up.” See also Service Dog information.
Another O&M tool is the sighted guide. As the person with vision loss holds onto the guide’s arm, the guide walks slightly ahead of him or her providing information about upcoming landmarks or changes in the walking surface.
Depending on their type and degree of vision loss, some deaf-blind people are able to independently drive a car or ride a bicycle. Others use public transportation, special van services for people with disabilities, taxi cabs, or ride in a vehicle driven by a friend, family member, or support service provider.
Although some of the following articles focus on children, the information and techniques in them are used by people of all ages.
The Importance of Orientation and Mobility Skills for Students Who Are Deaf-Blind is a very informative, illustrated article on O&M skills, techniques, and training for people who are DeafBlind.
The exact number is not known. However, the generally accepted estimates are that approximately 10% of the general population has a hearing loss. Of the 10% of people with hearing loss, approximately 1% are also blind or have serious vision loss.
For more information, visit the National Center on Deaf-Blindess.
Many people who are Deaf or DeafBlind consider themselves to be part of a distinct cultural group. A group is considered a cultural group when it has its own language, norms, traditions and values. For example, most people in the USA who identify as members of Deaf or DeafBlind Culture use American Sign Language (ASL) as their first language and typically do not view their inability to hear as a deficit or disability. According to the norms and values of their cultural group, they have normal, fulfilling, interactive lives without depending on sounds or spoken language to communicate.
When the words “Deaf” and “DeafBlind” begin with a capital letter, these terms refer to a person’s cultural identification as a member of a language community. In the U.S. and parts of Canada, that linguistic minority communicates in American Sign Language (ASL). In other countries, the local Deaf and DeafBlind people use a native sign language that is different from ASL, just as people in Spain use a native spoken language that is different from English.
By contrast, when we refer to the medical condition of not being able to hear well, we write “deaf” with a lowercase “d.” Similarly, “deafblindness” refers to the medical view of a DeafBlind person as someone who has impaired hearing and sight, but it makes no reference to the person’s language and cultural affiliation.
Further information about Deaf and Deaf-Blind culture