Diversity and Definitions

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The terminology “Deafblindness” is wide ranging and comprises a broad spectrum of characteristics, impairments and impacts.

Image: Diversity and DefinitionsThe use of categories of deafblindness is useful in identification and diagnosis, and act as guidelines in support and provision of care.

However, it is important to be aware that the use of categories and terminologies can also be limiting.  Assumptions can be made which may exclude any of the following:

  • age of onset
  • degree and type of visual and hearing impairment
  • degree of residual visual and hearing
  • communication used
  • additional disabilities
  • environmental need
  • educational input
  • emotional need

The terminology deafblindness can also be ambiguous. The emotional response to the term ‘deafblindness’ often evokes a world of total blindness and deafness, a world that cannot be interpreted or intercepted. A large percentage of people will have residual sight and hearing but will not identify themselves as deafblind.

This website uses the terms “deafblind” and “dual sensory loss” interchangeably. The Department of Health definition (see below) can be useful as a working definition, looking at impacts and varying degrees of combined sight and hearing loss. It is important to acknowledge that the onset and degree of loss will vary from individual to individual and will heavily influence their self-perception and their relationship with wider society.


Persons are regarded as Deafblind “If their combined sight and hearing impairment causes difficulties with” the following:

  • Communication
  • Access to information
  • Mobility

This includes people with a progressive sight and hearing loss.

“Deafblindness can be found in all age groups, including children, but the incidence is greatest in older adults.” Think Dual Sensory, Department of Health 1995

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