What Does the Term Deafblind Mean?

The Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children defines deafblindness as follows: “Deafblindness” means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness” (Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities, July 1, 2014).

According to the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), there were roughly 10,000 children identified as being deafblind in the United States as reported through the annual national deafblind census (NCDB, 2014). Deafblindness is considered a low incidence disability, meaning that the number of individuals identified as having deafblindness does not exceed 1% of the school-aged population at any given time. The relative rarity of students with these disabilities in public schools often poses significant challenges for local schools struggling to meet their needs. These students require a team of highly trained professionals and paraprofessionals to assist them in making connections to other people, the social environment, their physical environment, and all aspects of learning, thus ensuring they receive the same access to the general curriculum as all other students.

Although the term deafblind implies a complete absence of hearing and sight, in reality, it refers to children with varying degrees of vision and hearing loss. This combination of deficits limits access to auditory and visual information and creates unique challenges for communication and education. As a result, families and educators often face difficulties in securing the knowledge and resources needed to support their children.

The majority of children and adults who are deafblind do have some level of usable vision and/or hearing and with appropriate accommodations can access the world around them. Hearing and visual impairment can affect people of all ages and may be present from birth, as the result of genetics or a specific medical condition, or due to aging or deterioration later in life.

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