Our funder, the U.S. Department of Education, requires CDBS to conduct an annual child count to determine the number of children/students in California who are deafblind (i.e., children / students who are both blind/visually impaired and Deaf/hard of hearing). Our charge is to identify every child / student from birth to age 22 who is deafblind, regardless of their IEP category, as most students with deafblindness fall under a variety of other designations. This information is very important as it impacts policy and practice at local, state, and national levels. Thank you for your help.

CENSUS STATUS (JUNE, 2023) THANK YOU to all of the educators, administrators, specialists, nurses, team-members, and everyone else who assisted with this year's California Deafblind Census for 2022-2023!

Pre-printed forms to verify were mailed out to district, LEA, SELPA, State Special School, and county offices on Feb 1, 2023 and requested back by March 15th. All of the data that you provided on our state was compiled here and the report was completed in April 2023. The report for California was handed-off to our partners in the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) to be combined with the other states for the US Department of Education.

So much thanks to our partners in the California Department of Education for their help getting the word out, to all of the early intervention programs for identifying so many new students, and to all of the school / medical / county / administration teams for helping collect, share, and verify so much data in our huge state!

We continue to update our records throughout the year as any new information is shared (so please feel free to update if you have new information to share) and we will be looking forward to working with all of you again next February and March when we do this all over for the next year!

Who should be Included on the Deafblind Census?

Many people who are deafblind have some usable vision and/or usable hearing. It is important to understand that persons who are completely deaf and totally blind, like Helen Keller was, make up only about six percent of the total group that is considered to be "deafblind." CDBS uses a functional definition of deafblindness:

If an individual (birth through age 21) has combined hearing and vision issues that are significant enough to require considerations (such as specialized adaptations, modifications, and strategies) when presenting information or interacting with the child, then that individual is considered eligible to receive CDBS services and should be included on the deafblind census.

For purposes of the annual census, a person is considered to be deafblind if they are both blind/visually impaired and Deaf/hard of hearing, ranging from mild to severe, or they function as if they have both a hearing and vision loss based on inconsistent responses to the environment or inconclusive responses during hearing and vision exams. A conclusion that a child is functionally deafblind may be based on an educational evaluation for purposes of initially reporting that child on the deafblind census. Please remember that regardless of the presence or absence of additional disabilities, children with combined hearing and vision issues should be included on the deafblind census. Students do not have to meet state or local criteria, since this census is separate from the state count, and most children in California with both hearing and vision issues are, in fact, identified on their individualized educational program (Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act child count) in categories such as multi-disabled, intellectually disabled, visually impaired, or deafness.

In addition, students with a mild hearing loss and mild vision loss should be included since a combined mild loss of both senses can create an adverse effect on educational success.


  • When were the packets mailed? The pre-printed packets are mailed by the 1st week of February.
  • When are forms due back? Please return the forms before March 15.
  • How do I send back the new or revised forms or get answers to questions not answered here?
    Please mail forms to:     California Deafblind Services
                                                ATTN: Census Coordinator
                                                San Francisco State University
                                                Dept. of Special Education — BH 163
                                                1600 Holloway Avenue
                                                San Francisco, CA 94132-4158 OR Fax: 415-338-2845   

Questions? Please email: devereux@sfsu.edu

Why did my LEA (Local Education Agency) not receive a form about past/current students?

LEAs that did not report any children with deafblindness over the past two years were not mailed a census packet this year. If you represent an LEA that did not report students who are deafblind and now have a student(s) to report, please visit the census page of the CDBS Web site at https://cadeafblind.org/census/ Here you will find documents to assist you in reporting.

Who should complete the form/answer questions?

Ideally the census form should be completed by the “best service provider,” someone who knows and works closely with the child. However, anyone with access to the child’s file can complete the form, including educators, school health personnel, family members, and/or CDBS staff.

Do I need to sign the form?

Yes. If you are completing or confirming a form, please sign or print your name on the bottom of page two. This person can be different from the “best service provider contact” but should be someone we could get in touch with if there is a question about the form. If you are answering emailed questions and not completing a full form, please indicate who answered the questions. Yes, e-signatures are okay.

What if we don’t have any deafblind students in our district/county/SELPA at this time?

While it is possible that smaller Local Education Agencies may not have any students with combined hearing and vision issues, statistically we know that there should be about 1.56 children who are deafblind for every 1,000 receiving special education services. CDBS field staff are available to assist you in your identification efforts.

What if I don’t know all the information requested on the form for a particular student?

Please refer to the child’s cumulative file if possible and/or the IEP.

Does reporting a child on this census obligate our school program to provide services such as vision, hearing, orientation and mobility?
No. Individualized needs and services are determined by the family and educators through the IEP or IFSP process.
Why is the census so important?

 Funding for specialized services to this population is dependent on having accurate information about how many infants, children and youth in California have both hearing and vision issues. When the state and national legislatures approve funding—and state and federal agencies allocate the funds—census information is used to determine priorities and needs.

What exactly is meant by the term “deafblind”?
CDBS recognizes that this is a difficult question for families and educators, and that the federal definition can be confusing. To make it more clear, CDBS uses a functional definition of deafblindness: If an individual (birth through age 21) has combined hearing and vision issues that are significant enough to require considerations (such as specialized adaptations, modifications, and strategies) when presenting information or interacting with the child, then that child is considered eligible to be included on the census and receive services from our project.
What if a child has multiple disabilities that happen to include vision and hearing issues?

 Most children who are deafblind have additional disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, orthopedic impairments, health impairments, etc. Please complete a census form for all students who have hearing and vision issues, regardless of the presence or absence of additional disabilities.

What if the hearing and/or vision issues are cortical in nature?

Please do include children with sensory impairments that are cortical in nature—such as cerebral (or cortical) visual impairment, central auditory processing disorder, and/or auditory neuropathy—on the census. These students usually require adaptations and modifications to their programs in order for them to succeed. In addition, these hearing and vision issues often need to be considered when developing effective, formal communication systems for these individuals. When in doubt, refer to the functional definition of deafblindness above.

What if deafblindness is not the student’s primary disability on her or his IEP?

It doesn’t matter which primary disability is identified on the IEP. While California Deafblind Services would like to see all students who have vision and hearing issues identified as deafblind on the IEP (and there are federal regulations regarding this issue), we know that most students who are deafblind are identified under other federal/state primary disability categories, such as “intellectual disability”, “multiple disabilities”, “hearing impairment”, “visual impairment”, etc.

Does a child have to meet my agency’s criteria for vision impairment and/or deafness/hard of hearing to be reported on this census?

No. Eligibility for vision and/or hearing impairment services varies from district to district, and definitions are interpreted in many different ways. For example, students with only a mild hearing loss and vision loss should be included in the deafblind census count since a combined mild loss of both senses can create an adverse effect on educational success. In addition, students who are deafblind do not have to meet state criteria since this census and the state count are separate entities (the state count being the number of students in California for whom deafblindness is marked on the IEP as their primary disability).

Why is a child’s etiology requested on the census?

Knowing a child’s etiology is important for a number of reasons. Maintaining this database allows CDBS staff to make important connections between families. For example, parents of a child with CHARGE syndrome might contact CDBS to ask if there are other parents of children with the same syndrome in their area. The census allows CDBS to make these family-to-family connections. Another important reason to know etiology is that the California census information is combined with data from around the country to determine which causes of deafblindness are on the increase or decrease, if there are geographic clusters of students with similar etiologies, etc.

What are intervener services and why are they now on the census?

In educational environments, intervener services are provided by an individual, typically a paraeducator, who has received specialized training in deafblindness and the process of intervention. An intervener provides consistent one-to-one support to a student who is deafblind (age 3 through 21) throughout the instructional day. This new question has been added to the bottom of page 1 of the census so that state and federal governments can examine the need for intervener-specific training and/or regulation initiatives.

How can I get extra copies of this FAQ, the census guide, and/or the census form?