Deafblindness is a rare and unique disability that occurs when an individual’s vision AND hearing are reduced, distorted, or missing. All children and youth who are deafblind experience some combination of vision and hearing loss. Only 1% of children and youth who are deafblind have profound hearing loss and total blindness and very few resemble Helen Keller. Most children and youth who are deafblind have some usable vision and/or hearing and one sense may be more impacted than the other.
The impact of deafblindness on learning and development is extensive and varies from person to person depending on the type and level of vision and hearing loss, age of onset (from birth or acquired later), and presence of additional disabilities. What is common among children and youth who are deafblind is that visual and auditory information used by sighted and hearing individuals is not fully accessible. This leads to difficulties in learning concepts about their world, developing communication and language, and forming social relationships with others. For children and youth who are deafblind, access to this information is provided through individualized deafblind intervention, environmental and curricular accommodations, and assistive devices and technology.
CDBS uses a functional definition of deafblindness when determining the need for technical assistance:
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.
Additional information: NCDB Overview of Deafblindness Infographic Fact Sheet