Deafblindness is also sometimes known as dual sensory impairment, dual sensory loss or multi-sensory impairment. The Department of Health defines people as deafblind "if their combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility".
Some people are born deafblind (called congenital) and others become deafblind later in life (acquired).
Methods of communicationDepending on their residual sight and hearing, people who are deafblind may use some form of tactile or other communication, including:
- deafblind manual alphabet also called fingerspelling, this involves spelling out words on someone’s hand in British Sign Language (BSL)
- block alphabet this is when a hearing person uses the tip of their forefinger to spell out each word in English in block capitals on the receiver's palm. This method is most often used when communicating with members of the public and others who are unlikely to be familiar with the deafblind manual alphabet.
- hands-on signing some people who were born deaf and then experience sight loss as an adult continue to use sign language even when they can no longer follow visual signs. They touch the hands of the person who's signing and follow their movements.
- visual frame signing when a deafblind person has a limited field of vision, sign language can still be used if the signs are adapted according to their visual needs.
For more information, see our factsheet Communication support for people who are deafblind. Or you can contact Sense , which provides support, advice and information about deafblindness.
See also our tips for communicating with deafblind people
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We're always here to help you with your communication support needs. Find out how to book communication support, or contact us for more information on 0845 685 8000 (telephone), 0845 685 8001 (textphone) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.