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Deafblind American author, activist, and lecturer Helen Keller in 1904

Deafblindness is the condition of little or no useful sight and little or no useful hearing.[1][2] Educationally, individuals are considered to be deafblind when the combination of their hearing and sight loss causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they require significant and unique adaptations in their educational programs. Helen Keller was one such individual.[3]


Deafblind people communicate in many different ways determined by the nature of their condition, the age of onset, and what resources are available to them. For example, someone who grew up deaf and experienced vision loss later in life is likely to use a sign language (in a visually modified or tactile form). Others who grew up blind and later became deaf are more likely to use a tactile mode of their spoken/written language. Methods of communication include:

  • Use of residual hearing (speaking clearly, hearing aids) or sight (signing within a restricted visual field, writing with large print).
  • Tactile signing, sign language, or a manual alphabet such as the American Manual Alphabet or Deafblind Alphabet (also known as "two-hand manual") with tactile or visual modifications.
  • Interpreting services (such as sign language interpreters or communication aides).
  • Communication devices such as Tellatouch or its computerized versions known as the TeleBraille and Screen Braille Communicator.

Multisensory methods have been used to help deafblind people enhance their communication skills. These can be taught to very young children with developmental delays (to help with pre-intentional communication), young people with learning difficulties, or older people, including those with dementia. One such process is Tacpac.

Amateur radio deafblind operators generally communicate on 2-way radios using Morse code.[clarification needed]

Prominent deafblind people[edit]

  • Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828): Spanish painter, deaf and blind by the time of his death.[4]
  • James Mitchell (1795 – 1869): congenitally deafblind son of Scottish minister.[5]
  • Hieronymus Lorm (1821 – 1902): inventor and novelist.
  • Laura Bridgman (1829 – 1889): first deafblind child to be successfully educated in the US.
  • Helen Keller (1880 – 1968): author, activist, and lecturer, first deafblind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree and perhaps the person most popularly associated with the condition.
  • Marie Heurtin (1885-1921): first deafblind born child to be successfully educated in Larnay (France).[6]
  • Alice Betteridge (1901 – 1966): first deafblind Australian to be educated. Teacher, traveller, writer.
  • Jack Clemo (1916 – 1994): British poet who became deafblind as an adult.
  • Richard Kenney (1924 – 1979): educator, lecturer, and poet; third deafblind person to graduate from an American university; president of the Hadley School for the Blind from 1975 to 1979.[7]
  • Robert Smithdas (1925 – 2014): first deafblind person in the US to receive a master's degree.
  • Mae Brown (1935 – 1973): Canada’s first deafblind university graduate; developed services for the deafblind at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).[8]
  • Theresa Poh Lin Chan (1945? – ): Singaporean teacher and writer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keller, Helen (1938). Helen Keller's Journal, 1936-1937. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co. 
  2. ^ Kudlick, Catherine; Nielsen (2005). "Kim". Journal of American History. 4 91 (Review of the Radical Lives of Helen Keller). 
  3. ^ "NCDB Selected Topics: Deaf-Blindness Overview". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  4. ^ "Francisco Goya, Spanish painters, biography of francisco goya, francisco goya painting, picture of francisco goya, history of paintings, famous painters". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  5. ^ Brueggman, Brenda (2006). Women & Deafness: Double Visions. Washington, D.C: Gallaudet University Press. pp. 8–35. 
  6. ^ Wilhelm Jerusalem "Marie Heurtin. Education of a Girl born Deaf and Blind" English Manuscript from the Library of the Perkins School for the Blind, Boston 1906
  7. ^ "Notes and News", Bulletin of Prosthetics Research, Fall 1979.
  8. ^ "Bravo, Miss Brown! | University of Toronto Magazine". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 

External links[edit]