Sense was founded in 1955 as a self-help and support group for the parents of children whose disabilities were neither recognised nor provided for, children born deafblind as a result of their mothers catching rubella in pregnancy. It has since built a worldwide reputation for pioneering work by campaigning vigorously for change and setting up services wherever they are needed.
The charity’s vision is of a world in which all deafblind children and adults can be full and active members of society. It aims to work in partnership with others – deafblind people, their families, carers and professionals – to ensure that everyone challenged by deafblindness or sensory impairments has access to advice, opportunities and support.
Deafblindness is a combination of both sight and hearing difficulties. Most of what we learn about the world comes through our ears and eyes, so deafblind people face major problems with communication, accessing information and mobility. There are many causes of deafblindness; premature birth, birth trauma and rubella during pregnancy can all lead to babies being born deafblind. Some genetic conditions result in deafblindness, and it can also develop through illness, accident or with age. People who are born deafblind often have additional disabilities, including learning and physical disabilities.
In March 2001, the Government issued statutory guidance about services for deafblind people and circulated it to Local Authorities with a Local Authority Circular document. A ‘quantum leap in deafblind services’ was how Sense’s magazine, Talking Sense, described the issuing of the guidance. The guidance was introduced as a direct result of pressure by a Sense campaign which called for a commitment to getting the right support for deafblind people enshrined in law.
Sense provides specialist information, advice and services to deafblind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them. In addition, it supports people who have sensory impairments with additional disabilities.
Specific services include help for families, day services where deafblind people can build confidence and learn new skills, and Sense-run houses in the community – where people are supported to live as independently as possible. Sense also provides specialist advice on issues such as education options and assistive technology, while Sense communicator guides offer a vital lifeline to deafblind people living in their own homes.
Sense is a member of the Learning Disability Coalition, a group of 15 charities which campaigns for better funding for social care for people with learning disabilities in England.
Branches are groups of people who are interested in deafblindness and other associated disabilities who come together to offer each other mutual support. They can campaign for services and the needs of deafblind people, share information, experiences and ideas and have fun socialising together.
Sense campaigns with deafblind people and their families. Sense supports deafblind people to campaign for themselves, is involved in European campaigning and undertakes campaigns on specific issues affecting older people, children and families.
Some deafblind people will use the support of a person known as a Communicator Guide. They act as the eyes and ears of a deafblind person and are trained to provide one-to-one communication support and guiding. The communicator guide's role is to provide practical help with every-day tasks such as shopping, dealing with mail.
Early intervention is vitally important for deafblind children. In the past, the age at which deafblindness is confirmed has varied widely. The introduction of Newborn Hearing Screening (for all babies) makes it much more likely that deafblind children will be identified when they are still very young babies.
Sense provides a range of support and advice in this area including: choosing the right school, supporting children with special educational needs and working with teaching professionals.
Sense organises holidays that give deafblind people the chance to get away from it all, taste new experiences and have a lot of fun! These holidays also give families a much-needed break from the often-demanding work of supporting a deafblind person.
Sense provides an advice service that is open to deafblind people, their families, professionals working with deafblind people and anyone who has a general enquiry about Sense or any aspect of deafblindness. Individuals who are looking for support or services will be put in touch with the appropriate Sense office. Enquires by telephone, textphone, email and letter accepted.
Sense has created a range of accommodation choices in the community to offer individuals the support they need to live as independently as possible and in the way that they choose.
Sense offers specialist assessments, advice and training on all aspects of working with deafblind and multi-sensory impaired people.
Sense relies on donations from the public for some areas of its work with deafblind people and runs numerous fundraising events throughout the year.
In November 2012, North East Worcestershire College Foundation Degree Media students, created an animated music video featuring the song "All the Broken Toys at Christmas" and toys such as Action Man, Barbie and Scalextric, to raise money for Sense for the Christmas period. At the world premiere of the music video, held at the college on 28 November, two days before its official release, Virginia Von Malachowski, a manager from Sense was present and praised the project.
Membership offers opportunities to meet informally with other individuals, families, carers and our own professionals. Members are kept up to date with developments at the charity and have a say in Sense’s work. They can also attend and vote at annual meetings and be involved in Council – the body that governs Sense.
- Official website
- Sense, the National Deafblind and Rubella Association, Registered Charity no. 289868 at the Charity Commission