Who we serve
Deafblindness is a unique disability that affects a large and growing number of people across the UK. Defined as “a combined sight and hearing loss causing difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility” (Social Care for Deafblind Children and Adults, LAC 2009(8), Department of Health), deafblindness ranges from people with some residual sight and hearing to those with profound loss who rely on touch to communicate.
There are four basic groups of deafblindness, although some will not ‘fit’ into any of these categories:
- People born deafblind (congenitally deafblind)
- People born deaf who later lose their vision
- People born blind who later lose their hearing
- People who acquire a sight and hearing loss, often in later life (including most Deafblind UK members)
In the UK today, there are an estimated 394,000 deafblind people. Our ageing population means that by 2030 this number could grow up to 569,000 (Sense).
Impact of deafblindness
The Department of Health states that “people who have dual sensory loss are among those who are most disabled by the norms of our society” (Think Dual Sensory, 1995, Department of Health). The combination of a hearing and sight loss creates a unique set of wider needs that, without the right support, can leave deafblind people vulnerable, marginalised and isolated.
Deafblindness affects an individual’s ability to access mainstream information and services, engage socially, conduct daily tasks and get out and about. If the appropriate care and support is not provided, the inability to perform these activities can lead to diminished independence and confidence which often leads to isolation, anxiety and depression.
Older people who are deafblind are more susceptible to depression than others their age (Dual sensory impairment among the elderly, Horowitz et al, 2000; also Deafblindness and mental health, Bodsworth et al; 2011). They can also face deteriorating health: Deafblindness can impede balance, making physical activity more difficult, and reduce people’s ability to prepare healthy meals. Research shows that older people who are deafblind have an increased risk of strokes, arthritis, heart disease and falls (Vision impairment and hearing loss, Crews and Campbell, 2004).
Deafblind UK’s response
Deafblind UK knows that with the right support, deafblind people can live healthier, enjoyable and dignified lives.
We are open, accessible and relevant to all deafblind people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – irrelevant of age, gender and background – offering crucial support including guidance, understanding, emotional support and opportunities that few other agencies can supply.
Deafblind UK bridges the gap between our deafblind members and their communities, providing practical solutions and human support in order to improve independence and reduce isolation.
We develop our charitable services in a sustainable way – building good relationships with funders, voluntary and community organisations and developing trading and social enterprise activities.