The Facts


Who are Deaf-Blind?

Some people are deaf- blind from birth. Others may be born deaf or hard- of- hearing and be come blind or visually impaired later in life; or the opposite may be the case. Still others may experience a prolonged deaf- blind—that is, they are born with both sight and hearing but lose some or all of these senses because of an accident or illness. Deaf-blindness is often accompanied by additional disabilities. Causes such as maternal rubella can also affect the heart and the brain. There are also some genetic syndromes or brain injuries that can cause deaf-blindness which may also cause intellectual disabilities and/or physical disabilities.

"Legally, individuals are called “deaf-blind” if they have “such severe communication and other developmental and learning needs that the persons cannot be appropriately educated in special education programs solely for children and youth with hearing impairments, visual impairments or severe disabilities, without supplementary assistance to address their educational needs due to these dual, concurrent disabilities”  (1990, IDEA, Sec. 622).




of deaf-blind population (23 years and up)


of deaf-blind population (birth - 22 years)


How do deaf blind people communicate?

Deaf-blind people use many different ways to communicate. They use sign language (depending on their visual field), tactile sign language, tracking, tactile finger-spelling, print on palm, Braille, speech, and speech reading. The communication methods vary with each person, depending on the causes of their combined vision and hearing loss, their background, and their education level.


States that Offer Support Service Providers


Assistance for the Deaf Blind

Since the 1980s the term "support service provider" (SSP) was used to define individuals, that operated as a communication facilitator. A support service provider is any person, volunteer or professional, trained that acts as a bridge between individuals who are deaf blind and their environment.

Financing support service provider training and other direct services requires money. At this time, no orderly and rational system exists for local, state, or national funding streams. Only 28% of the states have any level of SSP services. (See Chart 2) These varied programs are as different as the states where they are provided (Jordan, 2005). Funding sources can include donations, grants, private foundations such as the United Way and unique fundraising events. Many programs receive funding from arrangements between diverse state departments.



Though deaf-blindness shows many unique challenges to both those who have visual and hearing impairments and to their caregivers and friends, these trials are by no means unbeatable.  There are many individuals who are deaf-blind that have achieved a quality of life that is outstanding.



  • National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness. Retrieved July, 2010, from
  • Watson, D., and Taff-Watson, M., eds. (1993). A Model Service Delivery System for Persons Who Are Deaf-Blind, second edition. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas.
  •,. An Internet resource available at:
  • Jordan, B. (2005). Active Support service provider (SSP) programs. Retrieved May 5, 2006, from