There are many challenges for students who are deaf-blind. Since different levels of both vision and hearing loss are involved, each person must be viewed individually. Adaptations and accommodations will depend on various factors: Some students will require more support for their vision loss, while others require more support for their hearing loss and a third group require supports for both hearing and vision losses. In other words, students who are blind and experience loss of hearing later in life will require very different support services than students who are deaf and later experience vision loss. A period of trial & error is very common and students should be expected to try different approaches before finding the right adaptation, the one that works best.
Students with no hearing or vision is a rare form of deaf-blindness.
Communication Information: Many of these students use American Sign Language (ASL) using the sense of touch. Some students utilize ASL because they attended a Deaf school before their sight deteriorated, others use fingerspelling, Two-Hand Method, or English-based signs.
Suggestions: Supports for a student who is functionally deaf-blind could include the following: Braille adaptations on computers, displays, printouts, materials and books, intervenors who are skilled and respectful to their communication needs using tactile interpretation.
Deaf and Visually Impaired
Students with functionally deafness and some vision, will most likely have ASL skills because they attended a Deaf school. Others may prefer an oral mode. Loss of vision may take place over a period of years or suddenly and vary between loss of central and peripheral vision, it generally starts out as night blindness.
Often students are reluctant to admit to diminishing vision and do not identify themselves as being deaf-blind. There are many reasons for this failure to self-identify. Among the most prominent are: fear of losing their friends, becoming dependent on others for help, Deaf community rejection, and no idea who to contact for help or support.
Suggestions: Use large print programs, CCTVs, monoculars and magnifiers, etc., and computer adaptations that will increase print size. They will need intervenors who are respectful of a possible desire to remain involved in the Deaf community. Maybe they wish to learn Braille. They could require close or far interpretation based on their vision range.
Blind and Hard of Hearing
Many students grew up as persons who are blind and received services in residential or mainstreamed settings that utilized sounds. They have used their hearing as a major way of receiving information and have received orientation and mobility training based on this sound usage. This group may be unfamiliar with sign language, as they have no need to learn it. Often they maximize their hearing through assistive listening devices. Those who are blind and hard of hearing will most likely still wish to utilize their hearing, so they will benefit from speech programs, assistive listening devices, such as: infrared systems, and FM Loop systems.
Hard of Hearing and Visually Impaired
There are many students with some degree of combined hearing and visual impairments. They often rely on large print materials and assistive listening devices. They may be reluctant to admit to a dual sensory impairment or be aware of its impact on their school performance. These individuals may use large print and enhancement devices for both computer and print materials. They may also use other assistive devices. They may or may not require an intervenor.