MULTIPLE DISABILITIES: INCLUDING DEAF & BLINDNESS 

Deaf blindness is a unique disability that combines varying degrees of both hearing and visual impairment. All individuals who are deaf blind experience extreme challenges with communication, the way they access information, and mobility and most have additional physical and medical conditions.

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RPwD ACT 2016:

Multiple Disabilities refers to the presence of more than one disability in a person. People with multiple disabilities have to be helped through special education and assistive programs as considering just one of their disability is not enough. Persons with multiple disabilities have a combination of two or more serious disabilities (e.g., cognitive, movement, sensory), such as mental retardation with cerebral palsy.

Multiple Disabilities is the simultaneous occurrence of two or more disabling conditions that affect learning or other important life functions. These disabilities could be a combination of both motor and sensory nature.

(For more information please refer to RPwD ACT 2016 on ASK TINA page)

Causes of multiple disabilities:

There are two major causes of deaf-BLINDNESS:

 

One is rubella syndrome, a congenital condition that arises when the mother contracts rubella, or German measles, during the first months of pregnancy. Thanks to wide-spread immunization for rubella, deaf-blindness attributable to this syndrome has been greatly reduced. The second major cause is Usher syndrome (Shprintzen, 1997), a rare genetic disorder.

Symptoms of deaf blindness include:

  • Needing to turn up the volume on the television or radio.

  • Difficulty following a conversation.

  • Not hearing noises such as a knock at the door.

  • Asking others to speak loudly, slowly and more clearly.

  • Needing to hold books or newspapers very close, or sitting close to the television.

 

Accessibility and accommodations

  • Assistive technology used to help people with deaf blindness:

  • Screen readers: A program that analyses the layout and content of a website and provides a text to speech translation.

  • Braille displays: A device that translates digital text into braille dots that can be read with the fingers. Magnifying glasses, that displays the letters in large content and large print.

  • Avoid making assumptions about a person’s disability or capabilities; many persons with disabilities talk about being frustrated with people assuming what they can or cannot do. Remember that although persons with disabilities might have specific needs, every individual is different.

  • Advance planning is usually crucial for academic success. Consult with the staff at the Office for Students with Disabilities.

  • Choose course materials early. This will allow enough time for you to convert the documents into alternative formats, or for students to request the formats they need.

  • Encourage students to tell you about any accessibility concerns. You can do this verbally early in the semester and by including an accessibility statement on your syllabus. Indicate that such conversations are confidential and are strictly for facilitating any learning needs or accommodations that may be in place.

  • Identify and clearly express the essential course content, and recognize that students can express understanding of essential course content in multiple ways. Diversify assignments or allow for exceptions to enable all students to demonstrate their specific talents (for example, oral presentations, poster presentations and written assignments).

  • Insist on professional, civil conduct between and among students to respect people’s differences and create an inclusive environment.

  • Consider providing your classes with information about the accessible features of their immediate environment (for example, automatic doors and accessible washrooms).

  • Provide the course outline, the list of reading requirements, copies of overhead slides, and all other materials in an accessible, digital format whenever possible. Some persons with deaf-blindness will use assistive technology. The type of technology they use will depend, in part, on their hearing and sight levels and whether they rely on one of their senses more than the other, if at all. Assistive technologies could include sound amplification (hearing aids), as well as screen readers and/or screen-enhancement software that allow the user to magnify the computer screen or change the contrast.