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Deafblind Awareness Week 2021: Supporting people with deafblindness around the world

27 June 2021

This week Sense International is celebrating Deafblind Awareness Week (27 June – 3 July), with Helen Keller Day on 27 June, and our life-changing work over the last year around the globe despite the challenges of the pandemic.

We support people with deafblindness and their families in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Peru, Romania, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, through screening and early intervention, inclusive education and vocational training programmes.

How has Sense International supported people?

Through these programmes, Sense International identifies children with deafblindness as early as possible and provides vital assessments and medical treatment to support their development; we work with governments to develop school and home-based education and training for teachers and families; and we provide vocational training for people with deafblindness to work and actively participate in their communities.

Our work is unique and has a life-changing impact for the children, young people and families that we support.

In the last year:

  • 84,000 children have been screened for sight and hearing impairments.
  • 5,500 children with deafblindness received specialist educational support at home or in school.
  • 945 young people with deafblindness gained vocational skills and 144 young people received business start-up support to help them earn a living.
  • Over 8,000 teachers, health workers, professionals and decision-makers have been trained on how to teach learners with deafblindness.

Supporting people with deafblindness

Raju’s story

Raju working in his shop

After receiving business training and start-up funds from Sense International, Raju has realised his dream of opening a successful lunch outlet or ‘Tiffin Shop’,.

Sense International India first met Raju when he was 22. Born with low vision and hearing loss, he had spent a lot of time as a young boy helping his father sell lunches and snack foods in his Tiffin Shop. His father had taught him a lot, including a strong work ethic and the determination never to give up.

Raju joined Sense International India’s vocational training programme to learn how to run his own Tiffin Shop.  He received training in business management and the skills required to ensure that his venture would be profitable. When he was ready, Raju received the start-up funds that he needed to set up his shop.

Raju has worked hard to overcome challenges and manage the shop as independently as possible. He goes to the local market by himself to buy ingredients. He also prepares the food, including local favourites such as Puri, Mysoori bajji and chutney.

Since opening the shop, Raju’s communication and social skills have improved through regular interactions with customers.

With some assistance from his mother, he has gained the trust of his customers and the support of his local community. Raju hopes to further expand his business in the future, enabling him to live a happy and independent life.

Rose’s story

Rose does exercises at home with her occupational therapist

Rose’s mother, Esther, immediately became worried when Rose seemed unusually quiet after a prolonged birth. She was admitted to an intensive care unit for three weeks, where she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Esther heard about Sense International Kenya after attending a routine clinic visit. Rose's development is behind that of children her age and Sense International Kenya has been working with the family for a few years to improve her speech and movement.

For home-based therapy, Rose has assistive devices including an adjustable walker and a standing aid. Esther has also received a tablet computer loaded with early intervention videos, guiding her on how to provide therapy without the occupational therapist there.

According to Sarah, Sense International’s occupational therapist, who helps support the family at home, things have improved significantly: “Rose was inactive, but now she can sit up straight. She can step her full foot down, unlike before when she could only use her toes. Stepping down helps her to balance and coordinate her movements.”

Esther receives counselling to help her come to terms with her difficult situation, which has improved her mental health.

She is now able to view her daughter’s development in a more positive light: “I am happy that Rose can now stand for two minutes. She could not do that before we got the standing aid. I am very grateful to Sense International Kenya for the support.”

Zahara’s story

Zahara is supported to learn at school

Zahara has Usher Syndrome, which causes hearing and sight loss, and worsens over time. She receives support from Sense International Uganda’s Inclusive Education programme. With the help of Sandra, a special education teacher employed by Sense International Uganda, she learns in a mainstream classroom.

Due to her condition, Zahara needs additional support as learning can be challenging for her. Zahara’s learning can be slow and she is academically behind others her age.

Sandra stays for an extra hour after the other children go home to support Zahara and to check her understanding of what she has learned that day. Constantly monitoring Zahara’s progress in class ensures she receives the support she needs to help improve her learning.

Zahara enjoys her classwork tremendously. Asked about her future aspirations, Zahara says she would like to be either a nurse or a teacher.

Find out more about our work across the world.

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019