Research has shown that 0.2% of the world’s population is living with severe deafblindness. A further 2% of people around the world are living with milder forms of deafblindness.*
This means approximately that 160 million people are affected by deafblindness.
What is deafblindness?
People with deafblindness have a combination of sight and hearing impairments. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are totally blind or totally deaf – most people with deafblindness retain a little sight and/or hearing that they are able to use.
But even if a person has some sight and/or hearing, the severity of impairment to both these senses means that they cannot compensate for each other, which impacts significantly on the individual.
Sensory impairment and deafblindness
Some people have sight and hearing impairments which are caused by sensory processing issues. This is referred to as ‘multi-sensory impairment’. People with multi-sensory impairment may have eyes and ears that function normally, but their brain has trouble filtering, organising and interpreting information taken in by the senses.
People with deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment may also have additional physical or learning disabilities. In our work, we often refer to this as ‘multiple disabilities’ or ‘complex disabilities’.
Causes of deafblindness
There are many causes of deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment, including:
- Congenital Rubella Syndrome – where a mother contracts rubella during pregnancy and her unborn child suffers birth defects, such as vision and hearing impairments.
- Genetic conditions – these include Usher syndrome, CHARGE syndrome, and Down Syndrome.
- Medical complications during pregnancy and birth – including poor nutrition and trauma.
- Premature birth.
- Illness and accidents – including meningitis and cerebral malaria.
- Sensory loss as a result of ageing.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), rubella is the leading cause of birth defects that can be prevented by vaccination.
As part of our work, we have influenced governments to introduce rubella vaccination where it is not currently offered.
We are proud of our recent success in Uganda, as the government has initiated its first ever vaccination campaign against rubella. This reached over 18 million children last year.
* World Federation of the Deafblind (2023) The Second Global Report on the Situation of Persons with Deafblindness: Good Practices and Recommendations for the Inclusion of Persons with Deafblindness March 2023