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Multiple disabilities

Multidisability is the association of motor and/or sensory impairments of the same degree, which does not make it possible to detect one rather than the other as the main deficiency.

Deafblindness (deafblind) holds a special place in this type of disability.

In 2010, the approximate number of people affected by deafblindness in France was estimated at around 4,500 to 6,500 people.

  • 15% primary deafblindness

  • 35% secondary deafblindness

  • 50% tertiary deafblindness in elderly people suffering simultaneously from AMD and presbycusis.

​There has been no real census since but these figures are bound to increase due to the aging of the population.

The term “deafblindness” describes a condition combining both visual and hearing impairment that can be more or less severe. This combination of the two sensory deficiencies multiplies and intensifies the impact of both. There is no possibility of effective compensation for sensory losses by possible auditory or visual remains. The deaf person compensates with visual information to communicate, the visually impaired person compensates with their hearing, for example when traveling. The result is a serious, rare and unique disability which results in an inability to interact with the world and exercise one's right to be human and as a citizen, without the necessary aids and adaptations. The information received by the deafblind person is partial, impoverished and/or distorted. Severe difficulties in communication, access to information and autonomy have the consequences of significantly limiting all areas of daily life: activities, work, access to leisure activities, contacts social .
Indeed, this handicap situation can have an inhibiting effect during possible meetings.


Against the isolation of people

suffering from deafblindness



Primary deafblindness:

deafblindness from birth or acquired before the establishment of language

  • Person suffering from CHARGE syndrome, very premature, rubella, cytomegalovirus etc.

These are people who do not have access to a linguistic system and who may have a multimodal form of communication, sometimes difficult to grasp and specific to the person.

The challenge of those around them consists of supporting, throughout their life, the development (communicational, emotional, motor) of the person, by relying on their available sensory channels (totally or partially) and on their skills (exploration of the environment, life, knowledge, experiences etc.) in a field where touch and proximity are essential.

To find out more about Charge syndrome, click on the report produced by CRESAM below:

Syndrome charge cresam.png

To find out more about Usher syndrome, click on the report produced by CRESAM below:

Secondary deafblindness: progressive acquisition of deafblindness

  • person who was born deaf and lost their sight (Usher syndrome type 1, 2 and 3): Type A

  • person born blind or visually impaired who becomes deaf (illness or accident): Type B

  • people who are born without visual or hearing impairment and for whom the double sensory deficiency appears later: Type C

To find out more about the major challenges related to this classification click on this link:


(National Resource Center for Rare Disabilities Deafblindness)

learn more about usher syndrome .png

Tertiary deafblindness: late acquisition of deafblindness

  • adult person becoming deafblind as a result of illness (meningitis, stroke, encephalitis, etc.) or head trauma

  • aging person with combination of age-related macular degeneration and presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)

People with tertiary deafblindness are rarely screened and therefore do not benefit from systematic treatment.

The major challenges are:

  • Screening for hearing and visual impairments

  • Adaptation, re-education and use of recommended means of compensation

  • Raising awareness among family members and training professionals (caregivers, geriatric doctors, medico-social professionals, etc.)

  • Taking into account skills and respecting the learning pace of older people.

  • Taking into account the heterogeneity of people's backgrounds and knowledge (mode of communication used, level of culture, life experiences, etc.)

  • Taking into account the “generational” gap between initial learning and contemporary reality.

Consequences and issues

In their daily activities, deafblind people encounter significant limitations, a consequence of the double sensory handicap. They need different services than those designed for blind or deaf people because they are not able to use one sense to fully compensate for the impairment of the other. Four major problems arise from this situation, this combination is characteristic of deafblindness:

  • access to information is severely hampered (what is happening in my immediate environment, in the world?)

  • communication is complicated.

  • movement and orientation in space are difficult

  • adaptations are necessary to carry out certain acts of daily life independently.

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