Deaf blind individuals present a combination of vision loss and lack of hearing. That would generally answer the question what is deaf blindness? However, the causes vary greatly from one case to the next. People could end up deaf and blind as a consequence of aging, as was the case of Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Conversely, other patients may actually be born deaf blind. Regardless of the causes of this condition, the fact remains that deaf and blind individuals require a special deaf blind education in order to be able to communicate with others. The approach though differs depending on the particular characteristics. For instance, a person who experiences blindness after deafness will probably use sign language, while a tactile mode of spoken and written language is usual if blindness occurs before deafness.
A deaf blind school was not always easy to come by, as experienced by Helen Keller, who is probably the most well known deafblind person in history. Keller had to separately attend the Perkins Institute for the Blind, and the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York, and The Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Massachusetts. However, deaf blind schools did exist as far back as 1885, when the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, a boarding school supported by the state, was established.
Most individuals are not completely devoid of either sense, retaining a degree of hearing and/or visual capacity, and this has a bearing on the type of education used. Earless students who have residual vision can take advantage of interpreters and large print texts. Teachers should ensure that the there is enough lighting in the classroom, and no glare. Some students also require extra time allotted to do written exams or assignments, since limited vision means they cannot read at the same pace as their peers.
On the other hand, blind students with leftover hearing can benefit from microphones and listening devices that allows the teacher's voice to be enhanced, volunteer readers to aid them in learning the data in their textbooks, and volunteer note takers that can type up notes in Braille during or after class for the student to use later on. Teachers of blind students with residual hearing should speak clearly, face the class while doing so, and refrain from moving around the classroom too much. Students without either residual sight or hearing will need more support, since they may have troubles learning the basics on the same schedule as their peers. It is important to keep on mind at all times that these students learn from what they do and not from what they hear or see, obviously. To learn more about deaf blind education, feel free to browse through deafblindinfo.org.