What is deafblindness?
People who are deafblind (also known as having a dual sensory impairment) have both sight and hearing impairments. This can make it difficult for them to communicate, get around safely and to acquire information about their environment.
Some people are born with deafblindness; others may be born with an impairment of one sense, and develop an impairment of the other later in life.
Rather than being a combination of two distinct sensory impairments, deafblindess is considered an impairment in its own right, often giving rise to unique challenges and experiences for the individual. Due to communication and mobility difficulties deafblind people risk becoming extremely isolated, which may in turn lead to loneliness or depression.
KAB's Guide Communicator Service
Our Guide Communicator service provides one-to-one support for people with dual sensory impairment. Our Guide Communicators (GCs) provide guiding and communication support to enable individuals to continue to do everyday tasks for themselves such as dealing with correspondence, shopping, attending appointments as well as accessing their local community.
The purpose of the Guide Communicator Service is to improve quality of life by reducing isolation and minimising risk for people who are deafblind, empowering them to lead independent and autonomous lives. All Guide Communicators (GCs) have DBS clearance, are trained and supervised by KAB, and are skilled in different forms of communication, such as:
“I consider this an essential service, I am now able to go out and get around, I stayed in for the last 20 years”
“Having the service enables me to eat well and get shopping and gives me the confidence to go out. I felt vulnerable before the GC began to visit but I enjoy going out now”
"It’s so good to have someone who lets me do things for myself. Before I had a Guide Communicator my family felt that they had to do things for me ... I was terrified of losing my independence."
Guide Communicators can help people to:
- Make telephone calls and manage correspondence,
- Budget, and manage home life,
- Participate in social and leisure pursuits,
- Access news, information and technology,
- Take exercise,
- Use environmental aids,
- Use public transport,
- Shop, and check food sell by dates,
- Attend medical appointments,
- Maintain and improve daily living skills.
Guide Communicators are not able to:
- Help with personal or domestic care,
- Lift people or heavy objects,
- Administer drugs or medicines (although Guide Communicators can help people to self-administer),
- Undertake medical tasks,
- Be responsible for peoples' money.
The Guide Communicator Service operates 7 days a week between 7am and 7pm, and outside these hours by arrangement. The service is currently available in Kent, Medway, Bromley and South London.
Who could benefit?
Any adult who due to their dual sensory impairment is experiencing difficulty with communication, accessing information or mobility. It is available to people living in their own homes, supported living or residential settings.
Our staff are trained to provide a service that's specific to individual need. This may include a professional sighted guiding service; and a wide range of communication such as clear speech, lip reading, block alphabet, deafblind manual alphabet, sign language (Makaton, Sign Supported English, British Sign Language), symbol systems, objects of reference, or hands-on and hand-underhand communication.
"Hannah’s Guide Communicator is an absolute angel, she has made an amazing difference; you can’t believe the change in her."
The service is charged at an hourly rate which varies according to the complexity of need, the skills required, and where and when the service is delivered. Deafblind people can request a specialist assessment from their local authority, and may be eligible for financial help to meet some or all the costs of the service. People can also purchase Guide Communicator support privately.
Service availability - When and Where?
The service is available seven days a week and the minimum booking is one 2-hour session per fortnight. The service can be provided long-term, or as part of a short term enablement programme and is available to people of any age, whether living in their own home, or in supported or residential settings.
KAB's Intervenor Service provides one-to-one person centred support for people who are congenitally deafblind or visually impaired with additional physical disabilities, resulting in complex needs. The service can also benefit people with a single sensory impairment who also has significant additional disabilities, again resulting in complex needs.
KAB Intervenors provide:
- support to learn and develop communication skills using a range of methods, like objects of reference, picture exchange systems and hand under hand communication, symbolic representation, tactile sign systems, and olfactory references.
- development of a specifically structured programme of activities to encourage social and personal development.
- a professional sighted guiding service.
- support with the use of low vision aids.
- hearing aid support and maintenance
- support to develop and maintain daily living skills and skills for independence.
The Intervenor Service is charged at an hourly rate. The service can be purchased privately or clients may be eligible for help with funding from thier local authority.
"We believe every deafblind person has the right to choice and independence. Intervenors can make that happen."
Kent Association for the Blind also offers Guide Communicators for people with dual sensory impairment (deafblindness) and one-to-one Sight Support Services for those with sight loss.
Help with Hearing Loss
If you are hard of hearing or d/Deaf and would like help or advice, either contact your GP, or
In Medway contact Medway Council.
In Bexley, Inspire Community Trust can offer help.
Help with Dual Sensory Loss
If you are looking for a sign language interpreter or social club for the profoundly deaf contact the Royal Association for the Deaf on 0300 688 2525. If you have little sight and little hearing it is often helpful to ask people to outline numbers and letters on the palm of your hand. Or you might prefer to learn the deaf blind manual. In this case different parts of the hand, when touched, represent different letters of the alphabet. With practise great speeds can be achieved using this method of communication. Ask for the KAB communication leaflet which gives simple to follow guidelines. We have KAB clubs too where you can practise this skill while enjoying a social occasion. For more information contact your local KAB office.
Nick is 42 and is profoundly deaf. For the last 20 years he has also been registered blind. His life changed considerably in 2006 when he started using Guide Communicator support.
Nick is supported by a team of Guide Communicators, who are all trained to offer consistent specialist support to meet his particular communication needs, which include an adapted form of Deafblind Manual, hands-on British Sign Language, and clear speech.
With regular visits from his team, Nick is able to continue to manage his finances, shop, cook, arrange medical appointments, socialise and, attend adult education classes.
Nick's latest initiative has been to turn an area of the garden at the flats where he lives, into a productive flower, fruit and vegetable garden. The Guide Communicator team has supported Nick with the practical tasks, such as clearing weeds and accompanying him to the garden centre to buy seeds, but the drive to succeed and to get other residents involved with the project has been purely Nick's.
"I am very happy with KAB that helps me. I am happy with music class, shopping, cooking, going to play snooker in a pub one day a week and the gym." Nick