The most striking aspect of the views of Deaf people was their feeling of not knowing about Deafblindness. They seemed to see Deafblindness as something quite different almost alien – even though Deafblind people had usually grown up in the Deaf Community and used BSL. Deafblind people were similar to foreigners.
Some of the other factors which came up in the interviews were:
Time and Effort
It took longer to communicate with Deafblind people.
Meetings had to go more slowly to allow the Deafblind person to keep up. Sometimes everything had to be explained to the Deafblind person as a relay or passed on after each Deaf person had made a contribution. This was seen as an irritation to Deaf people, when they wanted to relax with other Deaf friends.
Trust and Familiarity
Deaf people within the community built up friendships and groups of people they knew well.
At the same time, a new Deaf person was treated with friendship and welcomed – at least at the start. It is as if, there is closeness with all other deaf people. When the new person was Deaf and Blind, this welcoming did not happen. Deafblind people were not treated as familiar.
Where a friendship had built up with a single Deafblind person, the situation might be different.
Deaf people are very strong in their belief about “Deaf Awareness”. They say it is important for situations to be Deaf-friendly. Usually, they consider it is the responsibility of the hearing people to make the situation accessible to Deaf people.
However, when it comes to Deafblind awareness, there is no acceptance of responsibility for the Deaf Community to make the changes and to improve the access. In fact there is a double standard here.
To improve access for Deaf people, it is the responsibility of hearing people; BUT to improve access for Deafblind people it is not the responsibility of the Deaf community.
It seems that Deaf people say that they want to receive training or awareness raising but there is no feeling that Deaf people should take the first step.
Benefits of Contact with Deafblind
Some people thought there were benefits to contact between Deaf and Deafblind but there would also be shared responsibilities to take part in the community.
Some Deaf participants thought interaction with Deafblind people was hard work, requiring patience; it was time consuming and a responsibility that they were reluctant to accept.
There was no assumed obligation and responsibility to others in the same way as towards other Deaf people.
This could be because they do not see the benefit of contact with Deafblind people, or because they do not regard them as being, in some respects, “Deaf like themselves”, and therefore that is outside their obligation.
Definitions of Deafblind
Sometimes it was clear that Deaf people separate out those people who have Ushers Syndrome as being more like the Deaf Community and then Deafblind people are seen as those who have no sight at all.
The problems we found seemed to be more related to the type of Deafblind person who has no sight.
The way to explore this will be to bring Deaf and Deafblind people together into face to face contact so that they can discover the variety of Deafblind people – just as there is a variety of Deaf people.
Return to Deafblind Worlds Home