Helen Keller was one of the first deaf-blind Americans to break the mold and prove that no disability can prevent a person from living their best life. Despite her disability, Helen Keller went on to become an author, a lecturer, and the first deaf-blind recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree. As of 1984, the last week of each June is dedicated to Helen Keller and all deaf-blind individuals by spreading awareness of the disorder.
Continue below to learn more about what it means to be deaf-blind and how you can do your part to help those affected by the disorder.
What Does it Mean to Be Deaf-Blind?
Many people are aware of what it means to be considered legally blind or deaf. When it comes to deaf-blindness, it is easy to assume that the disorder is merely a combination of the two disorders. However, being deaf-blind affects much more than hearing and sight. Some important things to remember:
- Being deaf-blind does not always mean a person doesn’t see or hear anything. The majority of deaf-blind individuals operate on a sliding scale of visual/auditory ability. For instance, some deaf-blind individuals have no hearing, but a limited-enough field of vision to qualify as legally blind. Some individuals can see very little, while being able to hear sounds within a certain range of frequencies. Only in very rare cases do individuals experience absolutely no sight and auditory input.
- Most deaf-blind individuals experience other conditions as well. Being deaf-blind is often an indicator of other disorders. Some experience mental or cognitive disorders that make it difficult to think or communicate properly (which may be linked to the brain’s inability to learn with sight or sound). Some experience physical disabilities that make it difficult to control motor functions. Often, it is untrue to assume that a deaf-blind person only experiences these two conditions.
- Deaf-blind individuals can be just as functional as anyone else, and achieve an excellent qualify of life. One of the biggest misconceptions about deaf-blind individuals is that they live their lives completely dependent or unable to communicate effectively. However, with individualized education plans and the help of loved ones, deaf-blind individuals can overcome any obstacle presented to them. For example, in regards to communication, many deaf-blind individuals use methods such as touch cues, gestures, object symbols, sign language, or braille to communicate. All it takes is time, patience, consistency, and the continued effort of those involved.
Resources Available for Deaf-Blind Individuals
There are a variety of resources available to deaf-blind individuals and their families. One of the most widely-used and internationally-recognized institutions is the National Center on Deaf-Blindness. This organization was created specifically to help all individuals affected by deaf-blindness to learn more about the disorder, as well as provide a community where deaf-blind individuals can connect to others like them. Aside from the NCDB, there are a variety of other state-wide and community-wide organizations that you can reach out to for support, which can be found via online search or with the NCDB search tool.
In regards to financial support, one of the biggest resources you can utilize is Social Security disability benefits. Deaf-blind individuals who are under 18 can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), while individuals over 18 can qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). In either case, these programs can provide monthly financial benefits for deaf-blind individuals and their families to assist with the added medical costs deaf-blindness requires. Applications for disability benefits can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website or at your local Social Security Office.
Considering an Attorney
In most cases, deaf-blind individuals have no problem qualifying medically for disability benefits. However, in some cases, other factors such as parental income (for individuals under 18) or application mistakes may prevent an individual from receiving the benefits they deserve.
If you have questions or concerns about the disability application or the process in general, it may be wise to speak with a disability attorney. Disability attorneys are well-versed in the application process and can take care of any legalities you may be wary of. Even better, federal regulations require disability attorneys to work on contingency, meaning you don’t have to pay them unless you accept their help and they win you your case. This both reduces the risk of hiring an attorney and ensures that they will dedicate themselves entirely to your case.
Before applying, consider a free consultation with a disability attorney near you to see if his or her services may be helpful for you.