Frequently Asked Questions

What is Deaf-Blindness?

The term deaf-blind refers to a combination of vision and hearing loss, not necessarily complete deafness and complete blindness. Most children who qualify as deaf blind have some useful vision and /or hearing. There is a wide range of cognitive and developmental ability among individuals who are deaf-blind from gifted to profoundly multiply handicapped. Because deafblindness is a combination of vision and hearing losses, there are as many possible combinations as there are individuals. For this reason, no two children with deafblindness are alike.

Critical Factors

Four critical factors, which affect the severity of deafblindness on the child and his development, are:

  • age of onset
  • degree and type of vision and hearing loss
  • stability of each sensory loss
  • educational intervention provided

Federal Definition

There is no single, universal standard by which to identify a person as deaf-blind. However, the Federal legislation defines deaf-blind children as those having: “auditory and visual impairments, the combination of which creates such severe communication and other developmental and learning needs, that they cannot be appropriately educated in special education programs solely for children and youth with hearing impairments, visual impairments, or severe disabilities, without supplementary assistance to address their educational
needs due to these dual concurrent disabilities.”


Who Qualifies for Deaf-Blind Services?

Children and youth (ages birth through 21 years) who are deaf-blind and on the Hawai‘i and Pacific Deaf-Blind Census are eligible for services from the Hawai‘i and Pacific Deaf-Blind Project.

Very few children identified as deaf-blind are totally deaf and totally blind. Parents as well as education, social service or
medical agencies may make referrals. Services are provided at no cost to parents, families, care providers, educational personnel, and
agencies providing services to children and youth who are deaf-blind.


What is Technical Assistance?

The Project offers technical assistance (TA) for children and youth who are deaf-blind to parents and families, educational personnel,
and service providers from state and community agencies

Technical assistance may include:

  • Workshops, training, conferences targeting issues related to specific deaf-blind areas for parents, families, and professionals
  • Consultations in the home to families, at school to educational and related service staff, or by telephone for referral, information or support
  • Assistance in the identification of children and youth who are deaf-blind
  • Development of new service delivery procedures and strategies that result in systems change
  • Information dissemination
  • Transition support
  • Financial support for participation in training opportunities; and
  • Help in building partnerships with parents, families and the local community.

Topics for technical assistance may consist of instructional strategies, early intervention, medical issues, communication, orientation
and mobility, and transition.


What is the Deaf-Blind Census?

It is the responsibility of the Hawai‘i and Pacific Deaf-Blind Project to maintain a census of the number
of children and youth who are deaf-blind. This data is used to help determine funding the grant will receive to support technical
assistance, services, and training. The Census consists of demographic information (i.e., date of birth, gender, living setting,
education setting) and descriptive information such as cause of deafblindness of each individual with dual sensory impairments between birth
and 21 years of age. Currently, there are approximately 50 children on the Hawai‘i and Pacific Deaf-Blind Census.

The individuals are served in a variety of home and educational settings across the islands. It is essential that children with
combined hearing and vision impairments be identified so their unique needs are met. State and federal agencies track information of the
students while they are in school and after graduation.

Anyone, a family member or professional, working with the individual may refer an individual by contacting the Hawai‘i and Pacific Deaf-Blind Project. Our office may be notified at any time during the year when an individual is identified in a school or agency as being eligible for the census or needs to be removed from the census for any reason such as moved, graduated, reached the maximum age of 21). Download a copy of the latest census form

  • Ideas that Work: U.S. Office of Special Education Programs

    The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H326T130023. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Susan Weigart.


  • Contact Us

    Mellanie Lee
    Project Director/Education Specialist
    Pacific Outreach Initiative
    Phone: (808) 753-0981
    Email: mellanie@hawaii.edu

    Jennifer Tarnay
    Program Coordinator/Speech-Language Pathologist
    Phone: (808) 753-2351
    Email: jtarnay@hawaii.edu

    Stella Chang
    Family Specialist
    Phone: (808) 222-8466
    Email: yhchang@hawaii.edu