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Below you will find  terminology related to the field of deafblindness, sorted alphabetically. 

Acquired deafblindness

People have acquired deafblindness if they have become deafblind after the acquisition of language. Three types of acquired deafblindness are recognized:

  1. Congenitally deaf, with acquired vision loss
  2. Acquired vision and hearing loss
  3. Congenitally blind with acquired hearing loss



The process of gaining new knowledge or skills for oneself



(noun) The expression or observation of an emotional response through the individual’s body language, demeanor, muscle tone, etc.



(as part of Anticipation; Motivation; Communication; Confirmation) Realization or understanding that something is going to happen in the immediate or distant future.



Anything pertaining to the science of hearing that includes the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with impaired hearing.


(of movement) A continuous and mutual process in which the Intervenor and consumer dynamically create the interaction and communication together



(as part of Anticipation; Motivation; Communication; Confirmation) The sharing of information with the learner and provision of opportunities for the learner to be expressive


Communication Partner

Every person who interacts with a person who is deafblind is a communication partner



An important skill that is needed to do a job.



(as part of Anticipation; Motivation; Communication; Confirmation) Provision of feedback to the learner about the impact their actions have had on people and objects around them, and about the completion of an activity.


Concept development

Reception of information which facilitates the development of concepts. A concept is something conceived in the mind (e.g., thought or notion) and can be:

  • concrete (related to objects or things that are tangible)
  • semi-concrete (related to an action, color, position or something that can be demonstrated but not held in one’s hand)
  • abstract (including feelings)


Congenital deafblindness

A person is congenitally deafblind if they have become deafblind before the acquisition of language.


Deafblindness is defined as a significant degree of hearing and vision loss, the combination of which affects communication and access to information.

Emergent Communicator

An individual who is developing his/her communication.



The cause or origin of a disease or disability.


Expressive communication

Expressive communication involves relaying thoughts, ideas or feelings to another person in the individual’s mode of communication.


The process that allows an individual who is deafblind to receive non- distorted information such that he or she can interact with his or her environment.



An intervenor is a person who provides intervention to an individual who is deafblind. An intervenor mediates between the person who is deafblind and his or her environment to enable him or her to communicate effectively with and receive no-distorted information from the world around them. An intervenor acts as the eyes and ears of the person with deafblindness.



An interpreter provides a professional communication service to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Professional interpreters are knowledgeable in the language and culture of both Deaf and hearing people and provide communication in both a sign language and spoken language.

Later manifestations

Characteristics and medical issues associated with a syndrome that may not be present at birth, but appear in the adolescent or adult years. Eg., later manifestations of rubella syndrome may include: diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid problems, glaucoma, changes in the neurological system, changes in behaviour.

Modes of communication

The imparting of information, thoughts or opinions, using one or more techniques or strategies that compensate for vision and/or hearing that is limited or absent. Examples include tactile signing systems, Braille, large print, communication boards.



(as part of Anticipation; Motivation; Communication; Confirmation) The characteristics of something that make it meaningful and interesting to the learner, who is then willing to respond or take action

Desire to accomplish a goal or participate in an endeavor


Multi-disciplinary Team (or Inter-disciplinary Team)

A group of professionals and para-professionals from different fields of expertise and experience who support an individual who is deafblind

Occupational Therapist

A trained professional who assesses capacity and assists individuals to develop the skills to achieve greater independence. Interventions used by occupational therapists include rehabilitation of motor function, sensory function, interpersonal skills, and neuropsychological functions. Occupational therapists also adapt environments to maximize the individual’s abilities or support the desired behaviours and skills. (Source: Wikipedia)



Anything pertaining to the science of vision, that includes diagnosis and treatments of defects and diseases of the eye, including surgery or other types of treatment, including eyeglasses or other optical devices.


Orientation and Mobility

Orientation: Process through which an individual who is visually impaired uses his/her remaining senses to establish his/her position in space and relationship to all other significant objects in the environment.

Mobility: the ability to navigate from one’s present fixed position to one’s desired position in another part of the environment.


Orientation and Mobility specialist

A trained professional who teaches individuals with reduced or no vision the techniques to use environmental information combined with visual, tactual and auditory techniques in order to move about safely, comfortably and confidently. An O&M specialist assesses the individual’s skills and provides personalized instruction.


A set of ideas or beliefs relating to a particular field or activity; an underlying theory.


Physical Therapist

A professionally trained service provider who treats physical dysfunction or injury by the use of therapeutic exercise and intervention, intended to restore or strengthen normal function or development.



The ability to sense the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts.



Any artificial part that is used to supplement a physical disability or condition.

Receptive communication

The process of receiving and understanding a message.


Residual (vision or hearing)

The vision and hearing still functional for individuals with visual and auditory impairments. Individuals can learn to use these senses to gather as much information as possible on their own.

Sensory Integration

The brain processes all the information received by the senses, usually at an unconscious level, organizes it, and allows the individual to make

sense of the world and respond appropriately.


Skill Development

Development of the ability to do something

Tangible Symbols

Concrete symbols used as a system of communication. May be whole objects, parts of objects, associated objects, textures, shapes, etc. There is a progression of abstract presentation which can promote receptive and expressive communication with a child/individual.


Technical devices

Equipment that helps improve the quality of life and independence of an individual who is deafblind, as well as ensure safety, provide access and assist in communication.


Total Communication

The philosophy of supporting the right of person who is deafblind, deaf or hard of hearing to communicate in whatever way is most effective. Total communication allows the individual to use all available sensory and communication abilities so he or she will be equipped to decide which method or forms can be used with comfort and confidence.

Vestibular System

Semicircular canals in the ear and vestibular nerve, which carries information about balance.


A Study of Deaf-Blind Demographics and Services in Canada, Watters, Colleen and Owen, Michelle. CNSDB 2004

Centre for Childhood Disability Research

DB-LINK Information on Deaf-Blindness

Random House College Dictionary, Revised Edition 1984


Starting Point: A Resource for Parents of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children, Canadian Hearing Society, 1999

Communication and congenital deafblindness book І: Congenital deafblindness and the core principles of intervention. Inger Rødbroe and Marleen Janssen 2006 VCDBF/Viataal

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