Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired

DeafBlind Services

Introduction to DeafBlindness

The word “deafblind” refers to any individual who has a combined loss of vision and hearing. Deafblind people vary widely with their backgrounds, experiences and methods of communication. A deafblind person can be:

  • someone who has little or no usable vision or hearing
  • someone who is blind and hard of hearing
  • a person who is deaf and visually impaired, or
  • someone who is visually impaired and hard of hearing

For example, a deafblind person receiving services from DBVI may grow up as a blind or visually impaired person. He may have depended on his hearing for communication and environmental information, and is now experiencing a hearing loss. He may need equipment such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or assistive listening devices to improve his ability to hear others. He may also want to consider alternate means of communications such as learning sign language.

Another deafblind DBVI customer may grow up as a deaf or hard of hearing person, may use American Sign Language for communication, and is now experiencing vision loss. She may already be involved with the deaf community, but now needs to learn about accommodations for her vision loss, such as Braille, orientation and mobility training, and tactile sign language (where she can feel and receive signs in her hands).

Yet another deafblind DBVI customer may have grown up with normal vision and hearing but is losing both senses as he gets older. He may need to become familiar with assistive devices for both his vision loss (such as low vision devices or a cane), and devices for his hearing loss (hearing aids and/or personal listening devices).

Overview of Services

DeafBlind individuals may require specialized services in the areas of communication, education, assistive technology, independent living and rehabilitation. DBVI has two staff persons, a DeafBlind Program Director, and a DeafBlind Specialist. They provide statewide consultation, training and technical assistance to other DBVI staff and outside entities, thus ensuring that deafblind individuals of all ages have full participation in various programs and services within DBVI and in their communities.

DeafBlind DBVI customers can receive specialized assessments to see what adaptive equipment they may need in the areas of communication and independent living. Examples include alerting devices for their homes so they know when the phone rings or someone is at the door, devices such as hearing aids and personal listening devices to help them communicate more easily with others, and referral to other agencies or resources in their areas. The DeafBlind Program Director and DeafBlind Specialist provide rehabilitation teachers, education service coordinators and/or vocational rehabilitation counselors with written results and recommendations to assist them in providing services to deafblind customers.

In addition, DBVI DeafBlind Services staff can provide training on deafblindness to other agencies/organizations and individuals working with this population.

Referral to DeafBlind Services

Most deafblind people who need assistance from DBVI related to their hearing and vision loss must have a case open with DBVI and receive services from a DBVI vocational rehabilitation counselor, rehabilitation teacher or education services coordinator. They can contact their DBVI regional office to open a case if they do not already have a case open. (See elsewhere on the DBVI website for information on how to apply for services.) If they need assistance on where to start, they can contact Elizabeth Spiers, DeafBlind Program Director.

If people want information, training or technical assistance on deafblindness, or they want to learn more about programs and services for deafblind people in their areas, they can contact Elizabeth Spiers, Program Director, DeafBlind Services.

I Can Connect Virginia

I Can Connect Virginia is the Virginia portion of a national communications equipment distribution program for eligible deafblind individuals. They can receive equipment such as computers, iPhones and iPads which enable them to connect with other people. This is a partnership between the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision mpaired and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. For more information, visit www.icanconnectvirginia.org, or contact Elizabeth Spiers, Program Director, for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get services from DBVI’s DeafBlind Services?

If you want information about deafblindness , available programs and resources, or to set up a presentation or training, just call or email Elizabeth Spiers, DeafBlind Program Director.

If you want assistance in getting technology, equipment or other specific services from DBVI in relation to your vision and hearing loss, you first need to have a case open with a DBVI rehabilitation teacher, vocational rehabilitation teacher or education services coordinator. DBVI staff can refer you to DeafBlind Services for assistance. If you do not have a case open with DBVI, you can contact your regional DBVI office and talk to an intake specialist for more information.

How can I get services from DBVI?

Contact your regional office (listed elsewhere on this website) and talk to an intake specialist. The intake specialist can tell you how to open a case with DBVI and help you determine what services (Vocational Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Teaching / Independent Living or Education Services) can best meet your needs. You can refer yourself, or be referred to DBVI by an eye doctor, family members, friends, or public/private agencies.

I am deafblind and want to meet other deafblind people in Virginia. How can I meet them?

Virginia has two consumer organizations of, by and for deafblind people. One is the Virginia Association of the DeafBlind (VADB). Members meet once a year in the fall in Richmond, and board members meet three times a year. To find out more information about VADB, send an email to vadbinc@gmail.com or visit them online, www.vadeafblind.org.

The other is the Metro Washington Association of the Deaf-Blind, which meets in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. Several members are from Northern Virginia. For more information, go to http://www.mwadb.org.

My child is deafblind. What services can you provide for her?

DBVI provides education services to blind, visually impaired and deafblind children through its Education Services. Also, most deafblind children, aged birth to 21, are primarily served by Together We Can: Virginia DeafBlind Project for Children and Youth with DeafBlindness .

My father has macular degeneration and he is having trouble with his hearing. Where can he go for services?

DBVI can provide services for senior adults through the Older Blind Grant program and rehabilitation teaching. If your father needs to open a case with DBVI, you or he can contact a DBVI regional office and speak with an Intake Specialist to proceed with services.

DeafBlind Resources

Find other resources and websites for deafblindness on the Resources page.

Program Director Information

For further information, please send an e-mail to:
Name: Elizabeth Spiers
Address: 397 Azalea Avenue, Richmond VA 23227
Telephone: (804) 325-1282 Voice/Videophone
Telephone – Voice/TTY: (804) 371-3133
Email: Elizabeth Spiers

This File Was Last Modified: Monday January 04 2016