Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Perceptions of Social Networks by Adults Who Are Deafblind

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Perceptions of Social Networks by Adults Who Are Deafblind

Article excerpt

In the present article, we share findings from a descriptive qualitative interview study conducted with 10 adults who were deafblind. Participants took part in face-to-face interviews about their social lives during a Deafblind Retreat (hereafter called "Retreat") in 2012. After Retreat, a secure, accessible discussion board and e-mails between ourselves and the participants were secondary data sources.

Literature Review

Traditional social networks for all people can be created or sustained by a variety of ecological systems, including peers, families, employers, and community organizations. Virtual networks have emerged alongside conventional face-to-face ones and have become a way for individuals to create identity, share information, solve mutual problems, and generate new knowledge. Having access to and participating in social networks, both face-to-face and virtual, has been described as an important factor in promoting emotional and mental resiliency for all people (H. Hirayama & K. K. Hirayama, 2001). In this context, how adults who are deafblind connect with others is important to understand, as people who are deafblind may experience repeated barriers to establishing and sustaining social connections.

Individuals who are deafblind represent one of the most heterogeneous, low-incidence disability groups. Although the term deafblind implies a complete absence of hearing and sight, most people who are considered deafblind actually have some functional vision or hearing (Gleason, 2008). In the present study, both because of methodology and because of our purpose, we resisted using rehabilitative terms and instead allowed participants to define their experiences for us. For the purposes of understanding access from a social services perspective, it is helpful to see the complexity of the definition of deafblindness as outlined in the United States Code, specifically in the Helen Keller National Center Act of 2011:

The term ''individual who is deafblind" means any individual

(A) (i) who has a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective lenses, or a field defect such that the peripheral diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees, or a progressive visual loss having a prognosis leading to one or both these conditions;

(ii) who has a chronic hearing impairment so severe that most speech cannot be understood with optimum amplification, or a progressive hearing loss having a prognosis leading to this condition; and

(iii) for whom the combination of impairments described in clauses (i) and (ii) cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining a vocation;

(B) who despite the inability to be measured accurately for hearing and vision loss due to cognitive or behavioral constraints, or both, can be determined through functional and performance assessment to have severe hearing and visual disabilities that cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining vocational objectives; or

(C) meets such other requirements as the Secretary may prescribe by regulation.

This definition, while helpful from a policy perspective, is limited in how it may be applied to describing the experience of diverse people. From a practical standpoint, the population of people who are deafblind, despite their differences in communication modalities, share the common challenge of acquiring access to visual and auditory information.

The challenges of socializing for people who are deafblind are well documented. Aitken, Buultjens, Clark, Eyre, and Pease (2000) write that "nowhere are the devastating effects of deafblindness more evident than in the area of communication" (p. 36). Because there is such a risk that access and support in education and work may be compromised, individuals who are deafblind may have difficulty developing or maintaining social connections (McInnes, 1999; Miles, 2008; Sauerburger, 1993). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.