Hi-VisUK will continue to support World Health Day in the coming years. Last year our sister project, In Good Hands, attended World Mental Health Day celebrations in Hartlepool. This is part of our ongoing development of strategic and practical links in the borough as part of a planned Hi-VisUK & Hartlepool Borough Council (HBC) collaboration.

Hi-VisUK will be taking on the baton from our sister project In Good Hands to Make Every Contact Help in the health services arena. This provides a great opportunity to strengthen Hi-VisUK links with a wide range of health and wellbeing stakeholders, everyone from local authority meals services to community fire safety services.

To be successful at Hi-VisUK we will constantly work to raise our profile at a local and regional level (as well as nationally). Opportunity to talk with other local disability organisations, national manufacturers and suppliers of aids and equipment is one part of a complex jigsaw of supporting organisations – who all need to know more about age acquired deafblindness. It is also an opportunity to meet older people with deafblindness who visited such events as photographed above.

The partnership between SCIE and SCENE Enterprises CIC continues to thrive. Using our Hi-VisUK OCN Level 3 Specialist Deafblind Assessor course, participants have the option of an open course in London or closed courses exclusively for organisations and delivered on their site.  Workforce leads in the adult care sector from across the country continue to show interest in this unique course. Feedback has been extremely positive and further courses are being promoted via SCIEs website.

Indications of our impact and how we are helping to make a difference for older people with dual sensory loss are emerging through feedback from the people we engage with in the project.  To support as many older people as possible we need to build the capacity of organisations and people around the older person with the condition. We aim to do this by raising awareness of the condition, radically improving the regions capacity to identify older people with the condition and significantly increasing the number of specialist deafblind assessments requested by older people in the north east.

Our unique level three qualification provides the knowledge and skills to identify and assess older people with deafblindness meeting the minimum and key requirement of the Care Act 2014. In the north east there are now nearly 200 adult social care and sensory support professionals with the SCENE/IGH award.

Training is all about enabling people to see and do things differently, do them better or do more. Feedback shows this clearly:

  • “A new way of thinking for me was the combination of dual sensory loss as a different disability in its own right.”
  • “It really helped me to understand the impact on the individual.”
  • “I will use the training constantly to look at the impact on people with dual sensory loss.”
  • “It has given me more food for thought in relation to my assessing and taking closer notice of the aspects of hearing and sight loss.”
  • “I feel my assessments will be more informed and thorough.”
  • “Increased my knowledge of age related deafblindness.”
  • “I will be sharing this information about how to better understand and identify deafblindness with my team in their initial contact with older people.”
  • “I will identify resources in my area to facilitate deafblind assessments.”
  • “Review our assessment documentation.”
  • “Networking with others is so important, sharing information about deafblindness.”
  • “Include awareness of dual sensory impairments in other areas of the service and the person’s ability to do daily living tasks.”
  • “We will produce a fact sheet for our families and our staff when taking part in assessments.”
  • “I feel able to spot the signs of deafblindness at assessment.”
  • “A real awareness of just how difficult deafblind people find routine daily things.”

We visit care homes to raise awareness of deafblindness in older people, to explain how we can support care providers and how to identify and support their residents with the condition. We do this using our unique Talk and TryTM sessions. This is one of the ways we meet older people and uncover their deafblindness, people like the amazing Harry.

Harry is 95 years old and has been a resident in a care home for just over a year.  Interestingly he is a retired eye specialist and was extremely curious to see the equipment for sensory loss we had brought in for the visit. He thoroughly enjoyed comparing the current day equipment with “the gadgets on offer in my day!”

To help care home staff identify residents with the condition we have devised a simple checklist which we use with them and the residents. Harry agreed to go through the checklist and found he answered yes to most of the indicators for dual sensory loss. He had a cataract removed from his right eye and has had an operation on his left eye to remove cancer. As a result he says he cannot see very much at all with his left eye. Harry wears a hearing aid in his right ear.

Harry is not happy to use the term deafblind to describe himself.  Like many older people, whilst being able to describe the many impacts of his dual sensory loss,  he thinks deafblindess is being totally deaf and completely blind and therefore does not see himself as deafblind.

After we explained the Care Act, eligibility for support and the assessment, Harry has now requested a specialist deafblind assessment from his local authority.


One example of how we connect people and organisations is when celebrating Older People’s Day. It is these themed events that create important opportunities to bring deafblindness into the ageing agenda.

Under the Care Act 2014 any older person who appears to have a need for support has the right to request a care eligibility assessment from their local authority. For an older person experiencing both a sight and a hearing loss, regardless of severity, they have the right to ask for a specialist deafblind assessment. As mentioned elsewhere on our site identifying people with deafblindness is very challenging because so few organisations and professionals understand it or what it looks like. and consequently most older people with the condition are not on anyone’s radar.

It is not uncommon for older people to go for months and even years between checks on their hearing aids pr the health pf their eyes and the quality of their vision.

October 1st is Older People’s Day in England. Hi-VisUK will be organising its unique friendly “Talk and TryTM” sessions in care settings. The aim is to support the Full of Life principle by talking with elderly residents who whilst not recognised as deafblind, are found to have problems with both senses. At our sessions they can learn about aids and support that can help them continue with activities and interests.

Typically around 20 elderly residents will enjoy tea and cakes and the chance to talk with Hi-VisUK staff. They will try a range of low cost, easy to see and use equipment that help with daily tasks. For example, equipment to help safely pour a hot drink reducing the risk of scalding; a reading guide to make reading a newspaper, a book or a letter more easy; high colour contrast non-slip mats to aid food preparation in the kitchen, and big print magazines and TV guides.

For residents whose hearing has deteriorated significantly, our staff find a quiet corner during the “talk and try” sessions for one-to-one conversations and to make the most of any residual hearing.

Hi-VisUK is a highly ambitious charity that, amongst other aims, is working to increase the number of older people with dual sensory loss or deafblindness requesting and receiving a specialist deafblind assessment. This is no easy task and yet it is the most vital step.

Trying to reach older people with age acquired deafblindness is a significant challenge despite the numbers. The vast majority of older people likely to have this devastating condition, those aged 50 years and above, do not see themselves as deafblind. Department of Health (DH) describes this in its Care Act policy guidance (2014) when it acknowledges “many people do not define themselves as either deafblind or having dual sensory loss.”

There are several issues and challenges in recognising deafblindness in older people. For example there are older people receiving social service care who are not identified as deafblind. DH explains: “this could be because an assessment was carried out when only one sense was affected or because both senses have deteriorated since the care package (including residential care) has started.” Other impairments including those that are often associated with ageing “may mask the deafblindness.”

This presents a nationwide picture where age-acquired deafblindness really is a Cinderella condition. This despite it currently affecting an estimated 600,000 older people. Government estimates 40/100,000 people have the condition in this country but this is likely to be closer to 572/100,000 according to one research report (Emerson, E, SENSE 2010). By 2035 the numbers of older people with deafblindness are set to rise by 60% within main population trends as people live longer lives (CeDR 2010, ONS 2012).

Our training courses seem to be plugging a large gap in awareness of deafblindness in older people, “I didn’t realise there were so many tools I could use”.  Participants are finding the mix of theory and practical makes the learning highly accessible “Extremely informative, full of useful scenarios”.

The confidence gained in our training is showing through feedback from participants: “I have learnt a lot and I will go out and show as many as I can what I have learnt”‘ “I feel that if a deafblind visitor came into our centre I would be more confident in approaching them for the first time than I have been because of practising the block alphabet”.