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Persons with deafblindness and inequalities: What the data say, what the reality is, and the road ahead

11 June 2018

A group of men and women sitting at tables talking into microphones

(Image shows Geir Jensen, President of the World Federation of the Deafblind, making a statement at the UN Conference of State Parties on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities.)

Director of Sense International, Alison Marshall, today joins a panel of experts at the UN in New York, to share and discuss the data, reality and road ahead for persons with deafblindess around the world.

The side event is led by the World Federation of the Deafblind (WFDB), in cooperation with Sense International and supported by Norway (MFA), Britain (FCDO) and the International Disability Alliance (IDA). It aims to share some of the key findings of the first global report of persons with deafblindness.

Representing between 0.2% to 2% of the population, persons with deafblindness are a diverse group and are overall more likely to be poor and unemployed, and with lower educational outcomes than other people with disabilities.

They face multiple barriers such as severe lack of access to support services and accessible information, which ultimately make it very difficult to voice their issues.

Moreover, the fact that persons with deafblindness are rarely recognised as distinct disability group has contributed to persistent statistical invisibility even when governments seek to collect disability related data.

Combining the largest population-based analysis of persons with deafblindness conducted to date (disaggregation of more than 20 population-based surveys from low, middle and high-income countries), a review of academic literature, two surveys conducted among members and partners of WFDB and Sense International, as well as case studies, the report covers the diversity of persons with deafblindness, their lived experiences and the barriers and inequalities they face. It also seeks to propose very concrete recommendations to Members States, development agencies and civil society organisations.

The findings will be presented prior to the 2018 Hellen Keller World Conference to women and men with deafblindness from all regions of the world who will contribute to finalise the global report with their lived experience and recommendations.

Read the World Federation of the Deafblind's pre-launch summary report: At risk of exclusion from CRPD and SDGs implementation: Inequality and Persons with Deafblindness. An overview (PDF)

The embedded video below shows Agnes, a woman with deafblindness who lives in Uganda, was due to speak at the event but was denied a visa. Instead, a video of her talking about the challenges women with deafblindness face in Uganda was screened, so her story and experiences could be shared.

Click play on the embedded video below, or watch the video on YouTube


First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019