In some individuals, deafness or severe hearing loss is accompanied by blindness. Try to imagine what such an individual must go through: feeling completely lost and cut off in the world. While this makes communication more difficult, these individuals are still capable of making impressive strides in many fields, and many communication and educational programs have been developed. As with any hardship, it is important for these people to be surrounded by supportive friends and family members.The methods of adapting to deafblindness depend on how the condition begins and its severity. Some deafblind people retain minimal use of hearing or sight which they can support with hearing aids or large print writing and sign language, respectively. Tactile signing is a version of sign language in which the deafblind person generally uses one hand to sign and one hand to feel the signs of the other person. Interpreters and specialized devices may also be used in some cases to improve communication.The most well-known deafblind person is, of course, Helen Keller. Born in 1880, Keller contracted both deafness and blindness at the age of 19 months. She was able to use some of her own signs by the age of seven, but it was Anne Sullivan, a 20-year-old former student at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, who helped Keller bridge the gap between the signs she was making and the physical objects in her world. In adulthood, Keller became a famous activist in areas such as suffrage, war, politics, and birth control. She married John Macy in 1905 and helped to found Helen Keller International in 1915 and the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. She also published 12 different books over the course of her life.However, Keller is not the only deafblind individual to rise above their hardships. Heinrich Landesmann (Hieronymus Lorm), an Austrian poet and philosopher, lost most of his sight and hearing at the age of fifteen and went on to publish many renowned books. The British poet Jack Clemo became deaf at age 20 and blind at age 39 and published the majority of his works after this point. Robert Smithdas became the first deaf-blind person to earn a master’s degree (from New York University, where he specialized in vocational guidance and handicapped rehabilitation).It’s clear that with the proper support, deafblind people can still enjoy a life of creativity, expression, and love. For more information, visit the World Federation of the Deafblind website at www.wfdb.org.