Multi-sensory impairment: overview

People with multi-sensory impairment (MSI) have a combination of hearing and vision impairments. Most MSI people will have some useful vision and hearing; however there are some who are completely deaf and blind.

There are a number of terms used to describe MSI including:

  • deafblind
  • dual-sensory impaired
  • dual sensory loss

which can be used interchangeably, denoting the fact that combined losses of sight and hearing are significant for the individual, even where they are not profoundly deaf and totally blind. 

Key points: 

  • There is huge variability in people with MSI, although they are unified by daily challenges with communication, access to information and independent mobility.
  • Children with MSI are a low incidence educational group.  
  • There is a growing population of older people with age-related dual sensory loss. 
  • Not all people with MSI identify as being deafblind. They may identify as deaf people who can’t see very well, physically disabled people who can’t see or hear very well or as older people who can’t see or hear as well as they used to.
  • There are statutory duties to identify, assess and provide support for deafblind people.   

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