Deafblind or Deaf-blind, Side Bar On Terminology.


In 1991, Salvatore Lagati of the Servizio di Consulenza Pedagogica in Trento, Italy began a crusade to get international acceptance of the single word "deafblind" in place of the hyphenated word "deaf-blind." His belief was that "deafblindness is a condition presenting other difficulties than those caused by deafness and blindness"(Lagati,1993 p. 429). The hyphenated term indicates a condition that "sums up the difficulties of deafness and blindness." The single word would indicate a different, unique condition and that impact of dual losses is multiplicative rather than additive.

Lagati wrote and explained his proposal to 30 agencies throughout the world who work with people who are deafblind. He received very positive feedback from all of the people who responded. In Germany, Poland, Russia and the Nordic countries, the word "deafblind" has always been used without a hyphen. Representatives from other countries including the United States, France, Great Britain, India, Spain and Switzerland agreed that the change was desirable. Lagati presented this information at the IAEDB International Conference in Orebro, Sweden.

By 1993 both IAEDB and Sense had agreed to use the term "deafblind" in their publications. The Canadian Deafblind and Rubella Association also adopted the term. Lagati reported these results at the European Conference of IAEDB in Potsdam, Germany in 1993.

Salvatore Lagati wrote an article that appears in the most recent Journal of Visual Impairment Blindness, Special Issue on Deaf-Blindness. He is now proposing that "the field should come
to some agreement on the definition of the term" and then to "use the unhyphenated, one-word term in all publications." (Lagati, 1995, p.306).

This proposal faces an uncertain future in the United States. Terminology has been a hotly debated issue for some time in the United States. Political correctness also seems to have greater influence in the US than in many other countries. Recent synonyms have included "dual sensory impaired," "auditorally and visually challenged," person "with deaf-blindness," etc. Editorial policy for Deaf-Blind Perspectives (Reiman, 1993) requires the use of the language "person who is deaf-blind." This usage seems to have general acceptance in the U.S. Perhaps, if Salvatore Lagati keeps up his crusade, "person who is deafblind" will have global acceptance in the future.

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