Projects Current Page Projects


Life Circumstances of People with Hearing and Visual Impairment/Deaf-Blindness

Background and aims

Individuals with impairment of both hearing and sight have special requirements when it comes to communication, access to information, mobility and general day-to-day living. Provisions for those with hearing impairments or visual impairments are not sufficient for the hearing and visually impaired/deaf-blind, as these persons have a particular form of disability with very specific problems. Support measures vary widely depending on the age of the affected person, time of occurrence and form of impairment.


This enquiry deals with the life situation of people with hearing and visual impairment/deaf-blindness in Switzerland. The focus is on different life stages and the requirements and resources associated with each of those stages and to offer empirically substantiated advice to those affected as well as advising institutions. This will allow the further optimisation of planning and development, awareness instruments, clarification possibilities and support & advice provisions.

This study will address the following issues:

  • How can the life situation of deaf-blind people in Switzerland be depicted? Which aspects do those affected feel are particularly relevant? (e.g. professional and financial situation, social relationships, living, mobility etc.)
  • Which everyday problems cause the greatest strain? How do those affected deal with everyday challenges and hurdles? What resources can be activated?
  • What are the determining factors that distinguish the life stages?
  • What changes would deaf-blind people like to see with regard to support and advice provisions? Which support and advice provisions are helpful for the integration and participation of those affected?
  • How can the situation of the deaf-blind be depicted with a view to the life situation of the total population and to the population of people with disabilities?


In order to present the life situation of deaf-blind people it is necessary to create a theoretical concept that can gauge various life areas and their relationships. The life stages concept is ideal for this. It creates a base from which those dimensions relevant to the life situation of deaf-blind people can be determined.

In the first phase, socio-demographic data will be collected in order to give a rough overview of the situation of deaf-blind people in Switzerland. Qualitative interviews will then be conducted in order to work out the subjectively relevant dimensions of the deaf-blind people. 

The second phase will use case studies to gain differentiated insights into the life situation of deaf-blind people. This will be accomplished by conducting guided interviews, which are based on those dimensions the affected consider relevant to their life stage.

The affected will be included in the whole research process, invited to the discussion and interpretation of the results and, of course, involved when the results are translated into practical applications.




The research results accentuate the assumptions made at the beginning of the study. They show that the deaf/blind cannot participate in many areas of life to the same extent as people with other impairments or people with no impairments at all. This is most evident in the areas of social contact, communication, mobility, information access, work and material situation. The risk of loneliness for the deaf/blind is significant. Loss of work and thus exclusion from the working world is a central and highly debilitating topic for middle-aged people. Because aids for the hearing or visually impaired are no longer sufficient for people with increasing deaf/blindness, deaf/blind people often rely on personal support and interpreters as a means of contact. The data shows that the life situation of deaf/blind people with an intellectual disability differs dramatically from other clients. It also indicates that there is a need for further research where people with an intellectual disability are concerned.


  • Spring, St., Adler, J., Wohlgensinger, C. & Meier, S. (2012). Facing up to the facts. A publication on the study "The living circumstances of deafblind people at different stages of their lives in Switzerland". SZB: Bern.



Project Management


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe

Important documents