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Sensory disability


What is it?

Sensory impairment or disability is when a person has difficulty in seeing, hearing or even both. It can mean they cannot see things around them or that they cannot hear what people say or noises around them. People with sight loss are sometimes known as blind or partially sighted but the more modern term is sight impaired or severely sight impaired. People with hearing difficulties are often known as being deaf or hard of hearing but the more modern term is hearing impairment. Some people might have both sight and hearing impairment; this used to be known as deafblind, but is now described as multi sensory impairment (or MSI).

What information can I find here?

Information here will cover:

  • How sensory impairment affects people
  • What people can do to help themselves
  • Where to get help for people with sensory impairment
  • Information on specialist equipment for people with sensory impairment to help them

Young people with special educational needs or disabilities

If you are looking for information, advice or services relating to a child or young person with a disability you may find it helpful to look on the Hillingdon local offer within the Family Information Directory Knowing what is out there gives you more choice and therefore more control over what support is right for your child.


How might sensory impairment affect people?

People with a sensory impairment might find some tasks difficult. Here are some examples:

  • Reading letters or post
  • Using the telephone
  • Watching television
  • Doing their shopping
  • Speaking with other people
  • Using buses or just getting around
  • Knowing when someone is at the front door

What causes sensory impairment?

People can have a sensory impairment for different reasons. Here are some examples:

  • Being born with a sensory impairment
  • Having a condition which means they lose their sight or hearing as they get older, this can start even when they are a child
  • As a result of an accident
  • Through poorly managed diabetes
  • As part of getting older

Self help

What can I do?

Here are some things that you can do to help yourself:

  • Have regular sight and hearing tests, every two years
  • Eat healthy food
  • Exercise and keep active
  • Always wear glasses or hearing aids if your doctor has given them to you
  • If you have diabetes or other health problems please remember to attend the health appointment

Sometimes sensory impairment cannot be avoided. It is important in these situations to carry on for as long as possible with daily tasks and to remain as independent as possible. It can be surprising that a person with a positive attitude or outlook on life can remain independent for longer, even with a sensory impairment.

Some people can learn British Sign Language (BSL). This is a system which uses hand/finger movement and gestures to help people with a hearing impairment to communicate more easily. Some people with sight impairment also learn and use Braille. This is a system of raised dots that people can feel with their fingers to read or label things, like clothing or food items. People with MSI may learn and use hand to hand finger spelling to communicate with other people. Learning BSL or Braille can help people to stay independent for longer.


There are a wide range of products available to maintain your independence and keep doing the things you love. This section highlights a few of the most popular items with links to find out more and how to purchase.

Available support

Services that may help

Here is a list of some of the support services for people with a sensory impairment:

  • The Sensory Team in Adult Social Care This team can register people who have a sensory impairment. Being registered can help people when they apply for other services and welfare benefits. The Sensory team also shows people how to use equipment that can help them. Some equipment that can help people are loop systems, telephone aids, white canes, health and safety equipment for cooking and drink making. Different equipment will help different people.
  • DASH is a local voluntary organisation which supports people with a disability.
  • Crown Centre is a place where people with hearing impairment can go to get help and advice, or to meet up with friends. It is open every Tuesday from around 11am to 4pm and some weekends. Telephone number is 01895 434809.
  • MAB Middlesex Association for the Blind (MAB) helps people with sight problems to apply for welfare benefits. MAB also offers help and advice and training in using computers.
  • Blind Veterans UK provides practical and emotional support to ex servicemen and women in the UK. Whatever the level of support need, Blind Veterans UK, will work with Veterans for the rest of their lives, providing a range of support and services. If you are an ex serviceman or woman contact them directly to access more information and support.

Last reviewed: 18/07/2018

Useful links:

While every care has been taken in the compilation of the information on this website, neither Hillingdon Council or PCG Care Solutions will be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of using the site and any inaccuracies/errors within these pages.

If you choose to purchase services via the Marketplace, you are advised to refer to the Buyers Guide prior to making a purchase, as well as making your own enquiries and seeking independent advice. This is applicable to Adult services only, as there is no Marketplace for Children's services.