Keeping safe

What do we mean by keeping safe?

‘Keeping safe’ means having a right to be safe at all times, whether that is being safe in your home, when working and when out and about in the community.

Everyone should be enabled to say NO when someone does something to them that they do not like – this may include  inappropriate touching, being hurt or being treated differently. This is what we call abuse, but what do we really mean by abuse?

Who is this information for?

This information is designed to inform families and carers who are supporting a deafblind child or adult. We hope it will help by, providing resources that will support the individual in understanding their rights.

People with the most significant disabilities may be more vulnerable to abuse as this can affect a person’s ability to learn about how to keep safe.

There are some individuals who are able to understand what abuse is; how to recognise it and how to report it.

Other individuals may be able to recognise when something is ‘wrong’ but are unsure how to report it.

Often, this is when they are being treated wrongly by someone they know or who is in a position of trust with them. Some people are more vulnerable as they may not be able to recognise when they are being treated wrongly.

‘Keeping safe’ will mean different things to different people. For some it is about learning how to report concerns and for others it may be learning ways to reduce their vulnerability. For many individuals the people who support them need to be aware and recognise that some individuals need to be supported to understand how to keep safe.

We have included information on how the resources can be adapted to meet an individual's specific communication needs.

Why have we put together this pack?

We have created this resource to provide individuals who are deafblind, families & carers and professionals with information that will support people to understand how they can keep themselves safe.

People without a sensory loss are able to learn as children what is right and what is wrong through play and from their families, teachers and friends. As we become older our understanding of what is acceptable behaviour develops as does our understanding of what abuse is, and how to keep ourselves safe.

Cooke (1999) identified several reasons why disabled children and adults are more vulnerable to abuse:

  • Negative social values
  • Low self-esteem
  • Limited communication - see our page on communication methods
  • Physical disabilities
  • Receive little or no sex education
  • Limited opportunities for developing knowledge of sexual and personal relationships.
  • Often ‘schooled’ into compliance.
  • Dependence on a range of people for their basic and often intimate care needs.
  • May be isolated in segregated care.
  • May show innocence and unguarded displays of affection
  • Behaviour may be modified by medication
  • Society’s belief that abuse of disabled children does not happen

However deafblind individuals, particularly those who are born deafblind, may be at greater risk to abuse and are less likely to tell someone that they have been abused (Reasons Why Deafblind Individuals and Vulnerable to Abuse, Steve Kiekopf 2002, PDF file, page 340). As deafblindness can affect every area of an individual’s development, across communication, cognitive understanding and mobility, deafblind people may be more at risk than other individuals.

The following pages provide a range of resources that can be used to develop an understanding of keeping safe. There are also resources available that can help families and carers and professionals supporting a vulnerable person to improve their own understanding of keeping safe.

You can read more about how being deafblind may make a child more vulnerable on the National Center on Deaf-Blindness website.


First published: Tuesday 7 April 2015
Updated: Monday 15 February 2016