Who Sense supports

Sense supports a wide range of disabled people, with a variety of different needs, to be understood, connected and valued.

Complex communication needs

Complex communication needs is an umbrella term that we use at Sense to reflect the wide range of disabled people we support.

We have introduced this term because, at Sense, we start with the person and their needs, not their condition – and because communication lies at the heart of what we do. Sense began, and continues to, support people who are deafblind. Over the years it became apparent that our expertise, which stems from this specialism in deafblindness, would benefit many more people.

The truth is that there is no perfect way of summing up the people we support when introducing Sense for the first time. Everyone is different. Complex communication needs is the closest we can get to truly reflecting the range of individuals we support.

We are here for every person who faces communication barriers in a world that relies on being able to see and hear well to be connected.

Whilst we prefer not to use labels, they can sometimes help people to understand the wide range of individuals that Sense supports. The labels relevant to Sense and the individuals we support are:

  • Deafblind, dual-sensory impairment or multi-sensory impairment.
  • Single sensory impairment with additional needs.
  • Complex needs, which may include sensory impairments, additional learning or physical disabilities, or autism.

Deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment

Deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing impairment that affects how you communicate, access information and get around. Many people who are deafblind have some residual sight and/or hearing.

Dual-sensory impairment or multi-sensory impairment are other terms that may be used if you have both sight and hearing impairments.

Learn more about deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment

Specific conditions that can cause a person to be deafblind include Usher syndrome, CHARGE syndrome and congenital rubella syndrome.

Single sensory impairment with additional needs

‘Single sensory impairment with additional needs’ may be used if you have either a sight or hearing impairment combined with learning or physical disabilities, or autism.

Disability and complex needs

You may have complex needs if you have two or more needs and require high levels of support with aspects of your daily life. You may require support from a range of health and social care services. This may be because of a disability or sight or hearing impairment – or a combination of these.

Complex needs may be present from birth, or may develop following illness or injury or as people get older.

The number of children born prematurely or with other medical or complex conditions is growing. So, too, is the number of older people developing complex needs in later life, including sight and hearing loss.

Whilst there are no accurate figures on how many disabled people have complex needs today, there is no doubt that the number is increasing.