Certified Deafblind Intervenor Specialists (CDBIS) Handbook, Section 2, History

Section 2 - History of CDBIS Certification

From the earliest days of recorded history to the nineteenth century, scarcely any record exists of persons who were both deaf and blind, neither congenitally nor acquired.

The 1800s:

In 1829, The New England Institution for the Education of the Blind (known today as Perkins School for the Blind) opened. With only six students, Perkins was the first school for students who were blind. As a leader in blind and deafblind education, Perkins developed strategies to make reading materials accessible. (perkins.org/history/ January 17, 2019)
In 1837, Laura Bridgman attended Perkins as a student just before she turned eight years old. She is considered the first child who was deafblind to complete a formal education. She was a prolific letter and journal writer, wrote poetry, and was very expressive about her opinions, experiences, and even her dreams.( perkins.org/history/people/laura-bridgman January 17, 2019)
Graduating from Perkins in 1886, Anne Sullivan began working with Helen Keller the following year. As a schoolmate of Laura Bridgeman, together with patience and creativity, Anne used the teaching strategies used with Laura to train 6 year old Helen to communicate using tactile fingerspelling, sign language and Braille. Helen flourished under Anne and would later attend Radcliffe College where she became the first person who was deafblind to become a college graduate. (biography.com; January 27, 2019)


One of the first mass attempts to reach out, identify, and support people who are deafblind was the 1915-1930 study of North America’s deafblind population, by Corrinne Rocheleau and Rebecca Mack.They identified a total of 47 Canadians who were deafblind and listed a series of recommendations. (Those in the Dark Silence: The Deaf-Blind in North America, A Record of To-Day by Corinne Rocheleau, Rebecca Mack Publication date 1930)
In response to people blinded by the Halifax explosion and soldiers blinded during WWI, a group of seven men, including Colonel Edwin A. Baker, established the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in 1918. Originally offering shelter, food, and clothing, CNIB would later expand its services to include employment programs, a home nursery hospital and kindergarten for children under the age of 6 (en.m. wikipedica.org; January 27, 2019)
1946 - The American Foundation for the Blind turned its interest to people who were deafblind and set up a new program known as the Helen Keller Department for the Deaf-Blind. The Helen Keller Department has become an active centre promoting the interests of people with multi-sensorial impairments. (afb.org January 17, 2019). In 1947, Mo G?rd deafblind services opens in Sweden (mogard.se April 3, 2019)


In 1950, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, USA and Nordic countries established the International Association for the Education of Deaf Blind Persons (IAEDB). The organization would later shorten their name to Deafblind International (Dbl). It was not until 1962, that IAEDB presented their first formal conference.
It was titled "Teaching Deaf-Blind Children". Hosted by Condover Hall School near Shrewsbury, England, forty-one people were in attendance. Subsequent worldwide conferences were held during the 1960s in Denmark and the Netherlands. (deafblindinternational.org April 3, 2019)

Throughout the world in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s widespread rubella epidemics significantly impacted the deafblind population. In response to this, Sense: The National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association was founded in Britain. This was a self-help organization for parents of "rubella handicapped" children. (sense.org.uk April 3, 2019)

Following the rubella outbreak in the Netherlands, the Institute for the Deaf (renamed Kentalis) established a program for children who were deafblind. Dr. Jan van Dijk became their first teacher. With a career spanning 60 years, Dr. van Dijk made many contributions to the field of deafblindness; published research, textbooks, audio and video resources and countless journal articles. Dr. van Dijk received several acknowledgments for his accomplishments including the Anne Sullivan Award and the Distinguished Service Award from Deafblind International. Dr. van Dijk was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands for his dedication to people who are deaf with autism as well as his contributions to a school for students with disabilities (afb.org January 27, 2019)

In 1967, The Victorian Deaf Blind and Rubella Children’s Association was formed. In 2006, a focus on improving each individual’s abilities led to the Association changing its name to be “Able Australia”.(ableaustralia.org.au April 3, 2019)

Also in 1967, The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults was established by a unanimous act of US Congress. Rebranded in 2015, Helen Keller Services (HKS) is now used to identify the entire organization and clarify the relationship between its two divisions: Helen Keller Services for the Blind and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (helenkeller.org/hknc April 3, 2019)

Additionally in the same year, Mae Brown, a Canadian woman who was deafblind, enrolled at the University of Toronto. With the help of CNIB, Joan Mactavish was commissioned to facilitate access to lectures and course materials. Working together with 35 volunteers, Mactavish translated textbooks into Braille. While Brown was able to express herself orally, she received information via tactile fingerspelling. After five years, Mae Brown became the first Canadian woman who was deafblind to receive a university degree. (en.m.wikipedia.org January 27, 2019)

1971 - W. Ross McDonald School in Brantford, Ontario opened their deafblind program. (pdsbnet.ca April 3, 2019) Four years later, parents of students attending the deafblind program established the Canadian Rubella Association National (CDBRA). (cdbanational.com April 3, 2019)
Several years later, based out of the W. Ross MacDonald School, John McInnes and Jackie Treffry researched congenital deafblindness and published their findings in "Deaf-Blind Infants and Children: A Developmental Guide". University of Toronto Press, 1993

1975 - CNIB opens their Deafblind Services department.(cnib.ca April 3, 2019)

1980's - Anne Sullivan Centre opened in Ireland (annesullivan.ie April 3, 2019)

1984 - Lions McInnes Home opens in Brantford, Ontario, providing housing for 8 individuals (lionsmcinneshouse.com April 3, 2019)

1985 - Sense Scotland opens(sensescotland.org.uk April 3, 2019) and Canadian National Society of Deafblind (CNSDB) was registered as a national consumer run advocacy association (deafblindcanada.ca April 3, 2019)

1989 - Independent Living Residences for the Deafblind in Ontario (ILRDBO) was founded. A group of parents lobbied the provincial government as advocates for their children in an attempt to secure funding for community based supported living to commence when the children complete their education. ILRDBO rebranded to DeafBlind Ontario Services in 2007 (deafblindontario.com April 3, 2019)

1990 - Centre Jules Leger School deafblind program started in Ottawa, Ontario (centrejulesleger.com April 3, 2019)

1991 - Establishment of the George Brown College Intervenor Program (georgebrown.ca April 3, 2019) and Intervenor Organization of Ontario (IOO) was established. The original purpose of the organization was to recognize intervenors as professionals, and to provide support and standards for certification. (intervenors.ca April 3, 2019)

1992 - Rotary Cheshire Homes (RCH) officially opened in Toronto with sixteen one-bedroom apartments for independent adults who are deafblind. RCH provides intervention services to its tenants. (chkc.org April 3, 2019)

1993 - Sense international was launched (senseinternational.org.uk April 3 2019)


2001- Canadian Hellen Keller Centre opened in Toronto. The Centre provides individualized training to people who are deafblind. (chkc.org April 3, 2019)

2003 - Deafblind Coaltion of Ontario was established (DBCO). A group made up of individuals, organizations and service providers who work together to improve services for Ontarians who are deafblind. DBCO was rebranded to Deafblind Network of Ontario (DBNO) in 2017 (deafblindnetworkontario.com April 3, 2019)

2015 - 2018 Intervenors Services Human Resource Strategies (ISHRS) launched. A multi-year initiative funded by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) with the goal of professionalizing Intervenor Services, increasing the number of skilled intervenors, and improving the quality of services for individuals who are deafblind.(deafblindnetworkontario.com April 3, 2019)

2017 - Stemming from the ISHRS, the Intervenor Code of Ethics Review Committee began working on revising the Code of Ethics. This was the first revision in approximately 25 years. The committee was comprised of intervenors, managers, and people who are deafblind with representation from all the major organizations who provide intervenor services. The revised Intervenor Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Conduct was launched at the Intervenor Symposium in June 2018. (Intervenors.ca January 27, 2019)
In April 2018, as part of CNIB's restructuring strategy - Path to Change, Deafblind Services becomes it's own separate pillar under the CNIB Group and is renamed CNIB Deafblind Community Services. (cnib.ca January 27, 2019)

In January 2019, CDBA becomes Sensity: Deafblind and Sensory Support Network of Canada and broadens it's service model to include a wider range of impairments. (Sensity.ca January 27, 2019)