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Children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment (MDVI) are a diverse group. The term is used to describe a very wide range of children who may have quite different needs. In addition to a visual impairment, a child with MDVI could have one or more additional needs.

MDVI is a condition whereby an individual has vision impairment along with other disability/disabilities. Sometimes it may be a combination of two, three or even more impairments.  It can take various forms. For example a child may have:

  • Vision impairment (VI) or total blindness with deafness or hearing impairment (Deaf blindness)
  • VI with mental retardation
  • VI with Cerebral palsy (CP)or other neuromuscular challenges leading to poor mobility
  • VI with Autistic features or Autism
  • VI with global developmental delay or just speech delay which may or may not improve as the child grows
  • VI with any combination of above mentioned challenges

There is no universally agreed definition of MDVI. As such, there are many different interpretations of the needs of those falling under MDVI. A working definition by MDVI Euronet Partners is:

'A person with at least two disabilities, one of which manifests itself as a visual impairment, which impact significantly on the person's learning potential to such a degree so as to require a customised educational provision.'

In addition to blindness or visual impairment, a child may have additional disabilities, such as cognitive, developmental, hearing, or mobility impairments. Every student with multiple disabilities presents a unique educational challenge. Teachers need specialized training and skills to understand how these students experience and understand the world.

Out of a total population of persons with disability of about 3 million (2,68,14,994) in India, approximately 21 lac people are categorized under multiple disability by the Census Survey of India 2011.

For children who have MDVI, the combined effect of having little or no sight with additional disability/disabilities can have much widespread implications causing delay and difficulties across the areas of development:

  • Communication with the world around is most severely affected
  • Opportunities to interact within the immediate environment becomes very limited
  • Movement is restricted
  • Assistance required in simple routine activities like eating, bathing and dressing
  • Learning of educational and vocational skills requires modification of both the task itself and the environment & the tools
  • A highly structured educational / rehabilitation programme planned and conducted with the help of trained professionals can help in their training and rehabilitation

In a nutshell we can say that though multiple disability with vision impairment can affect a child's development in all areas – making his educational and social integration difficult – the impact can be greatly reduced through early detection and a structured, individual need based intervention with the help of special educators, community based workers, therapists, other such professionals and family members.


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