The lived experience of vulnerability among adults ageing with deafblindness: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Simcock, Peter (2020) The lived experience of vulnerability among adults ageing with deafblindness: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Doctoral thesis, King's College London.

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Deafblindness is a complex impairment and there is a paucity of qualitative research into the lived experiences of deafblind people. Little is also known about the lived experience of vulnerability, yet deafblind people are often presented as one of society’s most vulnerable groups. The research presented in this thesis is the first known UK based study of the lived experience of vulnerability among older people ageing with deafblindness. It therefore makes an important contribution to the limited body of knowledge about these phenomena and helps to give voice to a group often excluded in the gerontological and deafblind literature. The research was completed in two stages: first, a systematically conducted review and second, a qualitative study adopting interpretative phenomenological analysis as the research approach. Data were collected via eighteen semi-structured interviews, with eight participants aged 49-83. Two participants have congenital rubella syndrome and six have Usher syndrome. A detailed account of the methods used is provided, offering guidance to other researchers regarding the inclusion of deafblind people in qualitative study.

Problematising the notion of deafblind people as permanently and immutability vulnerable, participants interpret their vulnerability as layered: vulnerable about, vulnerable to and vulnerable when. Although interrelated, the latter layer is predominant: vulnerability is experienced as time-limited, and situation and setting specific, reflecting Mackenzie and colleagues’ (2014) taxonomy. The experience of being misunderstood or perceived as incapable is observed as a shared experience of situational vulnerability and adversely affects participants’ lives, negating their own coping strategies and the effectiveness of available support.

Participants’ experiences highlight the inadequacy of the long-standing congenital-acquired divide in deafblind research, policy and practice. Deafblindness, a non-stable impairment, is more an experience than an identity; central to this experience is difficulty compensating. This transcends the inability of one sense to compensate for impairment in the other and is multi-faceted.

Although participants experience vulnerability, ongoing difficulties, change and consequent adaptation, they adopt various coping strategies, and demonstrate creativity as they develop solutions to the challenges they encounter. Though these vary, the ways in which participants manage their difficulties, and the attributes of the care and support they value, respond to the very elements they identify as generating their felt vulnerability. The thesis concludes by outlining the implications of these findings for policy, practice and future research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
1 December 2020Completed
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-03 - social policy
CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-04 - health and social care > CAH15-04-01 - social work
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Peter Simcock
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2021 11:49
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2023 14:49

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