• The term “DeafBlind” refers to people with both hearing and vision loss. • People who are DeafBlind vary widely in the degree and type of vision and hearing loss they experience. • People can become DeafBlind at any age, from birth to the end of life. Causes include illness, injury and family genetics. • People who are DeafBlind experience far greater adverse consequences than people with hearing loss only or vision loss only. • Among the greatest difficulties people who are DeafBlind face are those related to communication and mobility; communication barriers in particular lead to a profound sense of isolation and loneliness. • People who are DeafBlind can and do hold responsible jobs in challenging fields, but job opportunities remain limited. Many areas of employment are limited to people who are DeafBlind due to attitudinal barriers and the low expectations of employers.
• People who are DeafBlind use a variety of communication methods, depending on the age of onset, degree and type of hearing and vision loss and the communication environment. • People who are blind and lose hearing after they have learned to speak may be able to continue to express themselves through speech, but often they must learn a new mode for receiving language. • People who are deaf and lose vision after learning American Sign Language can continue to express themselves through signing but must learn to receive sign language tactilely or in a modified form. • Other methods of communication used by people who are DeafBlind include reading and writing in Braille, large print, and/or print-on-palm method (tracing the shapes of letters in the palm of a person who is DeafBlind). • Assistive technology allows people who are DeafBlind to use computers/telephones and to converse with people unfamiliar with more specialized methods of communication. • Interpreting services can greatly expand access to social, recreational, educational, and cultural events for people who are DeafBlind, as well as community services such as counseling, medical care, and vocational training.
• People who are DeafBlind can increase their mobility through training in the use of canes for walking, special transportation services, guide dogs, and sight guide services if those services are available in the community. • Transportation services provide people who are DeafBlind with a vital link to activities and services in their communities. • With assistance, many people who are DeafBlind are able to use public transportation such as taxis, airplanes, and trains.
• To get the attention of a person who is deafblind, gently touch him or her on the arm or shoulder, wait to be acknowledged, and identify yourself; do not assume that he/she knows who you are. • Learn to use whatever means of communication the person who is deafblind prefers. If you know another method that might be helpful, share that information. • Express yourself in a natural way; softening or exaggerating your gestures may result in confusion. • Express yourself clearly and make sure that your message is understood. Summarizing important points at the end of a conversation is often helpful. • Always inform the person who is DeafBlind of your whereabouts. Also, let him/her know if you intend to leave the immediate area. • If others are present, let the person who is DeafBlind know their locations. Inform him or her of opportunities to enter the conversation without interrupting others. • If you move an object (a glass of water, a chair) in the immediate environment, let the person who is DeafBlind know. Such information can prevent accidents and reduce confusion. • When walking with a person who is DeafBlind, offer your elbow or shoulder as a guide. Hold your guiding arm close to your side to provide a stable area of contact and walk slightly ahead of the person who is DeafBlind. Pause slightly to indicate that you have arrived at stairs or a curb. • You can learn more about interpreting and guiding by seeking the suggestions of people who are DeafBlind, observing their reactions in various situations, and consulting books on these subjects.
Adapted and re-printed with permission from the American Association of the DeafBlind.
This information is in accessible formats for individuals with disabilities by calling (651)431-5940 or by using your preferred relay service. Additional assistance with legal rights and protections for equal access to human services programs is available.
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