How do I interact with a DeafBlind person?

The following are tips to consider when when interacting with an individual who has a dual sensory loss.

  • Say the person’s name or lightly touch them on the hand or arm before speaking to them.
  • Do not shout!
  • Speak at a normal volume. You may need to move closer but don’t raise your voice.
  • Speak at a normal rate, unless you have a tendency to speak fast, then slow down a little.
  • Do not over emphasize or exaggerate your speech.
  • Do not say “never mind” or “forget it”!
  • In an area that echoes, you may need to speak a little softer and perhaps move a little closer to the individual.
  • When repeating perhaps state the sentence in a different manner. For example, instead of “Do you want to go shopping?” You might say, “Want to go to the store?”
  • If possible turn background noise down or off.
  • When in a group setting, try to only have one person speaking at a time.
  • Specify when changing topics.
  • Avoid saying only one word but rather say short sentences to help put the word in context.
  • Talk directly to the person and not around them.
  • Do not answer questions that are directed to the individual.
  • Inform the person when you are moving away or leaving.
  • When using phonetics, use words that are not similar to others. For example, “T” for tango and “P” for puppy.
  • When stating numbers, use single digits. For example, five six rather than “fifty six”.
  • Give directions such as left or right rather than “over here” or tapping on the table or chair. Distinguishing where sounds are coming from is often difficult.
  • When something needs to be repeated, only one person needs to restate it. Multiple voices at the same time makes comprehension very problematic.
  • Remember, everyone is different so these are tips to consider. You cannot go wrong with simply asking the individual, when in doubt, “How can I help you hear me better?”

What is DeafBlind?
DeafBlind simply means a person has self identified themselves as having both a vision and hearing loss substantial enough to make everyday activities challenging.

Are the majority of individuals who are DeafBlind totally blind and totally deaf?
No, a very small percentage of individuals are actually totally deaf and blind. Most see or hear to some degree.

What are the most common causes of DeafBlind?
Usher and CHARGE Syndromes. Usher is a combination of Retinitis pigmentosa and hearing loss. CHARGE is a combination of multiple disabilities ranging from vision, hearing, kidneys, heart and nasal.

Can DeafBlind live alone?
Yes. Many DeafBlind live normal active lives just like anyone else. With the proper training, alternative methods, and support, DeafBlind can do just about anything they want to do.

Is DeafBlind contagious?
Believe it or not, some do believe this, but I assure you, it is not. In some cases though, it is hereditary.

Is Braille hard to learn?
Braille is like any other language. It takes time and effort. There are two phases of learning Braille. You learn the combinations of six dots which form the letters, and you practice using your fingers to feel the Braille. Sensitivity or sense of touch needs to develop just like anything else.

Are DeafBlind individuals to be pitied or thought of as extraordinary?
Not at all! DeafBlind are just like anyone else! We all have special gifts and abilities and it’s up to us to develop them.

If I see a DeafBlind person, should I try to help?
Treat DeafBlind just like you’d treat anyone else. If you want to help, just ask them if they want help. They will let you know. Please don’t take offense if they say no though. Sometimes it is less confusing if the DeafBlind does whatever it is on their own rather than trying to explain to another person how to help.

Is American Sign Language the same as written English?
No, not at all! American Sign Language is its own language different from spoken English. In some cases, short simple English can be written back and forth but it is best to have an interpreter or someone who knows ASL. It would be the same if a person spoke Spanish and not English. Same difference.

Is Sign Language hard?
What’s hard for some folks isn’t considered hard for others. Like Braille, it depends on how dedicated you are to learning it. It takes about two semesters and a lot of continual practice.

Can DeafBlind use technology?
Yes, technology has been a definite plus for DeafBlind with all its improvements! Many Bluetooth devices can connected to Braille displays or hearing aids to enable the DeafBlind to text, email, and surf the internet just like anyone else.

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