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A Guide to Communication and Interaction with DeafBlind Individuals

Blog DeafBlind

DeafBlind refers to individuals who identify as having combined hearing and vision loss. It’s
essential to understand that DeafBlind individuals are a diverse group, with varying degrees and
types of vision and hearing loss they experience.

To foster better understanding and inclusion,
this blog post explores communication methods and etiquette when interacting with DeafBlind

The Spectrum of DeafBlind Communication

DeafBlind individuals employ various communication methods, depending on factors such as
the onset, degree, and type of their sensory loss, as well as the communication environment.

When considering proper accessibility accommodations, the best practice is to ask the
DeafBlind individual their communication preferences. Here are some common methods the

DeafBlind community uses:

Tactile Print Systems: These include systems like braille or raised letters. They allow
DeafBlind individuals to read and comprehend written information through touch.

Adaptive Technology: Modern technology, including screen readers and braille displays,
empowers DeafBlind individuals to access digital content and communicate more effectively.

Tactile Signing: Tactile signing, also known as hand-over-hand signing, enables DeafBlind
individuals to feel the shape, location, and movement of signs made by others. However, it’s
important to note that comprehension through tactile sign language can be limited, with some
individuals understanding as little as 60% of a sentence.

Protactile Language: Protactile communication emerged from the Seattle DeafBlind
community in 2007
and emphasizes touch-based communication utilizing the full body. It
modifies signs from tactile American Sign Language (ASL) and incorporates physical
back-channeling. Unlike ASL, which relies on facial expressions, Protactile users convey tone
and emotion through contact space and grip variation.

Working without Interpreters: If you wish to address a DeafBlind person without an interpreter
present, the print on palm method is recommended. In this method, the letters are written on the
hand so the DeafBlind person can “read” what is being written on the hand. Print on palm is
ideal for simple greetings and goodbyes. For conveying important information, working with an
interpreter is recommended.

Working with Interpreters: Inclusive Communication Services (ICS) interpreters are trained in
a variety of Protactile and tactile communication techniques to accommodate consumers with a
variety of communication and visual needs. Request our services and more information.

Interaction and Etiquette with DeafBlind Persons

Understanding the appropriate etiquette when interacting with DeafBlind individuals is crucial for
promoting respectful and meaningful communication.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Gaining Attention: When approaching a DeafBlind person, stand in front of them and gently
touch their hand or arm to get their attention. This tactile approach is essential since they may
not perceive visual or auditory cues.

Adjusting Your Position: If the DeafBlind individual has low or partial vision, they may request
that you stand in a specific location to optimize their range of vision.

Greeting: When greeting a DeafBlind person who uses tactile signs, they may place their hand
on top of yours. You can respond with a light, friendly squeeze to say hello.

Self-Identification: Always identify yourself by name when entering or leaving a room. This
helps the DeafBlind individual know who is present and facilitates smoother communication.

Direct Communication: Address the DeafBlind individual directly, rather than through a third
party. This shows respect for their autonomy and ensures clear communication.

Offering Assistance: Don’t assume that a DeafBlind individual requires assistance. Instead,
ask if they would like any help or support. Respect their decision if they decline.

Guiding: To assist a DeafBlind person with navigation, offer your arm for them to hold just
below the elbow. This allows them to maintain control over their movement and ensures their

Provide Content: Describe things that are happening, or are about to happen, around you
when you are with a person who is DeafBlind. This empowers the individual to participate more
fully in their social interactions and remain engaged in their surroundings.

To help create a more accessible environment for DeafBlind individuals, Inclusive
Communication Services (ICS) has created a downloadable guide titled “Understanding and
Accommodating DeafBlind Individuals.” We hope this guide will familiarize your team with the
diverse communication methods and proper etiquette to foster connections DeafBlind
individuals. Contact us with any additional questions.

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