DeafBlind Tactile & Protactile Interpreting

Our sign language interpreters are trained in a variety of tactile, low-vision, and protactile communication techniques to accommodate consumers with a variety of communication and visual needs.

Understanding and Accommodating the Unique Accessibility Needs of DeafBlind Individuals

“DeafBlind” refers to individuals who identify as having combined hearing and vision loss, which can range from mild to severe and fluctuate over the span of an individual’s life.

The loss of both sight and hearing can make it difficult to navigate one’s environment, communicate with others, and participate in social activities, education, and employment.

As a result, equal access and inclusion are crucial for DeafBlind individuals who face significant challenges in multiple aspects of daily life, from communication, to accessing information, and, of course, mobility.

DeafBlind individuals may experience difficulty communicating with others due to their loss of sight and hearing.

DeafBlind individuals have a variety of communication preferences, including tactile print systems, such as braille or raised letters; adaptive technology, such as screen readers and braille displays; and tactile communication, including tactile sign language and touch systems such as protactile and haptics.

Communication with a DeafBlind individual is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, each DeafBlind individual has their own communication preferences, depending on their age, education, and onset of hearing and vision loss, and these preferences are likely to change throughout the DeafBlind individual’s life.

As a matter of best practice, you should ask the DeafBlind individual their communication preferences when considering proper accessibility accommodations.

DeafBlind individuals may struggle to access information that is essential for daily living, education, and employment due to their vision loss.

As a result, DeafBlind individuals may require supplemental materials to be printed in braille or large print, or may require access to assistive technologies such as screen readers or braille displays. Much like communicating with a DeafBlind person, it’s always best to ask the individual’s preference for accessing information. Politely offering informational support to a DeafBlind individual is a friendly way of lending a hand to someone who may be unaware of their environment or what’s happening in it.

Consider asking if the DeafBlind individual needs help navigating to their transportation or if they’d like you to describe the room setup or what people are doing around them. Keep in mind, just because certain information isn’t of value to you, doesn’t mean others don’t want to know.

DeafBlind individuals may require assistance to navigate their environment.

Navigational support is available in many forms including the help of a guide dog, a cane, guiding technology, or a sighted guide – sometimes referred to as a Special Support Provider or SSP.

In addition to providing navigational support, it is essential to create an inclusive environment that accommodates the mobility needs of DeafBlind individuals.

This can include posting accessible signage and ensuring that physical spaces are clear of dangerous or confusing impediments.

Never assume that a DeafBlind individual wants your assistance. In fact, many DeafBlind individuals undergo significant rehabilitation and training to live independent and fulfilling lives.

To respect the DeafBlind individual’s autonomy, it is best to offer help and wait for a response. Never grab a DeafBlind individual without warning. If the DeafBlind individual is in a danger, you should draw a large ‘X’ on their back and wait for the individual to grab your arm or shoulder before navigating them to safety.

Although DeafBlind individuals face unique challenges, they are often able to live fulfilling, enriched, and independent lives. However, such independence can easily be thwarted when accessibility solutions are not tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the DeafBlind individuals they’re meant to accommodate.

Partnering with a reputable service agency is a crucial step to avoiding such mistakes and ensuring holistic accessibility. As a service agency that specializes in DeafBlind accessibility services, Inclusive Communication Services provides expert guidance and support to ensure proper inclusion and equal access for these valued members of our community.

Tips for Working with Interpreters and Deaf-Blind Consumers

Check out More Useful Resources!

Authorized by an Act of Congress in 1967, HKNC is the only organization of its kind—providing training and resources exclusively to people age 16 and over who have combined vision and hearing loss.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

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