Interacting with Persons who are Deaf-Blind

There are many simple things you can do to ensure effective and productive interactions with individuals with disabilities. The following are some practical tips for interacting with persons with deaf-blindness.

What does it mean if someone has deaf-blindness?

A person with deaf-blindness has a greater or lesser extent of hearing and vision loss. This results in difficulties accessing information. People with deaf-blindness may be accompanied by an intervenor, a professional who is trained in tactile sign language. This sign language involves touching the hands of the client in a two-handed manual-alphabet, also known as finger spelling.

Other persons with deaf-blindness may use American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) , or they may require small window interpreting (signing within a restricted range of vision). Some persons with deaf-blindness have some sight or hearing, and others have neither. Persons with deaf-blindness will probably let you know how to communicate with them. If you are unsure, ask.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with deaf-blindness

  • Patience, respect and a willingness to find a way to communicate are your best tools.
  • Some people who are deaf-blind have some sight or hearing, while others have neither; don’t make assumptions about what they can or cannot do.
  • When you approach a person with deaf-blindness, identify yourself.
  • Ask permission before touching the individual, unless it is an emergency.
  • Service animals may accompany persons with deaf-blindness. Service animals are working and should not be distracted.
  • Speak directly to the person, not to the intervenor.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Access Service, Student Academic Success Service, University of Ottawa. Minimizing the impact of learning obstacles: A guide for professors.