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How do Deaf-Blind People Communicate?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a variety of different techniques used by deaf-blind people for communication. Which tactic a person uses use will depend on a variety of different factors, including how long he or she has been deaf-blind. People who become deaf first may learn sign language, and when they become blind, they will often learn a variation of sign language that involves touch. Those who develop blindness first may rely on braille technology, hearing aids, or touch-based alphabet systems. When dealing with the public, deaf-blind people often rely on a guide who knows how to interpret one of these special language systems as a way to interact with other people.

One of the most common techniques used by those with deaf-blindness is called the manual alphabet. When using this method, one person writes shapes on another person’s hands. The shapes represent different letters and the people can write back and forth to each other. One of the main advantages to the manual alphabet is how easy it is to use. It doesn’t take people very long to learn it, so deaf-blind people and their relatives can quickly adapt to using it regularly.

Some deaf and blind people may rely on technological devices to facilitate communication with others. Usually, these are based around braille, a keyboard and a display of some kind. The deaf and blind individual will write and receive using braille while the other individual will write with the keyboard and view a screen to receive the messages. By most standards, these devices are considered very expensive, and many deaf-blind individuals cannot afford them.

Some deaf and blind people have at least partial use in one of their disabled senses. When this is the case, they will generally rely on the communication techniques that are possible through the partially functional sense. So for example, a fully deaf person with partial blindness would probably rely on sign language. He or she may have to be closer to the individual using signs in order to see what's being said, but it might allow him or her to communicate more easily than adapting to a new language system.

In many countries, organizations provide guides to help people with deaf-blindness, and in some cases, these might be provided by the government. When this is possible, the person with deaf-blindness will often make special arrangements to schedule errands during the time spent with the guide. When in public, the guide will basically serve as a translator for the deaf-blind person.

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