Deafblindness is a disability of a different order.The impact on
a person's ability to interact with both people and the environment
is uniquely disabling. Anything we can do, therefore, to reduce
that effect is vital and the key to this is communication.
Deafblind people use a range methods to communicate, often using
two at a time to access information e.g. lipreading whilst watching
sign language or receiving Deafblind Manual to clarify names.
Making Information Accessible
There are a number of ways in which you can make information
accessible to deafblind people. Consider:
- Text size - Use Arial 14 font, or larger,
in bold, using lower case with only necessary capitals, justified
to the left and using no underlining.
- Language - Practice language modification
to avoid lengthy documents. Take time to ensure clear unambiguous
statements are used, avoiding excessive use of acronyms or
- Formats - Alternative formats should
include the normal large print, audio tape, Braille, and an easy to
understand version. In addition offer a summarised version. Other
formats should include Moon, CD, disk, a British Sign Language
version and a sub-titled version.
- Communication support - Be aware that
alternative formats may not be enough. It may be necessary to make
arrangements to provide one to one specialist communication support
to enable deafblind people to access routine information, use the
telephone, internet or helplines etc.
- Support services - Ensure staff are aware
of how to access communication and support services.
- Leaflets - Have a small number of
publicity leaflets readily available in these formats. Use simple
designs. Print on matt paper. Do not print text on top of
- Service access - Consider the use of one
to one specialist communication support, home visits, telephones,
text messaging, minicoms, email and the internet to improve access
to your service.
- Websites - Consider how accessible your
website is for dual sensory impaired users. Give descriptions of
all visual content including graphics. Have a text only option.
Follow W3C Guidelines (www.w3.org/WAI).
- Training - Provide deafblind awareness
training to your staff.
- Involvement - Involve deafblind people in
service planning and obtain feedback from them.
- Location - Staff should be aware of the
importance of good lighting and the problems that can be caused by
background noise and visual noise. If possible use a quiet
- Loop System - Have a working loop system
available for hearing aid users.
Follow the guidelines for using clear speech:
- Face the person
- Use a well-lit area
- Use a firm, clear voice
- Use plain straightforward language
- Speak more slowly than usual
- Avoid distractions like chewing gum or hands gesticulating
British Sign Language
British Sign Language or BSL is a visual means of communication
which makes use of gestures and facial expressions. It has its own
grammatical rules and is the first language of around 4,300 deaf
people in Scotland. Another commonly quoted figure is 5,300
(Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People
BSL users who begin to lose their vision are understandably
reluctant to stop using their first language, to lose contact with
the Deaf world and Deaf culture. Often they will begin to use
hands-on-signing, when a deafblind person places his/her hands over
the hands of the signer to enable them to follow the signing
movements. This is often used by people with Type 1 Usher
Visual Frame Signing
This is British Sign Language adjusted to make the best use of
the signing frame which the person can see with their much reduced
Lipspeakers repeat what is said, without using their voice, so
that a deaf person can lipread them easily. They produce the shape
of the words clearly with the flow, rhythm and phrasing of speech.
Natural gestures and facial expressions are used to help the
lipreader follow what is said and they may use fingerspelling if
they are asked to.
Is a system where the letters of the alphabet are drawn on the
palm of the deafblind person using the forefinger. This is
sometimes used to introduce the idea of tactile communication.
Also known as speech to text reporting, this is used by people
whose first language is English. Speech is typed into a computer,
word for word, so that it can be read. Special keyboards and
computer software can be used and text is keyed in slightly slower
than the speed of normal speech.
Braille and Moon
Both Braille and Moon allow text to be read by touch.
Louis Braille lost his sight when he was three years old as a
result of an accident in his father's workshop. The Frenchman
invented the Braille alphabet in his teens. The system of six
raised dots can be combined in a number of ways to produce the
letters of the alphabet, numbers and music and scientific symbols.
Blind people throughout the world use Braille for reading and
Click here for the
For those who have gone blind in later life, Moon is easier to
master. This system of embossed reading was invented by Dr William
Moon in 1847. He became blind at the age of 21 and while teaching
people to read, found that many struggled to grasp Braille. Dr Moon
therefore invented an alternative system using an alphabet of 14
characters, used in various positions. He was keen to enable blind
people to read the Bible and his method was used by missionary
societies all over the world. Today though, Moon is mainly used in
Click here for the Moon