Communicating with deafblind people - Action On Hearing Loss: RNID
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Communicating with deafblind people

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Deafblind interpreters allow people who are both deaf and blind, commonly known as dual-sensory loss to communicate with others.

Some people are born deafblind (congenital) while others become deafblind later in life (acquired). There are currently 23,000 deafblind people in the UK.

Congenital deafblindness

People who are born deafblind communicate through the use of symbols, objects of reference, sign language, braille and other communication systems.

Acquired deafblindness

People who become deafblind later in life usually try to create the most suitable environment conditions so that they can use what vision and hearing they have to communicate. If their visions becomes worse, people with acquired deafblindness will learn to use a form of tactile (touching) communication.

Methods of communication

Depending on their residual sight and hearing, people who are deafblind may use some form of tactile or other communication, including:

  • Deafblind manual alphabet: also called fingerspelling, this involves spelling out words on someone’s hand in BSL.
  • Block alphabet: hearing person uses the tip of their forefinger to spell out each word in English in block capitals on the receiver's palm. This method is most often used when communicating with members of the public and others who are unlikely to be familiar with the deafblind manual alphabet.
  • Hands-on signing: Some people who were born deaf and then experience sight loss as an adult continue to use sign language even when they can no longer follow visual signs. This is possible through the listener touching the hands of the person who is signing and following their movements.
  • Visual frame signing: When a deafblind person has a limited field of vision, sign language can still be used if the signs are adapted according to their visual needs.

Book a deafblind interpreter

We're always here to help you with your communication support needs.

If you are booking communication support for the workplace, you may be eligible for funding from the government funded Access to Work scheme. Find out how we can help you with your funding application.

Find out how to book a deafblind interpreter, or alternatively, contact us for more information:

Telephone: 0845 685 8000
Textphone: 0845 685 8001


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