DeafBlind Interpreters: When and How They are Used

There are many supports for people who are DeafBlind, those who experience both vision and hearing loss.

People who are DeafBlind may have any combination of hearing and vision loss. For example, they may be Blind and have some hearing loss, or Deaf and have some vision loss, or a combination of both at any degree. Because vision and hearing are two sensory needs, having a loss of both presents an additional challenge with communication and navigating their world.

Two fingers read Braille on a page.
Some people who are DeafBlind read Braille. Others don’t need it. Each person has their own specific needs. photo credit: Aprendiendo a leer via photopin (license)

The goal of providing supports for the individual who is DeafBlind is that the individual can make decisions and live independently.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, there are three types of support roles for people who are DeafBlind:

  • DeafBlind Interpreter
  • Support Service Provider (SSP)
  • Interveners

When a person might need assistance from one of the support roles above depends on their needs, level of disability, and  preferences.

If their need regards communication, such as at medical appointments, school or college, conference workshops, government or professional meetings, then they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.

According to the task force, DeafBlind Interpreters are skilled with:

  • Tactile signing, a hand-over-hand method for people who receive signed information through touch;
  • Tracking, used by DeafBlind people who have some vision but rely on understanding signed information by touching the interpreter’s wrist or forearm to visually follow their hands;
  • Providing visual environmental information in addition to spoken or signed content;
  • Modifying the signing space, the distance between the consumer and interpreter;
  • Adjusting pacing; and
  • Delivering the content in a manner which is meaningful and understandable way for the individual.

A DeafBlind Interpreter may also offer other additional support, according to the task force, which may include:

  • Guiding the individual when walking from one place to another,
  • Sharing visual information,
  • Note-taking,
  • Translation of printed materials, or
  • Assisting with seating arrangements.

Tomorrow’s blog will discuss the difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers.

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