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Tips for Supporting Someone Who is Deaf-Blind

Updated: April 10, 2020

    • Communication methods are as individualized as the person and may include: 
        • Touch cues
        • Gestures
        • Real objects as reference
        • Tactile Sign Language
        • Large print or close up viewing for someone with low vision
        • Braille
    • A person with deaf-blindness typically navigates life via touch; touching objects ad people to understand information in the environment.
    • Communication may take much longer than expected.
    • The individual may prefer more communication than expected, such as describing where things are or what you are doing.
    • Many people with deaf-blindness, particularly those with an additional disability such as a developmental disability, may not have a complete system of communication and may not understand a lot that is happening around them.
    • Being in an unfamiliar environment and experiencing things out of the normal routine, is very challenging for someone with deaf-blindness. Helping the individual to feel safe and calm is an important prerequisite to communication and treatment.
    • What to do:
        • Let them know you are there by touching them gently on the shoulder.
        • Identify yourself in the same way with touch (your watch, ring, long hair, glasses, etc.), your name, and your role, each time you interact with them.
        • Allow extra time for the person to consider their response. A delay does not necessarily mean they do not have a response. 
        • Tell them when you are leaving the room.
        • Do not force them to touch something or move their hands or body without permission first.
        • Do not move important items around.
        • For someone with a vision loss, seeing the item up close, in their periphery, with brighter light, or with contrasting colors may be needed.