Communicating with people with combined sight and hearing loss
Different terms are used when referring to people with combined loss of sight and hearing, but the term deafblind is succinct and useful, although it is important to point out that very few people are totally deaf and totally blind.
Degree of sight or hearing loss is very variable, as is the age of onset of either deafness or blindness, resulting in extremely individual and wide ranging communication needs.
Communication with deafblind people is therefore a very complex process which may involve a variety of communication methods.
Deafened/hard of hearing people with sight loss
People who are deafened or hard of hearing with combined sight loss, may communicate predominantly through spoken language mediums, using
- speech/amplified speech
- lipreading/hearing aids
- the deafblind manual alphabet shown here or block alphabet in which the shapes of written letters are formed onto the palm of the hand.
- large print or braille.
Some of the above methods may also be used by born deaf people, in addition to BSL.
Sign Language Users with Sight Loss
It is estimated that approximately 5% of the born deaf sign language using Deaf community may develop Usher Syndrome which combines congenital deafness with Retinitis Pigmentosa (a degenerative eye condition).
Among the communication methods used by sign language users with sight loss are;
- the Manual Alphabet,
- Visual Frame Signing in which signs are made in a restricted space to suit the receiver's visual needs, and
- Hands On Signing in which BSL users who can no longer see the signs make contact with the signer's hands, to feel the meaning from the movements.