Effective Communication Strategies for the Deaf and Blind

Basic Considerations 

Choosing which communication strategy to use depends on the person’s hearing, vision, and language skills; cognitive abilities; comfort; and assessment of the risk. The more methods that the person can use skillfully, the easier communication with the public will be. People who are deaf-blind can communicate with the public through gestures, in writing (prepared or ad hoc), orally (spoken or prerecorded), or by presenting symbols and pictures. The public can respond to the person who is deaf-blind by tapping the person on the arm or shoulder, some form of written messages (e.g., printing on the palm of the hand, using devices such as an alphabet card, writing on paper), speaking, presenting yes or no signals, and exhibiting actions or behaviors. 

Generic cards and tools are not always effective. The design of the communication should match the physical and cognitive needs and skills of the person who is deaf-blind and provide the public with quick and easy ways to respond. For example, cards may be made that assist a person who is deaf-blind to arrive at certain destinations; that guide him or her to the counter at a store or business, to a certain bus, across a street; or that provide certain assistance on a train or airplane. The variety of cards and messages that can be created is as endless as the list of specific needs of these travelers. Some situations require a communication tool that provides the public with a limited choice of responses: for the person who is deaf-blind and has limited understanding of English or to communicate with people who have limited time, such as bus drivers or salespeople. 

Communication cards can be developed for multiple purposes. A card may have a variety of labels that can be attached with Velcro to complete a sentence, such as “Please guide me to the (insert the name of a store or business)” or “I would like to order (insert a food item).” In Seattle, people who are visually impaired can flag buses by using tools in which the number of the bus is inserted into a clear plastic sleeve. 

Read full article for more information: http://www.sauerburger.org/dona/REviewdbcomm.html

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