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Deafblind interpreters

Learn how a deafblind interpreter can help deafblind people communicate and how to book one.

If you need to arrange communication support for someone who is deafblind, you may need to find out about methods of communication and how to book a registered deafblind interpreter.

Deafblindness is sometimes known as dual sensory impairment, dual sensory loss or multi-sensory impairment.

The Department of Health defines people as deafblind: “if their combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility.”

Some people are born deafblind (this is called congenital deafblindness) and others become deafblind later in life (this is called acquired deafblindness).

With over 200 communication support providers in the UK, it’s important to always choose one that only uses registered communication professionals. That way, you can be confident that the communication professional has the relevant qualifications, knowledge, and skills. 

To find out more and to make a booking please visit Action Deafness or email enquiries@actiondeafness.org.uk.

How deafblind people communicate

How deafblind people communicate depends on their residual sight and hearing. They may use some form of tactile or other communication methods, including the following:

Deafblind manual alphabet

This is also called fingerspelling. It involves spelling out words on someone’s hand in British Sign Language (BSL). 

Block alphabet

This is when a 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. They touch the hands of the person who’s signing and follow 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. In this instance, a BSL sign language interpreter could be booked.

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Page last updated: 31 March 2023

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