• Practical Tips Meeting a Deaf-Blind Person
Practical Tips Meeting a Deaf-Blind Person
By Theresa Smith

Below is a simple list of guidelines when dealing with someone who is deaf-blind.


  1. To let a deaf-blind person know you want to communicate, gently touch their hand and place your hand underneath theirs so as not to startle them.
  2. As a sign of reassurance you should always identify yourself to save from possible confusion and embarrassment. Perhaps a name sign or a touch on the hands.
  3. Not all deaf-blind people communicate the same way so to be flexible you must learn their method of communication.
  4. As a courtesy to the deaf-blind person let them know immediately when you arrive and what you or others may be doing.
  5. To help a deaf-blind person identify you more quickly, wearing a cologne or after shave can help.
  6. Let a deaf-blind person know that they can contact you either by voice, name sign or a sound such as clapping if you are in the area. This will save them from searching or waiting.
  7. So a deaf-blind person knows when they are alone, let them know when you will be going in and out, when you have come in to work, and when you are leaving. This ensures their privacy.
  8. Some deaf-blind people are partially sighted and it can be hard for them to focus on an object and locate it visually. When talking about an object, help them to understand what it is your talking about by describing it clearly and maybe even letting them touch the object itself.
  9. When you visit a deaf-blind personís home leave everything as it was. It can be very confusing and frustrating for a deaf-blind person to try and locate something that was moved somewhere else or stumble across something that wasn't there before.
  10. Remember to communicate. Don't just move them or hand them objects without explaining and if you must move them suddenly for safety, explain after.
  11. Many deaf-blind people don't have a lot of money. Consider this when planning outings or thinking of gifts.
  12. It can be hard to always ask for help so offer help when itís appropriate and try to be unobtrusive and subtle when giving it.
  13. Deaf-Blind people can do things for themselves so don't treat them like they're fragile unless there is a legitimate reason other than being deaf-blind.
  14. A deaf-blind person can think for themselves so don't make assumptions or decisions for them.
  15. Personal items such as wallets, purses and keys should not be touched unless you are asked. A deaf-blind person can take care of these things themselves. Also ask permission before moving something of theirs and tell them where you put it so that after-word they know where it is.
  16. Being deaf-blind requires more organization and planning than being sighted and hearing, so plan things in advance. That way a deaf-blind person knows what to expect and can plan accordingly.
  17. Keep in mind that a deaf-blind person can have other plans or wants to be alone. Don't be offended or discouraged if they decide to go home early or are unenthusiastic about suggested plans.
  18. Be courteous and try not to break promises. If you say you'll do something then do it.
  19. Respect the deaf-blind persons privacy and dignity. Don't ask personal questions unless you are good friends and refrain from telling information to others about them.

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Note: Article by Theresa Smith gradually expanded over years and has been published as a book by Sign Media Inc, Burtonsville MD in 1994. New revised edition currently in press. For a look at her web site for additional information go to www.aslis.org

Copyright © 2005, Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind.