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Deafly communication

There is a large variety of communication methods in the case of deafblind people, according to the type of deafblindness: congenital or acquired.

This variety is given by the uniqueness of each individual, by the fact that – depending on the degree of hearing or visual loss – forms of communication may vary of coexist.

The major aim is the establishment of a common code, giving the individual the possibility to relay messages (information, feelings, and needs) and to access information in the surrounding environment.



Communications methods

the complete list of deafdays communication methods

For most of us, communication only means verbal, written or sign language communication. But for many congenitally deafblind people, the main forms of communication will be non-verbalones (gestures, vocalisation, breath, eye movement etc) or Symbol based systems.

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Most times, people with acquired deafblindness already possess a certain type of formal language, but they need time to adapt their means of communication or learn new ones.

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Many deafblind people, especially those with congenital deafblindness, are unable to use a formal method of verbal communication, so they use non-verbal forms to relay information: gestures, body movement, vocalising, breathing, eye movement etc.

Objects of reference and picture symbols are included in the category of symbol based systems, especially used by people with congenital deafblindness.

Objects of reference are object which have the role to symbolise specific activities. For example, a deafblind child going to bed can be associated to a specific toy, just as the action of eating can be associated to a spoon and drinking to a cup.

Picture symbols are visual images (for children whose visual sense allows this) or tactile representations that can be associated to certain activities, objects or short sentences.

Sign system include: sign language, adapted sign language (including “hands on” signing), haptic communication and Makaton.

Sign language is mainly used by deaf people or hearing impaired people, but it is also used by deafblind individuals, when their vision allows them to use this type of language.

Adapted sign language implies previous knowledge of the sign language and its gradual change into a tactile version (for example,in the case of deaf people who lose their sight).

In “hands on signing“, deafblind people place their hands on the speaker’s hand, feeling the movements an being a passive participant. it is a form of communication used in exploring and knowing the surrounding environment. This method is completed by the “hand under hand” technique, here the deafblind person is in control, giving communication a direction.

Haptic communication consists of tactile signs describing the environment, people, emotional responses, signs taking the shape of touch, usually on the back of the deafblind person.

Makaton is a language derived from sign language, but not having elements of grammar. According to Sense UK website, this communication system is based on signs, signals and some verbal elements.

This category includes verbal communication (where visual and hearing senses allow it), lip reading (where the visual sense allows it) and Tadoma Method, a method which implies the tactile reading of speech: the deafblind person placing the hand on the speaker’s lips to as to perceive the movement of the lips and the vibrations at the level of the neck.

There is a large variety of alphabet based methods: manual alphabet, Block, Moon or Braille.

Manual alphabet implies communication by touching certain points at the level of fingers/palm, each point corresponding to a letter in the alphabet.

Block alphabet is very accessible to anyone who wishes to communicate with a deafblind person who is familiar with this system, because it implies writing on the palm words using the Latin alphabet, capital letters. Using the forefinger, large and clear letters are written on the whole surface of the palm. Between the words, there is a pause.

Moon alphabet was invented by William Moon (188-1941), a blind person, at the age of 21 (following an infection with scarlet fever). It is derived from the Latin alphabet. It was created especially for those with acquired blindness or those who do not have a fine tactile sense.

Braille alphabet was invented by Louis Braille (1809-1852), who became blind at the age of 3, following an accident. he adapted Captain Charles Barbier’s “nocturnal writing”, by simplifying and regulating it (six point, organised in uniform columns, recognisable as a whole – tactileme).

These systems of external support include, on one hand, interpreters specialised in communicating with deafblind people and on the other hand, systems which involve technology (cochlear implant, hearing aid, telecommunication systems, high-tech communication devices with special software which translates the information into a language accessible to deafblind people).
This method applies mainly to deafblind children and implies the adaptation of the communication style, for example adjusting the voice, the look or the body posture, imitation, observation, repetition. With this method, each action the child makes is considered a communication act, each gesture has a meaning which needs to be understood through intensive interaction.
Total communication is the most effective communication system for deafblind people because it implies the simultaneous use of speech, signs, lip reading, hearing, clues, gestures, images or written verbal speech. Therefore, in communicating with a deafblind child for example, the speaker will utter one word, but also sign it, so this method recognises the sensory impaired person’s right to a maximum input, so as to fully and totally understand messages sent via various channels.