Starting today, it’s Deafblind Awareness Week and throughout June, Blind Low Vision NZ paid special attention to deafblindness and used it as an opportunity to educate people about deafblindness and how to communicate with someone who is deafblind. Every day on our Facebook page, we shared a few letters from the deafblind manual alphabet to help people understand. The deafblind manual alphabet is just one example of tactile sign language.

We also highlighted some people living in New Zealand who are deafblind, to show that just because someone is deafblind, it doesn’t mean that they can’t continue to do the things that they love. We hope that these stories break stereotypes and raise awareness.

Click here to read about Cody Campbell – The Deafblind Backpacker

Cody smiling, he is standing neck high in a lake
Cody smiling, he is standing neck high in a lake

The term ‘deafblind’ may also be referred to as dual sensory considerations, dual sensory loss or dual sensory impairment.

It’s important to note that deafblindness is rarely linear. People who are deafblind experience vision and hearing loss at various degrees. If someone is deafblind it doesn’t mean that they are totally blind and deaf.

Some ways that you can support someone who is deafblind is:

  1. Make sure you have their attention, i.e. approach from the front or put your hand on their upper arm
  2. Ask them where the best position is, i.e. their best hearing side or without glare behind you
  3. Introduce yourself clearly in the person’s receptive communication form; speak clearly; sign within their visual field; tactile sign with their hand
  4. If you are not sure how to communicate, just ask!

Finally, we met with Perry who taught us how to tactile sign with someone who is deafblind. You will see Perry sign each letter onto Taryn’s palm.

Watch Perry and Taryn tactile signing the manual alphabet – you can follow the actions with them.