Tutoring Deaf-Blind Students

Developed by Art Roehrig, Office of Students With Disabilities

Interacting with Deafblind People

  • To get a deafblind person's attention, gently touch the person on the arm or shoulder, wait to be acknowledged, and identify yourself; do not assume that a deafblind person knows who you are.


  • Learn to use whatever means of communication the deafblind person prefers. If you know another method that might be helpful, share that information.


  • Express yourself in a natural way; softening or exaggerating your gestures may result in confusion.


  • Express yourself clearly and make sure that your message is understood. Summarizing important points at the end of a conversation is often helpful.


  • Always inform the deafblind person of your whereabouts and when you intend to leave the immediate area.
  • If others are present, let the deafblind person know their locations. Alert him or her to opportunities to enter conversation without interrupting others.


  • If you move an object in the immediate environment - a glass of water, a chair, etc. - let the deafblind person know. This can prevent accidents and confusion.


  • When walking with a deafblind person, offer your elbow or shoulder as a guide. Hold your guiding arm close to your side to provide a stable area of contact and walk slightly ahead of the deafblind person. Pause slightly to indicate that you have arrived at stairs or curb.


  • You can learn more about interpreting and guiding by seeking suggestions of the deafblind people, observing their reactions in various situations, and consulting books on the subject.


  • Deafblind people can increase their mobility through the use of walking canes, special transportation services, guide dogs, and personal guiding services.


  • Transportation services provide deafblind people with a vital link to activities and services in their communities.


  • With assistance, many deafblind people are able to use taxis, public transportation, airplanes, and trains.


  • Deafblind people use a variety of communication methods,depending on the:
    • degree of hearing/vision loss
    • age at onset of hearing/vision loss
    • situation or setting



  • Blind people who lose hearing after they have learned to speak may be able to continue express themselves through speech, but often they must learn a new mode for receiving language.


  • Deaf people who lose vision after learning sign language can continue to express themselves through signing, but must learn to receive language tactilely or in a modified form.


  • Other methods of communication used by deafblind people include reading and writing in braille or large print, and the print-on-palm method, in which one communicates with a deafblind person by tracing shapes of letters in his or her palm.


  • Assistive technology allows deafblind people to use computers and telephones and to converse with people unfamiliar with more specialized methods of communication.


  • Interpreting services can greatly expand deafblind people's access to social, recreational, educational, and cultural events and community services such as counseling, medical care, and vocational training.

 Deaf Blind Information (The Internet Low Vision Society)
 Frequently Asked Questions about DeafBlindness
 Terminology - Deafblind, Deaf/Blind or Deaf-Blind? (A Deafblindness Web Resource)
 Deafblindness - Deafness/Hard of Hearing (About.com)

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