How a Deaf Person Communicates with a Blind Person?
June 29, 2007 6:19 AM   Subscribe

How can a deaf person communicate with a blind person?

My neighbors are a married blind man and deaf woman. I've communicated with the deaf woman via pen and paper before, and she wrote that she can't lipread. She seems to be completely deaf because when she vocalizes, it isn't understandable. I don't know them well enough to just ask them about this, and googling only brings up info about people who are deaf and blind. How do they talk to one another?
posted by Locative to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had a massage therapist who was deaf, mute & blind.* People communicated with her through touch signals. Also sometimes by writing things into her hand.

*No idea whether or not she was good at pinball. She was an amazing masseuse, though.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:24 AM on June 29, 2007

Well, I recall that Helen Keller was able to "listen" to people by having them finger spell words while she was holding/touching their hands. If they can both finger spell, that seems like one possible way.

They also may have some adaptive equipment at home that you are unaware of. There are many really amazing pieces of equipment to make communication easier for people with all sorts of disabilities.
posted by tastybrains at 6:26 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: It's possible that they use methods developed for Deafblind people, like Tactile Signing. Was the man blind from birth? If not, he may be able at least use Sign Language to talk to her.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 6:27 AM on June 29, 2007

Many deaf and hearing-impaired people can speak.
posted by Miko at 6:28 AM on June 29, 2007

I note that you see she can speak but that 'it isn't understandable.' It may very well be understandable to people who spend a lot of time around her.
posted by Miko at 6:29 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: As above, I'd hazard a guess that they communicate similarly to how people who are both Deaf and Blind communicate: through sign language that is received through touch. If you hold your hands cupping someone who is signing, you can generally, with practice, understand what they are saying. This is standard practice for Deaf/Blind folks who are born deaf and become blind over time (Usher's Syndrome, for example). Also, if the blind person has some residual sight (retinitis pigmentosa often leaves a tiny spot of vision intact), then the other person can carefully sign in that reduced signing space, and be understood.
posted by Eldritch at 6:31 AM on June 29, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify, it's more like she makes sounds without enunciation. My only basis for comparison is Marlee Matlin, who speaks (to my unhoned ear, at least) more understandably.
posted by Locative at 6:44 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: My great grandmother was a telegraphist who became deaf later in life - as I remember, her husband communicated with her by tapping Morse Code on her hand.
posted by emilyw at 7:15 AM on June 29, 2007 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I echo the sentiment that her speech is probably understandable to those close to her. I was born with severe hearing impairment (mostly mitigated through hearing aids now) and had to have extensive speech therapy before anyone outside my family could understand me.

As to how she understands him, I'm very good at picking up visual cues from people and often can understand what someone is asking without actually hearing their words.
posted by desjardins at 7:16 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: They communicate like deaf-blind people communicate with each other, generally. Here's a slightly related article on the issue of providing library services to the deaf-blind that touches on some of these questions.
posted by jessamyn at 7:18 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: Being blind is less of a communication handicap. She can make sounds that get his attention, and proceed from there. If she was patient, she could use a voice-synth/tty. He can make movements that get her attention; deaf people frequently have the doorbell/phone hooked to a system that plays with the lights throughout the house.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:18 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: Btw, most interactions with people are pretty scripted, and I'm sure after I'd been married for awhile I could guess what my husband was going to say. I'm sure that's true of most married people, deaf/blind or not.
posted by desjardins at 7:28 AM on June 29, 2007

While I love all the information everyone's put out, I'd just like to point out that none of it necessarily is what this couple does. You won't know that, unless you ask them. And if you have a good relationship with them (that is, one that's not completely superficial, where maybe you guys occasionally do something fun and neighborly together), I would suggest you just ask. Many disabled people are way more comfortable with their own disabilities than everyone around them is.
posted by RobotHeart at 7:31 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: The nonprofit organization worked with another local group whose founder was deaf; his executive assistant was blind. They communicated using a computer; she had adaptive software on hers that read text out loud to her. It was pretty cool. They had another person working with them who was both legally deaf and legally blind, but she could hear enough with hearing aids to communicate verbally, and she could see enough with really thick glasses to communicate using sign language; she just had to be really close by, and couldn't "talk" in sign language at a distance.

But yeah, what RobotHeart said. If they seem like cool people, and you've got a good relationship with them, just ask.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:36 PM on June 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. I haven't asked her because I was afraid of seeming rude, but based on what RobotHeart said, I am less nervous about asking now. I do hear a computerized talking sound sometimes that is probably something like the adaptave software that infinitywaltz mentioned. This explains a lot. Thanks!
posted by Locative at 8:44 PM on June 29, 2007

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