How Do Deaf Blind People Communicate?
In an earlier post, I have written about how a deaf blind person does her daily tasks with the help of assistive technology. Let us now focus more on the communication devices that deaf blind people use to connect with other people and exchange information with the world around them.
There are many ways for deaf blind people to communicate. The methods that they use vary with the degree or combination of their vision and hearing loss, their background, and education. And with the recent advancements in assistive technology, deaf blind people are now finding more ways to connect with other people, whether they are sitting side-by-side or kilometers apart.
Face-To-Face Communication Devices
Most deaf blind people start with sign language and its modifications, like tactile sign language, tracking, and tactile finger spelling, as their primary method for communication. However, sign language can be rather limiting because it requires you to know sign language as well before you can communicate with a deaf blind person.
Fortunately, there are assistive technologies that deaf blind people can use so they can communicate with people that are unfamiliar with sign language.
This glove is worn by the deaf blind person and has letters and numbers printed on it. A sighted person spells out words by touching the letters on the glove. The deaf blind can tell which letters are touched by memorizing where each letter is located.
Some deaf blind people use a special communication device that allows them to communicate with sighted people. This portable device is composed of two parts--a keyboard and an LCD screen on one side, and a Braille display and a second keyboard on the other side. The sighted person types a short text on the keyboard and the deaf blind person reads the text through the Braille display. The deaf blind responds by using the keyboard on his or her side and the sighted person can read the text on the screen.
Other types of communicators use a display pad that features blocked letters instead of Braille characters. This type of communicator is particularly useful for deaf blind persons who are unable to use Braille. The sighted person types text on the keyboard, with each letter appearing briefly on the pad. The deaf blind can understand the message by feeling the letters that are typed.
Some notetakers can also be used in face-to-face communication, particularly those that allow for a USB keyboard to be plugged into the device. Braille notetakers are electronic devices that feature Braille keys for entering information and a refreshable Braille display that allows its user to read the text on the screen in Braille.
During a face-to-face conversation, a sighted person types the text on the keyboard and the deaf blind reads the text through the Braille display. The deaf blind responds back by typing on a Braille keyboard and the sighted can read the text on the screen.
The deaf blind can also enjoy the same convenience and immediate connection that telecommunication devices afford to other people with the use of assistive communication tools.
TTY, TDD, and TT
The TTY (TeleTYpe), TTD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf), and TT (Text Telephone) all refer to the text-based telecommunications device that the deaf, hearing impaired, and deaf blind use to communicate on the telephone.
During a conversation, the receiver and sender must have a TTY on both ends. The sighted person types a message on a small keyboard and the deaf blind user receives the message on a Braille display. The deaf blind responds by typing on a standard or Braille keyboard and the sighted person reads the message on the screen.
deaf blind persons can also communicate with non-TTY users through a relay service system. A relay service provides an operator that reads the message on a TTY and verbally relays it to a non-TTY user. The operator also listens to a telephone and types the message on a TTY in order to relay the message to a TTY user.
Texting has become one of the most frequent forms of communication between cell phone users. With the help of a special telecommunication device, the deaf blind can also use this service.
This special electronic device consists of a Braille display that is linked to a cell phone via Bluetooth. Using the Braille display, the deaf blind person can now send and receive text messages by reading the text through the Braille display.
The Internet provides the greatest freedom for deaf blind persons and for most people with disabilities as well. It provides a platform where deaf blind persons can access resources that are otherwise inaccessible to them, such as books, newspapers, and magazines.
The Internet also provides a way for deaf blind people to communicate. Email, blogging, and chatting are just some of the ways deaf blind people can use the Internet to connect with other people.
These can all be done with a computer that has a screen reader and a Braille display. A screen reader is a software that acquires the text that appears on the screen. The screen reader sends the acquired information to the Braille display so a deaf blind user can read the text with his or her fingers.
Assistive technology is helping to bridge the gap that had once cut off deaf blind people from the rest of the world. It has made it possible for the deaf blind to reach out and connect with other people and it has allowed the world to reach back and respond to them with mutual satisfaction.