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Providing Housing & Services to Persons Who are Deaf-Blind
 

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  How deaf-blind persons communicate
 

Intervenor Services provide access to information, using the preferred communication system of the person for whom the Intervenor is providing the access services. Through teaching and facilitation deaf-blind persons are enabled to gain and maintain their independence.
 
  1. Sign language systems

American Sign Language (ASL) - ASL is the natural language of the culturally Deaf and is made up of a combination of gestures (signs), hand shapes facial expressions, and a specific grammar structure. ASL is not simply English translated into a visual language; rather it is a unique language with its own syntax and grammar. Signs are made by hands forming shapes in specific locations with exact movements. ASL grammar uses spatial relation visually displayed with the signing frequency, direction and orientation of the hands to indicate singular or plurality, subject vs. object etc. This language is one of the preferred primary modes of communication of the adult deaf-blind population.

Signed Exact English (SEE) - SEE is a visual communication system where English is translated into visual form. Signs are arranged in English word order and word endings such as "ing", "ed" and "s" are added onto the end of signs.

Tactile American Sign Language (formerly called Manipulated or Modelled Sign Language) - The person who is deaf-blind receives communication with his/her hands resting on another individual's hand while the message is being signed. The individual who is deaf-blind then uses their preferred mode of communication to communicate their response back to the other individual, communication continues in this manner.

  2. Fingerspelling systems
 
a) American Fingerspelling - Letters of the English alphabet are formed by manipulating the fingers of one hand into specific positions and motions. Each letter of each word is spelled. Most often seen visually, the deaf-blind person can also place their hand on the speaker's hand to tactually receive the spelled message.
 
   It is used by literate deaf-blind persons who may or may not also know a sign language system.
 
(b) Two Hand Manual - Letters of the English alphabet are formed by a speaker's hand positions which are placed upon a recipient's open relaxed palm. This combination of hands form the alphabet. Each letter of each word is spelled.
 
   This is a tactual communication method that is also adapted for some visual use. It is used by the majority of deaf-blind adults in Canada as their preferred primary mode of communication (it also demands literacy).
 
 
  3. Print and print related systems

(a) Print on Palm (POP) - Using the palm as a writing surface, the speaker holds the deaf-blind person's hand with the palm up. The speaker's index finger is used like a pencil to print each capital letter successively, and in the same palm location, to form a word. This system demands literacy.
 
   It is most often used as a common way to interact with the community and or within the deaf-blind community. The letter X drawn on a deaf-blind person's back, from shoulders to waist, is recognized as the standard for indicating an emergency.
 
(b) Print on Paper - This system uses black felt marker on flat (non-glossy) white paper with good spacing and clear standard print shape and size. It is used by many older deaf-visually impaired seniors who (are literate) as their preferred primary method of communication.
 
   It requires no learning of alternate systems and is effective with the general public. Also used on portable white and black boards.
 
(c) Telephone Devices for the Deaf, and Telephone Devices for the Deaf-Blind (referred to as TDD, TDD-B or TTY) - A small key board device with a modem for telephone and visual display is used to send the message by code over the telephone to a similar machine. A large print screen is available to accommodate those who have very limited vision. These devices allow access to the telephone for deaf-blind people.
 
   With the introduction of the special Bell Relay Service in Canada, deaf-blind people and those who are deaf can communicate with their TTY via special operators to relay messages to any one in the community (i.e., doctor, store, etc.)
 
 
  4. Braille & Tactile Systems of Prints

Braille - This is a system of touch reading for the blind that uses a cell with six raised dots. The six raised dots when arranged in combinations form the letters of the alphabet, punctuation and word contractions. Braille is used by people who are deaf-blind who cannot access print.

Moon Print - Moon uses an alphabet of nine characters placed in various positions on the page. Moon print reads alternately from left to right, then right to left with guide lines to indicate direction. This system is used mostly in England but can be used as an alternative for persons who have difficulty with the fine tactile dots of braille.

5. Object referencing systems

Object Cues - Cues are given to the individual who is deaf-blind in a predetermined order to communicate specific concepts, ideas and tasks. Object reference systems use visual, tactual, olfactory and concrete symbols, pictures and art to convey a message. This system is most often used by persons who are congenitally deaf-blind. It can also be used in part with deaf-blind persons who have intellectual disabilities.

Communication Boards - This system is used to convey a message usually in an environmentally specific manner. The board can have display of English words or alphabet tactile symbols, art, pictograph symbols, etc. and is used to encourage the individual who is deaf-blind to communicate with individuals in their surroundings.
 

  6. Residual hearing and speech

For persons who are deaf-blind the following methods are rarely used as the primary preferred method of communication. People who are able to use their residual hearing to communicate, employ amplification, visual cues and background information. Through specialized hearing aid systems some can make use of their residual hearing to communicate in a one-to-one situation.

(a) Hearing Aids - Hearing Aids are assistive devices that individuals wear in their ear that amplify noises in the environment. There are many different types of hearing aids such as in-the-ear hearing aids and behind-the-ear hearing aids. While most individuals using a hearing aid use it to better understand speech, there are some people who use them solely to be aware of environmental noises.

(b) Cochlear Implants (CI) - CI's are devices that are surgically implanted into an individual's ear that is hooked up to a transmitter. This allows individuals who have severe or profound hearing loss to be able to hear speech and/or environmental noises.

(c) FM Systems - This device consists of a personal receiver worn by the person with the hearing loss and a transmitter worn by the speaker. The amplification provided by the person with the hearing loss allows them to participate in a large audience setting as the speech is transmitted directly to the personal receiver blocking out other environmental sounds.

(d) Speech Reading - Individuals who are deaf-blind and have some vision can use speech reading. It is a process that involves the person who deaf-blind looking at the speaker's lips and through visual and contextual cues gather an idea of what is being said. By speaking with exaggerated enunciation and lip movements it is easier for the individual who is deaf-blind to understand what is being said.

(e) Tadoma - The Tadoma method is a system of receiving speech through the sense of touch. The person who is deaf-blind places his hand on the face of the speaker, the thumb gently touching the lips and the other fingers spread over the cheek, jaw and throat. This technique takes specialized teaching and years of practice.

  4. Technology

  There are a number of assistive devices that help make life easier, more enjoyable and more productive for people who are deaf-blind. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Computers can be set up with programs that provide screen magnification with large fonts and high contrast colour settings, speech output to read the screen out loud, or braille output to a braille display. Information can also be printed in braille on a Braille embosser. This makes a huge difference, allows one to use computers effectively for communication and access to information.

CCTV Readers are electronic magnification devices that allow people to zoom in and independently access a wide variety of items, such as books, pictures, food packages, pill bottles, product prices, restaurant menus, and much more. CCTVs come in both large models for home use and compact portable models that can be used on the go, to suit a wide variety of needs.

The Deaf-Blind Communicator is a braille notetaker that allows people who are deaf-blind to communicate with hearing sighted people, by typing back and forth on the notetaker and a smartphone that comes with it.

TTYs and VideoPhones are both used for communication, to make phone calls. The TTY is a device similar to a typewriter with a visual display, where the person types on it and the person on the other end types back to them via another TTY. The videophone uses a camera and TV screen, allowing people to see each other and communicate via sign language. People can make calls for information, call family or friends to chat, or call for help in an emergency.

Smartphones, such as the iPhone and Blackberry, now have applications for screen magnification, large fonts, high contrast colour settings, screen reading and braille display compatibility. This allows people who are deaf-blind to keep in touch with family and friends while on the go, using phone, email and text messaging. Smartphones also allow for accessing and storing information using the internet, address books, GPS, task managers and more, while using the same devices that the general public uses, instead of needing specialized equipment.

Alertmasters and other alerting devices can be used to notify individuals who are deaf-blind to things such as someone is at the door, the phone or TTY is ringing, a baby is crying, and so on. Alerting devices work by using flashing lights or vibrating pagers to notify one of sounds they might not hear.

Accessible GPS devices such as the Trekker Breeze help people navigate independently, by providing information on where they are and what is around them as they travel in their community.

 
 The Basics
Did You Know?

Definitions
 
Communication Methods
 
Challenges
 
Sighted Guide

 
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