DeafBlind Association (NSW)

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Communication

Communication is our most basic human right, and DBA(NSW) continually advocates for communication training and training for communication/guides to support deafblind people in the community.

Deafblind people use a wide variety of methods to communicate, and everyone communicates in some way, even if it is not recognised by others. For people who communicate more traditionally the most common methods are:

Auslan
Sign language used by the deaf community in Australia. This is a complete language with its own grammar.

Visual frame Auslan:
Used when a deafblind person can no longer read Auslan at a distance. They usually hold the wrists of the signer to keep within their sight.

Tactile or hand over hand Auslan
The deafblind person receives the Auslan by touch when they no longer can use the visual frame method.

Key signs Australia
These are basic signs taken from Auslan that people with congenital deafblindness use to begin learning communication methods.

Deafblind fingerspelling
Taken from Deaf alphabet, with a difference of six letters, given on the hand of a deafblind person.

Find out more about the deafblind manual alphabet

Print on palm
Block letters traced onto palm of person, using index finger – this is mostly used by older people who have lost hearing later in life.

Writing/typing
Use of bold black print on white paper for people with limited sight.

Total communication
This involves signing and talking simultaneously, directly in front of a deafblind person, to give as much input as possible. It should always be used when approaching an unfamiliar deafblind person, to give every possibility of communication.

Tadoma
Tactile method where the thumb is placed on the speaker’s lower lip to read shape, and the fingers on the throat to read vibrations, enabling the reader to understand speech. This method is rarely used today due to concerns about invasion of personal space and hygiene.

Co-active and/or body signs
These can only be used receptively and are sometimes used with congenitally deafblind people. These should only be used on the limbs.

Braille
This is the universal reading system of the blind community, using patterns of six raised dots to represent letters and words. It was invented by Louis Braille in 1829.

Technology
This can range from the very simple to the highly complex. An example of a simple method is a wallets of messages in a small folder, which the deafblind person can use to indicate their needs when catching taxi, going to the shop, catching public transport etc.

More complex technologies include computers with screen readers and magnifying systems, closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) to magnify print and a BrailleNote, which has either a Braille keyboard or a Qwerty Keyboard, a speech synthesizer, and a Braille display. All methods of electronic communication should be investigated, as new equipment constantly comes on the market, and many adaptations are available for accessibility.