Deafblind Interpreting

Deafblind Interpreting

What is a deaf-blind interpreter?

Deaf-blind Interpreters work with people who have both sight and hearing loss (known as dual-sensory loss), or with people who were born both deaf and blind. Deaf-blind interpreting requires skills in modifying language in a such a way that it can be easily understood by someone without sight or hearing. This is particularly challenging given that the main forms of language and communication utilise either the vocal-auditory channels (spoken language) or manual-visual channels (signed language). Lack of access to both the visual and auditory channels can make communicating challenging and so deaf-blind Interpreters employ a variety of methods of facilitate communication. These include:

Deaf-blind Manual

Deaf-blind manual is a modified form of the BSL fingerspelling alphabet, where written English letters are signified by specific hand configurations. The deaf-blind manual communication method involves spelling out words on the deaf-blind client's hand. However, this communication method is only effective if the deaf-blind client has a good level of English, as the deaf-blind manual alphabet relies on spelling out English words. For example, deaf-blind manual may be used with clients who acquired sight or hearing loss consecutively, and so have been able to acquire English.

Hands-on Signing

Hands-on signing involves using normal BSL while the deaf-blind client holds on to the interpreter's hand (hence the term 'hands-on'). The BSL needs to be significantly modified. As natural BSL relies on facial expression and non-verbal cues to express meaning, deaf-blind Interpreters need to ensure that information normally conveyed non-verbally is expressed verbally for the deaf-blind user. For example, negation is normally expressed by shaking the head (a non-verbal signifier) and so negation would need to be encoded differently, e.g. by using additional signs.

Visual Frame

Visual frame tends to be the preferred communication method for people with Usher's syndrome, which results in 'tunnel vision'. This requires the deaf-blind interpreter to use normal BSL but within a particular signing space. The normal signing space for natural BSL is anywhere from above the waist to above the head, but visual frame users may require this to be restricted around the face area, for example. Visual frame users may also require the deaf-blind interpreter to sit in a specific position, e.g. a specific distance from the deaf-blind user.

Deaf-Blind Interpreting Service

Given the highly specialist skills required to interpret for deaf-blind clients, it is essential that only NRCPD Registered Interpreters for Deafblind People (RDBI) are employed.

We can help you find a suitable professional Registered Interpreter for Deafblind People (RDBI). If you are unsure of which service or skill set you require, please contact us for a free consultation.

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