Communicating with your customers who are deafblind

Not all people who are deafblind or have sensory impairments communicate in the same way. But there are usually simple ways to make contact, and that person is likely to explain how you can communicate with them.

  • Try to talk slowly and clearly
    Some may be able to hear if you speak slowly and clearly. Keep your hands away from your mouth and face the person who is deafblind. They may see enough to lip read. Shadows make lips more difficult to read, so try to keep light on your face
  • Fingerspelling
    People with little or no sight and hearing often use fingerspelling, also called the ‘deafblind manual’
  • Block
    Some may like to have block capital letters spelled out on their hand. Use the whole palm for each letter and keep the shapes clear
  • Written notes
    Someone with a sight or hearing impairment may like to have words written out for them in large, clear black print on paper

On the phone

Some customers will use the Text Relay service (formerly Typetalk) to contact you by phone.

How to receive a Text Relay call:

If you receive a call from Text Relay, you will hear the following recorded message:

"Please hold for an operator-assisted call from a textphone user."

A relay assistant will then be connected to the call. Once connected, you will hear the relay assistant say:

"Hello, you have a call from a deaf or speech-impaired person and I will be relaying the call. Please say 'go ahead' when you have finished speaking."

If you have not used Text Relay before, you can ask the relay assistant to explain how it works.

To make a Text Relay call, or for more information, visit the Text Relay website  

Related links

Action on Hearing Loss (external link) – includes a handy guide on how to make your website accessible to deaf people through British Sign Language (BSL)

Communicating with people who are deafblind

First published: Monday 14 May 2012
Updated: Thursday 22 June 2017