Communication aids


A man and a woman communicate through signingSome methods of communicating with deafblind people require considerable levels of training and specialist knowledge.

Interpreters have this training and knowledge and act as a translator between the deafblind person and the person they are communicating with.

Different types available:

  • British sign language (BSL)  - many interpreters can adapt their skills to visual frame signing, hands-on signing and Sign Supported English (SSE)
  • Deafblind manual interpreters
  • Speech-to-text reporters and palantypists listen to what is being said and type the words onto a keyboard. This can be relayed either to a screen or an electronic braille reader to be read by the deafblind person

Find an interpreter through:

Intervenors and Communicator guides are people who work one-to-one with a deafblind person in a number of ways, including aiding communication.

Similar to interpreters, they often act as an intermediary between the deafblind person and those they are communicating with.

Technological aids to communication

  • Hearing aids may benefit people born with a hearing impairment or those whose hearing has deteriorated but who still retain some residual hearing. They will not always necessarily boost hearing to a level that will allow them to receive spoken communication
  • Cochlear implants can significantly improve some people’s hearing but, like hearing aids, their use will not necessarily facilitate the reception of speech. The Ear Foundation and Sense have created further information about deafblindness and cochlear implantation which you can order here.
  • Telecommunications is a rapidly developing area of technology with increasing potential particularly for people with acquired deafblindness. Some telephones, including mobiles, have increased amplification, hearing aid compatibility, magnification software and braille displays. Many people with acquired deafblindness also use textphones and / or text relay services
  • Emerging technologies including purpose-designed software for laptops and tablets are being increasingly used both by multi-sensory-impaired people and those working with them to develop their communication skills

There are also sophisticated devices being developed for people with acquired deafblindness such as the DeafBlind Communicator (external link).  

For further information see our Technology section


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First published: Monday 21 May 2012
Updated: Tuesday 15 October 2013