Quick tips for communicating with people who are deafblind

Some of the specific methods for communicating with congenitally and multi-sensory impaired people require training and experience.

A woman reaches out and touches another person on the shoulderBut there are simple things we can consider that make it possible to communicate with many people who are deafblind.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Make sure you have the person’s attention before trying to communicate with them
  • Gently touching the top of the person’s arm is a common way of attracting their attention without startling them
  • Identify yourself clearly
  • Check that you are in the best position to communicate
  • Avoid noisy places and background noise
  • Adapt the conditions to suit the individual
  • Speak clearly and a little slower, but don't shout
  • Make your lip patterns clear without over-exaggerating
  • Keep your face visible – don’t smoke, eat, or cover your mouth
  • Use gestures and facial expressions to support what you are saying
  • If necessary, repeat phrases or re-phrase the sentence
  • Be aware that communicating can be hard work. Take regular communication breaks
  • Try writing things down. You might need to experiment with different sizes of letters and different coloured paper and pens
  • For phone conversations consider using a text relay service (external link)


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First published: Monday 21 May 2012
Updated: Thursday 22 June 2017