Deafblind 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. Deafblind 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 Deafblind Interpreters employ a variety of methods of facilitate communication. These include:
Deafblind manual is a modified form of the BSL fingerspelling alphabet, where written English letters are signified by specific hand configurations. The Deafblind manual communcation method involves spelling out words on the Deafblind client's hand. However, this communication method is only effective if the Deafblind client has a good level of English, as the deafblind manual alphabet relies on spelling out English words. For example, deafblind manual may be used with clients who acquired sight or hearing loss consecutively, and so have been able to acquire English.
Hands-on signing involves using normal BSL while the deafblind 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, Deafblind Interpreters need to ensure that information normally conveyed non-verbally is expressed verbally for the deafblind 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 tends to be the preferred communication method for people with Usher's syndrome, which results in 'tunnel vision'. This requires the Deafblind 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 Deafblind Interpreter to sit in a specific position, e.g. a specific distance from the deafblind user.
Given the highly specialist skills required to interpret for deafblind clients, it is essential that only NRCPD Registered Interpreters for Deafblind People (RDBI) are employed.
We offer certified and professional Registered Interpreters for Deafblind People (RDBI). If you are unsure of which service or skill set you require, please contact us for a free consultation.