Deafblind Interpretation


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What is deafblind interpreting?

Deafblind interpreting is a requirement in order for persons with deafblindness to achieve full participation, equality, independence and self-determination in every area of society.

Deafblind interpreting is the provision via an intermediary of both visual and hearing impressions to persons with deafblindness. This is often carried out by professional guide-interpreters, informal or formal caregivers, family members, etc.

This comes about through three fully integrated elements.

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These elements are:

  1. The interpreting of speech;
  2. Environmental description;
  3. Guiding.

Deafblind interpreting is provided using interpreting methods, on the occasions and to the extent requested by persons with deafblindness.


Deafblindness is a distinct disability. Persons with deafblindness are persons with a varying degree of combined visual and hearing disability.

The Nordic Definition of Deafblindness, approved in 2007, states the following: ”deafblindness limits a person´s activities and restricts her/his full participation in society to such a degree that society is required to facilitate specific services, environmental alterations and/or technology”.

Deafblind interpreting is an example of such a specific service.

1. Interpreting of Speech

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Helen Keller

Interpreting of speech may be: interpreting from spoken language into visual/tactile sign language and vice versa; interpreting from spoken language into clear speech; interpreting from spoken language into text; and interpreting from visual sign language into tactile sign language. Interpreting of speech is offered at the same time as environmental description and guiding.

2. Environmental Description

Environmental description involves the description of the surroundings, other people present, happenings and incidents, relations, social interplay, atmosphere, etc. Environmental description is offered at the same time as guiding and interpreting of speech.

3. Guiding

Guiding involves qualified support in mobility and orientation. Guiding is offered at the same time as environmental description and interpreting of speech.


Interpreting Methods

In deafblind interpreting, various interpreting methods are used depending on the communication method preferred by the person with deafblindness. Some typical interpreting methods are:

  • tactile interpreting (i.e. tactile sign language to one person with deafblindness);
  • close vision interpreting (i.e. visual sign language within very close proximity to an individual person with deafblindness);
  • visual frame interpreting (i.e. visual sign language to more than one person with deafblindness);
  • clear speech interpreting (with or without hearing aids);
  • finger spelling of the manual alphabet; and
  • speech-to-text interpreting (with certain adaptions; and with or without technical equipment such as a computers, large screens and Braille displays)

Upon the request of a person with deafblindness, all of the above mentioned interpreting methods may be combined with social haptic communication to a varying extent, e.g. to give feedback and confirmation; to provide quick social messages; to express emotions and states of mind; to get attention; and to show directions.

Some persons with deafblindness always use the same interpreting method, while some others choose the interpreting method they prefer for each specific occasion, or choose to combine several interpreting methods.


On what occasions; and to what extent?

The occasions on and extent to which deafblind interpreting is wanted, vary from person to person and from occasion to occasion. Each individual person with deafblindness knows better than anyone else on what occasions and to what extent she/he wants deafblind interpreting.

This applies irrespective not only of the degree of visual and hearing disability but also of the communication and interpreting methods the person is using.

If one or more of the conversation partners has deafblindness, persons who do not have deafblindness may also want to request deafblind interpreting.

wfdb, deafblindness, deaf, blind, fingers, hands, deafblind, helen, keller
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