Teaching Deaf-Blind People to Communicate and Interact with the Public
Dona Sauerburger, COMS
NOTE: More details are in article by Bourquin, Eugene, and Sauerburger, Dona. (2005). "Teaching Deaf-Blind People to Communicate and Interact with the Public: Critical Issues for Travelers Who Are Deaf-Blind." RE:view, 37(3), pp. 109-116.
Teaching deaf-blind people to communicate with public -- procedure:
1. Instructor explains to the student all possible communication methods (see "Effective techniques for deaf-blind people to communication with the public")
2. Student chooses preferred methods
3. Student practices and becomes skilled with chosen communication methods
4. Student considers what s/he needs for communication, learns how to explain it to others
5. Student learns to prepare and organize for trips
6. Instructor reviews the "Principles for Successful Interaction" with student, and they role play if needed
7. Student starts practicing interaction and communication (see instructor's role below)
- Before having student practice traveling in public, instructor should cover important points to student.
- Practice should begin in structured (easy) situations, then advance to unstructured situations.
- Below is a suggested list from easy / structured to unstructured:
a. Cross street (easiest / most structured situation) * Only skilled students can deal with busy bus drivers, so bus travel should not be attempted until the student is experienced and skillful with communicating with the public.
b. Cleaners, post office (simple purpose)
c. Grocery store
d. Large department store (complex services)
e. Bus driver*
f. Solicit aid to unfamiliar destination
g. Solicit aid when lost (very unstructured situation)
1. prepare the student well
INSTRUCTOR DOES NOT PREPARE PUBLIC BEFOREHAND or give the public hints during interaction!
2. observe the student interacting and communicating with the public without intervening, then
3. give feedback of exactly what happened
4. brainstorm why it did or didn't work, come up with new ideas to improve and try next time
Prior to going out each session:
1. Student plans every necessary communication, including back-up strategies in case the planned communication doesn't work
During the experience, the instructor:
2. Student prepares notes / cards / equipment needed for each task; the student:
3. Student and instructor brainstorm ways to get people's attention and assistance in each expected situation (ultimate choice is the student's -- she will learn what is effective from feedback from you, the instructor).
- organizes them so they are easily usable
- makes sure cards and notes are marked so s/he can readily recognize them and hold them up correctly
- plans "back-up" for each task if the original plan fails
After the experience:
- observes unobtrusively - the people with whom the student is communicating, especially bus drivers and salespeople, should NOT know that you are with the student, or the student will not learn how effective is the communication (people behave differently if they think the deaf-blind person is alone than they do when they think someone is with the deaf-blind person).
- refrains from intervening (explain to the student you will not intervene! Student should decide when to give up and go back, and know that you will not intervene - see "Important points for instructor to explain")
1. the instructor provides objective feedback about what was observed
2. the instructor and student brainstorm why the interaction did or didn't work, and come up with new ideas to improve and try next time
These videos were taken in 1990 of two deaf-blind men, Jack Wright and John Foley, in preparation for my trip to Germany, so we could show what deaf-blind independent travelers can do.
They had both had orientation and mobility training with me several years previously, and I had asked each of them if I could follow them with a video camera as they ran errands or completed tasks that I asked them to do for this video.
We did not prepare any of the public for these adventures.
I am so very grateful to both Jack and John for letting us glimpse into their world and witness their remarkable accomplishments and adventures. Enjoy!
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