Illustrations of various methods for communicating with deaf-blind people

Following are photos and illustrations of some of the methods for communicating with deaf-blind people. The first 5 are various ways of spelling out English -- although some of them can be used by deaf-blind people to communicate with the public, they should not be used to communicate with deaf-blind clients and students unless they are proficient in written English / language. If not, an interpreter should be used.

Suggestions for using Print on Palm

One way to communicate with people who understand English is to print large, capital letters on their palm (first photo below).

  • If they cannot feel the letters, they can place their hand on yours (middle photo), which provides them with kinesthetic information from the movement of your hand as well as haptic sensation on their skin.

  • If they still cannot feel the letters easily, you can have them use their own pointer-finger while you move their hand to print the letters in their palm (last photo below).

  • If they still cannot feel the shape of the letters, you can draw the letters on their back, or move their pointer-finger to draw large letters on a wall or table (each letter should be several feet wide).

    Written Notes

    One way to communicate to students who have enough vision and who understand written language is to write notes on paper or an erasor board like the one shown below, or type into a laptop or computer with appropriate size and color fonts.


    Fingerspelling uses handshapes to represent the alphabet, as shown below. The photos show hands fingerspelling the letters C (top) and F (bottom).

    Devices / Technology

    There are several devices which deaf-blind people can use to communicate with others. In both the devices below, one person types on a "qwerty" keyboard so that braille is displayed to the deaf-blind person who then uses a special keyboard to type messages which appear in LED print display.
    In the photos below (left and middle) is a Screen Braille Communicator made by Lagard in the Netherlands.
    The photo on the right shows a man chatting with a waitress with HumanWare's newly-released "Deaf-Blind Communicator," which can also be used to send and receive text messages to and from anyone with a cell phone.


    One of the ways that braille can be conveyed with the hands is using 3 fingers of each hand to represent the 6 dots in the braille cell (pointer finger of one hand is dot 1, middle finger is dot 2, ring finger is dot 3, on the other hand the pointer finger is dot 4, ring finger is dot 5 and ring finger is dot 6). For example, the hands in the photos below convey "H" (dots 1, 2, 5) and "I" (dots 2, 4).

    Pictorial description

    "Pictorial Description" is what I call using your hands / space to convey positions and movements of people, vehicles, and objects, as is done in ASL. Some examples are below:

    There are 3 ways to represent a person:

    one finger held upright (conveys movement in space in relation to other objects)

    [Below: left hand represents a chair, finger of right hand represents a person approaching the chair]

    whole hand (conveys movement with emphasis on turns and crossings)

    [Below: hand represents a person facing forward (left below) and turned to the left (right below)]

    [hand represents a person standing near a street (left below) and crossing the street (right below)]

    two fingers pointing down, to represent walking legs (conveys feet position and movement)

  • Cane movement

    Cane movement can be conveyed with a finger representing the cane, moving on a flat hand (yours or the studentís) which represents the ground surface.

    [Below: series of photos shows a finger representing a cane being moved correctly, with the tip close to the ground.]

    [Below: series of photos shows a finger representing a cane being moved incorrectly, with the tip being moved too high off the ground.]


    Vehicles can be represented with the ASL symbol for "vehicle," and moved to convey traffic movement and patterns.

    [Below: hands representing vehicles show traffic moving toward each other (left/right).]

    [Below: hands representing vehicles show traffic moving toward each other perpendicular to the first depiction (front/back instead of left/right).]

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