What is an Interpreter for Deafblind people?

What do they do, and how do they work?


Some people are born deafblind or can become deafblind during their life.

Deafblindness is a dual sensory impairment/loss, which describes the fact that two senses are being affected.

Another form of Deafblindness is Ushers Syndrome.  This is where someone experiences hearing loss and an eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Someone with Ushers will experience progressive degeneration of the retina, which will cause an ongoing loss of peripheral vision.  This would mean that the person could only see straight ahead of them.

Ushers can also cause night blindness and can cause balance problems.

Types of Interpreters for Deafblind people

Deafblind people have different needs and preferences when it comes to communication.

So here are the three types of Interpreters who can provide access to communication:

Manual Deafblind Interpreter

This is where the Interpreter will communicate by spelling out words on the Deafblind person’s hands.

Hands-on Deafblind Interpreter

Hands-on signing is where the Interpreter places their hands beneath the Deafblind persons’, and they receive communication through holding loosely and following their BSL signs.

Visual Frame Deafblind Interpreter

This is where a BSL Interpreter will produce signs in a much smaller signing space than they ordinarily would with a Deaf person.  This would be to work within the person’s field of vision.

Who would use this service?

Individuals who are deafblind will require a Deafblind Interpreter.  Someone with Ushers syndrome may be able to work with a BSL Interpreter.  Always check that the deaf person is happy with this and does not require hands-on signing.  And also, make sure that the BSL Interpreter has had experience working with deaf people with Ushers syndrome.

We would always recommend you ask the deaf person what service they prefer, as this could change depending on the setting.

To read more about Deafblind people’s experience, take a look at these articles: