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Communications Guidelines for Meetings with Deafblind Members

It is crucial for members of a group to understand why the following communication guidelines are so important when one or more of the members are DeafBlind. Sight and hearing are our two distinct senses and when either or both are limited, communication does not flow as freely. Being in a group setting makes communication even more of a challenge.

DeafBlind persons are often left behind or left out of discussions when a hearing group does not take the time to ensure full participation. It is important to have established communication rules or guidelines that ensures all participants have equal access during all portions of meetings.

The following guidelines are suggestions to assist with communications between members of your meeting or group and will help the conversation flow better in person, virtually or in hybrid situations. The top suggestion is to assign a communication facilitator for your meeting. This person can be a member of the meeting however his or her role is to ensure that all members are following the rules of inclusion during the meeting. The facilitator will ensure that all participants have access to what is being shared.

  1. When introducing yourself or group members and when speaking to the group, take your time and speak slightly slower than normal.
    1. This is especially important when explaining items you are describing in great detail.
    2. If you have an unusual name, spell it after saying it as the interpreter must fingerspell proper names.
    3. If you have a name sign, indicate that as well.
    4. Take a 2-3 second pause between group members or speakers. This allows the interpreter to catch up and let the DeafBlind person know that the next group member or speaker is about to introduce him/herself.
  2. Each person should raise their hand and wait for the facilitator to call on them. This gives the deafblind person or their interpreter a moment to locate the person.
  3. Identify yourself prior to speaking ("This is Joan speaking…"), and direct your communication to the DeafBlind person, not his/her interpreter. This also helps the interpreter if he/she does not know the names of all participants or cannot easily see name tags.
  4. Be sure to allow time for the interpreters to keep up with the conversation as well as time for them to switch every 20 minutes.
  5. Taking turns during discussions is critical! Remember An interpreter can only interpret for one person at a time. During an intense conversation or heated discussion for hearing people things move quickly. When using interpreters, the interpreter can only interpret for one person at a time. The conversation must move slowly allowing the interpreter to keep up with the conversation. By doing so it will allow the interpreter to follow along with the conversation and keep clear who said what.
  6. Realize that there is a slight delay between the spoken or signed communication and the interpretation. Be patient the conversation will move at a slower pace. Make sure the DeafBlind member has finished speaking before jumping in with the next comment.
  7. 'Processing time' is when the interpreter is processing the message from one language to another. Be mindful to make sure the interpreter has completed the interpreted message before jumping in with the next comment. Remember ASL is not a word for word translation and additional time is required to include visual and environmental information.
  8. When comments or feedback are requested, or if a question or vote is posed to the group, leave enough time for the interpretation to be completed and the DeafBlind person to have a chance to respond.

For example, often time votes on motions are made and by the time the DeafBlind person gets the call to vote, the motion has already been determined passed or failed. In addition, because the DeafBlind person cannot see people's hands raised or hear a voice vote, the interpreter must indicate the vote of each person by name. This will take longer than a visual count of hands.


When referring to print or electronic information, whether by handout or PowerPoint presentation be sure that any meeting documents meet the accessibility requirements. Providing the documents to the members of the meetings, interpreters, and CART if they are attending ahead of time is extremely helpful. When referring to the documents avoid pointing or the use of "this" or "that".

The interpreter is likely not able to see what you are referring to, so they cannot convey the information accurately to the DeafBlind person. It is preferred that you describe specifically what you are referring to ("please look at the first sentence in the 3rd paragraph" or "click on the 2nd tab from the left that says FOLDER"). This is generally helpful to everyone in the group, not just the interpreter and the DeafBlind member.

Virtual Meetings or Hybrid Meetings

Use the raise hand feature

CART – services will need to be ordered prior to the meeting. The host will need to assign the CART person to be the close captioner prior to the meeting beginning.
Interpreters – will need to be ordered prior to the meeting. Interpreters will need to be made co-host.

On a virtual meeting interpreters should be given co-host rights so they can be pinned and use the spotlight function.

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