Sign Language is a beautiful visual language, but what if you have low vision, or are Deafblind?
There are several tactics we use, limited space signing, tracking, tactile sign language and a few others that I'll list and explain.
Limited Space Signing - For those with limited vision it may be easier to sign in a limited space within the person's field of view. Such as sitting closer, smaller signing area, and adapting signs to fit that area. For example staying only in the chest area and adapting the sign for "belt" on the chest area instead of moving it to the waist area to sign it.
Tracking - This is where the Deafblind places their hand on the signer's arm or wrist and feel where the signing is going so they can track it visually. Without this we cannot follow the signs when it moves out of our view.
Tactile Sign Language - The Deafblind person places their hands over top of the signer's hands to feel the signs themselves. The shapes, movements and placement are all felt and communicated this way.
Pro-Tactile - This is a new concept that's gaining popularity among the Deafblind. It's a method to convey more expressions and more information about their surroundings. Basically it's another person behind the Deafblind and while the Deafblind is chatting with another person, the person behind dictates the facial expressions on the other party's face to the Deafblind. Whether they are yawning, laughing, eyerolling, bored, etc. So much information is conveyed in body language and facial expressions that the Deafblind miss out on. This will really open up communication awareness and involvement.
Other methods of communications are Tactile fingerspelling, Two-handed Alphabet, Tadoma speechreading, or technological communication. These are more for those who have been blind or low vision and lost their hearing later in life, or orally deaf and became blind later in life. These methods tend to be easier to learn than the full ASL language.
Tactile Fingerspelling - The deafblind places their hand over the fingerspelling hand and feels each letter spelt out.
Two-handed Alphabet - This is a method where the alphabet is pointed out on different spots on one hand. (See picture here) It may be easy for family members of the deafblind to learn this and over time can be a quick and effective method.
Tadoma Speechreading - The deafblind person places their hand on the other person's lip, chin and/or throat and feels the speech.
Technology Communication - If all else fails, or there's an unwillingness on either party to learn new communication methods, there's technology. Instant Messaging, texting, e-mail and the like. This is sad and should only be used as a last resort for communication needs within the family.
I personally have been oral all my life with a hearing aid and then a cochlear implant. My husband and my children know are are pretty fluent in ASL too. Since my C.I. broke in November, it's been all ASL, with the occasional written note ("what's the sign for..."). I have used Tactile Sign Language at night and in dark areas etc. with them. For a little while when the kids were younger and tucking them into bed, I've used Tadoma Speechreading when I couldn't understand a sign (they made it up).
So which one would be the best method? I say "Try ALL of them", each person is different and may find one method is easier to use than another. So don't be hesitant to try one or two or three ways to communicate!
Under My Fingertips
I have been Deaf & legally Blind since birth. I've been married to my hearing Husband for 15 years and we have 2 hearing children, a boy 14, and a girl 12.