COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the way we all relate and communicate. Due to social distancing, virtual tools have become more prevalent for working, studying, staying informed and communicating with family and friends, just to mention a few areas.

The forearm of a woman extends with the palm of her hand facing up. The hand of a man, with the palm facing down and the index finger slightly bended, approaches the woman's hand.
For certain people, such as those with deaf-blindness, distancing presents great challenges for communication. It is important to remember that among people with deaf-blindness there is great heterogeneity, since among them there are different degrees of hearing and vision loss. Some people with deaf-blindness do not hear or see anything, while others may have some residual vision and/or hearing. This makes their forms of communication also very diverse. They could use sign language (adapted to fit their visual field), tactile sign language, tracking, tactile fingerspelling, print on palm, Tadoma, Braille, speech, or speech reading. Proximity and touch are very important for their communication.

The current situation requires people in the deaf-blind community to be very creative in order to stay in touch during the time social distancing lasts. For example, Corinne Miller, a specialist at the Helen Keller Center in Kentucky, decided to continue classes with her student through the glass on her student's front door. Using a microphone and headphones her student can listen to what she explains and through the glass, she can interact with him. This is a great example of resourcefulness!

Other organizations, such as the National Association of the Deaf, published an excellent video in sign language with recommendations for the deaf in case they have to go to a hospital. Several of these recommendations are also useful to people with deaf-blindness. Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. made available an ASL hotline to respond to questions about COVID-19. Many other organizations have published information on items that can be used at home to work with children with sensory disabilities, and many companies are offering their digital products for free or at reduced prices during this time. 

Along these same lines, Doug Roland, creator and director of Feeling Through, last Friday, began a series of talks on Facebook live to continue his collaboration with Helen Keller on issues related to the deaf-blind community. Feeling Through is a wonderful film starred by an actor with deaf-blindness and based on a meeting, several years ago, of Doug with a person with deaf-blindness.

In last Friday’s talk, Doug interacted with Ryan P. Odland, who is an HKNC representative for the north-central region and who is deaf-blind. Ryan shared that during this time he has been using digital tools to facilitate his communication. However, still some of his clients can't be served with these tools and he has to be creative to figure out the best way to reach them. Ryan also mentioned that the lack of access to personal protective equipment for interpreters has become a barrier for them to do their work with the community.

Friday's talk is available on video in sign language, subtitled and transcribed on the Feeling Trough Facebook page. We invite you to see it and participate in future talks. Together we can generate new ideas to serve the population with deaf-blindness.



- "How do Deaf-Blind People Communicate?" American Association of the DeafBlind,  February 11, 2009,

- Leonard, C., "Partially blind, hearing impaired teen taught lessons through home’s glass front door." Wave 3 News, April 10, 2020,

- "COVID-19 Hospital Communication Access." National Association of the Deaf, March 28, 2020,

- "Information for the Deaf Community about COVID-19/Coronavirus." Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc.,

- Roland, D. "Ep 1: DeafBlind in the time of COVID." The Feeling Through Experience, April  17, 2020. [Facebook status update] 


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