If you read this blog regularly, you have probably read a lot of articles about computer access for individuals who are blind, such as this one on CAPTCHAs, digital books, information on web site accessibility with IBM, voice over options on the iPhone, and many more.
You might have also read about technologies for people who are Deaf, such as captioning videos on Youtube, video relay services, and monitoring devices for those with partial hearing loss.
However, what resources are available to individuals who are Deaf AND blind?
If you’ve never met a person who is deafblind, take a minute to read this web site written by James Gallagher, who gives insight and a personal touch to his disability. If you Google “deafblind communication,” it’s the first link that shows up. You can also read about Helen Keller, one of the most famous people in history who was deafblind.
While technology for deafblind individuals is a growing field in technology, we will summarize a few options for independent living:
Deaf Blind Communicator – This product created by Humanware combines three types of communications: face-to-face, TTY, and SMS texting. A deafblind person would type on the communicator, hand it to a sighted individual who would then type a message and had the device back to the individual who is deafblind. The message from the sighted individual is then displayed in Braille on the BrailleNote. The deafblind individual would read the message in Braille, type one back on the BrailleNote, and the Deaf Blind Communicator would send the message to the sighted individual. While the combination of these devices provides communication options, the set costs roughly $6,000. Watch these videos by the BBC and read a more detailed description about the device.
FaceToFace PC Communicator – A new item, FaceToFace is a product by Freedom Scientific that uses Bluetooth technology with a PAC Mate. The deafblind individual uses the PAC Mate QWERTY or Perkins keyboard to type a message, while the sighted person uses their computer with the activated Bluetooth technology. Each party is sending messages back and forth wirelessly up to 30 feet away.
For local resources and support systems for individuals with deafblindness, contact these places:
Indiana Deaf Blind Services Project at the Blumberg Center (Terre Haute, IN)
Helen Keller National Center North Central Regional Office (East Moline, IL)
Indiana School for the Deaf (Indianapolis, IN)
Indiana School for the Blind (Indianapolis, IN)
Deaf Community Services at Easter Seals Crossroads (Indianapolis, IN)