What strategies are available for deafblind students using interpreters remotely?

It is important to remember that there are varying levels of combined hearing and vision loss for deafblind students. Interpreters (tactile/protactile/low vision) and Support Service Providers (SSP) are considered essential workers, but the safety of the interpreter, SSP and deafblind student should always be a priority. Some interpreters and SSPs will continue to work using protective gear if everyone feels comfortable in doing so. The DeafBlind Interpreting National Training and Resource Center (DBI) discusses this in their COVID-19 statement. Some of the tips below are also from the New York Deaf Blind Collaborative.

Technology options:

Allow time for trial and error with technology in advance. Find what works best for the student and the interpreter. Multiple screens or windows may be needed to view the information and interpreter at the same time. When possible, do a test run of things before to make sure the set-up works.

Some videophones allow the deafblind student to zoom in to see the remote interpreter. If interpreters have access to a videophone, this would be a good method in providing remote interpreting.

Webcams may have the option to zoom in on the user. Make sure auto-focus is turned off, otherwise the video will become blurry when the interpreter moves on camera.

Other low vision aids may be used (e.g., digital magnifiers, smartphone apps, and tablet cameras with zoom in capabilities) to increase visual access on the screen.

For the remote interpreter:

Communicate in advance how the student can contact the interpreter if issues arise.

Ensure the interpreter’s background is dark (e.g., black or dark blue) and solid with no patterns. Interpreters should wear solid, contrasting color to their skin tone. Wear shirts that are ¾ sleeve or longer, covering up to the neck.

Pace the sign language production, slow down fingerspelling and keep sign placement within a smaller frame.

Lighting is important! The interpreter should be illuminated from the front, without glare.

If tactile interpreters are needed, the interpreter could work remotely with the support person available in the home.

Additional resources:

The DBI Facebook Group that focuses on Deafblind interpreting and offers some support and ideas in communicating with deafblind students.

The Helen Keller National Center’s statement on COVID-19 provides some resources. Find your regional representative for more support.

iCanConnect and the American Foundation for the Blind lists 

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Updated on July 29, 2022

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