Deaf-Blindness Glossary of Terms

Jump to Section:

  1. Sign Language Terms
  2. Intervenor / Interpreter Terms
  3. Deafness / Blindness Terms
  4. Accommodation Terms
  5. Schools Referenced in Advocacy Club
  6. Organizations, Programs and Services
  7. Other Terms

Sign Language Terms

Adapted American Sign Language (ASL)
American Sign Language that is changed to meet the needs of the Deaf-Blind person. In adapted ASL, signs may be made closer or further away so that the person can see more easily. Adapted ASL can also include finger-spelling or tactile signs in situations where that makes it easier to communicate.
American Sign Language (ASL)
A language that is used by many Deaf people, using movements and shapes of the hands and arms, eyes, face, head, and body posture, and sometimes even sound.
When you use the signs for each letter of the alphabet to spell words, usually names of people, streets, and businesses.
Signed Exact English (SEE)
 A type of sign language that is as close to spoken English as possible, using English grammar rules, and which involves fingerspelling.
Tactile Sign Language
Sign language using touch, usually making hand and finger shapes against another person’s hands.

Intervenor / Interpreter Terms

ASL Interpreters
ASL Interpreters use sign language to help Deaf people and hearing people communicate. There are also many different kind of sign languages and spoken languages that have their own interpreters as well.
Communication Navigator/Communicator
A support person who helps Deaf people to communicate based on the kinds of language the specific Deaf person can use and understand.
Deaf Interpreter
A Deaf interpreter uses American Sign Language to help a Deaf person be part of a conversation with a hearing person with a hearing interpreter.
Deaf-Blind Support Service Provider (SSP)
Another word for Intervenor. They are also sometimes called Deaf-Blind Service Specialists.
Emergency Intervenor Services (EIS)
In case of an emergency, like breaking an arm and needing to go to the hospital, or needing to speak to police at home or at a police station, other urgent situations, Emergency Intervenor Services are available at any time of day.
An intervenor helps a Deaf-Blind person interact with their environment and other people. The intervenor gives information about what is happening and helps the Deaf-Blind person to communicate. The intervenor’s goal is to help the Deaf-Blind person to be as independent as possible.

Deafness/Blindness Terms

Blindness / Vision Loss
Blindness (or vision loss) is a lack of vision that can happen at birth or later because of an accident or illness. It can happen slowly over time. Vision correction tools include eyeglasses, contact lenses, permanent lenses, or other surgeries on the eye.
Culturally Deaf
People who are born to Deaf parents, sometimes people who were born Deaf or became Deaf at a very young age. They may have learned sign language before learning spoken language and feel belonging and community with other Deaf people. When writing about Culturally Deaf people, Deaf is capitalized.
A loss of both hearing and vision which makes it difficult or impossible for the person to use either their hearing or their vision to communicate or learn about their surroundings.
Deafness / Hearing Loss
Deafness (or hearing loss) is when someone cannot hear at all, or cannot hear well. This is a medical, not cultural, term. It can happen when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear, the nerves coming from the ears, or the hearing part of the brain. People can be born with hearing loss, or it can happen after an accident or illness, and it can happen slowly over time.
Usher Syndrome
A rare disease that causes hearing and vision loss. Sometimes it also causes problems with balance. Also known as Usher’s or Ushers Syndrome.

Accommodation Terms

Making infrastructure, programs, and activities useable for as many people as possible. For example, an office with stairs and no elevator is not accessible.
Accommodations are supports that remove barriers to access so that people with disabilities can take part in activities and meet their needs.
Assistive Device
Something that helps a person with a disability do a task. For example, a magnifying glass, iPad, JAWS, and CaptiView.
Blind Hockey
Blind Hockey uses modified rules and equipment. For example, the puck is made from steel that makes noise and is larger than a traditional puck.
A tactile language using raised dots that can be felt with the fingertips and was invented by Louis Braille.
Braille Typewriter
A machine with an adapted keyboard that allows people to type letters and words using Braille.
A device that turns text into Braille so that Blind people can read it. Also known as a Braille Display.
Closed Captioning
A text version of the spoken part of a TV show, movie, or other kind of presentation. Closed captioning helps Deaf people to follow along with what is being said.
Descriptive Audio
A method of informing blind and visually impaired audiences everything that is on the screen during a film or television presentation. It is often done after the original audio has been finalized. It is often provided to blind and visually impaired audiences via an assistive device in theatres, or a separate audio track at home.
Descriptive Narration
An alternative to descriptive audio in film and television. It is an effort to include blind and visually impaired audiences by describing important story visuals.
Guide Dog
A dog trained to lead a blind or visually impaired person so they can safely move through public spaces.
Helen Clock
The Helen Clock uses Braille and vibration feedback for Deaf-Blind users to set alarms and wake up on time
Large Print
This helps people who have low vision. Large print documents should have a font size of 16 to 20 points or larger.
Micro-Intermissions are 30 seconds long, and they are designed to give the audience of a movie or another kind of presentation a sensory break.
Screen Reader
A screen reader is a computer application that helps people who have vision loss to access websites and other digital content. The screen reader translates visuals on a screen into sound or Braille.
Because everyone has specific needs, it is sometimes up to those people themselves to say what those specific needs are. This is called self-advocacy (from the film).
Sensory Break
A short pause from an activity or presentation to allow people time to rest their eyes, move their bodies, or get other sensory needs met.
TTC Watch
A mobile app that helps people find public transit locations and keep track of arrival times for the Toronto Transit Commission.
Teletypewriter (TTY)
TTYs are machines used by Deaf people to help them communicate by typing and reading text instead of hearing and speaking into a telephone.
Text with 911
Allows you to send a text message to emergency services like police, ambulance, and fire fighters instead of speaking on the phone. Contact your cellphone provider to register for Text with 911.
Total Communication Approach
To use as many kinds of communication as needed to make sure the Deaf-Blind person can receive and understand the information
A voice-over is recorded speech, sometimes used to help you understand what is happening. Voice-overs are often used live (with Deaf-Blind people and Intervenors), in movies or other kinds of visual presentations.
White Cane
The white cane is a long cane that helps someone with blindness or vision loss move around their environment safely. They can use the cane to feel around for obstacles and identify things around them. Also known as a probing cane.

Schools Referenced in Advocacy Club

Claire Lea Public School
A school in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). It does not appear to be a school for the Deaf.
Gallaudet University
One of the few post-secondary institutions for Deaf people to study after high school: located in Washington, DC.
George Brown College (GBC)
A college in Toronto that offers programs for anyone who wants to professionally support Deaf-Blind people.
Jericho Hill School for the Deaf (JHS)
A school for Deaf and Blind children in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Metro Toronto School for the Deaf (MTSD)
A public school for Deaf youth from kindergarten to grade 8 that is part of the Toronto District School Board in Ontario, Canada.
The California School for the Deaf
A school for Deaf children in Fremont, California. The school educates Deaf children from all over Northern California.
The Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf
A school for Deaf students in Belleville, Ontario. Students either live at the school or come to the school for day programs.

Organizations, Programs and Services

Advocacy Club
Held at the Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC), The Advocacy Club is run by, and is for, deaf-blind people. The Club discusses issues Deaf-Blind people face and supports each other.
Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
The Ontario government gives some people with disabilities some money to purchase tools and technology to make it easier for them to meet their basic needs.
Canadian Hearing Services (formerly Canadian Hearing Society) (CHS)
A Canadian organization that helps Deaf (and Deaf-Blind) access support, programming, services, and different products that can help them to become more independent.
Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC)
An organization in Toronto, Ontario that provides housing (Rotary Cheshire Homes/Apartments (RCA)), training, and services to Deaf-Blind people across Canada, and offers training for anyone who wants to professionally support Deaf-Blind people (also provides Intervenors).
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
A Canada-wide charity that provides support to blind (and deaf-blind) people, and helps advocate for the rights of blind people all over the country (also provides Intervenors). The head office is in Toronto, Ontario.
Deafblind Network Ontario (DBNO)
The Deafblind Network Ontario is a passionate group made up of individuals, organizations and service providers who work together for the improvement of services for Ontarians who are deafblind.
Deafblind Ontario Services (DBOS)
Provides customized services to meet specific needs of each Deaf and Deaf-Blind Ontarian that they work with. Located in Newmarket, Ontario.
An organization based in Paris, Ontario that helps Deaf-Blind people reach their personal goals and supports them in their daily living (also provides Intervenors).
The Spectator
A newsletter to deaf-blind folks and allies, edited by Christine Nichols, who also writes for it as well.
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
A system of buses, trains, and subway trains that allows people to travel to many places in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada.

Other Terms

Negative ideas that people have about disabilities and harmful things that they do to people with disabilities. Ableism makes it harder for people with disabilities to take part in community and get their needs met.
Barriers to Access
Barriers to access are different things that make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to take part in an activity or get information they need.
Dignity With Risk
Everyone takes risks every day as part of living. A risk may be trying a new restaurant or purchasing a new kind of food item. Sometimes services for people with disabilities discourage taking risks, but everyone should be able to make choices to take risks.
A disability is a physical or mental problem that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to do activities that someone without a disability would be able to do. Someone might have a disability for a short time because of an accident or illness, or they might have a disability forever.
Unfairly treating a person or group differently from other people or groups of people.
A place or activity with barriers to access that make it very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to participa
The buildings, roads, signs, and other things that are built to make it safe and comfortable for people to live in a town or city.
Using power and authority to stop some people from having the same opportunities and freedoms as others.
The trajectory of disability is how a person’s disability changes and how they can cope with challenges over time.

This glossary was written by Alex Karn using information from the Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC) and the Deafblind Network Ontario (DBNO).