Deaf-Blind: Overview & Commentary / Getting Involved Review

Deaf-Blind: Overview & Commentary / Getting Involved

Video Review 
by Kathleen Kelly MacMillan

© 2002

Deaf-Blind: Overview and Commentary
Deaf-Blind: Getting Involved: A Conversation
by Theresa Smith
2 videos, 1992.

Distributed by:

Sign Media, Inc., 4020 Blackburn Lane, Burtonsville, MD 20866
Phone: 800.475.4756 or 301.421.0268 (Voice/TTY)
Fax: 301.421.0270
URL:, Email: 

Theresa Smith, director of the ASL Interpreting School of Seattle, hosts “Overview and Community”, an introduction to Deaf-Blindness. After showing pictures simulating several types of blindness, Smith discusses the wide variety of ways in which Deaf-Blind people communicate. She emphasizes the importance of tactile communication, and the necessity of interpreters being comfortable with touch. Smith urges viewers to socialize with people in the Deaf-Blind community to build skills before attempting to interpret, and gives several practical suggestions for doing so.

Much of the video is taken up with footage of Deaf-blind people interacting with interpreters and Support Service Providers in various environments, from a restaurant to a party, and these natural settings give an excellent idea of the day-to-day experiences of Deaf-Blind people. The variety of communication needs in the Deaf-Blind community is emphasized here, from low-vision people who require close proximity and smaller signing space, to fully blind people who rely strictly on tactile signing.

Along with giving excellent tips on starting communicating with the Deaf-Blind, Smith addresses how to stop, i.e. how to keep from feeling overly responsible for the Deaf-Blind person. Interviews with two interpreters discuss the ups and downs of interpreting for this group. Smith then goes on to discuss the role of the interpreter in various situations, such as in the workplace or at a conference. This video also touches on the vital skill of guiding, letting the Deaf-Blind person know when he or she has come to steps, where to sit, etc.

This video is very definitely geared to interpreters, and others will unfortunately find it difficult to follow. Though the spoken segments are captioned, none of the signed segments (including an interview with a deaf interpreter) are voiced or captioned. Also, the captions are out of order in several segments, which may cause some confusion.

The second video, “Getting Involved: A Conversation”, takes a unique approach, presenting the same 45-minute panel discussion in two different formats. The first is an edited, full-screen format, while the second makes use of digital technology to show all 5 participants onscreen at the same time.

The participants in this conversation are Theresa Smith (hearing and sighted, who moderates the conversation), Pat Cave (Deaf-Blind), Janice Adams (Deaf-Blind), Steven Collins (a Deaf, sighted interpreter), and William Adams (a hearing, sighted interpreter).

The participants take the time to set up the communication norms at the beginning of the session, giving beginning interpreters a good idea of what needs to be considered when interpreting for Deaf-Blind. The conversation begins with each of the participants discussing his or her own experiences relating to Deaf-Blindness. The stories shared here will surprise and enlighten many people, particularly Patrick Cave's experiences going to an eye doctor (without an interpreter) and being sent to the Department for the Blind without any explanation as to why. The people on this videotape make it clear that Deaf-Blind people live active, involved and sociable lives. The interpreters also talk about some of the special challenges of their job, such as guiding and relay interpreting. The participants sign the entire conversation, and voice-over interpreting makes the tape accessible to non-signers.

Together, these two videos offer a realistic and open view of the Deaf-Blind community, as well as some of the challenges and joys of interpreting for the Deaf-Blind.

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