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Table 1 List of the common types of interpreting used by British deafblind individuals

From: Overcoming barriers to the involvement of deafblind people in conversations about research: recommendations from individuals with Usher syndrome

Forms of sign language interpretation


British Sign Language (BSL)

The preferred sign language of the UK, with a vocabulary, grammar and syntax which is different from spoken and written English. Most BSL/English interpreters work simultaneously. Simultaneous interpreting involves interpreting in ‘real time’.

BSL uses a mixture of gestures and hand movements, body language and facial expressions to facilitate a two-way exchange between the interpreter and the person with hearing impairment. The interpreter translates spoken words and signed language in two directions. In addition to interpreting, the interpreter must also act as a bridge between individuals, relaying tone, intentions and emotions.

Adaptions of BSL used by deafblind individuals

Deafblind manual

An adapted form of fingerspelling taken from BSL. Each letter is spelt out on the hand, enabling communication by touch alone


Signing is performed directly on the hands of the deafblind person, so they can feel the signs being used

Social haptic

Information about what is happening in the surrounding environment, such as the mood and the activities taking place, are signed directly onto the deafblind person’s body

Visual frame

When a person’s field of vision is severely restricted signing can be conducted in a smaller signing space to fit within the field of view

Other forms of interpretation used by deafblind individuals


A hearing person who has been professionally trained to be easy to lipread. Lipspeakers reproduce clearly the shapes of the words and the natural rhythm and stress used by the speaker


More commonly used by people who have learning difficulties. Rather than a language, Makaton is a communication method used to portray simple instructions or feelings as opposed to conversation or concepts

Sign Supported English (SSE)

SSE uses a mixture of lip patterns and the signs from BSL but in the order that the words would be spoken in English. SSE is increasing in use, reflecting the increased support for hearing loss in mainstream schools

Speech to text (palantypist)

A speech-to-text reporter (STTR), also known as a captioner or palantypist, is a person who listens to what is being said and inputs it, word for word, using an electronic shorthand keyboard or speech recognition software. It allows the spoken words to be typed on a screen and read, it is akin to live subtitling