Principles of Successful Interaction with the Public
These principles were developed after many years of learning from and observing deaf-blind people communicating with the public.
We also learned a lot from surveying people to find out if they understand what to do to help deaf-blind people (see "Corner to Corner: Effective Ways to Solicit Aid by Deaf-Blind People".
To communicate effectively with the public as a deaf-blind person, you should:
1. Always assume that others don't understand the situation and don't know what to do, and explain it to them (repeatedly, if needed!).
Many people will not understand the first time it is explained because they are:
2. Know your needs and how to advocate for them
- dumfounded (they cannot think clearly, they are too surprised and shocked),
- weren't paying attention,
- incredulous (they cannot imagine that a person can be out by himself if he can't hear or see well).
Before asking for help, figure out
3. Have a way to recognize when the communication is not working ("failsafe" method)
- what you need;
- exactly how you want the others to help; and
- how you can get others' attention and explain your needs / communicate with them
When you are communicating with other people, try to figure out a way that would indicate they didn't get the message, such as asking them to do something.
4. Always have back-up plan or alternative ways to communicate / get attention.
Examples would be:
- "tap me if you can help"
- "move the clip on this card to the number of the track where the train is arriving"
- "keep this card until the bus reaches my destination"
This is because no strategy for communication or getting attention always works every time for everyone – sometimes it doesn't succeed. When it doesn't succeed, you need to try something else (a "back-up" plan).
5. Whenever you communicate with the public, it is effective if you explain:
A card was developed with these principles -- see "Effective use of cards for soliciting assistance to cross streets".
- FIRST: what you want;
- SECOND: what they can do to help
- THIRD: your visual/hearing impairment
Know your rights and how to assert them:
- Only you know what is best for you. Do not assume that others understand
and know what is best for you.
- You know when you need help and what kind of help is best.
- If people offer you help that you are not sure you need, you can ask for
more information (why do they want to help you? Is there a danger or problem
of which you were unaware?) With this information YOU decide if you need their
help or not.
- If people insist on helping when you do not need it:
- Act confident when refusing the help
- "Release" them from the obligation they feel about helping by explaining
that you are fine and don't need help. Avoid long explanations. If you
explain what you're doing, or how you travel, they will usually continue to
feel that they should help you.
- If all else fails, just move away from them and continue on your way.
You are not obligated to convince them that you do not need assistance, nor
are you required to accept their help even if they think that you need it.
- If this is a recurring problem, prepare a professional-looking card that
explains that you can travel independently.
- If you choose to be guided, assume control by taking the person's arm, don't let them take your arm (see illustration of the Hines Break to take the guide's arm).
- if people insist on helping when you do not need it:
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