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DeafBlind people are rarely totally deaf and totally blind. Each individual's degree of hearing and vision loss is unique.

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Learning Braille, Sign Language, and other specialized communication modes

This page contains resources for people who want to learn one or more of the communication methods used by deafblind people. Some organizations provide classes or informal lessons for families and community members. Most of the resources on this page were chosen with non-deafblind people in mind, because people who are deafblind typically learn these methods in training programs for deafblind people.

See also How do DeafBlind people communicate? in our FAQ section.

If you would like to update or add to the information on this page, please use our Feedback Form.

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Multiple Communication Modes

  • "ABCs of Braille and Sign Language" Bookmarks
    The Minnesota DeafBlind Association offers decorative bookmarks that teach you the braille and American fingerspelling alphabets, in exchange for a tax-deductible monetary donation.
  • Minnesota Resource Center: Blind/Visually Impaired
    Description: Resource Library that can be used by anyone within Minnesota. Check out is by mail or in person. Includes resources about Braille, large print, and more.
  • Minnesota Resource Center: Deaf/Hard of Hearing
    Description: Operates a Resource Library that can be used by anyone within Minnesota. Check out is by mail or in person. Includes resources about American Sign Language, Signed English systems, Cued Speech, Speechreading, DeafBlind issues and communicaiton, and more.

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American Sign Language (ASL)

This section will focus on American Sign Language (ASL), which is used as a native language in the United States and in parts of Canada, with regional dialects. There are hundreds or native sign languages and dialects used by Deaf and DeafBlind communities across the world. If you do not live in an area where ASL is used, please consult the Deaf and DeafBlind service organizations near you to inquire about learning the local native sign language(s). See also Deaf and DeafBlind Cultural Identity.

  • How Long Does it Take to Learn Sign Langauge?
    Factsheet from the National Association of the Deaf. This advice can be applied to the learning of any native sign language.
  • Locating Sign Language Classes
    Description: Factsheet from the National Deaf Education Network and Clearinghouse at Gallaudet University.
  • American Sign Language as a Foreign Language
    Description: Includes a list of colleges and universities that accept ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements, and information about why other institutions should consider accepting ASL credit.
    Note: Many high schools offer ASL as a foreign language, and some elementary or middle schools may also offer classes. Check with the school districts in your area.
  • Learning Sign Language: Visual and Audio, Videotapes and Computer Programs
    "This directory of media resources lists videotapes and computer programs for learning sign language and the addresses of their sources."
    Note: Many of these resources may be available through the Minnesota Resource Center: Deaf/Hard of Hearing or at your local library.
  • Books for Learning Sign Language
    Description: "This list identifies books on American Sign Language and other sign systems for learners at different skill levels. Separate sections are included for books on music and other specialty signs." Note: Many of these resources may be available through the Minnesota Resource Center: Deaf/Hard of Hearing or at your local library. Also, please note that it is difficult to learn a 3-dimensional language from 2-dimensional drawings. Be sure to practice the signs with a live person who can show you the correct way to produce signs. You may also want to check out video tapes that demonstrate ASL signs.
  • The ASL Access Video Collection
    Description: "ASL Access is a 100% volunteer, non-profit organization providing American Sign Language video resources to libraries... The ASL Access Video Collection consists of over 200 American Sign Language (ASL) videos available for free loan in your local library." Includes information on how to get your local library to carry the videos.
  • Twin Cities Metro Area Professional and Consumer Resource Guide for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    Description: Lists and describes various organizations and events serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, some of which may provide sign language instruction.
  • TCDeaf Calendar of Events
    There are many Deaf community events in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area that are open to hearing people. For example, one ASL practice/conversation group that is open to beginning through advanced signers meets at the Barnes and Noble bookstore next to Har Mar Mall. Check this Calendar of Events for up-to-date listings.

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Louis Braille's system of raised dots for reading and writing was originally designed to represent the French language. Today, the Braille system has been adapted for use in many languages all over the world. The same 63 Braille characters are used in each language, but the characters have different meanings in different languages. Further, because Braille takes up a lot of space, most countries have adopted an official contracted form of Braille, in which standard abbreviaions and rules are used.

  • Braille Bug
    Description: Introduces Braille to kids of all ages. Includes games, historical profiles, and resources for parents and teachers.
  • BRL: Braille for Remote Learning
    Description: Offers free, online braille classes at several levels.
  • Certification as a Braille Transcriber or Proofreader
    Description: The Library of Congress offers a free Braille corresondence course. You willl need access to braille equipment such as a Perkins brailler or a slate and stylus. When you sucessfully complete the course, you will become nationally certified as a Braille transcriber or proofreader.
  • World Database of Schools for the Blind
    Description: Addresses of over 570 schools for the blind in the world, listed by geographical area (not including North America). If you can't find braille classes or resources in your area, you may wish to contact your local school for the blind, which typically has many students and staff members who are proficient in Braille, and the equipment needed to write Braille.
  • Members of the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB)
    Description: COSB is "a consortium of specialized schools in Canada and the United States whose major goal is improving the quality of services to children who are blind and visually impaired." Membership list includes contact information of schools that you may want to contact when searching for local Braille classes and resources.
  • About Braille: Codes, Formats, Computers, and Braille ASCII
    Description: A detailed description of what Braille is, how it is produced, how it has been adapted for writing music, mathematical and scientific notation. Includes links to further information.
  • Book: World Braille Usage
    Description: A compilation of the Braille codes used throughout the world in many languages. It includes a section of phonetic symbols, a countries listing, organisations in each country concerned with Braille and a bibliography of codebooks. Data was collected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and book was published in 1990. Available in print or braille. In the USA, contact the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

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Cued Speech

Cued Speech is a system of handshapes and placements combined with mouth movements, but does not require the use of the voice. It was designed in 1966 by a math and physics professor at Gallaudet named Orin Cornett in order to help deaf people learn to read better through an awareness of phonics. The system has been adapted for use in about 60 languages and dialects. Cued Speech is not as widely used as sign language. However, in some areas there are small communities of cuers, most of whom also sign.

Deafblind people who have tunnel vision or a unilateral visual field may be able to clearly see the mouth and hand movements involved in Cued Speech. Others may watch or feel the speaker's lips while feeling the speaker's cueing hand. See also Tactual Cued Speech as a Supplement to Speechreading (in PDF format only).

  • Art of Cueing
    Description: Free, online lessons with illustrations and video clips of what cued words and phrases look like in American English. Explains basic linguistics, cueing form and function in a way that is accessible to the average English speaker. Includes handy charts and memory aids.
  • Online Forums
    Description: A place to post your questions about cueing, find other cuers and people learning cueing in your area. Includes postings from all over the world.
  • NCSA Instructor Directory
    Description: "The National Cued Speech Association [NCSA] certifies Cued Speech instructors to ensure consistent training across the country. Certified Instructors of Cued Speech are not only proficient in Cued Speech production but also maintain up-to-date knowledge of cueing standards, as specified by the NCSA."
  • Language Matters, Inc. (LMI)
    Description: Offers cueing workshops around the country, including at Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Maintains the Cued American English Teachers Registry. LMI has charts for approximately 50 cued languages and major dialects. Several are available as video lessons (e.g. Spanish) and many are available as audio lessons.

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Print on Palm (POP)

Using the palm as a writing surface, the speaker holds the deaf-blind person's hand with the palm up. The speaker's index finger is used like a pencil to print each capital letter successively, and in the same palm location, to form a word. [There is a short pause between words.] This system demands literacy. It is most often used as a common way to interact with the community and or within the deaf-blind community. The letter X drawn on a deaf-blind person's back, from shoulders to waist, is recognized as the standard for indicating an emergency.

Source: Canadian Helen Keller Centre.

  • Print on Palm Illustrations
    Description: Includes a chart showing how to draw block letters in the Print on Palm method, and a picture showing one person drawing on the palm of another person.

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