DeafBlind Chat Group Guidelines (DBCGG)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Version Revision: 1.0
Date: 2/9/2024”

During the COVID Pandemic, everyone had to stay inside their homes under isolation. For most people, which was not a problem because of advanced communication technology. Zoom Cloud meeting became popular which enabled families, friends, businesses, and coworkers to communicate by means of audio, video, and text messaging. Zoom Meetings helped connect so many people to one another despite where they live. I myself had a chance to meet with family members online from another state. However, that such person who was truly isolated was the DeafBlind community. DeafBlind communicate by one or both ways, tactile sign language (TSL) or Braille through their computer or smartphone. Due to isolation, they were limited by how many TSL they could do. There were attempts made to have Zoom meetings where TSL interpreters would go to DeafBlind people’s homes and relay what is being said or signed on screen. However, this led to many drawbacks. Scheduling for interpreters would be a mistake. Someone may call in sick at the last minute. Unforeseen traffic at the last minute. Lastly, the biggest issue of all, interpreters cost money for this group effort.

In this tutorial, the attempt is to have the ability that all DeafBlind who have a computer or smartphone and read braille to be in a group setting to communicate. For example, we can be part of an advisory committee advocating DeafBlind issues. Or have a chapter meeting about a topic that everyone enjoys. The attempt here is that everyone here has the power to rely on themselves to communicate with others. No relying on others for communication or schedules that may be mistaken. The goal is for DeafBlind to get online and communicate more and share ideas and advocate.

The best free chat service for this tutorial is the WhatsApp app. This is a free messaging service that can be used on iPhone, Android, Windows computer, and Mac computer. This service will be linked to your phone number and can accommodate up to a group of 250 people. The best thing about this chat service is that when a person sends a message, the announcement per text message does not hijack the Braille display. In this way a user can read his messages until the end without any interruption.

Below are five simple commands that if everyone agrees to stand by, we can make a text messaging group chat seamless and on topic. There will be a chairperson who will take the lead who will call on anyone who wants to speak. In this case everyone can be heard when it is their turn to speak.

DBCGG Commands

This command states that you are present for the meeting. Use this command to also state that you are now back when you did the cancel hand command stating you were gone for a minute. Also at the first introduction, please also put your name in so everyone knows who you are and their contacts match up with your name.
Any person can type this command if they wish to speak. The chairperson will grant a person to speak when it is their turn.
“Go Ahead” when a person is finished with their messages, they end the message by typing ga. In this case, a person who is granted the opportunity to speak may have to type multiple messages. No one is to speak until you have completed and typed ga at the end. Then the Chairperson can grant the next person who said hand.
this command cancels any command you have typed. If you said hand and then later on you decide that you do not want to speak, you can say cancel hand that will let the Chairperson know you do not wish to speak. If you type cancel here this means you have stepped away for a moment and your hand has also been canceled. Typing here means you are back.
t up/down
This is the Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down command. If you agree with a point a person said or disagreed with, you can say t up or t down. If you agree with one person or multiple people, put their name down then the command, like this, Bob Sally Tom t up, in this case they know which point you agree or disagree. This command is also used for a vote too.

This will require that someone create a Whatsapp group and invite everyone to it. Once a person gets the invite, they will send a message back with their name, so all in the group can save your contact with the name you stated. Then all would agree on a time to meet. Then when everyone sits down and is ready for group chat, they will type here along with their name in the message and send it. This will let the Chairperson, and everyone know that you are present for the meeting.

Keep in mind that other than the above commands, no one will speak unless the Chairperson calls on you. This will give everyone a chance to speak when it is their turn. In this way, everyone will be involved and have a chance to be part of a group regardless of each person’s braille reading speed that relies on themselves.

Chairperson duties

Person takes the lead and calls on the person who will speak next.
This person will accept Chairperson duties if the first Chairperson has to step away or is unable to respond. Chairperson will indicate person name and say Chairperson now to let the group they are taking over. The chairperson will say cancel here when leaves, then say here when arrives back. Co-Chairperson will indicate when transfer Chairperson duties back to first Chairperson.

The chairperson will need to keep in mind to remind the group to be respectful of using the commands. Sometimes people get excited and will start speaking when it is not their turn, Chairperson will be firm but also understandable in reminding others of commands. The meeting should go at a reasonable pace and be respectful of those who may not be a quick reader. Always use the ga command when a person is finished speaking, this includes the Chairperson too.

Individuals Who Has Different communications Needs

Person 1

I am in a minority with a group in our community who cannot do zoom presentations. I have bilateral CIS but meningitis left me with an auditory processing disorder so I am unable to understand people on zoom. Part of the problem is because most people on zoom do not use an external microphone and so their voices are not noticeably clear and muffled. Because I was late deafened and late visually impaired I do not have enough ASL skills to use an interpreter unless the interpreter was just revoicing English which is not the role or definition of interpreter. I also cannot read Brielle at conversational speed like those who were Blind earlier in life. I know I am not alone because many other DB have talked about being unable to use zoom either. But we are a small faction within the community. This type of meeting really appeals to me. Text is the only way I can 100% Understand others.

Person 2

I am blind with profound hearing loss in one ear with a hearing aid, and no hearing in the other ear. I know grade 1 braille and can read very slowly, but I can fully understand screen readers and most people’s voices in a phone call or virtual meetings. I also know ASL, but if we do a virtual meeting, I am unable to see what is signed onscreen. However, text messaging I feel is the only way to communicate with Deaf online.

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By Daniel Hawkins

Daniel Hawkins is the owner and founder of the Inclusive Ability Initiative, LLC since November 2019. Daniel is DeafBlind with experience in Adaptive technology and Peer support Training. He also builds and maintain this website and approves all content.