Sensory impairments are disruptions to the functioning of sight, hearing, smell, taste or tactile senses. Reduction or loss of one or more of these senses can contribute to difficulties in communication and behaviour. Sometimes it is not always obvious a person has sensory loss, and the hidden nature of sensory impairments may mask the cause of unusual communication or behaviour you notice in a person.

Two sensory impairments that immediately come to most people’s minds are vision impairment such as low vision, partial vision and blindness, and hearing impairment, including low hearing, partial hearing and deafness.

Sensory impairment or loss can also be caused by, or accompany conditions such as:

Visual impairment

The video below simulates different types of low vision. Imagine how a person with one of these impairments might experience the library.

How to assist:

  • Be descriptive. You may have to help orientate people with vision loss  and let them know what is coming up. If they are walking, tell them if they have to step up or down and how many steps, let them know if the door is to their right or left and warn them of possible hazards.
  • You do not have to speak loudly to people with vision loss. Most of them can hear perfectly well.
  • When appropriate, offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment.
  • If you are asked to guide a person with a visual impairment, offer your arm instead of grabbing theirs.

Hearing impairment

The link below will take you to the Hearing Loss Simulator where you can listen to simulations of different severities of hearing loss. Imagine how a person with hearing loss might experience your library.

How to assist:

  • Get the listener’s attention before speaking.
  • Face people with hearing loss when you talk to them so they can see your lips.
  • Speak clearly and at a normal rate when talking to a person with a hearing loss.
  • Increase the level of your voice, but do not shout.
  • Rephrase your statement into shorter, simpler sentences if it appears you are not being understood.
  • It may be necessary to communicate in writing. Ask the individual first if it is OK to communicate in writing.
  • Offer to use a communication/speech board.


Speech communication boards for Libraries (Scope)

Types of communication aids (Scope)


Australian Sign Language (Auslan) Sign Bank

Vision Australia

How to sight guide someone who is blind or vision impaired (Vision Australia)