Deaf Awareness Communication Tips
Updated: Feb 18
Most people are reluctant to speak to a deaf person, simply because they do not know how to communicate and due to fear of embarrassment. I notice a lot of people make less effort talking to me and I believe it is simply because… they do not know how to approach me!
So, I am writing a blog piece, discussing some tips that you guys could follow! It is important that both parties make the effort. Deaf people communicate their communication preferences and the hearing party take note, for future interactions.
1. Ask us about our communication preferences.
There is a common misconception that ALL deaf people sign, are ‘mute’ and do not speak. Not all deaf people sign. For example, I was brought up in the hearing world and I begun to learn Sign Language when I left University. I had an oral upbringing.
Deaf people who use sign language as their first language, may require an interpreter. An important point to remember, is that you make sure you allow us plenty of time to book an interpreter (or any communication support!) for the interaction.
2. Make sure you get our attention before you communicate with us.
It is so important to get our attention before you speak… how else would we know that you are talking to us? If we are in close proximity, I do not recommend moving yourself close up to our faces, because this is our personal space! If we are too far away, I would not advise in shouting our names at the top of your voices… we will not hear you! It is common sense!
Try positioning yourself, so you are in our view, then try waving a little. I strongly do not recommend that you wave frantically like crazy… cringe!
3. Face us when you are talking! (Yes, even if we have communication support!)
Sometimes I find it quite hard to tell if someone is speaking to me or the person next to me. Eye contact is one of the important methods to get our attention. Without eye contact, we would not know that you are speaking to us!
Another important thing to remember, if we have an interpreter or a lip speaker providing us with communication support, please remember to continue looking at us when you are speaking or signing to us. It makes us feel valuable to the conversation.
4. Take into consideration the environment.
Deaf people find it harder to communicate in environments that are dark and noisy. Make sure you are in an environment with good lighting, to ensure we can see your lips and lipread you. Choosing a quieter corner, will make a huge difference for us and allow us to participate in the conversation.
If you are speaking to us in a group or in an area with lots of other conversations, bear in mind that background noise does affect many deaf people. For example, my hearing aids amplify all the sounds around me, including lots of chatter amongst other people, which is hugely frustrating. It would be a good idea to consider other ways of communicating, if the deaf person struggles.
5. Repeat, reword, and explain things if we need you to.
A lot of the time, we miss out on things that have been said. There may be a lot of people in the conversation, the environment may be noisy, or we simply missed what you said and could not hear you.
Please include us in the conversation, even if we are sitting there quietly. We may not have a clue what you are talking about! Fill us in on the conversation. It will have a massive impact on us. If we mishear something, repeat it again. If we still did not understand what you said, try rephrasing your sentence. Remember to check that we understand it.
6. Speak normally with good clarity and stick to a good pace.
I have come across SO MANY people who speak to me and exaggerate their voices. Honestly, it does not help at all and instead, makes you look like a bit of a pillock!
Speak using your normal voice and speak clearly. Please do not speak too fast, because it is extremely tiring for a deaf lipreader to keep up.
I prefer people to speak in ‘chunks’. For example, if you are telling us about your busy day, it is so much easier if you pause often and check that we have understood everything. There is nothing more annoying than listening to someone talk for a long time and we mishear/do not hear half of the story!
7. Please be patient!
We understand that it can be frustrating when you need to repeat yourself several times. We feel frustrated too! Stay calm and simply re-word your sentence (as mentioned in ‘Tip 5’. Sometimes its nice to reassure us, that you are not frustrated and laugh about it (it depends on the person, but personally I like to have a giggle about it sometimes, because it brings off a relaxed vibe).
Remember that there is a way around everything! You can always type it on your phone and show us! We will get there eventually. It just takes a bit of time!
There is nothing more annoying than hearing someone say, “I’ll tell you later!” or “Don’t worry it was not that important anyway!” It makes us feel less of a value. However silly or important it is, we really would love to hear!
8. Take in turns speaking.
Conversations with two plus people, can be a big struggle for us. It is common that people tend to have lots of different conversations in a large group and it is often difficult for us, to know where to look!
If you are in a group, however large or small, please try and remember to speak one person at a time. This is helpful for us because we can keep track of the conversation a lot easier.
Whilst you are doing this, it would be very helpful to get the deaf person’s attention before you speak, to ensure that we do not miss anything.
Thank you for reading lovelies! It would be amazing, if more people were aware of these tips, to include us deaf people into your ‘hearing world’.
Remember to keep an eye out for our puzzled facial expressions and double check that we have heard you!
Some deaf people are good at pretending they understand, by nodding politely and smiling, to avoid embarrassment. We do tend to give up and isolate ourselves.
Please do not think that we are being rude! It is incredibly tiring and deaf people work twice as hard in conversations to understand.