Just a simple awareness by Paul Leonard

There has been news in the deaf world recently of a young lady on a train who got shouted at by the train manager.  I actually know the girl.  (To be precise, I’ ve met her once and know her sister!)  Here’s her story on the Limping Chicken website.

It just got me thinking, how many people out there who can’t sign, do they know how to interact with a deaf person?  Do they have any deaf awareness?  Again, this is only my point of  view as a hearing person and stuff I’ve picked up along the way, but here are some of my top tips!

1. It’s all in the eyes

Deaf people rely on their eyes for information and communication. It is very important that information is presented visually as much as possible. Clear pictures and imagery will help the deaf person understand and get their bearings more quickly.

Good lighting is also very important. No matter how you are communicating (lipreading, sign language etc.) if the lighting is poor, deaf people will struggle to understand you. Also, make sure the light is on what they need to see. Don’t stand with your back to the light or a bright window, as this will dazzle them.

Keep clear lines of sight. If there are obstacles or clutter between you, move them aside or move away from them, as these may block the view or at least be distracting.

2. Read my lips

Lip-reading involves guesswork! So please don’t expect that to be the solution to communicating with deaf people. If you’re using your whole body to try and communicate, and if the deaf person is familiar with what you’re talking about, then good clear (but not exaggerated) lip patterns may be some help. But nothing is more wearing, tiring and frustrating for most deaf people than for others to expect them to be able to lip-read.

But like I say it is a lot of guesswork.  I have plenty of examples of missed communication between me and Rebekah.  Some funny, some embarrassing.

Lip reading is also made a lot easier if there is no beard or moustache in the way so the deaf person can fully read your lips.

Also, maintain eye contact when talking, because if you look away, this will at least disrupt and possibly stop the conversation from the deaf person’s point of view. They may also feel you are not interested in the conversation.

3. Hello?!

How do get a deaf person’s attention?  I think I have spoke about this before but its ok to tap (not thump/hit/throw something at) a deaf person to get their attention.  Deaf people are very touchy feely!  It is also important, not to shout. This is unlikely to work, and is too easily misunderstood as it comes across aggressive and makes the lip pattern seem harsher.

You could also try and raise your hand or wave it gently in the deaf person’s line of vision.  (They’re deaf not blind remember?!)  Other ways you could get a deaf person’s attention include: Tapping a desk, table or floor as the vibration  caused will get their attention.  Another way is by flicking lights on and off quickly.  Of course, use this method if this is convenient and appropriate to the situation.

Those are my top tips for now that I have thought of quickly whilst typing.  I’ll write another article soon about sign language and word order.


Original source: http://paleonard1979.wordpress.com


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  1. Pingback: Just a simple awareness | Mark Butterworth learning journey BSL level 3

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