5 Tips for Effectively Communicating With Deaf People

Shouting at people. Making assumptions. Eavesdropping. As deaf journalist†Charlie Swinbourne cheekily notes on†HuffPost, hearing people have a lot of annoying habits.

This International Week of the Deaf, here are a few†etiquette tips for speaking†with deaf†and hard-of-hearing people.

1. Speak more clearly, not louder

As Youtuber Rikki Poynter notes above, life is not a Verizon commercial. Therefore, shouting at a deaf or hard-of-hearing person, “Can you hear me now?” is not helpful.

Focus on speaking normally. No need to over-enunciate or speak really slowly, even if your conversation partner is reading lips.

2. Face†the person you’re speaking to

Deaf people often need to give a conversation their full attention to understand its content. And hearing people should take a page out of that†book, consultant Bruno Kahne tells The Limping Chicken.

When talking with deaf people, make sure they know you’re talking — whether verbally or via signing. A†person reading lips needs to see your lips to communicate.

Make eye contact, and keep the lights on.

3. Don’t interact with†the†interpreter

Sometimes deaf and hard-of-hearing people use an interpreter.

As with anyone who speaks a different language than you or relies on†a personal assistant, direct your conversation†toward the person you’re hoping to communicate with — not the interpreter.

Pro tip: The above video is sarcastic.

4. Don’t assume that everyone knows American Sign Language

Some deaf people know sign language. Others don’t. Similarly, some read lips. Others don’t.

If you learn someone is deaf, remember†your manners.†Don’t presume you know how someone communicates.

5. People are†”deaf” or “hard-of-hearing,” not “hearing impaired.”

In deaf culture, many people don’t view†deafness as a disability. If the hearing world adapted, they wouldn’t have to struggle to understand as much as they do.

Hence, the term “hearing impaired” is inappropriate to some deaf people. This isn’t universal, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

As Mark Levin says, “ĎImpairedí implies that there is something wrong with you … we can communicate with the world just fine, but often, it it is the hearing community which struggles to communicate with us.”

Photo Credit: daveynin/Flickr

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