home research news speak out calendar ideas guest book search
Go to UCP Homepage
Home News Research Congress Speak Out Calendar Feedback Search
Education Employment Health & Wellness
Housing Parenting & Families Products & Services
Sports & Leisure Transportation Travel
Your UCP: National September 11, 2003
Media & Public Awareness

Etiquette Tips

People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing


  • People who are Deaf use American Sign Language (ASL) and identify culturally with the Deaf Community.
  • People who are deaf have profound hearing loss, may or may not know sign language and generally prefer to communicate orally.
  • People who are late deafened became deaf as an adult and have adapted to a new communication style (lip reading and/or sign language or a combination of both).
  • People who are hard of hearing have a hearing loss, but rely on residual hearing when communicating. They may or may not know sign language and generally prefer to communicate orally.


  • There are a wide range of hearing losses and communication preferences. If you do not know the individual's preferred communication method, ask.

  • Address questions, comments, or concerns directly to the individual, not to a person in their presence.

  • Shouting or exaggerating one's speech does not help communication.

  • To get a person's attention, call his/her name. If there is no response, lightly touch him/her on the arm or shoulder.

  • If you do not understand what is being said, do not pretend to understand.

  • Interpreters are present to relay information. They generally should not be included in the conversation.

  • Make direct eye contact. Natural facial expressions and gestures will provide important information to your conversation.

  • Keep your face and mouth visible by not obscuring with your hands, hair, cigarettes and food.

  • When speaking to a person who lip-reads, speak clearly and evenly. Do not over articulate.

  • Interpreters are commonly placed next to the speaker, across from the person using the interpreter.

  • If you are asked to repeat yourself several times, try rephrasing your sentence.

  • When giving a number or an address, consider alternative ways to provide it: writing, faxing, or e-mailing are great ways to ensure accuracy.

  • If you experience extreme difficulty in communicating orally, ask if writing is all right. Never say, "Oh, forget it, it is not important." A conversation can be held with two people sharing a keyboard and the view of a computer screen. (Many Deaf individuals, for whom American Sign Language (ASL) is their native language, have learned English as a second language and may or may not be highly proficient in English. Assume their English skills are strong, but be willing to make adaptations if they are not.)

  • Bright and dark places can be a barrier to clear communication. Good lighting is important, but keep in mind the glare factor and do not stand in front of a sunny window.

  • Use transitional phrases between topics, such as "my next question is about…" or "Okay, I'm going to change the subject…" Changing the topic abruptly can cause confusion.


  • Sign language interpreters…they are typically placed next to the speaker and across from the person using the interpreter

  • Note takers to document important information during meetings

  • Seating in the front of the room with good view of the speaker

  • Captioned videos, real-time captioned meetings

Previous Section
About UCP
Research Foundation & Fact Sheets
Corporate Sponsors
Public Policy
Media & Public Awareness
Press Releases
Glossary & Definitions
Etiquette Tips
Vocabulary Tips
Disability Links
News Archives
Press Room
Grants & Contracts
Bellows Fund
Web Site Accessibility
En español
© 2003, UCP National (aka United Cerebral Palsy)
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 800-872-5827/202-776-0406 TTY: 202-973-7197 Fax: 202-776-0414
E-Mail: webmaster@ucp.org
Affiliate Center Entrance
[password required]
Privacy Policy & Terms of Usage