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.
EXAMPLES OF ACCOMMODATIONS
- 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