Deaf Awareness Month – How to include Deaf people?

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We are lucky enough to have a Deaf staff member in this team, who has shared some important insight and some dos and don’ts.

Don’t panic!

First, don’t panic! Many hearing people worry that they don’t know how to interact with a Deaf person. There is nothing to be scared about. We are all human beings. The only difference is, the Deaf person can’t hear. They can still communicate well.

Smile

Some deaf people communicate verbally, while others may use British Sign Language. Everyone understands a friendly smile and Deaf people will appreciate your effort to interact with them.

You may notice that the Deaf person’s voice sounds a little different. We all have our own accents – think of it as a Deaf accent.

Body language

If communication is challenging use gesture or write it on the piece of paper. If you feel unable to interact with them, just smile without fear as Deaf people are very good at reading body language. This is a very individual experience!

Here are a few more communication tips:
  • Talk to them at you normal pace – don’t speak too fast or too slowly. Deaf people are not robots who can read everything you say easily. Help them out!
  • Face the Deaf person when you are talking to them – make sure there is no light behind you otherwise you will in darkness. Spooky and very difficult to lip read!
  • Keep your lip pattern clear – lip reading is extremely hard work; Bee, Pee, Be – these look very similar for lip reading.
  • Keep your face clear while you are talking – avoid covering your mouth while you are talking – masks, moustaches, hands over your mouth are very tricky!
  • Be prepared to repeat things and rephrase – Get your pen and paper ready! Or learn some basic BSL. It always helps! See here.
  • Avoid using these phrases to a Deaf person – you will have forgotten by the end of the conversation anyway. And Deaf people want full inclusion in the conversation, not just brief summaries to ‘catch up’.

‘It doesn’t matter’

‘Don’t worry, its not that important’

‘I will tell you later’

‘Never mind’

‘Hold on, I will explain it to you in a minute’