Somewhere I read that being deaf is the easiest disability to deal with. Not all deaf individuals are same regarding their communication needs. The degree of deafness also varies from person to person. And most deaf people communicate physically and visually (Sign language and lip-reading). Most people whom they tend to communicate with often end in giving up on their conversation leaving them left out which is strictly forbidden and “A don’t in deaf culture”. It is not difficult to start a conversation. But to bridge the gap between hearing and the deaf people requires strong communication and that strong communication requires understanding and lots of patience.
Just try to act naturally as possible, be patient and frank.
Below are some hints that will help you bond over to friendship.
- Don’t speak when the listener is busy with another work or doing their chores.
Make sure to get the listener’s attention.
Before starting a conversation make sure that the listener is sitting is a direction faced towards you. If not, try to make conversation seated in a contented space.
- Don’t throw things to get the attention.
Be creative. Tapping on their shoulder, flashing the light in the room can work for them.
If the person you are trying to call doesn’t hear you, try to tap gently on shoulder (2-3 times). Don’t try to grab their hands while they are signing.
It is rude to throw things at deaf people to get their attention.
- Don’t rely on interpreter or CODA (Children Of Deaf Adult).
Try to talk directly to the deaf person.
Try to speak directly to the deaf person. Don’t rely on interpreter or their children. If they do not understand, they will turn to the interpreter or even ask you to repeat.
- Don’t cover your mouth.
Make sure to converse in an easy way.
Covering your mouth with hand or handkerchief, chewing gums, eating, smoking etc. makes it all difficult for deaf people to follow your conversation. So, be respectful when deaf people ask you politely, when they request you to do something so they can communicate with you.
- Don’t enhance your body language.
Be aware of your facial language.
While you talk, your body and eyes speak more honestly compared to your words. Yes, deaf people read your body language. Your eyes convey the feeling of direct communication. So, just try to be natural.
- Don’t keep repeating.
Try to change your method of communication.
If a deaf person doesn’t understand the message that you are trying to convey, repeat once or twice, rephrase your words but keep your cool. Writing on a paper or typing in short on your smartphone can be convenient.
- Don’t shout, it’s aggressive.
Speak in a normal tone.
Shouting at deaf person makes you look aggressively dumb and neither does it helps in making your conversation clear and understandable. Trying to speak in a direct and clear tone is considerable
- Don’t get infuriated by the loud noise.
Try to appeal in a polite manner.
There is no point in getting upset by the loud noise created by deaf people. Sometimes they aren’t even aware of it. Just let them know in a polite manner and ask them to quiet down.
- Don’t talk without being aware about the surrounding.
Converse in a place free of interruption.
Make sure that the place where you are trying to exchange conversation has a proper lighting and also that the place is away from noise and interruption. Plainly put, avoid dark environment. This is because they are visually keen to most situations and makes it difficult to hear/understand you.
- Don’t always try to be formal.
Be an attentive listener too.
The person that you are talking to comes from a culture very different to yours. They also possess a keen interest to share some of their valuable stories with you. Give them an opportunity to speak their voice.
- Don’t be unconcerned.
Care to share the laugh and moments too.
Just like you; they also ought to have a fair share of jokes, stories and incidences. Your refusal can make deaf people feel left out of the group.
“Never mind”, “It’s not important”, “I will tell you later”, are considered as rude attitude in deaf culture.
- Don’t label us without knowing our actual loss.
Be aware of inappropriate labels.
Make sure to give an appropriate tag and/or label to the person. Considering them as deaf and dumb, deaf mute is outdated and extremely offensive.
The generally used terms are deaf (with a small ’d’), Deaf (with a capital ‘D’), and hard-of-hearing.
- Avoid assuming anything yourself.
Always ask questions in between conversations too.
Don’t assume that the deaf person clearly understands your conversation. You can pause in between to clarify the part that is important. Most part of lip-reading is a guess work.
- Don’t exaggerate the conversation.
Speak in a simple manner.
Exaggeration of words falsifies the movements of lips, making it difficult to read lips. Short and simple sentences are easier to comprehend and concise. Try to speak normally without adding any emotions.
- Don’t ignore them in the middle of conversation.
Learn to be considerate.
If there is someone knocking at the door, dog barking, phone ringing, just excuse yourself and let the deaf person know. Don’t ignore and move on to another conversation leaving the deaf person puzzled and awaited.
As you can see, that the communication here is really challenging and it takes a lot of patience. But it presents more challenge for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
At last feel free to ask them any questions regarding their deafness. When in doubt, you are welcome to ask for suggestions or tips.
Treat others as you would want them treat you.
Together we can be the change. Together we can make this world a better place. Together we can bridge the gap.