People who are deaf and hard-of-hearing generally prefer to communicate visually with images, signing and lipreading.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people have different methods for communicating, and often find it hard to communicate where too much hearing is involved.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people prefer to use methods that are visual – methods they can see. Remember to take care in selecting the best communication method(s) for the communities you choose to connect and engage with.
Auslan is the natural language of the Deaf community in Australia and is its own language.
Auslan conveys ideas by signs, facial expressions, body languages and lip patterns.
It has its own grammar, rules and sentence structures, which are different from English. The order of signs in sentences is not normally the same order as words in an English sentence.
Auslan uses ‘fingerspelling’, where each letter in the English alphabet has a sign. Auslan users fingerspell to spell out a word when there is no sign for the word or when they do not know the sign for it.
Auslan uses 38 hand shapes.
Most Deaf and hard-of-hearing people use Auslan, but is also used by hearing people who want to interact with deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use Auslan.
A range of community classes are available throughout Australia. You can enquire about classes or courses and purchase traditional Auslan dictionaries from your state Deaf society or online. Additional online Auslan resources like Auslan Sign Bank can help you look up particular signs (note: it will not teach you the grammar of the language).
Lip reading focuses on the movements of a person’s mouth. This is a receptive communication strategy.
Low-technology but an effective solution, provided the people involved in an interaction have adequate literacy skills.
Can be a receptive communication strategy to help better understand messages that they cannot hear or make sense of in other ways.
There are different ways to use written material (depending on the intended purpose). For example:
To aid a person’s comprehension the person needs to have the following:
To use gestures effectively:
Large range of alerting devices developed specifically to communicate important messages to people through the use of lights, vibrations or coded messages. They are sent to a pager or device worn by or otherwise attached on the person.
Items include smoke alarms, flashing-light alarms and door bells, alarm clocks or baby monitors.
To effectively use these devices the person must be able to
Mainly used by and with people who have lower literacy levels or people who have intellectual disabilities (may or may not have hearing loss).
Only the main words/concepts or the message are signed (complex language systems are not used).
The message is usually spoken at the same time when signing (where possible), especially if it is used to aid the person to understand.
It is a less complex version of signing that can be adapted to suit the language level of each individual.
These help people to get their message across and are an expressive communication tool. The type and complexity of the message(s) can be altered to suit each individual person.
It is useful for people who have limited verbal communication, intellectual disability or limited literacy skills, whether they have a hearing difficulty or not.
The person using the book or board will select items from the book to convey the required message.
It can be presented in many different ways, including:
This is different to a communication book. It is intended for the purpose of information sharing rather than expressive communication. The person with communication challenges isn’t expected to respond or interact with others who are using the book.
It usually explains information about a person to others when they are unable to provide the information themselves.
It helps communication partners get to know the person and notice strengths that might otherwise go unnoticed. It also helps us learn how to communicate with the person in the most effective way.
The communication passport can be presented in different ways and can include the following information:
This strategy is primarily for the use of communication partners.
Information that is visually presented to help a person understand. It is a receptive communication tool.
Usually used for people who find it easier to understand what they see in pictures/writing, rather than what is said or signed to them.
Particularly useful for people who have intellectual disabilities.
It is important to develop individualised strategies and get support from a professional to do this. Seek advice or guidance from someone with the skills in the area of communication: