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Tips to help you better plan, understand and communicate

Always remember that people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are trying to navigate the world and get through life, just like you.

Deaf is a person that does not miss their sense of hearing, and identifies as ‘culturally Deaf’.

Alternatively, a person who identifies as ‘deaf’ tends to see and feel the missing sense as a disability.

‘deaf’ (lowercase ‘d’) people also usually live in the ‘hearing world’. They also are not actively involved with the deaf world in the way that Deaf people are, and only have minimal interaction with ‘deaf culture’.

Discuss how they would prefer to communicate. They may prefer to lipread (also known as ‘speechread’), use sign language or write things down. This will depend on their own unique abilities and preferences.

Maintain direct eye contact, look directly at and face the person when communicating, so they can clearly watch you communicate and better understand you.

Learn some basic signs. Key words and phrases will help immensely. If you are starting out, there are alternative ways to communicate until you learn how to sign (the link will open in a new window).

Get their attention – some DOs and DO NOTs

  • Tap gently on the shoulder or arm.
  • If they are beyond your physical reach, wave in the air until eye contact is established.
  • Switch lights on and off.
  • Establish eye contact and a comfortable distance before beginning communication.
  • Eye contact can also be used as a turn-taking technique, especially in group discussions where everyone looks at the next speaker.
  • Keep your face clear of any obstructions (hair, scarf, etc.).
  • Show attentiveness by nodding when they communicate. No expression conveys inattentiveness.
  • Do not touch the person anywhere else on their body to get their attention (shoulder or arm only).
  • When waving, do not wave exaggeratedly in the person’s face when they are close.
  • Do not stand against light or a window – they need to see you clearly.
  • Do not stand too close. Maintain a comfortable distance when communicating.
  • Avoid or finish eating or chewing before signing.
  • Do not stand in dark areas when communicating or interacting with the person.