Tips for Communicating with Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing People
- 1. Get the person's attention before you speak. You can avoid frustration and reduce the need to repeat things.
- 2. Do not have objects in your mouth such as gum, cigarettes, or food.
- 3. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. The best distance for communication is 3 to 6 feet. If you speak at a slow-to-normal rate and pause between sentences, you will give the person time to catch up.
- 4. Keep movement to minimum while speaking. Continuous movement will make it difficult for those who read lips to follow you.
- 5. Use facial expressions and gestures. This helps fill in the blanks and adds more information.
- 6. Rephrase when you are not understood. If one or two words keep tripping someone up, try using a different word. For example, rephrase ‘Do you want a drink?’ to ‘Would you like some water?’
- 7. Be aware that accents or slang may be difficult to understand.
- 8. Don’t shout. Shouting makes you look and sound angry. It actually distorts the sound signal. It is better to make sure the person can see you and speak slightly louder than normal.
- 9. Use paper and pen when needed. Some people do not read lips or verbally communicate, so have paper and pen available as an alternative means of communication.
- 10. When writing back and forth, keep your word choices simple and sentences short. If the person understands you well and uses more complex sentence and vocabulary, you may do the same. Take your cue from the deaf person.
- 11. Label and display items. If you have different sizes of cups with different prices, label them and put them on display near the counter, so a deaf person can indicate what size of cup to be ordered.
- 12. Have printed materials available. If you have a menu as well as specials on display, have a printed copy of the menu and the specials available on the counter for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to point to a menu item to order.
- 13. Talk TO the deaf or hard-of-hearing person, not to his/her partner.
- 14. Be patient, positive, and relaxed. It may take time to learn how to best talk with someone. Experiment and ask how you can help.
Prepared by the Deaf Gay & Lesbian Center (DGLC)
a program of Deaf Counseling, Advocacy & Referral Agency (DCARA) of San Leandro, CA.