2.2.4 How to Communicate with a Deaf Person
- Through a sign language interpreter, who works as a mediator in communicating with a deaf person who uses sign language
- There are various ways of communicating with a deaf person: e-mail, text messages, fax, letter, video interpreter service (SVIsual), centre for mediation with deaf people, etc.
- To establish communication with a deaf person:
- You should call their attention by touching their arm, shoulder or thigh (if both people are sitting down). You should never touch a deaf person’s back or head.
- If physical contact is not possible due to a big distance, you can call their attention different ways: waving an arm in the deaf person’s line of sight, tapping the floor hard or the table softly, for them to feel the vibration, or turning off the lights.
- During a conversation with a deaf person:
- The deaf person should be strategically situated so that they can have a general view of the place where they are. The place must also be well lit, so that the deaf person can see well.
- It is important to establish eye contact with the deaf person. You should not move around or stop wherever you impede visual contact between people.
- You should not talk too fast or too slowly. You should vocalize clearly, without exaggerating, and you should use simple and short sentences to ensure comprehension of what is being said.
- You should speak without covering your mouth so the deaf person can read your lips.
- Facial expression helps a lot, as well as the other components of verbal discourse: miming, gestures, writing, etc. In case the deaf person does not understand, you should repeat the same thing with different words.
- You should respect the divided attention of the deaf person if you want them to follow a full explanation. You should not give information orally at the same time that you point to a visual aid, like a text, an image or an object; you should wait for the deaf person to finish looking at it to proceed with the explanation. And if you are reading a text, you should try not to look down so that the deaf person can read your lips.
- Depending on the level of hearing loss of the person, it might help to raise your voice a bit. You should not shout, though, as it makes you lose your facial expression and it will not be of any help for those people with severe hearing loss.
- You should inform the deaf person about the acoustic information of the place (alarms, bells, horns, etc.) so that they are not excluded from the messages directed to the hearing majority.
- If several people are going to participate in the conversation, it is best to sit in a circle, as it improves visibility.
You can always ask for help, guidance and advice at the federations and associations of deaf people about how to optimize communication depending on the characteristics of each deaf person or group of deaf people.