Communicating with deaf people
Each Christian is concerned with sharing the Good News of God’s love for us with others through word and action. What about people who cannot hear, or who have a dual sensory loss? As St Paul puts it: “But how can they call to him if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message?” Romans 10:14
Could they come to your Church and understand everything that was said and done? Would they be able to access the services, and play a full part in the Church? Is there anything you can do about it?
It’s all about communication!
You don’t have to worry about not being able to sign. Many Deaf people, particularly those who have lost their hearing later in life, don’t use BSL. There are lots of things you can do to communicate successfully.
How would I communicate with a deaf person?
Firstly, establish how the deaf person communicates and what they prefer. Deaf, BSL users understand that a lot of hearing people cannot sign. Many will be skilled to lip-read what you say, others would prefer that you communicate through writing things down. People who have a dual-sensory loss, may be able to lip-read you if you sit an appropriate distance from them, or may prefer you to spell out words on their hands. So the important thing is to check it out with the person themselves – then use these tips!
- Face the person directly, if you look away the deaf person cannot see your lips.
- Speak clearly at a normal pace
- Do not shout
- Make sure there are no bright lights behind you that could make it difficult to see
- Use whole sentences rather than one word replies – lip-reading is 70% guess work and many words look the same. Using sentences gives contextual clues
- Be patient, if you are asked to repeat something try changing the sentence slightly, it may make it easier to understand
- Do not give up, if you cannot make yourself understood then try writing it down.
- Fingerspell any names or unusual words or if you can’t fingerspell, write it down
- Use gestures to help explain what you are saying. For example showing size and shape with your hands or backing up directions by pointing can be very helpful
- Use facial expressions to help convey meaning
- And don’t forget to be positive and welcoming!
Contact the Chaplain among Deaf & Deafblind people if you would like to discuss this further.