Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and Hearing people are, in many ways, similar and different. Deaf/HH people consider themselves part of a cultural minority like that of Hispanic or African American individuals. Many are proud to be Deaf/HH and are excited to socialize with friends and family members who are Deaf or know sign. The Deaf Community uses American Sign Language to communicate, but otherwise they much like other people. It is greatly appreciated when hearing team members, friends, and family members try to learn sign language.
Each person is unique. Some were born Deaf, some lost their hearing after birth. Some were Deaf by genetics, others through loud noise exposure, and yet others from illness or age. Examples of assistive technology that is sometimes used are hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bahas. Other Deaf/HH individuals prefer to not use any technology at all because they can access communication visually.
As the former Deaf president of Gallaudet University (a Deaf university) once said, "Deaf people can do anything – but hear." This is deeply rooted in the culture and pride of the people.
Fortunately, in today’s technological world, Deaf/HH people have the ability to have equal access to communication. Closed-Captioning provides access to TV shows, the movies, and videos online. Texting and email provides for quick communication. Better yet there is Facetime and Glide to use ASL to present an even clearer message. We also have videophones (VPs) by which we can make calls to hearing people using an interpreter through a call center (Video Relay Service) who interprets what is signed through a camera and what is said by the hearing person. All of these advances in technology have made the world a more accessible place for Deaf/HH individuals.
Here are a few tips (DOs):
- Try your best to communicate: use signs that you know, use an interpreter, write, or try taking a class.
- When using an interpreter talk directly to the Deaf person like you normally would. Use "How are you?" instead of "Ask him how he is."
- Waving a hand, flashing a light, or tapping on a Deaf/HH person’s shoulder is culturally acceptable for getting his or her attention.
Here are a few more (DON’Ts)
- Don’t ask Deaf/HH people if they read lips. Some do and they will communicate that with you. American Sign Language is a complete Language like English so asking this may be offensive because it puts priority on a skill not many have.
- Don’t avoid interactions with Deaf/HH people because of nervousness. We are friendly and don’t bite. We LOVE when you try, even if it is just a little bit!
- When having conversations, don’t exclude Deaf/HH people because of the language barrier. Hearing and Deaf/HH people are equal and including everyone is the best way to show respect and dignity to all.