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Deaf Awareness

Deaf people often face communication barriers but you can make a difference. Here’s some tips on how to become more deaf-friendly and deaf aware.

Before reading these tips, it’s important to understand that there is no substitute for offering a qualified BSL interpreter. Deaf people have a right to access information in full. Therefore for any pre-arranged or formal setting please ask the person what they prefer and make any adjustments required.

Learning some basic BSL such as the alphabet can help. This is the left-handed version, click here for the right-handed version and other useful infographics.
  1. Learn some basic British Sign Language (BSL).
    Learning some basic vocabulary and signing what you know will help put conversations into context.
  2. Get their attention.
    A wave or gentle tap on the shoulder is acceptable.
  3. Check the lighting.
    Turn on lights and avoid standing in front of windows.
  4. Reduce background noise.
    Turn down the TV or music. Moving somewhere quieter may also help depending on the situation.
  5. Don’t cover your mouth or mumble.
    It’s important your lip patterns are clear and visible. In a group, remember to keep your face visible to the deaf person.
  6. No need to shout.
    A normal volume is fine but speak in the direction of the deaf person.
  7. In a group, speak one at a time.
    Understanding one voice may be a challenge, if people start speaking at the same time it’ll be almost impossible for the deaf person.
  8. Be patient and understanding.
    If you become frustrated, your facial expression will show it and it isn’t fair for anyone involved.
  9. Re-phrase what you said.
    Try another way of it. Some words are especially difficult to lip-read so try to use plain language where possible.
  10. Confirm they have understood you.
    If it’s important information such as prices, dates or times, write down that information to avoid confusion.