Posted by: learnsignlanguage | May 10, 2010

Communication Techniques with Deaf People

Communicating with Deaf People

When communicating with Deaf people we need to remember that everyone is different and so therefore may have different communication needs so it is important to try a variety of strategies.  Don’t assume that if you see a Deaf person wearing a hearing aid that they are a British Sign Language (BSL) user.

Ask the deaf person how he or she prefers to communicate, whether it is lip-reading, writing or signing. And try to have patience as it will in almost all cases take longer to have a conversation.

For those who are BSL users – it is vital to be aware that BSL is a language in its own right with a different grammatical structure. Therefore to use plain clear English to ensure good communication is vital. 

Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Get the Deaf persons attention before you begin to talk.  This can be done by either waving your hand, tapping their shoulders gently or if there is a crowd then flickering the lights, or stomping on the floor if it is wooden and carries vibrations.
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Talk clearly and at your normal pace – not louder or slower. Do not SHOUT. In most cases, this simply doesn’t work. Modulate your voice and speech patterns. If you normally speak very softly, try to consciously speak louder. If you usually speak rapidly, try to slow down.
  • Use gestures
  • Point things out for visual aids
  • Write things down in Plain English. Some deaf people do not have a good English background due to poor schooling. Don’t be surprised if their English seems odd to you. If you don’t understand, ask. If it helps, have them write down what they’re trying to tell you.
  • Fingerspell and sign if you know how
  • Make sure there is plenty of light. If you are outside in the daytime, make sure there is some kind of shade so the glare from the sun isn’t as obvious.
  • For most deaf people, communicating on a one-to-one level is much, much easier than in a group situation. If you find yourself in a group situation with a deaf participant, try to cue the participant from time to time what is occurring. If it is work-related, take the time to write good notes and share with the participant, and ask if they understood what was happening and if they needed clarification on a few points.

If you would like to learn more about Deaf Awareness take a look at or to learn BSL and see some free examples of British Sign Language please visit


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