Deaf etiquette: 7 things to know | locallove

How to communicate effectively—and respectfully—with someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing

If someone approaches to talk to me and I don’t grasp what they’re saying right away, I’ll say, “Sorry, I’m deaf. Could you please repeat that?” Surprisingly often, the other person will respond, “I’m sorry,” and just walk away. But what I don’t need is pity; it would be way more helpful—and thoughtful—for hearing people to learn how to hold a conversation with someone like me who is deaf or hard of hearing.

I’m oral deaf, which means I have profound hearing loss, and I use speech and the combination of hearing aids and lip-reading to communicate with hearing people. At age 18, I learned American Sign Language (ASL) at The Canadian Hearing Society, a United Way–supported agency. Today I’m a part-time American Sign Language teacher at Seneca College and Deaf Access Simcoe Muskoka.

My experiences in many different contexts have shown me that hearing people are just not educated enough about deaf people, and they don’t know how to communicate with us politely and effectively. I’ve even had friends who told the server in a restaurant that they’re deaf, and then were handed a menu in Braille!

Learning deaf etiquette and communication strategies is an important way to help make our communities more inclusive. Ideally, these skills would be taught to all kids at a young age in schools. Service providers—especially medical service providers—should absolutely know the basics, too. Following these tips and strategies is a good start.

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