Useful tips for working/communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing
If a deaf or hard of hearing person is speech reading (reading your lips) be sure there is plenty of light to see but not too bright such as the sun through a window. Sometimes the glare of the sun can prohibit the deaf person from adequately speech reading.
Try to learn and understand their Culture just as we expect them to know ours.
If you are a business owner and hire a deaf person, be sure to have an interpreter if needed for meetings. It would also be helpful to have a TTY handy in case the deaf person needs to make a call. Under the "American with Disabilities Act" employers with 15 or more employees may not refuse to hire or promote a person because of a disability. The employer must also make resonable accomodations that allow the person to peform their job.
If you are in the Human Service related field especially Medical or Mental Health, a TDD must be provided for the patient as well as visual aids, such as a visual fire alram and the TDD must have a Visual Ring signaler. A visual ring signaler attaches to the TDD and a lamp and will blink when the patient receives a phone call. Hospitals can order an ADA kit which includes items that will assist the deaf indivual with equal access. An Interpreter MUST be provided for the deaf person under the American With Disabilites Act (ADA).Visit these links for more ADA info:
If your area has a Deaf Service Center, than more than likely that is who you would call for Interpreting services.
Don't necessarily rely on note-taking or speech reading unless the client knows no manual communication (Sign language). Do not use staff who knows sign unless they are certified. Certified means they either have been State and/or Nationally tested (such as through RID - Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). American Sign Language is not a language that can be mastered from taking one or two classes, the complexity and variations of sign would be too difficult for someone with minimal signing skills to understand. There are also a number of different modes of manual communication as well as minimum language skills. Equal Access is the key here and Communication is essential in these kinds of settings. Be sure to check out my links pertaining to Resources for Professionals working with the deaf and my section on laws.
Speak to the deaf or hard of hearing person directly; do not talk to the interpreter. This may seem awkward at first as you will be looking at the deaf person while talking but the deaf person will be looking at the interpreter however, when the deaf person responds he/she should look at you while the interpreter is voicing for the deaf person. Sound a bit weird? Once you start to work with an interpreter and a deaf client/employee you will become more comfortable.
Speak in a normal regular tone, you don't have to talk slow or take long pauses, keep a normal flow. However, when stating a person's name you may want to take a quick pause so that the interpreter will have enough time to fingerspell the name.
In reference to Interpreters, there is code of ethics that interpreters follow. A couple of tenants of the Code of Ethics are; Confidentiality and rendering the message faithfully in the content and spirit of the speaker in the most readily understood language of the client. When the interpreter voices for the deaf person, they are merely the deaf person's voice. It is important for one to remember the role of the interpreter.