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Transcript: Communication Tips

[White text on black background reads: Communication Tips. Under the text is the Minnesota Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division logo. Shawn Vriezen, Certified Deaf Interpreter, is on the right side of the screen, wearing glasses and a dark gray button-down shirt and blazer.]

Many people who are deaf, deafblind, late-deafened or hard of hearing have some remaining hearing or vision that they can use to gather information and communicate with other people. 

Here are some things that you can do to communicate more effectively with someone who is deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing. 

Making the Most of Remaining Hearing 

  • Don’t assume that the person can hear and understand you just because they are wearing a hearing aid. Ask the person what you can do to make communications easier. Remember, they are the expert! 
  • Eliminate background noise as much as possible. Close the door. Turn off the television. Ask for a table in a less crowded area of a restaurant, workplace or social gathering. 
  • Ask the person where he or she would like to sit. This allows them to control their environment as much as possible. 
  • Look directly at the person. Maintain eye contact and don’t cover your mouth, eat or chew gum while you are talking. 
  • Speak clearly, slowly, and loudly but don’t shout. 
  • If the person doesn’t understand you, rephrase your message. Stick to one idea at a time. 
  • Try to keep your sentences short and to the point. 
  • Use gestures, facial expressions and other kinds of nonverbal communication to help get your message across. 
  • Get the person’s attention before you start talking. If the person has some residual hearing, you can say the person’s name. Otherwise, tap the person on the shoulder or knock on the table. Wait until the person acknowledges you or makes eye contact before you begin. 
  • Check in with the person to be sure that he or she understands what is being discussed. 
  • Allow time for the person to respond. Don’t rush to fill the silence! 

Making the Most of Remaining Vision 

Many people who are deafblind have some residual vision. You may find these simple strategies helpful: 

  • Choose a well-lit space. 
  • Ask the person if the lighting is acceptable or should be adjusted. 
  • Make sure the light is shining on you, not in the person’s eyes.
  • Sit close enough for the person to see your face. 
  • Don’t stand or sit in front of a bright window or light. This may make it difficult for a person with limited vision to see your hands, lips or facial expression. 
  • Wear solid-colored clothing that contrasts with your skin tone. If you have lighter skin, wear dark clothing; if you have darker skin, wear a lighter color. This will make it easier for a person with limited vision to follow ASL signs, gestures, and focus on your face. 
  • Identify yourself. 
  • Say the person’s name when speaking to that person in a group situation. 

Communicating in Writing

  • Communicating in writing is often a good option. 
  • When possible, use a computer, cell phone or mobile device so you can adjust the brightness, type font, and increase the font size. 
  • Use the notes feature or an app on a cell phone or mobile device to communicate in writing. 
  • Use a dark, broad-tipped marker and white or yellow paper. 
  • Always print your message. Block letters work best.
  • Get to the point. Use diagrams and simple words and phrases. 
  • Remember A S L is the native language of many people who are deaf or deafblind. They may not be proficient communicating in other languages. 
You will find more communication tips and strategies on the website.
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