Tips for Communicating with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind have the right to clear and effective communication. Communication access, through appropriate accommodations, means that these individuals are given exactly the same information that people who can hear receive.

Communication access does not strictly concern language access. It also encompasses a much broader definition of access such as environmental accessibility. For example, visual fire alarms are one form of communication access.;

Guidelines for respectful and effective communication:

  • Get his/her attention, make eye contact.

  • Make sure your face and body is visible.

  • Use your normal tone, volume and speed.

  • Do not over enunciate or yell.

  • Use check back strategies to make sure everything is going smoothly or if adjustments need to be made.

  • If you sense a struggle rephrase your comment or question. For example, “What is your address?” might become “Where do you live?”

  • Be aware of your environment.  Is lighting adequate?  Is there a lot of background noise?

  • Be sure your mouth is free of obstructions such as a cigarette or food.

  • Be aware of your tone of voice.  Unconsciously you may sound or look patronizing.

  • Remember facial expressions and body language influence understanding.  Only 20% of the English language is visible on the lips.  This means that is impossible to completely depend on lip reading to understand the entire message.  It may be necessary to rephrase.

  • Be patient and flexible!

Additional Resources relating to Communication Access

Communication Tips

Last Revised: September 18, 2015