For non-signing library staff to communicate with co-workers and/or customers who are deaf:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. A light touch on the shoulder, a wave, or other visual signals will help.
- Look directly at the person when signing/speaking even when an interpreter is present.
- Speak slowly and clearly without shouting; don’t exaggerate or overemphasize lip movements.
- Use body language and facial expression to supplement your communication.
- Maintain eye contact.
- If the person doesn't understand you, rephrase your message instead of repeating it more loudly. Use short sentences.
- Keep your hands away from your face and mouth while speaking.
- Make sure lighting makes your face clearly visible. Avoid situations where there is distracting black lighting. For example, do not stand in front of a sunny window.
- Be aware that gum chewing, cigarette smoking, pencil biting, and similar obstructions of the lips will lessen the effectiveness of your communication.
- Tell the person if the telephone rings or there is some other interruption.
- Do not ignore the person and make her/him wait while you carry on a conversation with someone else. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
- Be familiar with auxiliary aids, such as TTY, telephone relay services, video relay services (VRS) and assistive listening devices and systems (ALDS).
- Respect people for making their choice to use auxiliary aids and services.
- Be aware that many people share common values and beliefs based on their background, so please respect their culture.
- Never ask people if they can read lips. Some do, but it can be a strain for them because many words look alike on the lips. Asking about reading lips seems to put the responsibility for communication on the other person, when it should be a shared exchange.
- Use paper and pen to lessen misunderstanding
- If you know sign language, tell them but please do not assume that all deaf people know or use sign language.