Simple Strategies for Supporting the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (DHH) Communities
It is ALWAYS important to understand other people, to accept them for who they are, and to make sure that everyone feels included in the communities that we create together.
Here's what you'll find in this blog:
Specific Strategies for Communicating WITHOUT ASL
Tips for Leaders & Content Creators
DHH Creators to Follow
Quick & Easy DHH specific Videos
Simple Strategies for Communicating with DHH Individuals
Whether you have a friend or family member who is deaf or hard of hearing, or you’re just interested in learning more about ways to communicate with people who are deaf/hard of hearing, these simple tips will help you to become a leader in the movement toward greater diversity, and to create a bigger, better, and more inclusive future!
Assume Competence. There are many people who will notice a person’s one limitation (such as limited hearing) and assume that this person must have other limitations as well! Usually, they will assume that these limitations have to do with “intelligence”. But the truth is that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are not necessarily cognitively impaired. Most of the time, the only “difference” is that they use a different language!
You should assume that they are capable of participating in any discussions and/or activities that are available to everyone else. If they happen to require additional support, you can always change your approach as the conversation moves along. But start by giving them every opportunity to be join in and contribute to whatever might be going on.
Be Resourceful. Sign Language and Spoken Language are not the only two ways in the universe to communicate! One of the major differences between someone who uses sign language and someone who speaks a spoken language is that, usually, people who are deaf or hard of hearing can read and write in English! This means that you have MANY options for resourceful communication.
DEAF SPECIFIC: Here are some tips for communicating with someone who’s deaf:
Use a pen and paper to write down your thoughts
Use your cell phone notes or messaging apps to share words and/or images
Use your body! To quote my idol, Ursula, “Don’t underestimate the importance of body language!” Gestures can be powerful. Even if you’re not using proper sign language, any attempt at communication will likely be appreciated.
Make Eye Contact. If a deaf person is not looking at your body while you gesture, they probably don't know that you are trying to communicate. Make sure that you seek eye contact before you begin communicating. This is especially important in urgent and/or emergency situations.
HARD OF HEARING SPECIFIC: Here are some tips for communicating with someone who’s hard of hearing:
Speak louder than usual. This should be obvious, but you might be surprised at how many people do not make this adjustment even after they know that they are communicating with someone who struggles to hear. You don’t need to scream or exaggerate. Just raise the volume to make sure everyone has access to what you’re saying.
Make sure your lips are visible. Watching the movement of your lips can help a person who is hard of hearing to make out what you’re saying. So speak with your face toward the person, and make sure that they have a clear view of your mouth.
Repeat yourself if/when it’s necessary. People who are hard of hearing will miss out on bits and pieces of conversations. Repeat what you’ve said if it is requested, and check in with the person if they seem lost or confused. They may not always tell you when they need help.
Repeat others if/when it’s necessary. Beyond repeating yourself, you may also need to repeat what others say --especially if they are standing further away from the hard of hearing person than you are. Proximity is important for people who are hard of hearing, so if you’re close and able to help out, you could make a huge difference!
Share what you know! People with hearing loss, whether it’s mild or profound, may not always hear important comments, jokes, information, plans, etc. Here are some tips for how you can make sure that no person is left behind!
DEAF SPECIFIC: Here are some tips for sharing info with someone who’s deaf:
Shoulder tap if something interesting is happening
Type or write out group updates such as plans and instructions for group activities, secrets that are being shared, jokes that are relevant to the group, etc. This way, they won’t have to sit and try to read lips (which is NOT something that every deaf person can or should do).
Use your face! Facial expressions are an important part of sign language because your face alone can communicate a wide range of emotion! So even if you’re not using sign language, you can use your facial expressions as another way to create access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
HARD OF HEARING SPECIFIC: Here are some tips for sharing info with someone who’s hard of hearing:
Be patient. Repeating yourself and/or others might become annoying after a few times because we hearing folk are used to saying and hearing things the first time. We also live in a society that promotes an every person for themselves mentality! I suggest that we start to move away from that together.
Be compassionate. If you start to feel annoyed, try to remember how hard it must be not to be able to hear everything that’s being said. What if you were the only person in your friends Zoom group who was experiencing audio interference? You would see
Be prompt. One of the worst things you can do is to say, “I’ll just tell you later”. Can you reawlly not spare a few seconds to make sure that another human has the same opportunities that you do? YOU could have the power to help this person feel like a part of the crew! Why wouldn’t you use it?
Tips for Leaders & Content Creators:
Caption all of your videos. This is a simple accommodation that isn't always so easy --but it is always worth it. Luckily, there are more and more apps to help you caption your video content effortlessly! Captioning your videos will accommodate any deaf individuals who might watch, but you should caption even if you have not been made aware of any hearing challenges. While it can be obvious if a person is deaf, it is sometimes hard to tell if a person is hard of hearing. Many people will hide this from others due to feelings of embarrassment. You never know who might be struggling.
Caption your meetings. This is another SUPER easy accommodation that you can implement for free, and sometimes literally with the click of a button.
Take the extra time. Does creating Inclusion also mean more work for you? The short answer is "yes". But this is true for any type of change. Because change requires learning and doing and growing. But you're not moving mountains here! All you need to do is take some time to learn more, ask questions, collaborate with others. These things alone can lead to monumental change.
Create an Inclusive Environment. As a leader in any situation (i.e., boss at work, leader at church, online influencer, etc.), you have a responsibility to make each of your followers feel included and supported. You can start by educating yourself so that you can then spread awareness AND empower others to do the same.
Take your cues from the EXPERTS. At the end of the day, the true experts are the individuals who have spent their entire lives with hearing differences. So if you really want to know how to proceed, you should follow their lead. This is especially true if you're dealing with specific individuals versus the community in general. Make sure that you check in with them privately so that they feel respected and supported.
Notes (Free): Use the free notes app already on your phone to communicate with others using text/written language.
MixCaptions (Free/Paid Options): Add closed captioning to your videos manually or automatically with a user-friendly format. Use it for professional videos and/or social media posts (TikTok, Instagram, etc.)
AVA (Free): This app listens to hearing speaker and creates live closed captioning for deaf / hard of hearing users
Google Slides (Free): You can caption your presentations LIVE with Google Slides, simply by pressing the "CC" button at the bottom of your presenter screen!
LifePrint.com (Free Website): This is my favorite ASL "dictionary" for anyone interested in learning the language. This is a completely free, donation-based program, and it is extremely easy to use!
DPAN.TV (Free): Watch a variety of ASL shows on one app, ranging from news to skits, to talk shows and more! If you already know some sign, this app could be a great way to practice and improve!
A Few Deaf/Hard of Hearing Creators:
The Daily Moth YouTube/FB Bio: "The Daily Moth delivers news in video using ASL. The Deaf host, Alex Abenchuchan, covers trending stories and Deaf topics with a twist of humor and Deaf culture." DailyMoth.com
NADvlogs YouTube Bio: Mission The NAD mission is to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.
The Endless Show Facebook Bio:"Enjoy our short Deaf shows that will make you laugh so hard...maybe!"
Deafies in Drag YouTube/FB/IG Bio: "Deafies in Drag is about two Deaf comedic drag queens that act out skits. It includes parodies, storytelling, vlogs, and short films.
Chella Man Instagram @ChellaMan Bio: ARTIST. AUTHOR. DEAF. TRANS. GENDERQUEER. 🇭🇰 ✡︎
Scarlet_May.1 TikTok/IG Bio: "Follow me. You'll feel better."
Quick & Easy DHH Videos! Want to learn more about the deaf hard of hearing community and culture? Check out these fun, quick, easy-to-watch videos to get you started!