Information for helping Deaf people
Deaf - ways
Helen Keller said, ‘I am just as deaf as I am blind! The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus—the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of people’.
What is it like to live without sound? It is very hard for hearing people to understand this, because we cannot switch off sound and so do not know what it is like to have ears shut, which is more than not being able to hear. If we are with a blind person, we would not show that person a picture and ask them what it looks like. That would be insensitive and cruel. But many people do not understand that the same is true for Deaf people, when they are expected to know how words sound, and to understand a language based on sound. How can we be sensitive and caring for Deaf people?
One Deaf person asked, ‘What sound do butterflies make?’ People who use a capital ‘D’ for Deaf are those who consider themselves part of the Deaf culture and community which has links to the Deaf community all over the world. This was recognised in New Zealand when New Zealand Sign Language became the third official language of the country in April 2006.
There are over half a million people living with hearing loss in New Zealand, with about 8,000 who are profoundly Deaf. Throughout the world, these numbers are multiplied again and again. How can hearing people help Deaf people to feel accepted and included, rather than rejected and excluded?
Deaf people are very keen to help people communicate—after all, they best understand what it is like to have problems talking with people.
Ask the person how best to communicate
· Hearing people often feel concern about communicating with Deaf people. There is no need to worry—Deaf people will help.
Getting the Deaf person’s attention
· Please, don’t shout. Tap the person’s arm or shoulder or wave a hand where the person can see.
· In a group, tapping the table, stamping on the floor or flicking the lights on.
Look directly at the Deaf person·
Deaf people will sit/stand in a circle so that everyone can see. This allows Deaf communication, especially through sign language, to be seen by everyone.
Keep facing people with hearing loss and make sure the Deaf/hearing impaired person can always see your lips. (It is difficult to lip read someone with a beard or moustache)
· Covering the lips or turning around means that the Deaf person cannot understand what is happening. As it is also hard for Deaf and hearing impaired people to communicate in a crowd, any help will be appreciated.
· Deaf people are called ‘people of the eye’. Words are less important than pictures. Many Deaf people have low literacy skills as reading and writing is based on hearing. (Sign language was not taught in deaf schools until the early 1980s.)
· Only the most expensive hearing aids will cut out back ground noise. Because of this, it can be hard for people with hearing loss to hear when there is background noise.
· Light and shadow are significant for ‘people of the eye’, especially those who lip read. As Deaf people need to concentrate on body language as well as reading lips and hands, good lighting is important.
What are the good visual clues?
· Facial expressions
· Body language
· Using hands to gesture
Learning Sign Language
· Deaf people communicate using a very beautiful language which is now the third official language of New Zealand. Learning Sign Language allows a cross-cultural dialogue that enriches both parties, and empowers the whole community to come together.
DEAF PEOPLE AND CHURCH
Most Deaf people are not used to coming to Church because it is a hearing environment. Everything that happens, from singing hymns to liturgy and reading the Bible, especially the Sermon, is word based and assumes that people can hear.
Deaf people cannot participate in such worship and find attending such services exacting and boring. But this can change with help from hearing people! Providing interpreters is very, very important. This means that Deaf people can participate and understand what is happening - it is a basic for churches who want to include Deaf people into their congregations. Powerpoint presentations, especially those with lots of pictures, can be very helpful. Having visual keys in the service and a warm, welcoming atmosphere will also help Deaf people feel they are accepted and wanted within the worshiping community.