Have you ever heard about "Dinner Table Syndrome"? Deaf people use this term to describe the isolation that grows out of being surrounded by non-signing, hearing people and the feeling of being left out of conversations and interactions at the dinner table.
Full mouths, people talking all at the same time, quick changes of topics, poor accessible environment/lighting – these things all combine to make communication difficult.
Imagine feeling excluded from conversations with your family or best friends over dinner. You'd probably feel hurt, upset and isolated. This can lead to feeling “stressed out”, lonely, frustrated, angry, unimportant and by default your fellow diners will think YOU are the rude one for not participating?! They will not understand why you are suddenly withdrawn and quiet….
This is how most of deaf or hard of hearing people feel during family/friends' dinner parties, at work events, at Christmas...
The following tips might help you to understand the situation and be more deaf aware. Empathy and patience are the key:
Try to find a round table, this will make it easier for the Deaf person to see everyone and therefore to see who is speaking and be able to read their lips.
Find a place with good lighting and avoid loud background noises.
Don't speak with your mouth full or turn your head away from your Deaf friend/colleague. Try not to cover your mouth with your hand when you speak. If they can't see your whole face, they can't read your lips.
Get the deaf person’s attention before starting a story by waving in their eyeline or tapping their shoulder, and ensure that they can understand the conversation and that you actively want to include them. Now you may begin!
If the Deaf person misses something, don't leave them out of conversations or say things like "oh, it was nothing" or "I'll tell you later". That robs them of the chance to participate in that moment.
Brush up on your fingerspelling and basic signs to ease communication.
Help us raise awareness by sharing these simple and basic tips and tricks to help everyone feel more included.