Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language have a different grammatical structure to their communication.
This grammatical structure is commonly described as a “Topic Comment Structure“. This means that the topic is stated first and then a comment about that topic is stated and explained afterwards.
Let’s give you an example sentence and how this could be signed:
Suppose you said: “Peter and I went swimming yesterday.“
This would be signed “Swimming, yesterday with Peter”.
Or you said: “Come on let’s take the dog for a walk, it’s a nice day!“
That would be signed: “dog walk, nice day“ and a nod of the head in the direction of the door!
See the amount of English not needed?!
Passing notes, sending letters, emails or even texts do not always help when you have little or no access to written English.
Remember, unless you are using plain English, it can effectively be a foreign language to a Deaf person, even if they are British born.
So, if you need to communicate with a Deaf person in writing, just follow these simple tips to make the communication easy:
Use bullet points, and double line spacing to allow for one line to be read at a time.
Avoid looking at the paperwork and continuing to talk. Make always eye contact.
Be clear, use simple words and avoid jargon.
Use direct questions. They are not rude for a Deaf person.
Don’t add lots of language when it’s not needed. Just remember that the 70 to 90% of their communication is nonverbal.
If a diagram is easier to show something, use it. Deaf people work in a visual format and diagrams really work.
If you have a form or leaflet you can use, underline the key points, or highlight where the answers need completing.
If you have staff, colleagues or customers who are deaf or hard of hearing, ensure they feel included with Deaf Awareness Training. This course will help you to support equality and reduce unintentional discrimination in your workplace.
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