As a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults), I have experienced the different reactions that people usually have when they meet my Deaf and sign language user parents.
Sometimes the encounter is completely normal, the conversation is fluid and no-one feels excluded or uncomfortable, but in other cases, the entire situation becomes awkward, frustrating, or even funny!
I'll list some types of people and situations that a deaf person faces when meet a hearing person. Feel free to add in the comments yours one!
The enthusiast. Usually, very kind and keen to show teir knowledge of sign language.
The shy one. They will try to avoid any eye contact, so they don't have to interact with the deaf person. Please, just relax ;)
The slow-talker. The one who speaks extra slowly and exaggerate their lip movements. This doesn't help, it actually makes harder to lipread.
The one who talks to the interpreter (family member in my case). I know it might sound strange, but if you are having a conversation with a deaf person, you should face them and talk directly to the them, not the interpreter. (Read our article about how to work with a Sign Language Interpreter)
The one who just speaks to the hearing people in a group. Yes, I have been in situations where, in a group, people just ignore the deaf person and talk to the hearing one/s. Even though I am not affected, it does hurt. Please, don't do that.
The helper. That person, in their keenness to offer "accessibility", who ends up offering the deaf person a braille menu in a restaurant, or a wheelchair in an airport. True story.
The embarrassed one. Usually feels uncomfortable with facial expressions. The use of facial expressions in Sign Language ARE MANDATORY. Asking a Deaf person to "tone down" their facial expressions because they are making others uncomfortable is offensive. Deaf people rely on 'tone of face' and other factors to alter and understand the meaning of signs. (Read our aricle about Audism and the different forms of discrimination towards Deaf people)
The patroniser. Well, this is a difficult one! Saying things like "you speak so well for someone who is deaf" can be very offensive. No one likes being patronised and that includes people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
I hope you will find this article useful. The aim is to raise deaf awareness and help make the interaction comfortable and easy for all concerned, especially the deaf person.
Feel free to share with those who might be interested and leave your comments below.