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How To: Approach A Deaf Person

Deaf people don't bite! Here are a few tips to help you break through those pesky language and cultural barriers and make some new deaf acquaintances.

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DO: Make eye contact and be sincere

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Eye contact is a huge part of Deaf culture, if you want a deaf individual to pay attention to you, you'll need to catch their eye and continue looking them in the face throughout the conversation. This helps the deaf individual follow your body language and aids in lip reading.

DO: Ask the best way to communicate

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Some deaf people prefer to write notes back and forth, while others may be comfortable reading lips. For short encounters, some deaf people prefer to use gestures and pointing. Each individual is different! If you are confused, simply ask the person in writing-- either on a piece paper or on your phone-- the best way to communicate.

DO: Be Patient

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If a deaf person asks you to repeat yourself, don't get frustrated! In addition to language complications, there are also cultural differences that may require more clear explanations.

DO: Expect physical contact

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To get another person's attention, a deaf individual might gently tap them on the shoulder or wave their hand near that person's face. Depending on the situation, a deaf person might pat you on the back, arm, or leg to emphasize a point or demonstrate empathy. Generally physical contact is not intended to be disrespectful.

The truth is, deaf people often spend their lives being overlooked and avoided. When you make an effort to welcome deaf people into a hearing space-- when you make an effort to actually engage a deaf person in conversation-- you break down one more little piece of the communication barrier that keeps us all apart.

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