Deaf Awareness Week – tip number two

It’s day two of deaf awareness week and I’m blogging my own personal deaf awareness tips all week long. Here’s my second:

2. Remember, it’s all about context.

I’ve always thought that communicating as a deaf person is a bit like completing a jigsaw. I have hearing aids and when I was younger I had radio aids too. Sure, they helped which is great. But they don’t “cure” my deafness. Making things louder does not help my strange deaf brain “make sense”, process and understand what the noises mean. So I rely on lipreading to help me make sense of stuff. But this isn’t an exact science either (Charlie Swinbourne’s excellent blog explains more about this). So I might also rely on other clues or use my intuition – if I’m at the Asda checkout, I’m guessing that I’m going to be asked about wanting cash-back or a carry bags. If instead I get asked about the football game last night, I’m probably going to look a bit blank (this is true on nearly all other occasions, but anyhow).

Completing a jigsaw is obviously much easier if you know what the finished product is meant to look like. Or if the individual pieces reveal little clues. It’s the same with me for communication. If I know what you’re talking about in advance, if I’ve got enough clues or if it’s in the right “context”, I can guess or make sense of what you’re going to go on and say, even if I don’t quite catch all the individual words you throw at me.

What does this mean in practice? Well, for example, you could start a conversation by saying what the topic is (“Did you see the TV last night?) rather than launching straight into the detail (“Louis Walsh was an idiot saying yes to that dancing woman on Britain’s Got Talent last night”). If you’re changing the topic or if the topic is alien to the situation, you could, for example, just literally move your hands to gesture you’ve moved on, rather than just immediately segue from asking if I want a cup of tea to the relative merits of the Alternative Vote system. For deaf children, it could mean teachers putting the classroom topic on the whiteboard or literally closing a folder or pile of papers to indicate the end of something and start of something else.

In short, my second deaf awareness tip of the week is: it’s all about context. Make the context clear, and communication will be much easier.

Is this an important deaf awareness tip for you too? Or is there something more important you’re waiting to see? I have three other tips lined up, but leave a comment below to share your ideas and thoughts.

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