If you’ve never worked with a Sign Language interpreter before, you may not be aware of how to prepare for and conduct yourself during this interaction. Don’t worry – below are several guidelines that will help make a positive experience for you, the interpreter, and most importantly, the Deaf or Hard of Hearing (HoH) individual.
The loss of the ability to communicate can mean a loss of quality of life, especially for those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of ability, by requiring businesses and organizations to offer reasonable accommodations that allow for effective communication. For Deaf/HoH people, this could mean anything from captioning, texting, video relay services, or sign language interpreting services, dependent on the individual. The vision of Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center (CHSC) is a community where everyone communicates effectively.
Caring. Compassionate. Funny. Loves God. Can’t wait until Fall when Starbucks comes out with their signature Pumpkin Spice Latte with coconut milk. This person I’m describing is my sister, and she is deaf. She endured a terrible sickness at the age of 1 that took away her hearing, but not her spirit. My family and I wanted to know her – her thoughts, her needs, her dreams and goals. We needed to be able to communicate effectively with her. In order to achieve this, my parents decided that we would all learn American Sign Language (ASL). Many people assume learning a new language to communicate with a deaf person will be difficult – if not impossible. However, it is very possible to learn American Sign Language. Regardless of your age, if you are willing to learn, you will discover that your loved one holds all kinds of amazing ideas and plans for adventure. You and your loved one will thrive! Here are some tips to make learning American Sign Language more successful:
- Use a normal speaking pattern. Over-enunciating makes it hard for a Deaf person to read your lips.
- Write it down if necessary. Some people are better at reading lips than others
- Look directly at the person you are communicating with. If you look away, a Deaf person may miss what you are saying.
- Speak in a normal tone of voice. Since a Deaf person cannot hear you, raising your voice doesn’t help.
- Try to find your own way to communicate. Although you can’t talk to one another, there are many other ways for you to communicate. You can use a pen and paper or even text to have a conversation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a Deaf person to repeat themselves. The goal is clear communication and understanding. Asking to repeat something has better results and less frustration – for both parties.
- Be patient and inclusive. Imagine you are trying to understand a conversation that you want to be involved in, but are unable due to the conversation’s speed, number of people talking at the same time, and/or not being able to share your ideas with the group. By allowing enough time and considering the communication needs of everyone in the group, you ensure that everyone can participate fully.
- In a group conversation, take turns speaking. A Deaf person can only look at one individual at a time.
- Be clear and concise. Saying “I’m fine” can have many different meanings with subtle differences. For example “I’m fine” can mean
- I feel well
- I feel the same way I always feel
- I’m way too busy to know how I feel
- Don’t bother me
- Did you want to know about my emotional or physical well-being?
- You don’t care how I feel or would have stopped walking to listen
- Use body language and gestures. Deaf and hard of hearing people who use sign language are accustomed to using their hands and face to communicate. Gesturing and using clear facial expressions when speaking to a person with hearing challenges can help them understand what you’re saying. “Miming” is also acceptable if it helps to get a certain point across, but remember that mime is not the same as sign language.
- Accept that awkward moments happen. Even if you follow all of the above tips while speaking to a Deaf or hard of hearing person, they’ll probably still misunderstand you at some point. Don’t feel bad or stop. Just repeat yourself and continue the conversation. If they’re having trouble understanding a certain word or phrase, try using a different word, rephrasing what you said, or typing it on your phone.
- Resist the urge to give up when misunderstandings happen. A little effort on your part can make a big difference to someone, and chances are that you’ll benefit from the experience, too.
There are countless reasons why the Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) is a wonderful resource for Deaf individuals as well as those who want to learn more about Deaf culture.
The Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center (CHSC) has launched a new initiative beginning in February 2018. CCDHH will offer their first accredited American Sign Language interpreter workshop with a focus on medical interpreting. If well received and attended by the interpreting community, it is our hope that this will become an ongoing project with interpreter trainings provided more regularly. By creating these workshops, CCDHH hopes to increase professional development opportunities for interpreters in the greater Cleveland area. Currently, interpreters in our area in pursuit of continuing education credits are limited to on-line courses or they must travel a distance (even out of state) to obtain the credits to maintain their licensure and/or increase their knowledge.