Brush up on your communication skills. The National Deaf Center (NDC) offers a self-paced “Deaf 101” class with basic knowledge and tools on communicating effectively with Deaf people. It takes about three hours and it’s totally free! You can also start learning some basic American Sign Language (ASL) words and phrases - there are lots of free apps you can download to your phone or tablet that teach you ASL and make it easier than ever before to learn. One very important thing to keep in mind while conversing in a group that includes Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing people is to avoid overlapping speech. Most hearing people do this regularly, and don’t even realize it! While communicating with this mixed group, curb the interruptions. Everyone (including your hearing friends), will appreciate your newfound communication skills.
Turn on Captions. If you’ll be showing any entertainment, don’t wait until the show begins before fumbling through your televisions settings to turn on closed captioning. Have this set before your guests arrive for everyone’s easement! There’s bound to be noise in any busy or festive environments, so captions will help all of your guests follow what’s happening.
Eyeball the environment. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people largely rely on what they can see for visual context to understand conversation. Make sure to carve out private spaces for small group conversations at your party, and ensure the environment is well lit. This will make it far easier for Deaf and Hard of Hearing guests to converse with the group. Keep an eye out for other barriers like large centerpieces or decorations that can impede line-of-sight. While that oversized flower arrangement looks nice, it can be a very literal barrier in communication for anyone, hearing or Deaf!
Hire a Professional. It’s hard for a friend or family member to both join the conversation and interpret it. Hiring an interpreter or using a qualified speech-to-text service allows a professional to take that responsibility so that everyone can relax and enjoy the party. Be sure to include your Deaf friend or family member in your selection process or ask for their preferences. What works for one person may not work for the other, and avoiding the dreaded “Dinner Table Syndrome” is key to being a good host during the holidays.
Gathering Virtually? Obviously many normally-in-person gatherings will be held virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19. If you’re celebrating the season this way with your group of friends that includes Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and hearing people, there are some basics to keep in mind to ensure everyone understands the conversation during those spooky Zoom calls. First, turn on the captions whenever possible and assign a hearing person to monitor the captions. Sometimes, when conversation in movies (or presidential debates) is word-heavy or overlapped, there will be large gaps in the captions. Second, don’t interrupt or cross talk - that age-old rule really matters here. Third, utilize the chat boxes that come with most video chat platforms! It’s the little box where you can type messages as opposed to speaking them. You’ll be surprised how natural communicating this way feels when you can see each other's faces on the call. It feels a lot like talking!
Getting into the Spirit of Halloween? If you plan on wearing a Halloween mask that covers your mouth, remember that if your Deaf friends can’t see your mouth, they can’t see your full facial expression during conversation. Nonverbal communications like facial expressions and eye contact are key to communicating. Check out our previous blog that includes clear face masks we love.
And finally, if your upcoming Halloween plans are sure to be clad in darkness outdoors, offer flashlights for anyone who needs it to shine on your face or on your hands if you’re using American Sign Language (ASL). Plus, when you’re not using it for communicating, you can also use it to show off your sparkly Luxe Silver Love Sign™ Pendant Necklace with Salt and Pepper Diamonds - the perfect accessory for this spooky season and beyond!