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Basic Guide for Communication in Catalan Sign Language

1.4. Communication Guidelines

The first thing to remember when wanting to communicate with another person is that there is nothing better than the will to make oneself understood. Knowing sign language will help a great deal when communicating with deaf people, but it is also essential that we understand the nature of who we are communicating with, in this case someone who cannot hear us. The following are a few tips to help us interact and communicate correctly:

  • To draw the attention of a deaf person all we need to do is touch them lightly on the shoulder if they are turned away, or wave our hand if they can see us. In other cases we might turn on and off the lights or stomp our feet on the ground to make them feel the vibration.
  • Leaving our mouth visible at all times is important so that the person can read our lips. This means not covering our mouth with our hands, or speaking with a pen between our teeth, or holding any other object or position which may hinder lip-reading.
  • Facial expressions are another element which will help us communicate with a deaf person, as we will see later on. At present it is important to keep in mind the components which make up discourses, such as mimes, gestures and writing. Thus, if we do not make ourselves understood we can reformulate what we want to express using other means.
  • Respecting the divided attention of a deaf person is important if we want them to understand us fully. We must try not to give information at the same time as we are pointing to an object such as a text or an image, but rather wait until they have seen the object before continuing with the explanation. If we are reading a text, we must not continue speaking if we lower our heads to continue reading.
  • Depending on the degree of hearing loss it might help to speak a bit louder. However, there is no need to yell because this will make us lose facial expression and is of no use to people with severe or profound hearing loss. We must also control our speed and try not to speak too fast nor too slow.
  • Deaf people do not perceive acoustic information through loudspeakers or other signals such as alarms, bells, horns, etc. This should be taken into account in situations in which deaf people are excluded from messages received only by the hearing majority.
  • Several communication means can be used when wanting to contact a deaf person, such as email, short text messages, fax, letters or through the helpline centre of the Spanish Ministry for Health and Social Policies (IMSERSO).
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