Much of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community relies on lip reading to communicate in their everyday lives. The wearing of masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 has stripped away much of this community’s ability to do so. Read below for some tips on how we can better serve our deaf and hard-of-hearing members and participants as we re-open our facilities and restart our programs.

1. Look for signs. They may lean forward. Point to ear. Not answer questions correctly. They may be embarrassed and act like they hear you, but ignore your instructions. They may cut conversation short to avoid embarrassment of not understanding.

2. Enunciate. Do not yell or speak louder but enunciate. Speaking at a very loud tone or yelling is extremely offensive. Just speak clearly.

3. Ask the best way to communicate. Use your phone and type (you can type in messaging or notepad). Remove masks at a safe distance.

4. Always face forward.

5. Put them at ease. Masks make everything harder, even for hearing people. Use that as an icebreaker.

6. Consider a quieter place in the Y if they want to talk more; Y front desk areas are loud.

7. Use your Listen First skills! Summarize what you heard and share with the person to clarify.

8. Understand the deaf and hard-of-hearing community is fiercely independent. Do not overdo it, simple kindness will mean the world. They do not need you to hold their hand, just to find the best solution for that individual.

9. Have patience.

Authored by: cmccauley