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Deaf awareness resources

Beginners Guide to Communicating with D/deaf / Deafblind People 

Communicating with a D/deaf / Deafblind Person 

  • Eye Contact is important. 
  • Speak clearly direct to the D/deaf / Deafblind person; using gestures/facial expression will help. 
  • Consider Preferred communication method. 
  • Consider location, quiet room, good lighting. 
  • Not all D/deaf / Deafblind people communicate using Sign Language ask the person their preferred method of communication.  
  • BSL is a visual language not written, it is a language in its own right and does not follow the same order or structure as English.  


  • If a D/deaf / Deafblind person does not understand you, they may ask you to repeat what you are saying.  
  • It may be better if you rephrase the sentence or words rather than trying to repeat it repeatedly. E.g. Make an appointment for next week can be rephrased to come back in 7 days.  

Lip Reading 

  • Do not turn your head away – eye contact is important. 
  • Do not shout – this will only distort the sound. 
  • Use clear lip patterns. 
  • Do not over exaggerate your facial movements. 
  • Make sure the light is on your face. 
  • Cut out as much background noise as possible. 
  • Use gestures and facial expressions. 
  • Do not cover your mouth with a book or paper. 
  • Tell the D/deaf / Deafblind person what you are/ will be talking about 
  • Let the D/deaf / Deafblind person know if you change the subject. 
  • Use plain language – many words look the same on the lips. 

Guidelines for Using an Interpreter 

  • Make sure they are qualified, regulated, and independent. 
  • Avoid using a family member or friend. 
  • The Interpreter should sit opposite the Deaf person i.e. next to the speaker. 
  • Always direct questions to the Deaf person, not the Interpreter 
  • Plan meetings/appointments in advance and where possible always keep to the confirmed date as there are approx. 1,500 qualified Interpreters throughout the U.K and 87,000 Deaf people who have BSL as their first/preferred language making it difficult to book Interpreters at short notice. 

Health Care Setting Specific (all of the above also applies to Health Care Setting) 

  • Ensure your record system can log effective ‘communication’ alerts to the D/deaf, Deafblind person’s file as soon as it is accessed. For example, face the person, speak clearly, and book BSL interpreter for appointments. Etc. 
  • Please consider using plain English when contacting a Deaf / Deafblind person by letter/email/text message. 
  • Display all communication options clearly on all communications. 
  • Provide effective training to all front-line staff e.g. Deaf Awareness Training, British Sign Language Training. 
  • Review signage from the main door to the reception area to make sure it’s both clear and accessible. 
  • Install an accessible system to ‘call’ patients to the consulting rooms e.g. Visual Display. 
  • Make sure the person has been made aware that their name has been called, and if needed take them to the consulting room. You can do this by walking over to them and attracting their attention. Pass on communication needs to the person carrying out the appointment. 
  • Install a Loop system for hearing aid users, ensure this is switched on when required and regularly maintained. 
  • Undertake an access audit with recommendations on how to make your service accessible for D/deaf / Deafblind people.