8 Clichés About Deaf People

 

Deaf people have long been marginalized. Sign language was even banned for decades. Today, deaf people want to live an ordinary life within society. Who are they? What are their needs and how can they feel welcomed within public places? Let’s toss aside our prejudices and see what we can all do in our own way!

As a bonus, you might discover some small but surprising facts.

 

1. Deaf people? There are none in my town

That’s what you think, for good reason. Deafness is an invisible disability, like 80% of all other disabilities. According to the WHO, hearing loss afflicts over 5% of the world’s population and one-third of people over 65. It generally occurs due to age or prolonged exposure to noise.

2. The deaf hear nothing

There is actually a small minority among deaf people who cannot hear anything.

A hearing impairment extends from a simple difficulty in understanding a conversation between several people to a complete loss of hearing. Less than 5% of people with a hearing impairment are completely deaf.

Even a person with profound deafness can perceive certain sounds. However, that does not mean that such sounds are of any use to them.

3. Deaf people need sign language to communicate

Sign language is certainly essential for those who use it. It is their first language and communicating with them through it is the best way to ensure they understand the message. But only approximately 5% of deaf people rely on sign language.

To facilitate the access and use of services by the deaf and hard of hearing, the following should be ensured first and foremost:

⊗ Good lighting;

⊗ The absence of light effects causing silhouettes, especially at the reception desk;

⊗ The addition of a visual display with text, images and icons to accompany PA announcements;

⊗ Amplifier systems or hearing induction loops;

⊗ The availability of writing or drawing materials;

⊗ Trained staff.

4. You can shout to be heard

This is certainly the last thing that you should do.

A deaf person is deaf. Yelling is pointless, their hearing will not suddenly be restored!

Even if they can perceive some sounds or have a hearing aid, shouting deforms the mouth and makes lip reading more difficult. Just make the effort to speak clearly, not too quickly and enunciate without exaggeration.

5. You can just write to communicate with a deaf person

This often makes things easier but it is far from being an all-purpose solution.

Obviously, writing is the best solution for those who lost their hearing after they learned to read. If your job involves greeting the public, always have a pen and paper handy.

However, illiteracy is very common among deaf people. While statistics show that things are changing for the better in terms of teaching methods for the deaf, learning to read remains a long and difficult process for those who cannot hear because they are unable to associate letters with their sounds. So, writing is not always the preferred method of communication for the deaf.

6. Deaf people can read lips

Reading lips is indeed one of the main compensations derived from the loss of hearing. But like writing, it is not solution that applies to all deaf people. It is once again a question of learning. In any case, only a part of the message is received. Try adding explicit gestures to your words and reformulate the wording if necessary.

Lip reading requires the speaker to have their face unobstructed, and well-lit with no shadows. Chewing gum or even having a mustache can make reading lips more difficult. Lipstick helps though. But not everyone can pull off makeup.

7. The deaf are also mute

This may be the case but it is certainly not a given.

Deafness does not affect the vocal cords. If some deaf people don’t speak, it might be because they never learned or they choose not to speak for fear of being judged or misunderstood.

Imagine having to repeat something you did not hear. This is the problem faced by deaf children. And the reason learning to speak is far more difficult for them and requires prolonged sessions with a speech therapist. Yet, it is possible!

Many deaf people can speak (especially young people and those who lost their hearing after having learned how to speak) and even very clearly.

8. Sign language is an international language

No, it isn’t. Every country has their own sign language.

Sign language is a true language with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax. If deaf people have an advantage over the hearing, it is that they can communicate with someone from another country a lot quicker. There are fewer differences between two sign languages than there are between two spoken languages.

Incidentally, two countries with the same spoken language, the United Kingdom and the United States, do not share the same sign language.

If you like this article, read this one: 8 Clichés About Blind People

There are many clichés about the deaf and those mentioned here are just a sample. You will find other articles about hearing impairment and other disabilities in our webzine.

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A deaf person is deaf. Yelling is pointless, their hearing will not suddenly be restored!

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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