Can You Advocate for Yourself?
You can advocate for yourself by:
1. Speaking up for yourself
2. Standing up for your rights:
3. Making choices
Rights are things that mean you should be treated fairly
Having rights means being the boss of your own life
4. Being independent
We need information that is easy to understand so we can make the right
5. Taking responsibility for yourself
This means doing things for yourself as much as you can, without other
people always doing things for you
This means looking after yourself
Don't always wait for other people to get things done for you
Get things going yourself
Do You Need to Learn Self Advocacy Skills?
Employers may not know about your rights or the rights of individuals who
are deaf or hard of hearing.
College teachers may not know about your rights as an individual with a
Laws will protect a person with hearing loss while in secondary education,
but you must look after yourself once you leave high school.
Tips for Communicating
with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
(Rochester Institute of Technology; National Technical Institute for
Deafness is a fact of many people's lives-more than 22 million Americans
have some form of hearing loss. Like their hearing counterparts,
deaf people build successful careers, have families, watch television,
go to the movies, talk on the telephone, play sports, and travel throughout
Most deaf people don't view their deafness as a disability or as a problem
that should be fixed. For many of them, it's a natural part of a
cultural experience that they share with friends, both deaf and hearing.
Deaf culture is a sense of community among deaf people. Cultural
activities can include communicating to American Sign Language (ASL), sharing
information about resources that can enhance deaf people's lives, performing
and attending theatrical events with no spoken language, joking about the
experience of being deaf, and reflecting on role models and events important
to deaf people.
All of us have our own way of doing things, and deaf people are no different.
Deaf people communicate in different ways, depending on deafness, language
skills, amount of residual hearing, speechreading skills, speech abilities,
personality, family environment, educational background, and personal preference.
Some deaf people use speech or sign language only . . . or a combination
of sign language, fingerspelling, and speech . . . or writing . . . or
body language and facial expression. You can communicate with deaf
people in several ways. The key is to find out which combination
of techniques works best with each deaf person. Keep in mind that
it is not how you exchange ideas, but that you do.
with a Deaf Person In a One-to-One Situation
Get the deaf person's attention before speaking. Call out the person's
name; if that is not successful, a tap on the shoulder, a wave, or another
visual signal usually does the trick.
Key the deaf person in to the topic of discussion. Deaf people need
to know what subject matter will be discussed in order to pick up words
that help them follow the conversation. This is especially important
for deaf people who depend on speechreading.
Speak slowly and clearly, but do not yell, exaggerate, or overpronounce.
Exaggeration and overemphasis of words distort lip movements, making speechreading
more difficult. Try to enunciate each word without force or tension.
Short sentences are easier to understand than long ones.
Look directly at the deaf person when speaking. Avoid turning away
to write on the board, look at a computer screen, or pull something from
a file while speaking.
Do not place anything in your mouth when speaking. Mustaches that
obscure the lips, smoking, pencil, chewing, and putting your hands in front
of your face all make it difficult for deaf people to follow what is being
Maintain eye contact with the deaf person. Eye contact conveys the
feeling of direct communication. Even if an interpreter is present,
continue to speak directly to the deaf person. He/she will turn to
the interpreter as needed.
Use the words "I" and "you" when communicating through an interpreter,
not "Tell him . . . " or "Does she understand?"
Avoid standing in front of a light source, such as a window or bright light.
The glare and shadows created on the face make it almost impossible for
the deaf person to speechread.
First repeat, then try to rephrase a thought if you have problems being
understood, rather than repeating the same words again. If the person
only missed one or two words the first time, one repetition usually helps.
Don't hesitate to communicate by pencil and paper if necessary, as particular
combinations of lip movements sometimes are difficult to speechread. Getting
the message across is more important than the medium used.
Use pantomime, body language, and facial expression to help supplement
your communication. A lively speaker always is more interesting to
Be courteous to the deaf person during conversation. If the telephone
rings or someone knocks at the door, excuse yourself and tell the deaf
person that you are answering the phone or responding to the knock.
Do not ignore the deaf person and carry on a conversation with someone
else while the deaf person waits.
Use open-ended questions that must be answered by more than "yes" or "no."
Do not assume that deaf people have understood your messages if they nod
their heads in acknowledgment. A coherent response to an open-ended
question ensures that your information has been communicated.
Tips for Communicating
with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
In a Group
If you participate in group situations with deaf people (meetings, classes,
etc.), these tips will make communication easier.
Ask the deaf person to choose the best seating arrangement for his/her
communication needs. This usually means a seat near the speaker so
that the deaf person can see the speaker's lips. If possible, use
a round table or semicircular seating so that he/she can see everyone's
face. Usually the deaf person will know best where to sit.
Also take into consideration the area's lighting so that the speaker is
Provide new vocabulary in advance. It is difficult, if not impossible,
to speechread and read the fingerspelling of unfamiliar vocabulary.
If new vocabulary cannot be presented in advance, write the terms on paper,
a chalkboard, or an overhead projector if possible. If a lecture
is to be given or a film shown, a brief outline or script given to the
deaf person in advance helps that person follow the presentation.
Avoid unnecessary pacing and speaking when writing on a chalkboard.
It is difficult to speechread a person in motion and impossible to speechread
one whose back is turned. Write or draw on the board, then face the
group and explain the work. If you use an overhead projector, do
not look down at it while speaking.
Use visual aids, if possible. Vision is a deaf person's primary channel
of receiving information. Make full use of available aids, including
films, videotapes, overhead projectors, computer-generated presentations
such as Power Point, diagrams, and chalkboards. Give the participants
time to read before speaking.
Make sure the deaf person doesn't miss vital information. Write out
any changes in meeting times, special assignments, additional instructions,
etc. Allow extra time when referring to manuals or texts since deaf
people must look at what has been written and then return their attention
to the speaker.
Slow down the pace of communication slightly to facilitate understanding.
Many speakers talk too fast. Allow extra time for the deaf person
to ask or answer questions.
Repeat questions or statements made from the back of the room and point
to the person speaking. Remember that deaf people are cut off from
whatever happens outside of their visual area.
Allow full participation by the deaf person in the discussion. It
is difficult for deaf people to participate in group discussions because
they are not sure when speakers have finished. The group leader or
teacher should recognize the deaf person from time to time to allow full
participation by that person. Be aware of turn-taking and try to
give the deaf person a chance to look at the various participants before
Use hands-on experience whenever possible in training situations.
Like other people, deaf people learn quickly by "doing." What may
be difficult to communicate verbally may be explained easily by and hands-on
Work with an interpreter in a large group setting. In such a situation,
an interpreter will be a few words behind the speaker in transferring the
information. Therefore, allow time for the deaf person to obtain
all the information and ask questions. See the section "Through an
interpreter" for more information.
Use a notetaker when possible to record information. It is difficult
for many deaf people to pay attention to a speaker and take notes simultaneously.
Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
Through an Interpreter
Interpreters can help facilitate communication during lectures, meetings,
or other group situations. Before requesting an interpreter, keep
in mind that an interpreter is a trained professional bound by a code of
ethics. Knowing sign language does not qualify a person to act as
an interpreter; therefore, using a professional interpreter is best.
Before requesting an interpreter, ask the deaf person what type of interpreter
he/she prefers. Some may want a sign language interpreter skilled
in American Sign Language (ASL) or signed English, others may prefer an
oral interpreter, and in some settings, the interpreter may voice interpret
what the deaf person wishes to express. (Voice interpreting or sign-to-voice
interpreting formerly was called reverse interpreting). Some tips to keep
in mind when scheduling interpreting services:
Inform the interpreting referral service of the deaf person's needs and
in what setting the interpreting will take place. If highly technical
language will be used, the referral service will try to match your needs
with an interpreter who is familiar with the subject.
Discuss fees and privileges with the interpreter beforehand. Fees
should be agreed upon by the interpreter of referral service before the
service is performed. Such fees should not be discussed with the
Treat the interpreter as a professional. It is courteous to introduce
the interpreter to the group and explain why he/she is attending.
Be attentive to the interpreter's special needs, such as a glass of water,
a straightback chair, etc. The interpreter may have other needs such
as placement in the room (near the main speaker/group leader or away from
windows to reduce the glare). If the interpreting situation involves
lunch or other meals, the interpreter should be given the same privileges
as the other group members. It also is helpful to meet with the interpreter
about 15 minutes early to explain what will be covered. If possible,
give a copy of handouts, overheads, and/or the lecture or speech to be
If a meeting will last more than an hour and a half, it is preferable to
have two interpreters because it is difficult to interpret for more than
an hour and a half. If the meeting, class, or lecture will take longer,
two interpreters should act on a rotating basis.
Schedule breaks during the meeting. Following a sign language or
oral interpreter for a long time is tiring for a deaf person. It
also is tiring for the interpreter.
Provide good lighting for the interpreter. If the interpreting situation
darkening the room to view slides, videotapes, or films, auxiliary lighting
is necessary so that the deaf person can see the interpreter. If
a small lamp or spotlight cannot be obtained, check to see if room lights
can be dimmed but still provide enough light to see the interpreter.
Speak directly to the deaf person, not the interpreter, when working with
an interpreter. The interpreter is not part of the converstion and
is not permitted to voice personal opinions or enter the conversation.
Face the deaf person and speak to him/her in a normal manner. If
the deaf person wants the interpreter to explain something not related
to the conversation, he/she is the only one who may ask the interpreter.
Remember that the interpreter is a few words behind the speaker.
Give the interpreter time to finish so that the deaf person can ask questions
or join the discussion.
Permit only one person to speak at a time during group discussions.
It is difficult for an interpreter to follow several people speaking at
once. Ask for a brief pause between speakers to permit the interpreter
to finish before the next speaker starts.
Speak clearly and in a normal tone when working with an interpreter.
Do not rush through a speech. If reading verbatim text, read slowly.
Remember to breathe between sentences - this helps the interpreter to finish
before the next speaker starts.
As a final courtesy, thank the interpreter after the service has been performed.
If there have been any problems or misunderstandings, let the interpreter
or referral service know. Also, ask the deaf person if the service
was satisfactory. It always is a polite gesture to inform the referral
service of your satisfaction with the interpreter.
Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People -
These tips can be used in conjunction with the "One-to-one" tips to
facilitate an interview with a deaf job applicant. They will make
the interview more productive and comfortable for both the interviewer
Provide company literature for the applicant to review before the interview.
This helps the applicant become familiar with the company, its components,
Provide a written itinerary if the applicant is to be interviewed by more
than one person. Include the names, titles, and meeting times for
each individual the applicant will see. Speechreading an unfamiliar
person's title and name during a meeting often is difficult. An itinerary
allows the deaf person to be better informed, at ease, and able to follow
up later if needed.
Inform your receptionist or secretary beforehand that you are expecting
a deaf applicant for an interview. This will make it easier for the
receptionist to assist the deaf person and facilitate any necessary paperwork.
Consider providing an interpreter. Through an interpreter, you may
receive a better idea of how the applicant's skills match the job.
Ask the deaf person if he/she would prefer an interpreter to be present
before requesting one.
Tips for Communicating
with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People -
On the Job Site
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees equal opportunities
in the workplace for people with disabilities. Accommodations made
will vary depending on deaf employees' job responsibilities, technical
skills, and communication preferences as well as the characteristics of
Although it generally is not necessary to make major modifications in
the work area to accommodate a deaf employee, there are some things you
can do to make the work area more accessible and comfortable for a deaf
Consider the deaf person's sensitivity to noise. It is a myth that
deaf people can work in noisy environments that hearing people cannot tolerate.
Most deaf people have some residual hearing and are bothered by loud noises.
A noisy environment may create a barrier to communication for someone who
wears a hearing aid. Loud or background noises can interfere with
and distort the sound amplification of a person's hearing aid, making speech
discrimination difficult. Loud noises also may further damage whatever
residual hearing the deaf person has.
Consider the buddy system for a new deaf employee. This can make
the job transition much easier for the deaf person. A co-worker can
be asked to check a deaf employee's awareness of emergency situations,
such as fires or evacuation.
Use signaling devices if a deaf employee works alone in an area.
Most of these devices are inexpensive and can be incorporated easily into
existing alarm systems. Alarms to warn of fire or gas leaks by use
of a flashing light and audio signal can plug into regular electrical outlets.
Other devices indicate machine malfunction, doorbells, and ringing telephones.
Minimize vibration in the work area. Vibration can distort the sound
being received by a hearing aid, making it difficult for the deaf person
to concentrate on work or a conversation. Since it is not always
possible to eliminate vibration, it is best to arrange meetings in a location
where vibration can be minimized.
Use visual clues to enhance communication. Use of a round or oval
table during meetings will facilitate the line of sight between people,
as will semicircular seating arrangements. Open doors or panels in
offices allow deaf people to see into rooms before entering. A good
line of sight between the deaf employee and the secretary also will facilitate
Use paging devices to contact deaf employees in the field. Radio
frequencies have been set aside by the Federal Communications Commission
to permit the use of "tactile pagers" vibrating paging devices that can
be used to contact or warn deaf employees in the field or in remote locations.
Such pagers usually can be incorporated into existing security paging systems.
Add odor to gas lines to indicate gas leaks to deaf persons working in
Prepare for power failure in areas not covered by a general system with
small, fail-safe, plug-in lights. These lights benefit all employees
during such an emergency.
Notify security if a deaf employee will be working alone at night or during
off hours, such as weekends. The deaf employee's work area should
be checked periodically.
Communicate information directly to deaf employees. They may not
pick up information by informal channels because they typically cannot
Include the deaf employee in social activities. It may take a little
while to become used to the difference in some deaf people's voices, but
by including the deaf person in lunch, coffee breaks, the office grapevine,
etc., he/she will become part of the group.
Tips for Communicating
with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People -
Always ask deaf people if they prefer written communication. Do not
assume that this is the preferred method. When using writing as a
form of communication with deaf people, take into consideration English
reading and writing skills. Their skills may depend on whether they
were born deaf or became deaf later in life, what teaching method was used
in their education, and which communication method they prefer.
Keep your message short and simple. Establish the subject area, avoid
assumptions, and make your sentences concise.
It is not necessary to write out every word. Short phrases or a few
words often are sufficient to transfer the information.
Do not use "yes" or "no" questions. Open-ended questions ensure a
response that allows you to see if your message was received correctly.
Face the deaf person after you have written your message. If you
can see each other's facial expressions, communication will be easier and
Use visual representations if you are explaining specific or technical
vocabulary to a deaf person. Drawings and diagrams can help the person
comprehend the information.
Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People -
On the Telephone
Deaf people can use the telephone, thanks to advanced technology for
adapting existing telephones and creating new equipment. Deaf people
who have understandable speech and good listening skills can use telephones
with their hearing aids and built-in amplifiers that make voices louder.
Many can communicate on the phone successfully with strangers as well as
with people they know.
Some deaf people use a speaker phone with an interpreter. The
deaf person will explain to the person at the other end that he/she is
working with an interpreter and how the conversation will proceed.
Other deaf people use TTYs (text telephones), which allow information
to be typed over telephone lines. In order to communicate directly,
both people must use a TTY. However, some computers and TTYs can
communicate with each other. Most TTY equipment is relatively inexpensive
and small. Information about TTYs can be obtained through individual
manufacturers, the AT&T Special Needs Center, and Telecommunications
for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI).
Nationwide and statewide TTY/voice relay services, which provide simultaneous
communication around a deaf person with a TTY, another person without a
TTY, and a communications assistant who relays the conversation between
the two parties, can facilitate telephone communication. The Americans
with Disabilities Act requires that all companies offering telephone voice
transmission service also must offer telephone relay service. For
information on national relay services, call 1-800-877-8973 (TTY/ASCII/Voice/Spanish).
Here are some examples of equipment used by deaf people to communicate
Built-in amplifiers are installed in telephone receivers with adjustable
volume controls. Volume can be adjusted downward when the phone is
used by hearing people.
Portable telephone amplifiers are battery-operated portable devices with
adjustable volume controls that slip over telephone receivers. They
are convenient to carry in a pocket or purse.
Signal lights are visual alerts, attached to telephones, that blink when
the phone rings.
Telephone bells have a different pitch or volume. They can be used
if the regular telephone bell cannot be heard.
Text telephones (TTYs) are electronic devices that provide video and/or
printed communication across telephone lines.
Voice Carry Over is an electronic device that provides users the option
to use their own voice to place a call through the Relay Service.
The Communication Assistant (CA) will serve as the customer's ears, typing
everything that is heard during the conversation. A gender preference
is available by requesting a male or female CA. To use the VCO option,
a TTY is required.