Methods of Communicating with the Deaf
by Amy L Roberts | published Oct. 31st, 2022
RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, better known as NTID.
Because of this, hearing students at RIT frequently interact with Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HOH) individuals on campus.
Along with RIT's over 1,100 Deaf and HOH students, there are many Deaf and HOH staff members too.
Communicating with someone who comes from a different background and speaks a different language is always challenging, but there are still various ways for hearing individuals to interact with the Deaf and HOH community.
Methods of Communication
The first great way to communicate with Deaf or HOH individuals is to write or type.
A notes app, Google Docs, or old-school pen and paper are all reliable ways to quickly communicate when other options are unavailable.
RIT offers various services and activities to help hearing students more fluently communicate with the Deaf community too.
During class times, many Deaf and HOH students are provided with Interpreter services.
Interpreters are able to easily relay messages between both American Sign Language (ASL) and English.
When using an interpreter, there is no need to start your sentences with, “Can you tell them for me...” or “Can you explain...”.
Just speak directly to the deaf student as you would to any other person, making eye contact and focusing on the conversation.
RIT also offers various ways for students to learn ASL if they're interested. Even just picking up some basic signs could be very useful if you're planning on spending a lot of time around campus.
If you are unable to fit ASL education into your academic schedule, there are also extracurricular options for learning ASL, such as No Voice Zone (NVZ).
NVZ is a weekly learning event held on Wednesdays from 9-10 p.m. This event is held in the Student Development Center and welcomes people of all skill levels.
Interacting with the Deaf Community
Along with understanding how to communicate, having a little bit of knowledge of Deaf customs and culture is also important.
When people are signing and you need to pass through, quickly walk between them. If you are trying to get a Deaf person's attention, tap their shoulder, wave at them or flicker the lights.
You may also see Deaf people using heightened facial expressions. This is a key element of ASL that ensures the emotions a person is feeling are clear when signing.
Finally, it's important to recognize that some Deaf people speak and some do not. Some may lip-read or use Tactile Sign Language.
The Deaf and HOH community is as varied and unique as the hearing community. While these tips will work in the most common situations, you should use your best judgment whenever interacting with people.
The most important thing to remember is that RIT will always be a welcoming community for everyone, so do your best to be respectful and kind to all.