Anna Revivo works in our Supporter Services Team and tells us how you can give a helping hand and communicate with deaf family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Just last week, a gasman came to fix our gas monitor screen as it was broken. Of course, he had to follow the rules and was wearing a mask while maintaining social distancing. As someone who is deaf and whose first language is British Sign Language, this proved very difficult for me. I couldn’t read his lips because of the mask and I didn’t want to have a written conversation with him as I would have had to get closer to communicate. Luckily for me, my daughter was around who could interpret for us.
Not all people in the deaf community are as lucky as me. Many are feeling more and more isolated the longer the lockdown goes on with fewer people they can communicate with. My experience shows that while all the current safety measures are necessary, it makes communication a lot more difficult. This is why I have put together some easy tips to help you communicate with your deaf family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
1. Learn some basic sign language
British Sign Language (BSL) is an incredibly deep and rich language with its own accents, grammar and culture. It is also something that absolutely everybody does on a daily basis. Facial expressions and body language play a huge role in all communication but there is always a benefit in learning a few basic signs. Luckily Sense have launched the Sense Sign School with Mr Tyrese. Spread over 5 days, Mr Tyrese goes through some of the basic signs you need to start having conversations and communicating. Just knowing the basics can help neighbours and colleagues feel less isolated and more like a part of the conversation.
2. Use gestures
If BSL starts getting too complicated, then take a step back and use gestures and body language instead. It is something that we all do and can really help break down barriers in communication. Cast your mind back to when you had to communicate to a friend across a large or busy environment. How did you do it? I will bet that gestures played a huge part in the way you communicated. Hand movements used alongside facial expressions are a very powerful tool. You will be surprised how much you can communicate with just that. Give it a try and give a helping hand.
3. Write on large paper
If that all feels a bit too much, then good old pen and paper can do the trick. Make sure that you are using large paper and are writing large enough for words to be read from 2 meters away. While it is important to communicate, staying safe and maintaining social distancing is also very crucial.
4. Pop a note through the door
It is so important, now more than ever, to make sure that we are taking care of the people around us. If you are concerned about a neighbour and want to just touch base to make sure they are ok, then pop a friendly note through the door. As BSL is very visual, seeing someone at the door wearing a mask can be quite scary. A note through the door is a reassuring way to let the person at home know who is there and what they might want.
5. Send a text or an email
Text and email are really easy and useful ways to communicate with someone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment. It helps people keep in contact whilst following social distancing guidelines and is a nice way to check in on someone. Who knows? The person you messaged may be having a down day or be in need of some shopping. A quick ‘hello’ lets people know that you are thinking about them. It helps break down isolation and communication barriers. Right now, the world is going through a huge change and communication is how we will continue to support each other through this.
If you’d like to learn some basic sign language from our teacher Mr Tyrese, sign up to his #SenseSignSchool today! This will be a great way to give a helping hand.