Communicating with people who are Deaf or those who have a hearing loss
Difficulty with hearing, mental health, understanding or cultural norms can present as a person’s seemingly difficult behaviour. Helpful guidance is provided below for dealing with members of the public who are Deaf or who have a hearing loss.
Do not have your back to a light source
When you are talking to the person, make sure you do not have your back to a light source (such as a window). This will make it more difficult for members of the public with a visual difficulty to see you or for members of the public with a hearing difficulty to lip read, as you will appear as a silhouette.
Face the person when speaking and do not cover your mouth
It is very difficult for people with hearing difficulties to listen or lip-read if you have your hands in front of your mouth. This is equally true if you turn away from the person while speaking. Look directly at the person. Do not look away, down at your notes, cover your face, chew gum, or have a pen in your mouth while talking. Speak clearly and at a slightly slower pace, but do not shout or exaggerate mouth movements, as this will distort your lip patterns. During meetings, make sure that only one person speaks at a time.
Communicating with people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL)
Provide Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpretation to people who request it. When you publicise a public event or make appointments, say that you will provide Irish Sign Language interpreters or real-time captioning if members of the public ask for them. Say how much notice you will need to arrange an interpreter. For example, you could say, “If you have accessibility requirements, please tell us at least 3 weeks before the appointment”. When working with an interpreter talk directly to the Deaf person, and not the interpreter. Do not ask the interpreter’s opinion. Make sure that the interpreter sits next to you and that the Deaf person can see both of you clearly.
Dealing with seemingly difficult members of the public
Helpful guidance is provided below for dealing with seemingly difficult members of the public. This includes:
- Listen carefully and take their concerns seriously.
- Reassure the person by letting them know you have heard what they have said and you have understood their feelings and concerns. Find some common ground you can agree on.
- Where the person may be aggressive, confrontational, or are repeating the same point unnecessarily, tell the person that you have understood and repeat their words back so it is clear you have heard them fully.
- The person may be unclear about what you can and cannot do. If you need to pass on the information to another organisation or agency, make sure the person understands why you are doing this.
Try to pass on as much information as possible to the referral, so that the person does not need to explain their situation again.
Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach
Verbal Communication Checklist