Communicating with persons who are Deaf or those who have a hearing loss
Some persons who are hard of hearing may have minor difficulties with hearing normal speech or particular sound frequencies; others may be profoundly d/Deaf.
In this document you will see the term ‘deaf’ used with an uppercase ‘D’, a lower case ‘d’ and with the upper and lower case combined ‘d/D’.
Deaf — with the uppercase ‘D’ is used in this document when referring to those who identify culturally and linguistically as part of the Deaf community and who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) as their preferred language.
deaf — with the lowercase ‘d’ is used to refer to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and who do not identify culturally and linguistically as a member of the Deaf community and they may not use ISL. They may communicate through English, by lip-reading or by writing.
d/Deaf — this term is used to refer to both those who do and do not identify as part of the Deaf community.
Face the person when speaking and do not cover your mouth
It is very difficult for persons who are hard of hearing 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.
Do not stand in a dark place or have your back to a light source
It is important that a person can see you clearly when you are speaking to them. The person needs to be able to see your face clearly to lip read and see facial expressions. The person may also need to be able to see your hand actions when using ISL.
To be seen clearly ensure sufficient lighting illuminates your face and hands. Try to avoid bright light sources being behind you, for example standing in front of a sunny window.
When to provide real-time captioning
When speaking while aided by visual display include real-time captioning. This is helpful during information sessions, presentations, speeches, meetings and conferences.
W3C provide guidance on Making Events Accessible: Checklist for meetings, conferences, training and presentations that are remote/ virtual, in-person or hybrid.
Communicating with persons who use Irish Sign Language (ISL)
ISL is the sign language used by the majority of the Deaf community in the State. ISL is a full language with its own complex linguistic structure, rules and features. It is a visual and spatial language with its own distinct grammar and it is a language of the hands, face and body. ISL is different from all other sign languages such as British Sign Language and American Sign Language.
Public bodies are required to provide free ISL interpretation upon request. Ideally, a publication should also be accompanied by an ISL video that summarises the publication. Only accredited ISL interpreters should be used in line with Irish Sign Language Act 2017.
When you publicise a public event or make appointments, indicate that you can provide ISL interpreters or real-time captioning upon request. Indicate how much advance notice you need to make arrangements.
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.
Provide systems that do not rely on persons' ability to hear.
Provide induction loop systems in areas where public services are provided and test them regularly.
Provide systems that allow customers to use text messages and email for communications.
Provide a real-time captioning service during the information sessions or conferences.
Sign Language Interpreting Servicec (SLIS) provide a referral service for booking interpreters and the Irish Remote Interpreting Service (IRIS). IRIS provides a live video-link to an ISL interpreter.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has a guidance document with a section about Irish Sign Language and interpreters.
The Irish Text Relay Service (ITRS) facilitates people who are deaf and people who are hard of hearing in making and receiving calls in the Republic of Ireland. ITRS translates text into voice and voice into text. Calls are relayed though ITRS agents.
Real-time captioning, also called communication access real-time translation (CART), is the stenography method used to convert speech to text. Real-time speech-to-text facilitates people who are hard of hearing and is useful for people whose first language is not English but who are comfortable reading English. There are companies in Ireland who can provide this service either onsite or remotely.
Live Web chat is a service that allows communication (or chat) by text in real time with visitors to their website. Live Web chat is commonly used to provide immediate customer support and information. The customer can be emailed a transcript of the chat. An example is Live Advisor from the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS).
Audio-frequency induction loop systems (AFILS) allow people with hearing aids to hear more clearly. The hearing aid allows them to pick up the wireless signal generated by the loop system.
The Irish Deaf Society (IDS) is a Deaf-led organisation that empower and enable Deaf people to participate in positive action to further their independence and full and equal participation in the community. IDS offers Deaf Awareness Training as well as accredited Irish Sign Language classes.
Chime is the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss. Chime provide awareness training for employers and organisations and advice on the range of assistive technologies for the workplace.
Spoken and Signed Communication
Face-to-Face Communication Checklist