Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Speech Impairment

The most important thing to remember is to give your complete and unhurried attention to those who have difficulty speaking. Give them time to express themselves. Don’t interrupt or complete their sentences for them, but give help when they indicate that they need it.
  • Don’t correct their pronunciation.
  • Ask questions that require short answers or that can be answered with a nod or a gesture.
  • Don’t pretend to understand when you don’t. Repeat what you thought you understood. The person’s reactions will guide you.

Hearing-Loss Etiquette

Hearing impairment is a less dramatic disability than blindness but is much more common. Hearing loss can be slight or complete or anywhere in between. Your response may be keyed to the degree of hearing loss. In any case here are some tips that you will find helpful.
  • Be sure that you have the person’s attention before you start speaking. If necessary, wave a hand, give a tap on the shoulder, or make some other signal. Do so gently.
  • Some deaf people depend entirely on lip reading to discern what others are saying, and many with partial hearing loss depend on it to one degree or another. Accordingly, face the person you are addressing and make sure the light is on your face so that he or she can see your lips more clearly.
  • Don’t get frustrated if you have to repeat yourself. If necessary, write it down or get someone to sign for you.
  • Don’t keep repeating the same phrases. Be flexible. Choose another word or rephrase the whole sentence. Keep in mind that some words “look” similar to a lip reader. If “I’ll drive the car around front” doesn’t seem to work, try “I’ll bring the car to the front door.” Keep your hands away from your face while speaking and don’t eat, chew, or smoke. You should be aware that a mustache may hide your lips and prevent a lip reader from understanding you.
  • Remember that the person with the hearing loss will rely to some degree on expressions, gestures, and body language.
  • Never talk from another room. When people who are hearing impaired can’t see you, they may not be aware that you are speaking.
  • Turn off the television or radio and reduce other background noises so that you can be heard more clearly.
  • Don’t shout. Don’t use exaggerated lip movements. Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Face the other person, preferably on the same eye level. Do not turn away until you have finished speaking.
  • You can bend down to get a little closer to the ear of the listener but don’t speak directly into the ear, don’t touch, and don’t shout.
  • Remember that fatigue, stress, illness, or fright affect everyone. External factors such as jet lag or a common cold can increase difficulty in communicating: Adjust your behavior accordingly.
  • When a hearing-impaired person is in a group and the others are laughing at something he hasn’t heard, explain the joke to him or let him know that you will explain it later. Because of past cruelties, your friend may be oversensitive and may think that the others are laughing at him or her.

Meeting a Blind Person for the First Time

If the person is alone when you enter the room, make your presence known right away by speaking. Identify yourself when greeting the person, and if others are with you, be sure to introduce them and to specify where they are: “On my left is Helen Carver, and on my right is Mary Thompson.”
When offering a handshake, say something like “Allow me to shake your hand.” If the other person extends a hand, shake it or explain why you can’t. “I’d like to shake your hand, but I’m afraid I may drop all these files.” Remember to talk to a person without sight as you would to a person who can see. In a group use the people’s names as a clue to whom you are speaking. Address those who can’t see by name if they are expected to reply and speak to them directly in a normal tone of voice. Excuse yourself when you are leaving. Doing so is especially important when ending a conversation so the person isn’t left talking to thin air. When a person with visual impairment has to sign a document, provide a guiding device such as a ruler or a card. When handing money to a person who is blind, separate all the bills into denominations and specify whether they are ones, fives, and so on. The person with the impairment can identify coins by touch.