Hearing people. Want to make friends with a deaf person? Then wise up and don’t say any of these sentences. Us Deafies will never forgive you…
“Wow – I would never have guessed that you’re deaf!”
I’m not wearing a badge. Nor do most deaf people. And in what way is ‘not seeming all that deaf’ a compliment?
“You’ve got really good speech for a deaf person!”
Er… thanks. But that sort of implies that some deaf people have ‘bad’ speech. And it makes me feel a little self-conscious.
“But I find subtitles annoying.”
We find you annoying, stubborn hearing person who hogs the remote and refuses to turn the subtitles on. How about we make a deal? You turn the subtitles off, and we turn the volume right down? Then neither of us will understand the TV programme we’re watching.
And you’ll finally get it.
“Can’t we knock on your door if there’s a fire?”
Ok, hotel reception person. Three reasons I’m scared I might die in your hotel if there’s a blaze:
One: your shift finishes at midnight and I’m not sure you’ll remember to tell your replacement that there’s a deaf person on floor 11 who won’t hear the fire alarm.
Two: even if you or your replacement do remember me, you might not make it upstairs in time.
Three: most importantly of all, I won’t hear you knocking.
So how about a rope ladder so I can make my escape? A parachute? Or just investing in a buzzer system so we can feel like normal human beings?
“I can’t hear everything in here either!”
I’m not talking about overhearing what the people on the next table are saying. I can’t hear you. There’s a difference. Can we go somewhere quieter?
“We’ve got a braile menu you can use?”
It’s great you’ve got one… but you’re confusing deaf and blind people as being the same. Let’s hope you’re not also using BSL to sign the menu choices to our partially-sighted friends.
“But you usually hear me.”
How much we do and don’t hear is variable, not optional. Sometimes it depends on how well we know you, whether there’s external noise in the room, whether we can see your lips (to lipread) or just whether we’re knackered or not. It’s not a failing of yours – but it’s not a failing of ours, either. So don’t expect an apology.
“Oh yes, I noticed you had problems.”
Actually, these hearing aids are solutions.
“So you’re deaf and dumb?”
We’re deaf. Not dumb. The same also applies to the phrase ‘deaf-mute.’ If you want to use descriptions like these, just go back to the 70s and make a good life for yourself there. There, you can use all kinds of out-of-date, offensive ways of describing people of all types, with abandon.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Probably the worst thing you could ever say to us. Because it makes us feel like, maybe, we don’t matter too much either. Wise up people, and repeat yourselves. Even if what you were saying was as boring as: “I’m feeling a bit peckish. I might have a yoghurt.”
We might end up having a fantastic conversation about fromage frais.
Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned My Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.
Photo: Waifer X on Flickr
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out about the Deaf fashion bloggers taking on the world!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Cast Theatre, Doncaster: The UK's the UK’s first fully BSL integrated pantomime
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people