Author and originally posted by Belinda G. Vicars (Faculty at CSUS and Curriculum Developer at Lifeprint Institute) in a Sign Language group and gives advice on how to relate to a Deaf person
“When you try to relate to a Deaf person, accept the fact that you might not have anything comparable to the experience. That’s okay.
Do not say: ‘My dog, cat, hamster is Deaf.’ So now I’m comparable to animal or pet?
Do not say: ‘I am sorry.’ Unless you directly caused my deafness, there is nothing to be sorry about. Do not hold a vigil and light a candle for me. I’m perfectly happy with being Deaf.
Do not say: ‘My aunt has Down Syndrome, mental illness, cerebral palsy or even cancer.’ Deaf is Deaf and is not equitable to anything else.
Do not say: ‘That’s so COOL! That’s so amazing. Wow, I guess I’m set for life.’ I’m amazing by virtue of being Deaf. I guess I don’t need to do anything else for the rest of my freakin’ life.
Do not say: ‘I have a bum knee or some other physical defect.’ If you are hard of hearing or Deaf – go ahead and say that.
If someone tells you that he or she is Deaf, no response is needed. You don’t have to “relate.” It’s a physical trait. You see someone with brown hair, do you go up to them and say – ‘my dog has brown hair’?
If someone (let’s call him Sam) introduces you to a Deaf friend, “This is my friend, Todd. You need to look at him when you talk. He’s Deaf.”
Do say: ‘Nice to meet you. How did you meet Sam?’ *look directly at Todd and chat* Treat him as IF he were hearing in that circumstance. Treat him as if his Deafness does not define him. The conversation does not have center around being Deaf. It’s part of who we are. If you want to know if he signs (if he is verbal), ASK.
If you know a Deaf person already, ask if he knows that guy (if he lives locally).
The main thing you need to know is that you need to LOOK at him when you talk to him. And if you sign, then pick up hands and SIGN. :)”
End of article by Belinda G. Vicars.
I do want to add, from my own experiences – Most Deaf people are not very skilled at lipreading. Most would prefer you sign, or write it down because lipreading can be more guesswork than actual clear understanding.