Developing Cultural Competency
Cultural Knowledge, Awareness, Sensitivity, Competence
VII. Deaf Persons
Methods of communication
- Most deaf persons communicate with hearing persons/professionals through a combination of methods such as signing, writing, speech, and lip reading.
- Do not assume that when a deaf person nods their head in agreement that they have heard or understood you. They may be relying on family present to explain later.
- Use open ended questions to make sure the person understands you.
Understanding language differences, body language and expressions of emotions
- American Sign Language (ASL) is different and not used in Puerto Rico and Latin American countries.
- To express heightened emotions, the person may sign in larger, quicker, and more forceful emotions. The deaf person's language conveys emotions such as urgency, fear, and frustration in this way. For example the word positive is closely linked to good.
- Body Language is important and a way to enhance your communication
- Facial expressions are used to assess the gravity of the situation.
- Demonstrate respect and understanding by attempting to learn a few key phrases is ASL.
- Always use "person-first language" (see Respectful Disability Language below)
- Acceptable and respectful person-first language terms include deaf, deaf person, hard-of-hearing, person who is deaf, or person who is hard of hearing
- Avoid "deaf-mute" or "deaf-and-dumb"
- "The deaf" and "the speech of the deaf" also violate the person-first rule. However, the community of persons who are deaf prefer to use deaf with a capital "D" to denote the Deaf culture and the Deaf community, not the hearing loss.
- Also see Terminology Used to Refer to Deaf People (from the Center on Human Policy, a disability research and policy institute in the School of Education at Syracuse University).
- Family Support - National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)
- National Association of the Deaf
- American Sign Language (ASL):
- Communicating with Your Hard-of-Hearing Patient (from Culture Clues™, University of Washington Medical Center, Patient and Family Education Services - .pdf document, opens in a new browser window)
~ Bonus Section ~
VIII. Respectful Disability Language
Using appropriate and respectful disability language / terminology
How we treat, talk with, speak to, and think about other cultures is extremely important in developing cultural competency. The same is true regarding persons with disabilities. The following links will answer questions about disability language and provide guidelines for using respectful and appropriate disability language (these links open in a new browser window).
- Respectful Disability Language - A guide for using appropriate disability language and terminology
- Resource on Person-First Language - The Language Used to Describe Individuals With Disabilities
- Stigma: Language Matters - You finally decide to get help and then you're punished for it, pigeonholed into a diagnosis, shamed, labeled, and discriminated against for life. The stigma can be worse than the illness.
- People First Language: Dignity, Not Semantics - Language is power: our words have the power to teach, inspire, motivate, and uplift people (by AU Founder Yvette Sangster)
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