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Communication is one of the biggest barriers and causes of social isolation for Deaf people, making everyday tasks like booking a medical appointment or dealing with a delay on public transport a real challenge.

But basic communication with a Deaf person doesn’t have to be difficult and you don’t need to know British Sign Language (BSL)

All you need is a little patience, some confidence and time to make sure you understand each other.

So, here are our top tips on communicating with a Deaf person:

–              Make sure you are face: face and looking at one another

Facial expression is very important.  Make eye contact and try not to cover your mouth as a Deaf person may use lip-reading to help them understand what you are saying.

–              Speak clearly and slightly slower than you normally would.

Don’t shout as it distorts your lip-patterns (making you harder to lipread), changes your facial expression and makes you look cross.

–              Use mime and gestures.

Pointing is allowed and actively encouraged to help communicate.  A lot of BSL is visual and gestural – you’d be surprised at how “obvious” some signs are!

–              Write things down.

Don’t be afraid to write or draw to get your point across, but remember to use plain English

–              Be prepared to repeat yourself.

Or try to rephrase what you are saying; is there an easier way of saying what you mean? Whatever you do, don’t say ‘Oh, don’t worry’ or ‘It doesn’t matter’ as this will make a Deaf person feel that they don’t matter.

–              Keep trying.

You could consider learning British Sign Language. Courses are held all over the UK and it’s possible to have a good standard of conversational BSL within two years – or take a look at some BSL videos we’ve created at

For 177 years, the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) has worked to promote access to services in British Sign Language. From providing communication support for children’s activities, helping adults secure employment and combating loneliness in the older generation; we are here to make sure Deaf people achieve their aspirations with the support they want, when they need it and in a way that it is accessible to them.

One of our key ambitions is to support mainstream providers to be accessible to Deaf people and we achieve this by providing a variety of services including bespoke Deaf Awareness Training and consultancy.

For more complex discussions such as workplace meetings, training courses and medical appointments; we also provide professional communication services:

  • BSL / English Interpreters
  • Deaf Interpreters
  • Translation
  • Lipspeakers
  • Speech-to-Text Reporters (STTRs)
  • Note-takers
  • Deafblind Interpreters working with Deafblind Manual, visual frame, hands-on and Social Haptic communication

Any profit we make goes back to the Deaf Community by supporting the work of RAD.

Whatever your needs, please get in touch.

For information on our Deaf Awareness courses and consultancy email:

For information on Communication Services email:

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