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6/28/10

Top Do's and Don'ts

Top Do's and Don'ts When Dealing with Deaf or Blind People (in no particular order)

1) Don't: treat us like we're stupid. Deafness or blindness does not affect cognition.
Do: treat us like you would anyone else. The average deaf/blind person has the same intelligence level as the average hearing/sighted person.

2) Don't: feel bad for us. Most deaf or blind people are adjusted to their deafness or blindness and are okay with it and have accepted it. If a deaf/blind person seems like they're having a bad day, there are just as many possible reasons why as for a hearing/sighted person. They aren't necessarily lamenting their condition.
Do: offer support if someone is clearly still adjusting, but don't join their pity party.

3) Don't: treat us like we're gods. We don't need our every little whim met and we don't have the right to boss you around either.
Do: use your usual standards for consideration and thoughtfulness, as you would anyone else. If you open doors for people, then feel free to open a door for us too.

4) Don't: yell. A blind person's hearing is perfectly intact and doesn't need to be yelled at. Yelling doesn't help a deaf person understand what you're saying either. Deaf, blind, or both, yelling gets you nowhere.
Do: use the communication method the deaf/blind person specifies.

5) Don't: avoid terms like "hear" and "see." We're perfectly aware of our sensory loss and don't need you to verbally walk on eggshells to feed our denial.
Do: use the same expressions as you would with anyone else, such as "see you later" or "did you hear about that?"

6) Don't: talk through another person to us. Don't ask a blind person's spouse what they want to order for dinner. Don't look at a deaf person's interpreter when speaking.
Do: speak to the blind or deaf person directly, even when speaking through an interpreter in the case of a deaf/deafblind person.

7) Don't: be afraid to ask about when or how we went blind or deaf, or how we do things.
Do: make it only one of the many topics you discuss. Deaf and blind people, like anyone else, like to talk about more than just one topic.

8) Don't: make fun of us. Some of us have a sense of humor, and some of us don't. Better to let the person set the tone first.
Do: treat us respectfully like any person, and do feel free to join in once the person has set a humorous tone.

9) Don't: assume we need help.
Do: offer it, and don't insist on helping if we decline.

10) Don't: try to take advantage of our deafness or blindness.
Do: realize that we often have alternative ways of finding out about the same things you use your ears or eyes to find out about.

11) Don't: take or touch a deaf or blind person's disability aid, such as a cane, hearing aid, cochlear implant, or guide dog.
Do: treat any disability aid like an extension of the person's body. If you are really curious, ask first and don't be surprised if the person declines.

12) Don't: assume we can't do the job.
Do: lay out the specific tasks that will be needed for a job and ask if we can do it, and if we will need accommodations.

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