Charlie Swinbourne: 12 tips to ensure deaf people aren’t left out at Christmas

Christmas is a special time of year, but for deaf people, it can also be a tricky time, because we often find ourselves with people who are not very deaf aware.

I still remember one Christmas when my brother’s deaf friend asked if he could drive over to our house for a few hours on Christmas Day – simply because he felt so left out.

I’ve also heard stories of deaf people discovering at Christmas that their family’s deaf-friendly communication skills had slipped.

The end result can be feeling left out, even as everyone around you seems to be having a wonderful time.

But never fear, here is our list of festive tips to help hearing relatives include deaf members of their family! Pass on, and share. (as ever, apologies in advance for my lo-fi drawings!)

1. Buy a round table

This isn’t the sexiest tip to start on (unless you have a thing for tables of all shapes and sizes) but it’s first in this list because it takes time to fix –  you can’t pop to the corner shop for a new dining room table.

I’ve got nothing against rectangular tables, but for deaf people, they make it hard to see everyone, which has a knock-on effect on communication.

Round tables, meanwhile, give us a better chance of spotting when someone is about to speak, and look at them in time to lipread.

We think this round table is perfect. Just kidding.

2. Turn the subtitles on

Christmas telly is great, isn’t it?

Well, it is if you can understand it. And for that, most deaf people use subtitles.

So first, hearing friends, tackle the mental side. Make sure you’re prepared – psychologically – to turn your subtitles on without looking resentful. Even if you find them annoying. No excuses – it’s only for a day or two.

Second, before your deaf relative comes, work out how to turn on the subtitles on your digibox. It can be fiddly, but you’ll get there in an hour or so, with a bit of luck.

It’ll save us the hassle, and it’s a double win, because it also shows you thought of us before we even arrived.

Which means you’ll get an even better present.

3. Give the kids a pep talk

Children get very lively at Christmas, with a mountain of presents to open, and far too much chocolate to eat.

So it’s worth mentioning some deaf awareness tips to them a few days before Christmas.

Something like: “Uncle Charlie needs to be able to see your lips to understand you, so can you try to look at him when you’re talking to him?”

Even if a child remembers just once, it makes a real difference.

You might want to mention that Father Christmas is watching (always), just to add a sense of jeopardy to the whole thing…

This article is written by Charlie Swinbourne at Limping Chicken. Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

22nd December 2018

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