Better Serving the Deaf Community


Hearing Impaired icon

I write with pleasure to share with you and bring insight about the deaf community and our culture. As a deaf professional training law enforcement, I find myself pleased that there is a great interest to better serve our population. This is the first of many pieces of information I hope to bring to your newsletter.

There are approximately 28 million individuals with hearing loss in the United States. There is 1 percent Deaf, 94 percent Hard of Hearing /Oral Hearing Loss, and 5 percent Late Deafened. These terminologies are not to be used interchangeably. Various backgrounds of education, parental upbringing, and exposure to language result in different communication modes. Often, when training law enforcement, they ask for one approach when working with D/HH and I tell them there isn’t just one. When training law enforcement, it is important that they are aware of the various forms of communications they may be approached with. American Sign Language (ASL) is an official language, but there are other communication modes used by deaf and hard of hearing individuals. American Sign Language is a visual gesture language that makes use of the entire body, facial expressions, body movements, and hand signs. It does not follow English word order and there is no written format of ASL. Another communication mode is speaking and signing at the same time which is called Simultaneous communication. This is not a language. Finger spelling every word is another way people communicate, or there’s also oral communications through cued speech or Auditory-Verbal.

How do I identify hearing loss? There are many ways to indentify that someone may have a hearing loss, such as: the individual does not respond to a verbal request; may use hands to communicate; may be speaking but indicate they can’t hear your response; may gesture “can’t hear” by pointing to ears; may gesture “write paper and pen.” Law enforcement can look for visual clues, for example Visor cards indicating hearing loss, gesture or signs indicating communication needs, visual indicators indicating hearing loss such as a hearing aid, spoken communication or lip reading indicators. When in doubt they are encouraged to ASK. Effective communication skills used by law enforcement include good eye contact, waving of hands, stomping on the floor to get their attention, blinking of the lights when entering the room, tapping on the table to let them know your there, tapping gently on the shoulders or upper arm depending on the situation. Participating in effective communication etiquette would mean that you are aware of your communication environment, the noise level around you, your facial expressions, speech clarity, topical change cues, level of conversational details, and your visual gestures. It often helps if you rephrase or use a different word selection if the individual does not understand.

Included in this issue you will find a “Sign Card" (below). These are some of the signs I encourage law enforcement to learn and use to “begin” communication to assess what the needs of the individuals are. The most important one I have been told was asking the deaf/hard of hearing person “If they needed an interpreter.”

-Jessalyn Frank
Coordinator of Advocacy and Education
Communication Services for the Deaf of Minnesota

Sign Card - Click on images to enlarge.

Back to top

Dispatch Home | Reentry Database Available | Meet the Grants Monitoring Division (GMD) | INTERPOL Washington | Suspicious Activity Initiative Update | Better Serving the Deaf Community | Spotlight on North Charleston PD