Deaf Awareness

Our April meeting online saw us run over our time as Belles had so many questions for our fantastic speaker Nathalie Koenig from the National Deaf Children’s Society. Nathalie with her interpreter Ali made an excellent attempt to cram as much as possible about this important area into our evening meeting slot.

We learnt some basics of how to be helpful, inclusive and polite when communicating with people who are deaf by imagining different scenarios and putting ourselves in the shoes of someone who might be told ‘I’ll tell you later’ in a group conversation rather than included there and then or how important it is to speak clearly to help lip-reading (which is super hard and mostly educated guesses to translate even for the well-practiced). A polite tap on the shoulder is ok to gain attention and miming or even scribbled notes are much preferred through lack of signing skills than being left out of a communication completely.

Nathalie taught us some very simple signs to be welcoming and at least to be able to say we couldn’t understand so we could find another way to communicate. In preparation we learnt our first name in fingerspelling though of course this is a much slower means than British Sign Language that we came to appreciate as an incredibly economical and expressive language in its way of conveying meaning, rather than translating written english word for word in the order you’d commonly expect.

We also heard how British Sign Language has only recently been supported to be recognised as an official language in Great Britain and it looks like its well on the way to bringing about some of the improvements in accessibility and quality of life that should come about as a result.

If you’d like to learn some skills to help with communication here are Nathalie’s tips and links:


Remember the fingerspelling rules:- 

•         Hands should be held at chest level. Use your dominant hand to point to the vowels and form the consonants on the passive hand.  

•         Fingers on the passive hand should move forward slightly to help pick out the vowels.

•         Be clear- try to use your lip pattern to mouth the name as you fingerspell it. 

Fingerspelling can seem a bit daunting to begin with, so I have included 2 links to videos that might be easier to follow than static pictures. 

Right-handed –

Left-handed – 


If you’d like to find out more or have a look at the free e-training mini module in Deaf Awareness produced by the NDCS check out this link.

%d bloggers like this: