I didn’t even know how to say ‘HELLO’: a conversation with a deaf person

Have you ever been on holiday to another country without learning even the most simple phrases?

I haven’t! I always make sure that I have picked up some of the basics; how to greet someone, and say goodbye and, of course, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’

But in hospital the other day I found that I didn’t have the language to even say “Hello” to someone.

Now this wasn’t someone from overseas, but was someone who was deaf.

It happened at our Equality and Diversity Day with a stall which Victoria from Deaf Direct was staffing, along with a deaf volunteer. I really wanted to go over and see them, and it was then I realised I didn’t even know how to say hello. And surprised myself even more with how anxious I felt about it. I didn’t want to appear rude, but then I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself or cause the person any embarrassment.

But I plucked up courage and went across anyway. When I got there the volunteer smiled and gave a wave- which I took to mean “Hello,” so I repeated the gesture.

After that Victoria used her skill of British Sign Language so that I could have a conversation. She described the frustration of turning up to a hospital appointment when the staff had not booked an interpreter or worse, a time in Accident and Emergency when she was asked if her 10 year old daughter could sign for her!

I didn’t need to know sign language to see the anger and humiliation that had caused.

I, to my shame, had no idea of the lived experience of a deaf person. As she spoke to me it was a “light bulb” moment.

Firstly, I was grateful to Victoria for the interpreting because without her I wouldn’t have been able to have a fantastic conversation. In fact, Deaf Direct provides essential interpreting services for deaf patients in hospital.

But, secondly, more than that, it was a challenge to me personally. I would never dream of going to France without brushing up on my vocabulary, but right here on my doorstep I had missed a trick. So thank you Deaf Direct! You have inspired me to take your course on British Sign Language. Think of what I’m missing out on without it!


One response to “I didn’t even know how to say ‘HELLO’: a conversation with a deaf person

  1. Also just a reminder David that basic sign can help with non verbal people with learning difficulties such as my daughter we use Makaton a sign / gesture language with her, and many parents are using sign to help babies communicate earlier.

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