Previously, I highlighted how you can make the deaf user feel comfortable in a face to face conversation. To be honest, I feel more comfortable in a face to face communication rather than a group conversation.
A group conversation is mind-boggling for a hearing-impaired person. It is a dilemma for me as well as other hearing-impaired individuals while conversing in a group. But unfortunately, it is a part of our daily life. Before I give different ways of making your hearing-impaired/ Deaf friends or family feel comfortable. I would love to give my own standpoint of view of how I see group communication.
To describe how I see the conversation in my own eyes would be difficult. Here I go. With a group of five girls chirping about a topic, I would be confident to engage because I understand. But if they sidetrack, it can be confusing as hell I catch up few words from here and there. In the end, my attempts to understand the conversation would be futile.
For example, if you take a game of basketball, you can see how fast the ball bounces and passes on to other players. The bounces are the different topics and the passes are different people talking. Imagine a conversation being similar to the game of basketball while you lip-read. In the end, I become frustrated.
Do we enjoy being in a conversation? NO. But unfortunately, it is a part of our daily life. If you are in college or doing a job. Communicating with your group is important to keep track and tabs on each other. How do I cope when we have group assignments at university? In case, I don’t understand what my group members are talking about. I would ask the information for a group member or suggest that they open up a WhatsApp group to talk over the plans of our assignments. That has always worked well for me since I don’t have to miss out on anything and it is easier to contribute my ideas.
The family conversation is no different from group conversation at university. Since all my family members get carried away while talking. I have no option but to ask my siblings or cousins after the conversation is over. No matter if a group conversation takes place anywhere, in a heartbeat, I would choose solitude because keeping tabs and lip-reading everyone’s lips can be very tiring and emotionally draining.
What can you do to make it feel easier on your deaf friend? Make sure that you all seat in a manner where she can read everyone’s lips, a semi-circle or a square works well. Make sure you all take turns to talk, one after the other. Let your deaf friend or family know that you are changing the topic. Ask your deaf friend a few questions to make sure she or he understood the topic.
In the case of a lecture or academic group, I would prefer if the lecture gives out the list of key terms and acronyms she or he would use in the class. It would prevent confusion and the deaf or hearing impaired would have much confidence to engage with the group members. Because I mainly engage when I am confident about the topic. The moment the lecture shifts to another topic or makes some reference, let your deaf student know you are talking about this specific topic.
At the end of the day, I can not tell people how to run a conversation. It all comes down if the group members or lectures, teachers and family members are willing to accommodate and take time to make sure that their deaf or hearing impaired students feel comfortable to engage in a group conversation.