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HEARING NEIGHBORS ASK

It's the Neighborly Thing To Do

Throughout most of the United States, gone are the days when everyone knew everyone and their families and friends.  Nowadays, people move into and out of neighborhoods and towns almost as often as they launder their drapery.  Come to think of it, why launder them when we can just move and get new ones?  Okay, we're overstating it, but we think you will agree that chances are better than they used to be that you have neighbors with whom you have never had a conversation.  You don't know where they're from, where they work, or how many grandchildren they have.

You may be thinking it's time to reverse the trend, to take a little time and introduce yourself and your family to the folks who live nearby.  After all, it's the neighborly thing to do.  It is not hard to say hello and start off with a comment about the weather.  That is, of course, unless the neighbors are deaf and you're hearing.

On this page, we try to answer some of the questions interpreters have or might have received from hearing folks who live near deaf folks.  

We hope you find the information useful, and encourage you to contact us with questions or comments.  Our list is by no means exhaustive and, frankly, we could use your support in building and refining it.


For answers to more general questions, please try these:

Hearing Consumers Ask
Questions asked by hearing consumers of interpreter services; and

FAQ For Newbies
Questions asked by hearing sign language or interpreting students.


1.  How can I say hello?  I'd like my deaf neighbor to know I'm a friendly person, but I don't know how to say it.

You will be relieved to know that members of both cultures, American Hearing and American Deaf, agree on the meaning of a warm smile, a wave, and a head-nod.  Many, but not all, people who are deaf can speech read the English word hello when you say it as part of your greeting.

2.  Will my deaf neighbor be offended if I try to communicate by writing a note?

Not generally ... depending on what's in the note of course. (smile)  But, kidding aside, go ahead and begin note-writing, and see how it goes.  Chances are good that your friendly communication initiative will be warmly welcomed.

Keep in mind that some deaf people do not communicate well using written English, which may explain why it didn't work if you tried note writing but met with limited success.

Don't be afraid or embarrassed to take cues from your deaf neighbor.  You are not the first hearing person who has approached them for a friendly chat, so they probably have experience and will know how to proceed from there.

3.  How do you use sign language to say HELLO or NICE DAY TODAY or YOU'RE PARKED IN MY SPOT?

There are several American Sign Language (ASL) phrase books that would be helpful to have on hand.  Pick up one or two.  When you approach your deaf neighbor, point to the page with the sign language picture of the phrase you would like to say.  Your neighbor will probably smile, nod, and try to help you make the signs.  What a great way to break the ice!  Try one of these for starters:

Perfect Phrases by Lou FantWebster's Getting StartedSigns For Me

4.  I thought all deaf people could read lips, but I don't think my neighbor can.  How come?

It's a hearing people's myth that all deaf people can speech read.  Some can; but most don't rely on it for full and complete communication, and some have no speech reading skill.

It is impossible to see differences among many English consonant sounds.

Try this little experiment: Look at yourself in a mirror and make the sounds for D (dock), K (dock), G (got), T (got), N (not), H (hot), K (key), and T (tea).  Did your mouth move in ways that are clear and visibly distinct?  Probably not.  The words look amazingly similar, don't they?  Many English words sound different, but look very much alike.  Now you have an inkling of how difficult it is to read English on the mouth.

5.  One night I noticed that my neighbor's backyard lawn sprinkler had been running since early that day.  I was sure they had forgotten it was still on.  It was too late to go over and knock on the door.  Is there a way I could have used the telephone to let them know?

If your neighbors have a TTY, you can simply dial 7-1-1 to place the call.  Give the operator the number you'd like to call and wait a moment.  The operator will speak to you and type to your neighbor.  Click here for more information about using 7-1-1.

If your neighbors have a video phone (VP), you can simply call a video relay service (VRS) operator, give him/her your neighbor's number and wait a moment.  The operator will speak to you and sign via a visual monitor connection with your neighbor.  Click the picture below for information about using Sorenson VRS, and then give it a try.  It's easy-breezy!

IMAGE: How VRS Works



If you have your neighbor's pager number and can use your cell phone or pager to place text messages, you might have sent them a text to say you noticed their sprinkler was still on.

6.  It is not at all uncommon in our area to be notified of a natural disaster threat (hurricanes, flooding, etc.).  How can I know that my deaf neighbors are informed?

Whether your neighbors are deaf, live alone, elderly, or work nights and sleep during the day, it is simply the neighborly thing to check in both before and following a natural disaster.  You are a good neighbor to think of asking.

Emergency broadcast captioning, text-messaging, video phones, and the Internet are some of the ways deaf people might be informed about treats from a natural disaster.  And, through concerned neighbors, like you.

7.  Shortly after our neighbors moved in, their smoke alarm came on and rang for hours.  It was very loud and annoyed the hearing woman who lived across the street so she telephoned the police, who came out and told the deaf folks about the alarm.  Later, the hearing woman said she had called the cops because she hadn't wanted to go over and embarrass the deaf people by telling them about their alarm.  But, I think maybe the police showing up might have been a greater embarrassment.  What can neighbors do?

Many hearing people have the mistaken notion that deaf people feel embarrassed because they are not hearing.  This is so often not the case.  Deaf Americans take great pride in their language (American Sign Language) and culture.  Like most of us, deaf Americans have the opportunity to live rich and fulfilling lives, in a network of deep and lasting relationships among family, friends, coworkers, and other members of hearing and deaf communities.

Many deaf people have visual alerting devices (lights) that let them know an alarm is clanging, the phone is ringing, a baby is crying, or someone rang the doorbell.  Apparently, your neighbors had only audible smoke alarms.

It is a simple matter to inform neighbors that an alarm is sounding - more respectful and much less commotion (and expense!) than asking public servants to intercede.

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This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 01, 2009.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

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Gifts, goodies, and prezzies!  Shop 'til you drop!!  =)

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;)
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Books, books, and MORE books!

So many books;
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Movies, movies, and MORE movies!!

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