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Tips for First Responders - Delaware

People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • There is a difference between hard of hearing and deaf. People who are hearing impaired vary in the extent of hearing loss they experience. Some are completely deaf, while others can hear almost normally with hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids do not guarantee that the person can hear and understand speech. They increase volume, not necessarily clarity.
  • If possible, flick the lights when entering an area or room to get their attention.
  • Establish eye contact with the individual, not with the interpreter, if one is present.
  • Use facial expressions and hand gestures as visual cues.
  • Check to see if you have been understood and repeat if necessary.
  • Offer pencil and paper. Write slowly and let the individual read as you write.
  • Written communication may be especially important if you are unable to understand the person’s speech.
  • Do not allow others to interrupt you while conveying the emergency information.
  • Be patient – the person may have difficulty understanding the urgency of your message.
  • Provide the person with a flashlight to signal their location in the event they are separated from the rescue team. This will facilitate lip-reading or signing in the dark.
  • While written communication should work for many people, others may not understand English well enough to understand written instructions. Keep instructions simple, in the present tense and use basic vocabulary.

Additional Resources

Delaware Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
1-302-761-8275 (TTY and voice)
1-302-761-8336 (TTY)

Hearing Loss Association in Delaware
Delaware Chapter (Wilmington)
1-302-292-3066 (Voice/Relay)
Kent and Sussex County Chapters
1-302-674-3272 (Voice/Relay)


University of DelawareCenter for Disabilities Studies