- Always ask the person how you can best assist.
- Ask/Look for:
- An identification bracelet with special health information.
- Emergency contact information to reach the person’s family.
- Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]). Medication.
- Mobility aids (for example, wheelchair, cane, walker or an assistance or service animal).
- Special health instructions (for example, allergies).
- Special communication information (for example, the person might say [s]he is stressed, look confused, withdraw, start rubbing their hands together).
- Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).
- Try to include the person in conversations with other people; don’t talk about a person in front of that person.
- If the person does not use words to speak, look for gestures or other behaviors that communicate what that person wants to express.
- Don’t assume that people do not understand just because they don’t use words to communicate.
Tips for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- There is a difference between hard of hearing and deaf. People who are hard of hearing vary in the extent of hearing loss they experience. Some have complete deafness, 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 (but not exaggerated) 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.