Getting a Deaf person’s attention may not seem clear cut to people unfamiliar. These are the accepted tactics to say, “Hey look over here”.
How to get a Deaf person’s attention can throw people for a loop. Those unfamiliar are sometimes at a loss when they don’t have eye contact with the Deaf person. Like… you don’t want to be rude.
I get it.
Ideally, we would be facing the other person to fully digest every word or sign when conversing. But like hearing people, this just isn’t always possible. We too move about the rooms in our house, conduct our business facing many directions, cook, do laundry, wipe boogie noses. Deaf people have lives.
Whether you have a new work or roommate situation, are a family welcoming a deaf child, or heck you’ve got a new date you want to impress, these are great for hearing people to become accustomed to because if both Deaf and hearing have access to the same cues, it helps level the playing field. Harmonious household. Even, Steven.
Tap them on the shoulder
Gently please, but let them know you are there. 1, 2.
Flip the lights on and off
Not ALL the lights, just a main one you know they can see at least peripherally like a hall light or a table lamp. 1, 2, 1, 2. Pause. No response, repeat. This works well for us when we have one kid in the bath. I’ve run out of shampoo or need a towel but of course don’t want to leave the bathroom, so I flip the lights in the hall. My husband then comes running (when he’s good and ready).
“Rap” on the table
Seen at dining tables a lot. When someone looks down, you can rap on the table 1, 2, 3. Flat hand down or side of fist. You could also make a knock. Rap, not bang. It’s a dining experience. Works best on wood.
“Bang” on the wall
This actually requires a little more force, since it generally needs to travel farther. But remember, it’s still in the respectful/polite zone than it is an actual bang. You don’t want to dent the drywall. Start lightly, then add more force if needed 1, 2, 3. Careful of pictures hanging, too.
“Stomp” on the floor
Proximity and floor type may have a lot to do with this one. Try it first 1, 2, . No dice, move onto the lights.
“Wave” your hand
This could be described as a “flap” but it’s more of a cultural WAVE. Let distance between you and the urgency of the situation dictate the size and speed of the hand flap. Up and down, not side to side. Here’s a demo:
Wave a flashlight
Best for communicating between floors or when trick or treating. Phone flashlights apply
Use an Intermediary
Can’t get the person’s attention at a distance? See if you can catch the eye of the person sitting next to them. When you do, make a “tap the shoulder” motion in the direction of the person you’d like the attention of.
Send a child on a mission
“Go tap Daddy” – Last resort of course but quite effective.
You can feel confident using these to get a Deaf person’s attention. The National Association for the Deaf (NAD) is also a great resource to check out on cultural issues. But as common as these tactics are, if you’re in doubt, ask someone what they prefer!
Getting a Deaf person’s attention in a respectful way doesn’t have to be complicated.
The most important thing is that we’re communicating in a way that both parties are seen.