Is Lip Reading As Easy As Reading?
I was recently having a group conversation with three people and all I understood was:
“s_ _ _ _ done _ ay_ _ _ _ _ today _ F _ _ n. Sci_ _n”
I said, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that again?”
“this _ _ _ w_e_ done _ _ _ this _ _ _ _ day _ _ _ F _ _ _ _ _ n . _ _ Science?”
It doesn’t make any sense, right? Given the context, I think she was probably saying, “We’re done with this for today”—or at least something close to this. I’m not sure where the word “science” came from!
I wanted to ask her to repeat what she was saying for a third time but I couldn’t because it was a group conversation and she probably wouldn’t want to repeat herself again.
One guy was standing near the sunlight. He said:
“_ s _ _ _ _ _ _ p _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ u_ _ _”
I couldn’t see his lips’ movement because the sun was in my eyes and his face was darkened, so I just smiled and nodded my head.
Another guy standing next to me had a beard.
He said: “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “
Suddenly, everyone was laughing. I didn’t know why. I laughed lightly and hoped the conversation would end soon.
Can you imagine trying to communicate or relate to others if this was how every conversation went?
Well, this is what a daily conversation is like for me—and for 466 million other people like me.
Just because someone with a hearing disability can read lips does not mean they can understand every word someone is verbally saying. Lip-reading is not reading.
Let me say it again: LIP-READING IS NOT READING.
Someone once described lip-reading as “lip-guessing” and I couldn’t agree more. Lip-reading is one of the main tools we rely on to communicate in everyday life but it’s an imperfect way to converse.
Keep this in mind the next time you communicate with a deaf person, especially in a group setting. Make an effort to involve him or her in the conversation by:
Slowing down your speech
Enunciating your words (but not over-enunciating!)
Facing the deaf person or making sure your face is clearly visible to the deaf person
Not talking over each other, interrupting, or rapidly switching topics
Repeating yourself (and rephrasing if necessary)
Offering to write something down if it’s not clear or if it’s hard to explain
Being patient, understanding, and respectful of his or her conversational needs
Using Comunify to transcribe the conversation in real-time
Deaf people have a lot to add to the conversation, so make sure to give them a fair shot to participate on equal footing with everyone else.
If you’re a member of the hearing community, try it for yourself. Can you lip-guess these conversations?
Special thanks to Skye Sherman for helping me write my story.