When psychologist Linda Twilling, Ph.D. asks many patients who are Deaf and come from hearing families about the holidays, she says they respond with a single sign: “Horrible.”
Twilling says that some patients who are Deaf complain about missing out on long family jokes and incomplete translations of important family speech.
“Other Deaf people tell me another story of hope and disappointment. These Deaf people decide to avoid the holiday dinner with their hearing families, because of past isolation. Instead, they join friends for dinner or stay home to watch a movie,” she says. But they are still disappointed and miss family.
Whether you are hearing and wanting to include family and friends who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, or if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, here are some ways to make the holidays brighter with better communication access.
Strategies for an Inclusive Christmas
Plan ahead. The Limping Chicken’s editor, Charlie Swinbourne, provides “12 tips to ensure deaf people aren’t left out at Christmas.” His tips include making visual holiday communications, such as phone calls using Skype, and playing games that provide some time for heavy communication breaks that give family and friends a break from having to decipher what everyone says.
Learn some holiday sign language. The Huffington Post shares Holiday Signs with interpreter Lydia Callis.
Study some American Sign Language, or ASL: ASL Lesson 1 with Dr. Bill Vickers.
Here is a another popular beginning ASL lesson on You Tube.
You can follow lesson 1 with 100 basic ASL signs.
Share a holiday story in American Sign Language, like “The Night Before Christmas.”
Visit accessible events with your family members and friends who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, such as the Houston McCoy Christmas display house that shows captions for the song lyrics, attend movies that have captions (use Captionfish to let you know), and attend accessible church services, such as those at Woodhaven Baptist Church in Houston—where ASL is the main language and voice interpreters are used for those don’t sign.
If possible, attend Deaf social events with family members or friends.
Twilling says that one family hired an interpreter for their son for holiday, causing him to say his holiday was “great.”
If you are Deaf, you can have fun with sign and teach the family a Christmas carol in ASL, “All I Really Want for Christmas.”
One example Twilling gives about a patient who said they had a great holiday was to invite a friend who was also Deaf.
“With two Deaf people at the vacation home, it was obvious that group communication needed to include them. Although this woman commonly functions by speaking and speech reading within her family, they made the effort to communicate more visually, and include her and her friend in planning and conversations,” Twilling says.