Communication tips for people with Usher

Every individual with Usher is different in regard to their preferred method of communication.Therefore you will need to explain to people if you are feeling uncomfortable or do not understand them.

The following are useful tips when you meet someone who is not aware of your Usher or your communication needs:-

  1. Explain to the person about your vision if you find it difficult to understand them.
  2. If the person tries to get your attention, i.e. waving at you or shouting at your ear, tell them how you want to be approached, i.e. tap on or gently hold your arm. 
  3. Do not be afraid to ask the person for their name if you cannot see their face when they start talking. Sighted hearing people recognise each other by their appearance and voice. Somebody with Usher may not be able to do this. 
  4. If the person talks too close or too far away from you, ask them to move to your preferred distance.
  5. If the area you are in is too noisy or has too much background noise, move to a suitable, quiet area. 
  6. If the person does not speak clearly or shouts at you without realising it, ask the person to speak clearly but without shouting.
  7. If the person is difficult to understand, ask them to use clear lip patterns but without overexaggeration. 
  8. If the person smokes, eats or covers their mouth, explain that it is difficult for you to understand them.
  9. If necessary, repeat phrases or rephrase the sentence to make sure you have the correct understanding.
  10. Be aware that communicating can be hard work. Take regular communication breaks 
  11. If it is too dark to lip read or see the person’s face, ask the person to move with you to a well-lit area before starting a conversation.
  12. If you need time to adapt to changing light i.e. walking from outside to inside, explain this to the person.  
  13. If the person stands with light coming directly from behind them, i.e. sunlight, a bright window or doorway, or a bright lamp, this will place the person’s face in shadow and the glare may be uncomfortable for you. Explain that you are unable to see or lip read them and ask them to move to a direction to suit your need. 
  14. It is for you to decide the best distance to stand or sit away from the other person in order to follow their signing, finger spelling or to lip read them. About four to five feet is reasonable, but remember, everyone is different and the distance may vary according to the environment and lighting conditions. If the person stands too close, you may not be able to see their hands and / or facial movements. Try to encourage other people to be aware of your `visual frame’ and confine their finger spelling and signs to within this space. 
  15. You can explain to the person and describe how much of their face and body you can see at a certain distance. For example, you might be able to see their face and chest from a distance of five feet. 
  16. You may not be aware if a person ends a conversation with you and then leaves you. You could explain this to the person so that they do not do this next time.
  17. Try writing things down. You might need to experiment with different sizes of letters and different coloured paper and pens.


Communicating about your orientation and mobility 

  1. If a person tries to point at things, persons or objects and you are unable to identify them – yes it can be frustrating, but ask the person to describe the things or to name the person and explain whereabouts they are exactly.  If you are unable to see where the person is pointing, gently hold onto the person’s hand as they point towards the object, this may help with identification.
  2. If you are unable to see, do not be afraid to ask the person if it is ok to hold the person’s arm for guidance, particularly in dark, poorly lit or crowded areas. 
  3. Explain to the person that you may not be able to see low furniture, steps or any other low or overhanging obstacle. 


Created: February 2016

Review due: February 2018

First published: Wednesday 2 December 2015
Updated: Monday 16 January 2017