Walking and talking while Deaf
December 3, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

"Unlike hearing people, the deaf have to keep sightlines in order to maintain conversations. So when deaf people walk and talk, they’ll lock into a kind of dance. Going through a doorway, one person will spin in place and walk backwards to keep talking. Walking past a column, two deaf people in conversation will move in tandem to avoid collision." The podcast 99% Invisible interviews a designer of a building at Gallaudet University designed for the way deaf people move and talk. [full transcript]
posted by desjardins (18 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
This didn't really fit into the post, but this is a good link: Tips for communicating with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people [pdf]
posted by desjardins at 7:29 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh man I am immediately printing out the At Work portion of that pdf and stapling it to my office door.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:34 AM on December 3, 2014

Neat! Thanks for sharing! I love reading about ways buildings are getting (re)designed to accommodate more people.
posted by jillithd at 7:42 AM on December 3, 2014

I would have went with "The Walking Deaf" for a title, but yours is a bit clearer.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's probably best not to conflate deaf people with zombies, even in jest.
posted by gilrain at 8:25 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is super interesting, thanks for posting.
posted by greenish at 8:39 AM on December 3, 2014

It is worth mentioning that in the PDF, the One-to-One section assumes the deaf person to have residual hearing or that they can lipread. Lipreading is hard and not very common, and most deaf that do not have residual hearing may be annoyed by people speaking at them after they have indicated they are deaf.

One of the things that bugs my Deaf instructor the most is that people don't try to communicate with her directly by way of writing first. When they manage to obtain an interpreter, they direct their questions at the interpreter, saying things like "Tell her that...".

She has worn a shirt that says The Walking Deaf to class several times!
posted by cobain_angel at 8:40 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Previously on lipreading: "Even the most skilled lipreaders in English, I have read, can discern an average of 30 percent of what is being said."

Sounds about right. I do a lot of guessing; it's surprising how much you can figure out from context. I'm not D/deaf, but I'm hard of hearing, and I absolutely rely on eye contact. I try to avoid walking & talking because the other (hearing) person isn't conditioned to maintain eye contact while walking. I guess my peripheral vision has become pretty well-developed.

Written communication is great too! Texting has been a godsend for noisy places like bars. (When you see someone in a social situation looking at their phone instead of talking to the people around them, don't scoff... they might actually be talking to the people around them.)
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Talk about walking your talk!
posted by jamjam at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2014

Or is that walk about talking your walk?
posted by jamjam at 10:01 AM on December 3, 2014

Just started going through 99PI recently. Fantastic little podcast.
posted by cthuljew at 10:10 AM on December 3, 2014

Thank you for this! I was just wondering today about how different conversation must be in terms of body orientation when the communication mode is visual and was going to post an AskMe about it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:26 PM on December 3, 2014

Architectural barriers work differently for the deaf in many ways. In my neighbourhood there are two deaf guys who I've seen having coffee together, chatting, separated by a pane of glass. One of them inside, in the non-smoking zone, the other one on the pavement, sitting at one of the smoking-allowed tables. And having an animated conversation.
posted by kandinski at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was kind of hoping from the post title this would be a Marlee Matlin interview focusing on her work on "The West Wing." Alas...
posted by GamblingBlues at 2:36 PM on December 3, 2014

Someone passed along a link to an hour long interview about DeafSpace with an architect and professor at University of Maryland College Park, the Director of Campus Design and Planning at Gallaudet, and a professor of ASL and Deaf studies at Gallaudet. [transcript is below photos]
posted by desjardins at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2014

Absolutely fascinating. I'm deaf and very much in the mainstream so (and I'm feeling very naive about this) I never even realised that this was an area that people studied and designed.

This: Deaf people “read” the activities in their surroundings that may not be immediately apparent to many hearing people through an acute sensitivity of visual and tactile cues such as the movement of shadows, vibrations, or even the reading of subtle shifts in the expression/position of others around them. (from the "What is DeafSpace" link) was particularly enlightening.

I thought I just had freaky good peripheral vision coupled with an overactive imagination because I frequently see all manner of things out of the corner of my eye that simply are not there -- not just people, but furniture, animals, you name it. Turns out there's actually a reason.
posted by prettypretty at 7:31 PM on December 3, 2014

This was a fascinating episode. I thought it was insightful at the end that Mars said that designing for people with disabilities (Deaf, arthritic, etc.) created things that are better for everyone. I certainly would benefit from glass corners - I bump into people all the time!

Incidentally, I am a huge 99PI fan and thought I'd heard them all, but I realized that I missed a huge chunk in the middle. Looking forward to bingeing on a whole lot more. It's now on FanFare too (yaaayyyy).
posted by radioamy at 9:34 PM on December 4, 2014

I'm deaf and very much in the mainstream
Well, we liked you before you were cool.

I'll see myself out.
posted by scrump at 1:19 PM on December 9, 2014

« Older Stolen Valor   |   A hundred death whistles marching Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments