ALDA Chicago
How we communicate:
Whatever works!


ALDA was founded to help those with adult-onset hearing loss cope with their situation and live happier, more satisfying lives.  Much of ALDA’s effort focuses on how we can better communicate with others, both deaf and hearing.
Our philosophy can be summed up in just two words: "Whatever works." 

With patience and good humor, we will use any means we can think of to make sure everyone is part of the conversation: speechreading, repeating ourselves, rephrasing our sentences, sign language, fingerspelling, writing notes, texting, e-mailing and anything else that comes along.

We believe that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to achieve effective communication, only that different methods work best for different people. People communicate in various ways, depending on many factors including their degree of hearing loss; whether speech impairment is involved; whether they have hearing aids or cochlear implants; the experiences they have had in dealing with their hearing loss; and most importantly, their personal preferences.
How, then, do ALDA members communicate with each other and with hearing people? Here are some of the methods we have found effective:

Speechreading, often called “lipreading,” may well be the most common and frequently used form of communication for the hearing impaired. Speechreading consists of close observation of the speaker’s lip and tongue movements, facial expressions and hand and body language, and attempting to determine from that combination of clues what the person is saying.  Although no speechreader would ever claim 100 percent accuracy, many ALDAns are amazingly proficient in communicating this way. Although various training programs are available, most really good speechreaders will admit that they became skilled in the art largely through necessity and practice. 
CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation)

CART is used in formal meetings, presentations, workshops and other large group activities. A hearing person, usually trained as a court reporter, listens to what is being said and uses a stenotype machine and a computer with special software to produce a transcript that is projected on a screen so all may read it.

Sign language
A number of ALDA Chicago members are excellent signers. While some classify themselves as “so-so” in that department, others do not sign at all.  Of those who do sign, many use what is known as Signed Exact English (SEE). SEE provides a sign for each word and signing is done in standard grammatical order. In that sense, it is the form of signing closest to spoken English. Others are proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) which has a very different sentence structure and syntax. In actual practice, most ALDA Chicago members use a version of signing known as Pidgin Signed English (PSE) which combines aspects of SEE and ASL. Many ALDA members welcome the opportunity to practice signing and get better at it.
Interpreters translate spoken language into sign language. They are often called in to help at formal meetings, workshops and other group activities, often in combination with CART. Highly trained and superbly skillful in the various versions of sign language, interpreters listen to the spoken word and translate it into an agreed-upon version of sign language, usually SEE.  In many if not most cases, interpreters also use what is known as oral interpretation in which the interpreter clearly and distinctly mouths what is being spoken for the benefit of speechreaders in the audience. 
Writing notes and texting

At ALDA events you will often see people carrying pencils and pads of paper, or even a laptop or smart phone for texting. Writing or texting is frequently helpful where no other approach seems workable. It is especially effective in group situations where distracting factors such as background noise may hinder communication. It also helps when interacting with people who do not use sign language. Although it is the slowest mode of communication for many deafened people, it is also likely to be one of the most accurate and sometimes the only way to understand and be understood.

Telephone relay services

In recent years, technology has made it easier for those with hearing loss to communicate over the phone through relay services and many ALDA members make use of them. There are three kinds of relay services (see the Helpful Links page for sources). A live operator can convert speech to captions that are shown on a special phone. A live operator can convert speech to captions on your computer screen or some kinds of mobile devices such as the iPhone. Or a live video feed can be sent to your computer screen so you can sign or speechread. Relay services are free to you, although you may have to invest in equipment. Text telephones (TTY/TTD), the older technology for phone calls, are falling out of use.
Whatever works

Each of these communications methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the individual and the situation. What works well for one person may work less well or not at all for another. Among ALDA members, they are used in various combinations at various times. Much depends on past experiences, opportunities to learn and practice a method such as sign language, and simple personal preference. However, our determination to always find a method or combination of methods to communicate with each other and with hearing people demonstrates the true meaning of our motto: "Whatever works!"

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