Large Setting Lip-Reading

It is common to assume that lip-reading is a skill that each D/deaf person has.  Large setting lip-reading commonly occurs on the job, in medical settings, and in legal settings.   Some people think that providing a sign language interpreter in these settings is unnecessary and that lip-reading is an effective alternative.

Risks of Lip-Reading in a Large Group

Lip-reading is sometimes effective in simple and quick conversations with one other person.  What one person may consider “simple,” however, another person may consider complicated.  The measure of simplicity may also be impacted by lip-reading obstacles.  Large setting lip-reading is even more convoluted.  For the purpose of this blog, a setting with more than one person would be large setting lip-readingconsidered large.  Large setting lip-reading is particularly challenging in a school, work place, or legal setting.  In these situations, if a misunderstanding occurs it could put the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing individual in danger or cause them to appear insubordinate.

Simple versus Complex Topics

As we mentioned, some D/deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers do well lip-reading one on one.  This is especially true when the conversation topic is familiar and/or uncomplicated and can be discussed quickly.  For these types of interactions, a sign language interpreter may not be needed and lip-reading may be effective.  This is also true with writing back and forth as a mode for equal access.  For example, if a D/deaf person is a janitor and someone asks them to empty the trash, they are likely to understand through the written word.  If the topic is a bit more complex, such as only emptying certain trash cans, then the topic may be too complex for lip-reading.  You should always expect that a misunderstanding may have occurred in any lip-reading interaction.

Tracking Conversations

When considering large setting lip-reading, it is almost impossible to follow each person at the exact moment they start talking.  In order to deduce who is speaking, a person who cannot hear must watch for visual cues.  For example, the group may turn their heads towards the speaker.  But by then, the D/deaf person has already missed the initial information.  They must bounce back and forth and attempt to catch everything when multiple people are speaking at the same time.  Perhaps the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing person would like to contribute to the conversation.  Knowing the appropriate moment to interject poses another challenge.  In these situations, sign language interpreters are crucial to understanding.

Equal Access to Language

Equal access to communication means just that, it is equal to the person requesting it.  For example, if a D/deaf person requests a sign language interpreter, the request should be granted.  If a Chinese person requested an interpreter and a Japanese interpreter was provided, this would not be access to communication. Chinese and Japanese are clearly not the same language, and by just providing access to a language does not make it equal.  Lip-reading and writing notes are not a substitute for appropriate language access. Therefore, careful consideration should be paid to a D/deaf individual’s specific language request.

Take this lip-reading test for a better understanding of the difficultly of simply reading one person’s lips.




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