Writing Back and Forth as Equal Access
Writing as a means of communication is a common substitute to a sign language interpreter, similar to lip-reading. Just as with lip-reading, using written language may not guarantee understanding. So it is important to understand possible limitations.
Grammatical Word Order
American Sign Language (ASL), as opposed to English, is the first language of many sign language users. ASL is derived from French Sign Language, and has a different word order than English. For example, in English we might say, “I am going to the store.” But in ASL we might sign, “Store, go.” English has a lot of additional lexicons we do not use in traditional ASL. When these words are added to signed or spoken sentences, they can be complicated to decipher.
Written Language Variances
Writing may seem perfectly acceptable since the average D/deaf person can read. However, conversational language in writing follows a different norm than formal writing. Since not all of us are professional writers, communication is often skewed when writing back and forth. This results in misunderstandings.
Simple versus Complex Writing
Just as with lip-reading, the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing consumer may not be able to fully understand the written explanation if the subject is too complex. For example, you may write, “Store, pick up bread.” The words “store” and “bread” can be combined and the D/deaf person will know what you mean. If the topic of communication is more complex, then a sign language interpreter should be scheduled and/or the equal access accommodation requested by the D/deaf or Hard of Hearing person should be provided.
Reading in a Second Language
The D/deaf person may nod their head indicating they understood what has been written. But this only assures they believe they understand. It is also possible they do not want to considered ignorant. To avoid miscommunication, it should always be assumed, as with lip-reading, that a misunderstanding has occurred even if you think the writing is clear.
Reading English is a second language for many people who are D/deaf. American Sign Language has no written system. This impacts the clarity of the written word.