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Communicating with a deaf person in the workplace

Whether your organisation has recruited a deaf person or your business provides services which deaf children and young people might use, it's important to understand the different ways deaf people might communicate and how you can support them. 

Communication top tips

If you’ve never communicated with a deaf child or young person before, you may feel nervous about how to do it. But don't worry – it’s not as hard as you think!

Check out our top tips for communicating with a deaf child or young person

Communication approaches

It's important to understand that every deaf person is different, with different levels of deafness, hearing aids or implants, technology and communication preferences.

Some common communication preferences include:

  • listening and speaking
  • British Sign Language (BSL)
  • lip-reading
  • Sign Supported English.

Learn more about the common communication approaches chosen by deaf people. 

While not all deaf children and young people use BSL, some do use it as their first, only and/or preferred language. BSL is a visual language that uses hand shapes, facial expression, gestures, body language and fingerspelling. It has a structure and grammar different from that of written and spoken English.

If you're interested in learning BSL yourself, here is some helpful information to get you started. 

Getting started

Like any language, it takes time and practice to learn and use BSL fluently.

You can get stared with basic BSL by taking a look online. is a great place to learn BSL from home and gain access to fingerspelling and more complex signs.

Learn the BSL alphabet.

Learn some basic greetings in BSL.

How to find BSL courses

BSL is broken down into different levels and can be learnt through a variety of courses, from basic introductory courses to recognised qualifications like an NVQ, and even as an Honours degree. Download our 'Levels of BSL' table for an overview of courses and how they link together.

There are many providers of BSL courses, including:

  • local colleges
  • private businesses
  • charities
  • voluntary groups.

It's worth spending a bit of time investigating who offers courses in your area to see which provider is most suitable in terms of cost, location, speed of learning and course times. 

A good place to search for courses is Signature’s website. They don’t give you dates and times of courses but will tell you where you can find them.

Cost of BSL courses

The cost of accredited courses at Level 1 can vary, with courses ranging from free to more than £400 depending on the provider. The cost of BSL courses is often higher for more advanced levels.