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Attention Getting Techniques:

Waving your hand, tapping lightly on the shoulder, lightly slapping the table at which someone is sitting, and--in some circumstances--stomping your foot on the ground or flashing the lights, are all common ways to get the attention of someone in the signing environment. Discretion should be used, (especially with stomping or light flashing) because not all ways are appropriate at all times and there are right ways to do it.
For example, if you flash the lights rapidly, many times you will either annoy the Deaf or you will cause some people to think there is an emergency.

If you stomp more than twice you run the risk of looking like a child throwing a tantrum. If you stomp too heavily you might cause people to think you are angry.

If you wave your hand wildly in someone's face you are being rude. Always use the minimum amount of movement to get the job done effectively.

If you tap someone on the shoulder using a single finger or using too strong of a jabbing movement it will hurt. If you use too light of a movement it will be unnerving. You should generally use a bent hand and make contact twice using the tips of the fingers.

Newcomers to the Deaf World would be well advised to NOT use the stomping or light flashing methods until they have lived amongst us for long enough to have seen these behaviors repeatedly and have become familiar with their proper use.

Snapping your fingers should NOT be used to attempt to get someone's attention in a signing environment.


DrVicars: How do you get a deaf person's attention?
Sandy: Tap him on the shoulder?

DrVicars: Good that is one of the best ways. And make sure it is tap, not a poke, or slap. Any others you can think of?

Sandy: position yourself in front of them

Lii: Wave across a room

DrVicars: Good. Only put yourself in front of them if they are not already involved in a conversation. Suppose he or she is far from you? Facing the other way?

Sandy: Can you maybe tap your foot on the floor and they'll sense the vibration?

DrVicars: Right, yes! There are many ways to get-attention in the Deaf community, you have covered all but one--the lights. You can flip the lights on and off and they will look up to see who wants what, and then you can tell them your message.

[A note of caution here. The Deaf Cultural Police out there consider it to be inappropriate for hearing people to use the foot-stomp or the light-flash methods of getting attention. My response is this: After a hearing person has become enculturated in the Deaf community he or she is no longer just a hearing person, rather he or she is considered culturally Deaf and as a Deaf person he or she should therefore be entitled to use all of the various methods of getting

DrVicars: Lets talk about when it is appropriate to use the various methods: If it is a whole room full of people the lights work well. Think about it. I can just imagine a scene at a community center for the deaf. Suppose there were a big event going on and two or three people (or even one) had left their car lights on and you wanted to announce that such and such a car had its lights on. You would flip the lights twice and point at a person on stage or standing on a chair who would then make the announcement.

DrVicars: If you are within touching distance of one person and you are behind him I suggest you tap lightly on the shoulder with the pads of your fingertips--DON'T poke him with the tip of your index finger. If you are in front of him or to the side you can wave your hand in an up and
down motion, (this is what I call the "HEY" sign), basically a way to say, "Hey look!"

If the person is across the room (depending on the type of floor and whether or not she is looking at me), I tend to stomp my foot. [Light or hard depends on the situation and my emotional state] That works well when the person is reading or looking the other way. Note: I tend to only do the stomping behavior when I'm in full deaf environments (meaning, everyone in the area is culturally deaf or very familiar with deaf culture). I avoid the "stomping" behavior when I'm in mixed hearing/deaf environments.

I remember going to a "Deaf" party at Rod Jex's place. He had a second floor apartment. There were about 25 Deaf milling about, constantly stomping on the floor. The people downstairs got mad, came up and asked us to, "stop making all that noise!" The whole rest of the evening we had to really suck it in and not do that which was very, very culturally ingrained. We spent our time catching each other stomping, and wondering when the cops would show up.

Sandy: <grin>

DrVicars: You might run into some people who feel that it is inappropriate for a Hearing person to flip the lights or stomp to get attention.
My viewpoint is that a "culturally Hearing" person should not flip the lights or engage in stomping because they have not yet learned how to do such things in a culturally appropriate way.
So,  you happen to be cursed with the ability to hear, but have "hung out" with Deaf people enough (a year or two) to understand and respect their culture--eventually you will learn when and how to flash the lights and appropriate stomping behaviors.  My point is this: If you flip the lights too fast, too long, or too slow, you will annoy people or make them think there is an emergency. If you stomp too hard or too much or around people who don't understand Deaf culture you will make people think you are mad or just inept. So do not use such attention getting devices until you have become acculturated. If you are taking a class or a test taught by a teacher who uses a book that prohibits Hearing people from fliping the lights--fine put down the answer they want, but don't worry about it.
Also See: Attention Getting Techniques: The use of light in the Theater
Also see:  Discourse / Conversation Negotiation Techniques



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