Do's and Don'ts
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Do's & Don'ts - Getting Attention in die Deaf Community

DO: Sign Language depends on vision. To begin a conversation you must first make eye contact with the person you want to sign to. If this person is not looking at you, you can try waving to catch his/her eye.

DON'T: When you wave in this way, don't wave in the person's face or use huge waving gestures if you are close by. A small flapping movement of the hand is usually enough. As your tutor will demonstrate.

DO: If waving fails and if you near enough, tap the person's shoulder. Do not feel hesitant about this tapping, even with strangers; Deaf community members are used to such contact.

DON'T: When touching a person to get attention don't tap too lightly or just once, or too often. Two or three firm but not heavy taps should be enough. Shoulders are the best places to tap, until you know the person well! Remember, if you can get attention with a wave, there is no need to tap.

DO: If the person you want to sign to is at a distance, ask other people to pass on your wave or tap until you get this person's attention. Conversations in S.A.S.L. can be held at greater distances than spoken ones.


  • Tap gently on the shoulder to get attention.
  • If beyond the reach to tap, wave in the air until eye contact is established.
  • Switch lights on and off to get attention.
  • Establish a comfortable distance between you and the person involved in communication.
  • Establish eye contact before beginning communication. This is considered a stare in other cultures but not in Deaf culture. South African Sign Language (SASL) is a visual language, and therefore the eyes are used to process the message.
  • Eye contact can also be used as a turn-taking technique, especially in group discussions where everyone looks at the next speaker.
  • Wait for your turn to start signing (equivalent to speaking).
  • Keep the fac4e clear of any obstruction, e.g. hair, scarf, etc.
  • Show that you are attentive by nodding slightly. If you are expressionless, it conveys inattentiveness.


  • Do not touch elsewhere on the body to get attention, e.g. head, face, stomach, etc.
  • Do not use a fist/punch to get attention.
  • Do not kick or throw things to get attention.
  • Do not stand against light or a window.
  • Do not pass between two people signing. If you have to, excuse yourself before walking through.
  • Do not stand too close.
  • Do not look away during the conversation as that denotes termination of communication.
  • Do not sign with hands full of objects, e.g. cup, books, etc.
  • Do not eat or chew anything while signing.
  • Do not stand in a dark spot.