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
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
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
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
Discourse / Conversation Negotiation Techniques