Communication tips


Deaf-friendly communication - Tips

General / Briefing / Information sessions

  1. Find out from the sailor:
    • What type of sounds may be easier to hear
    • How they like to communicate (sign language, lip reading, writing down)
    • What is the best way to get their attention?
    • What aids or equipment do you need to be aware of (and is it waterproof)?
  2. Ask all participants to say their name before they contribute
  3. Subtitle any videos you plan to use
  4. Set a ground rule of participants contributing one at a time and not talking over each other
  5. Repeat yourself, and other people’s contributions if needed
  6. Avoid covering your mouth, or chewing gum while talking
  7. Keep your face clear (sunglasses, hats, whistles, buffs?)
  8. Don’t give up trying to explain, try different ways of getting across what you are trying to say – use pictures, demos if needed
  9. If you are using visual aids allow time for sailors to switch attention from what you are saying, to the visual aid
  10. Avoid moving around when you are talking
  11. Avoid speaking slowly or raising your voice as this can distort lip patterns
  12. If you are using communication professionals (e.g. an interpreter)
    • Ensure the sailor can see the presenter and the interpreter
    • Give time for the communication professional to relay the message and for the sailor to reply
    • Have regular communication breaks (30mins)
    • Share information about the briefing / session / presentation with the communication professional before the session and go through any jargon / terminology


On the Water

  1. Agree signals for key words / actions (help, head for home, come to me, emergency, stop)
  2. Use visual signals as well as auditory ones – whistles and flags
  3. Communicate key information when the boat is alongside so you can give information face to face.
  4. Have a portable whiteboard with you for key words, pictures etc
  5. Have a watertight box or bag to put aids and equipment in (e.g. hearing aids)
  6. Use BSL flip cards – reminders of essential signs / concepts
  7. Use picture cards for sailing words
  8. Demonstrate skills and activities


On Water Signals / Cards

BSL finger spelling

BSL Flip Cards


Further reading

NDCS - BSL for deaf-friendly activity

NDCS: BSL signs for Watersports


Blind and Visually Impaired Sailors – Tips

General / Briefing / Information sessions

  1. Identify yourself, your name and your role.
  2. Find out from the sailor:
    1. What support they might need getting to the venue and finding their way around
    2. How you can support them?
    3. What they can see?
    4. How can the environment be optimised?
    5. Is there anything to avoid?
    6. How do they like to learn?
    7. What experience and understanding do they have of the activity?
    8. Do they need handouts / information in a braille format or electronically?
    9. What to do with any mobility aids or guide dogs during the session / activity?
  3. Assess the space you are using - Is the floor and corridors free from trip hazards? What is the lighting like?
  4. If you are using visual aids, ensure you explain with words as well
  5. Take time to allow the sailor to familiarise themselves with the environment

On the water

  1. Take time to fit flotation devices for the first time, ensuring the sailor knows how everything works
  2. Take time to allow the sailor to familiarise themselves with the boat, all the controls (how they work, how they are fixed) and hazards
  3. Add bells to marks / buoys to help locate them
  4. Concentrate on how the boat feels and sounds during specific skills / tasks – wind on their face, sails flapping, heel of the boat, tension on sheets with wind pressure
  5. Check with the sailor if they are comfortable using hand over hand techniques to demonstrate specific skills e.g. tacking
  6. Consider a buddy system
  7. Consider adding tactile clues to support orientation around the boat

Guiding tips

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Ask if they want assistance – don’t assume, and don’t be offended if they don’t
  3. Ask which side they prefer to be guided on
  4. Offer your elbow or shoulder
  5. Ensure you are one step in front of the person
  6. Don’t walk too fast or too slowly – check you are getting it right
  7. Talk to the person – particularly about what is coming up on the route and explain any noises
  8. Keep your guiding arm still and relaxed
  9. For seats – place their hand on the back of the seat
  10. Through doorways – ensure the person steps behind you and make sure they don’t get struck by the door as it closes behind them
  11. Obstacles – give the person you are guiding plenty of space


Further reading

British Blind Sport: A guide to visually impaired friendly sport

GBR Blind Sailing Website

Next - accessible information

Accessible information

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