These are a few things I've learned while working with impaired persons in home health care, and residential care with seniors.
Communicating with the hearing impaired
If the person wears a hearing aid and still has difficulty hearing, check to see if the hearing aid is in the person’s ear. Also check to see that it is turned on, adjusted and has a working battery. If these things are fine and the person still has difficulty hearing, find out when he/she last had a hearing evaluation;
Wait until you are directly in front of the person, you have that individual’s attention and you are close enough to the person before you begin speaking;
Be sure that the individual sees you approach, otherwise your presence may startle the person;
Face the hard-of-hearing person directly and be on the same level with him/her whenever possible;
If you are eating, chewing or smoking while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand;
Keep your hands away from your face while talking;
Recognize that hard-of-hearing people hear and understand less well when they are tired or ill;
Reduce or eliminate background noise as much as possible when carrying on conversations;
Speak in a normal fashion without shouting. See that the light is not shining in the eyes of the hearing impaired person;
If the person has difficulty understanding something, find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over;
Use simple, short sentences to make your conversation easier to understand;
Write messages if necessary;
Allow ample time to converse with a hearing impaired person. Being in a rush will compound everyone’s stress and create barriers to having a meaningful conversation.
Communicating with the deaf
Communicating with the deaf is similar to communicating with the hearing impaired;
Write messages if the person can read;
Use an ipad, ipod, laptop, or other device with illustrations to facilitate communication;
Be concise with your statements and questions;
Utilize as many other methods of communication as possible to convey your message (i.e. body language);
Spend time with the person, so you are not rushed or under pressure.
Communicating with the visually impaired
If you are entering a room with someone who is visually impaired, describe the room layout, other people who are in the room, and what is happening;
Tell the person if you are leaving. Let him/her know if others will remain in the room or if he/she will be alone;
Use whatever vision remains;
Allow the person to take your arm for guidance;
When you speak, let the person know whom you are addressing;
Ask how you may help: increasing the light, reading the menu, describing where things are, or in some other way;
Call out the person’s name before touching. Touching lets a person know that you are listening;
Allow the person to touch you;
Treat him/her like a sighted person as much as possible;
Use the words "see" and "look" normally;
Legal blindness is not necessarily total blindness. Use large movement, wide gestures and contrasting colors;
Explain what you are doing as you are doing it, for example, looking for something or putting the wheelchair away;
Describe walks in routine places. Use sound and smell clues;
Encourage familiarity and independence whenever possible;
Leave things where they are unless the person asks you to move something. It can be upsetting for them if they cannot find something missing from a place they purposefully keep it.
A calm, kind voice is a key to good communication, and comfort.