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LETTER : Read my lips - if you can

Claire Pasmore's article is to be warmly welcomed for drawing attention to the plight of 8.4 million deaf and hearing impaired people ("Let your fingers do the talking", 25 May). She and I differ, however, on the way in which our plight should be alleviated.

Her belief that everyone should/could learn sign language seems over- optimistic. Only in a dream world would every passer-by be able to give directions in sign language, or every shop assistant or professional adviser convey his or her meaning in this way. Not in our, lifetimes, anyway.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people can live a more normal life now, however, by learning to lip-read. In this way they can maintain personal communication with anybody, anywhere, at any time. It puts the primary burden on the afflicted but does not exonerate either the public or the state. The public must be taught that speaking slowly and clearly (without shouting) and letting the deaf person see the speaker's lips is a basic necessity for the lip-reader. The state should provide lip-reading teachers of high calibre and in sufficient numbers.

Incidentally, the photograph that accompanies this article shows finger spelling, used by signers and lip readers alike for the correct spelling of names etc. It is not part of sign language.

Antonia Gerard

London N6