By Tali Fisher
Raising Deaf awareness can close gaps between the hearing and deaf worlds by allowing us to understand each other’s cultures better, creating a more inclusive society, and accepting each other’s differences.
Deafness is the Second biggest disability in the UK
Almost anybody could be affected by hearing loss at some point in their lives.
There are approximately 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK which makes it the second most common disability! Deafness impacts both the deaf and hearing worlds.
A deaf person might not be able to understand you but you might not be able to understand a deaf person.
Communication is two ways and communication is the biggest obstacle between these two worlds.
Therefore, barriers can be broken down if we spread the message and raise more deaf awareness within our society.
1 in 3 Deaf people struggle with their mental health
That’s right. Deaf people are statistically more likely to struggle with mental health issues than hearing people. Due to inequality, lack of accessibility, frustration and of course, isolation. Sometimes other people just don’t understand how Deaf people feel being surrounded by hearing people. We often feel like an alien from another galaxy excluded from all these hearing Earth dwellers.
Imagine yourself in a completely Deaf world, full of deaf people using British Sign Language (BSL), and you just stand there in the middle of a blur of hands, signing around you. Not knowing what to do or how to get involved, feeling like an alien. That is how we often feel in our everyday lives.
We often face discrimination and impatience from colleagues, workers, and peers. Sadly, it’s still going on nowadays despite the Equality Act of 2010. We feel like there aren’t enough people who are Deaf Aware. Workplaces can be afraid to hire deaf people as they are concerned about how to communicate with a potential deaf employee, how they arrange support, how much that will cost them etc.
They have no idea that funding can be put in place to pay for interpreters and other equipment that won’t cost the employer. This is because they have no awareness and are afraid to ask.
This is why Deaf Awareness training is so important in workplaces and education. The message needs to be spread!
Definition of Deafness
I was born profoundly deaf and got a cochlear implant on my left ear to assist my hearing when I was 5 and a half. Remember it’s not a cure though! My cochlear implant doesn’t make me hearing, I’m still Deaf. I was born into a hearing family and had many speech therapists in primary school. It was a lot of hard work but here I am.
From my experience, people are often shocked when I start to speak or when I have heard something they say, and some people have then assumed I didn’t need any additional access (e.g. a BSL interpreter) just because I have a cochlear implant to assist my hearing. It can be quickly forgotten when you communicate with a deaf person who can hear and speak. Bear in mind that there are various levels of deafness.
You might have heard of decibels (dBs), which measure how loud a sound is.
Someone with mild hearing loss will not be able to hear sounds that are quieter than 25 – 45 dB (e.g. can’t hear whisper or clock ticking) and someone with a severe loss will not be able to hear much below 75 – 90 dB (eg can’t hear the TV, phone ringing or people talking).
All Deaf people are different, just like all people are different!
Therefore, communication is the main key here. Communication is always a two-way process, and everyone is different, ask the deaf person how they prefer to communicate!
Please turn the volume down
Yes, you read that right. I always ask people to turn the volume down on the radio or TV as it can be ridiculously loud and can interfere with the conversation I’m trying to have with you. It’s a big mistake to turn up the volume or speak too loudly to try and get a deaf person to understand you better. The Deaf person still won’t understand you and you will just end up with a sore throat from all that shouting!
You wouldn’t like to feel like an alien excluded the society, would you? Just treat deaf people as normal people like you would hearing people. Just ensure the communication is two ways and be patient!
Here’s how you can help to spread Deaf Awareness
I hugely encourage everybody, even you, to do your bit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Together we can work to reduce barriers. Bring these two worlds and cultures of hearing and deaf together to become one bigger, more inclusive world.
Nobody knows if/when their hearing will worsen as it can happen to anyone. Every person needs to understand Deaf Awareness and learn basic British Sign Language.
You may think BSL is tough to learn. Just take a baby step at a time. Even just ABCs or ‘how are you’ in BSL can make a massive difference in communication.
Together, we can make a difference!
Share blogs, deaf awareness materials, and BSL videos with your classmates, family or friends to spread the word OR sign! Here are some more links from us at FCSA, so feel free to read and share:
Deaf Awareness videos 2021