Deaf Awareness Week 2016: Patience is a virtue

So this week saw the return of Deaf Awareness Week, which ran from the 2nd May and ends today. Last year, I stressed the importance of communicating with deaf people, as this is something hearing people need to work on, in my opinion. Now, whilst learning British Sign Language (BSL) is important, deaf awareness in that respect has improved in today’s society. This year, however, I want to talk about patience when communicating with deaf people – an issue which still exists in the hearing world.

Photo courtesy of UK Council on Deafness

It’s happened many times before: either the speaker is mumbling, explaining a complex joke or talking in an environment filled with background noise. I can’t hear what the person said, but asking for them to repeat themselves leads to them saying one of the following:

  • “Never mind.”
  • “It doesn’t matter.”
  • “I’ll tell you later.”

None of these are OK! Let’s be honest, we love talking about ourselves and we love it even more when people show an interest in us. With that in mind, why is it really a problem for an individual to repeat information about themselves to a deaf person, when they didn’t hear it the first time? What’s worse is that they would probably repeat it to a hearing person without sighing, rolling their eyes or putting on a patronising voice. Granted, repeating information is an inconvenience, but is it really a big problem?

Then there’s the three responses above. The first two both refer to the conversation not being of importance, but even when a deaf person couldn’t hear what the speaker said the first time round, they could see that the conversation was important – so why doesn’t it matter now? As for the last comment… Well, we can tell that you’ll forget about it later.

So for this year’s Deaf Awareness Week, I think it’s important to stress patience when it comes to communicating with deaf people. By being patient, you may find that a deaf person may have some interesting ideas and opinions to contribute to the discussion, which would otherwise go unsaid if you say it ‘doesn’t matter’.

What do you think? If you’re deaf like me, what did you do for Deaf Awareness Week? If you’re hearing, what do you think about deaf awareness? Comment below!

Liam

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