Deaf Awareness Week 2017: A celebration of collective action | The Friday Article

‘A celebration’ is the theme for this year’s Deaf Awareness Week – something which, to me, suggests that we should celebrate the power of collective action within the deaf community. It’s now that we should celebrate the charities and campaigners, as well as their achievements. At a time when politics has divided Britain, it’s important for us to show society the power of collective action and what we, as a community, can accomplish.

Photo: Deaf Council.

One example is the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) – a charity with which I have very strong connections. In 2014, I was part of their Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a group of 18 deaf young people from across the UK who came together over the two years to discuss issues affecting deaf people. Whilst on the board, I campaigned for better audiology services and contacted key figures in the NHS about the matter, amongst other things. Now, the new YAB have launched their new campaign, calling for sign language to be taught in schools. They found out that 97% of young people want British Sign Language (BSL) in schools, and through the NDCS, they have taken to the local and national press to get their message out there during Deaf Awareness Week.

Elsewhere, Action on Hearing Loss’ Subtitle It! campaign called on on-demand TV services to provide subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing people. Through an amendment to the Digital Economies Bill, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has the power to ensure on-demand programmes have a ‘minimum level’ of subtitling.

Then there’s the landmark achievement in Scotland back in 2015, where the BSL (Scotland) Bill became an act, calling for its Parliament to ‘promote the use of British Sign Language’. Now, the fight continues to make British Sign Language a legally recognised language in the UK.

Yet, it’s not just deaf people coming together which we should celebrate, it’s the creative talent of the deaf community, too. Entertainers such as John Smith and Danny’s Skits offer funny videos which promote deaf culture at the same time, and, of course, the deaf website The Limping Chicken offers individuals a platform to air their views on deaf issues.

Every year, the theme for Deaf Awareness Week is different (last year’s was ‘a common purpose’, for example). However, whilst these topics are subjective, it can always come down to highlighting the power of the deaf community. As a strong subculture, we can make positive changes in society and ensure our voices are never ignored.


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!


Deaf Awareness Week

From the 19th to the 25th May this year, it is Deaf Awareness Week. For those who are new here (hello!), or don’t know, I have inner-ear deafness myself, and I am a hearing aid user in both ears.

So today I thought I would share my top 3 hints, tips and advice when it comes to deaf awareness, and communicating with deaf people!

Tip 1. Don’t know sign language? No problem!

Let’s not forget that there are other universal ways in which everyone can communicate. Grab a pen and paper, and write a note down. Therefore, you can still communicate your message (even when you don’t know sign language) and they can understand! Simples!

Tip 2. A gentle tap on the shoulder or wave will do to get a deaf person’s attention.

Try and use a method which requires another sense. In this case, a tap on the shoulder or a wave can both get their attention easily.

Tip 3. Being as normal and visible as possible is key!

Visual obstructions can be a real problem for deaf people. Visual cues are heavily relied upon by deaf people to understand a message. Visual obstructions can cause issues as those who communicate in sign won’t see the signs themselves, and those who lipread won’t be able to read the person’s lips! Therefore, standing opposite them, in clear light, and talking normally can greatly help a deaf person to understand you.

If anything, I believe that deaf people like myself get a lot from verbal cues. Gestures, facial expressions and body language can help us to figure out what the message is. Therefore, talking normally (not loudly, slowly or quickly) and naturally is key!

So there are my top 3 tips! Are you deaf and have tips yourself? If so, comment with them below! Or perhaps you’re hearing but have had experiences with communicating with deaf people? Either way, it’d be great to hear your thoughts in the comments!