Dark blue background with young woman in white shirt looking up while holding her hands to her left ear

Deaf Awareness Week 2nd – 9th May 2022

Deaf Awareness Week is an opportunity for everyone to think about the impact of deafness and to reflect on how we can be  supportive an inclusive of people who are deaf. This year’s theme is Deaf Inclusion, and we would like to  highlight some simple ways to make sure deaf people are involved and included.

One  in 6 of the population has some degree of hearing loss and this is rapidly rising to 1 in 5, and half of people over the age of 60 have some hearing loss. 7,000 Deaf people use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language. Even a mild degree of hearing loss can have a huge impact on someone’s confidence and involvement.

Protecting your hearing

Exposure to loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss and tinnitus that might not show up for years, or even decades, and is thought to be on the increase as we all spend much more time listening on headphones.  Here are some simple tips to protect your hearing if you are exposed to loud noise.

  • Be aware of the volume you are listening, follow any guidance from your phone or tablet about the volume you are listening to, particularly when wearing headphones.
  • If you are in a position where you can’t control the loud noise, wear some hearing protection like ear defenders or ear plugs. In the workplace, under Health and Safety legislation, this would count as wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Take a break from the exposure to loud noise regularly, and allow your ears to rest.

Be aware of the signs that your hearing is being affected. Some common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Not hearing people clearly or misunderstanding what people are saying
  • Asking people to repeat what they are saying
  • Turning the volume up on radio and TV really, really loudly
  • Not hearing doorbells or alarms

Some simple communication tips

The biggest barrier that people who are deaf or hard of hearing face day to day is keeping up with the communication around about them. There are many factors that will affect how people manage communication to stay connected with those around them, including how much hearing they still have, whether they use hearing aids and the strategies that they have found that work for them. However, we also have a responsibility to make sure deaf people are included.

There are some really simple tips that we can all follow when speaking so someone how is deaf or hard of hearing.  All of these tips will help someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to lipread you and follow what you are saying.

  • Make sure you are facing the person and your face is well lit
  • Speak normally and clearly, using plain language and no jargon
  • Stop what you are doing so that the person can concentrate on lipreading you
  • Minimise background noise or move to somewhere quieter
  • If asked to repeat something, try saying it slightly differently
  • Be patient, keep trying, and don’t walk away thinking it doesn’t matter
  • Give the person a moment to process what you are saying and then to respond – don’t rush them
  • Be aware that communication when you have a hearing loss can be exhausting. If someone is too tired or the communication is going on for too long, they may struggle to concentrate. Think about making alternative arrangements so they can communicate when they are feeling fresh and focused
  • Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking, and minimise any background noise or move to a quieter space
  • Stop anything else you are doing while you are communicating so the person can concentrate on lipreading you
  • Ask the person if anything will help with communication
  • Check that they have heard and understood what you have said, and always remember to do this respectfully
  • Use plain language and avoid jargon to help the person lipread
  • Support your communication with visual information e.g. images, texting, written information
  • In group situations, everyone should take turns talking and not talk over each other

Download this basic tip sheet.

Including Deaf British Sign Language users

Around 7,000 Deaf people who were born or became severely of profoundly deaf before learning to speak use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language. They are proud of their Deaf identify and do not see themselves as being disabled but as being a cultural and linguistic minority. British Sign Language users have felt isolated from mainstream services and society as very few people can use sign language to communicate. When the Scottish Government introduced the BSL Scotland Act in 2015, this was designed to support and promote the use of British Sign Language, which is starting to make a difference on make all parts of society and day to day life, including education, employment, social, cultural and leisure as well as health and social care serives more accessible to Deaf British Sign Language users.

Just last week (27th April 2022) the UK Government passed a new BSL Act, which will cover England, Scotland and Wales. We look forward to seeing the impact this will have on the lives of Deaf people.

You do not need to have good sign language skills to communicate with a BSL users, following all of the basic tips above will help. Most local Colleges run British Sign Language classes if you would like learn sign language, including the grammar, structure, hand-shapes and other key parts of communicating with Deaf people. Watch these short videos to find out about the Fingerspelling Alphabet and some basic signs.

Learn the British Sign Language Fingerspelling alphabet

Watch this short video to learn the BSL fingerspelling alphabet

It can also be really useful to learn some basic signs. Watch this short video demonstrating some basic signs you can learn so you can have some communication with a Deaf person when you meet.

Watch this short video to learn some basic signs

Making communication accessible

If you are a service provider, you have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to make communication more accessible for people with a disability, and therefore someone with a hearing loss.

  • Provide a British Sign Language – English interpreter for meetings with a Deaf British Sign Language user.
  • Provide information in British Sign Language video so that BSL users have full access to the information.
  • Make sure your staff are deaf aware by accessing information about deafness, and providing deaf awareness training.
  • Make sure there is a loop system or other appropriate listening device in public areas for hearing aid wearers to use.
  • Design spaces so they have good acoustics. Soft furnishings limit echo which can be distracting, while hard surfaces amplify sound and create echo, making it more difficult for people with hearing loss to hear conversation.
  • In our visual world of video and other online content, make sure that any films or audio has subtitles or a transcript. Automated captions are often inaccurate, so better to create your own captions.

Find out more about the services that we provide at…….

To find out more about how to support someone with our sensory impairment, book a place on our training

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