Are We Listening To Our Deaf Communities?

In a society where you’d expect the needs of somebody with a hearing impairment to be catered for, visiting Bid’s Open Morning surprised us to realise that there are still significant changes needed to better integrate deaf people into our community.

There are an estimated 11 million deaf people in the UK that are facing misjudgement and negative stigma on a daily basis.

If we look into the statistics, out of the 60 million people that are living in the UK, 11 million of these people have some form of hearing loss. Out of these, 6 million people are hard of hearing, 900,000 of them are severely/profoundly deaf and 250,000 of them are deaf-blind or experience some sense of dual sensory loss.

Naturally, as a language services provider, we are astonished that there are currently only 24,000 are British Sign Language (BSL) users to support 11 million deaf people across the UK. The lack of these accessibility services are restricting the lives of deaf people.

70% of BSL users have a lower level of English because of poor education standards for deaf children at schools. With limited accessibility and poor education standards at a young age, you can only imagine how this struggle grows and develops throughout a deaf person’s lifetime.

 

Whilst mental health issues affect 25% of the general population, they affect around 40-50% of the deaf community.

 

We cannot identify exactly what is causing this difference (as every person’s mental health is unique to them) but we can contemplate everyday situations where the deaf community is misjudged and the reality behind the in-accessibility of basic services that people with complete hearing may take for granted.

We can start off by analysing the terminology we use to refer to those that are hard of hearing. Whilst many terms such as ‘deaf and dumb’ have been around for a long time, they are not politically or morally correct to use. Examples of terms that are acceptable to use are: deaf, hard of hearing, profoundly deaf, partially hearing, etc. However, every person is different, so you should always take the time to establish how a deaf person chooses to identify themselves and how they choose to communicate.

One service that we expect to be readily available to us is the NHS. If we use the NHS as one example of a service that others may take for granted, we can identify just how different it is to access everyday services if you are deaf.

Very often, even if a deaf person uses BSL as their chosen form of communication, a BSL interpreter is not available on hand for them. This means that they are forced to compromise and establish a way to communicate with their GP that the GP will understand. It is therefore no wonder that…

 

…misdiagnosis/inadequate information costs the NHS around £50 million a year.

 

There are also many other aspects to this service that a person with complete hearing may never even consider. Examples of these aspects are: missing your name being called out by the receptionist when it is time for your appointment, booking/cancelling appointments (in fact, 45% of deaf people still have to walk into a GP’s practice to do this), using an intercom to be allowed physical access into the practice, etc.

With essential services such as this not being as accessible as they should be, alongside the improper (or even lack of) awareness training that we receive in schools/our places of work, it is sadly understandable how the rates for mental health issues are almost double amongst the deaf community. This misjudgement towards the deaf community is something that we all have an active responsibility to improve, so what could you be doing in your organisation to help?

New technologies are a positive step in enabling organisations to access a BSL interpreter at any time.  One of these solutions is video relay interpreting (VRI).  In the US, VRI is a well embedded mode of interpreting, but in the UK, is only now gaining traction.  Future initiatives to raise awareness on the different facilities available in the marketplace are crucial to dissipating the stigma of our deaf communities.

 

Get in Touch

For advice on how you can support the deaf community around your organisation, find out more about our accessibility services, or to book a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, please contact a member of our award winning team by emailing getintouch@word360.co.uk or calling 0121 554 1981.

 

Written by Portia C

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