A few things to clear up first. Not every deaf person is the same. Some use British Sign Language (BSL), some can speak – and some can both. Not everyone can lipread, either.
Some 90% of children are born to hearing families, with little or no history of deafness. I was born profoundly deaf and I’m only the deaf person in the family. At the time of my birth, there were no programmes at the NHS to test new-born children’s hearing levels. I went undiagnosed until I was one year old. NHS only introduced hearing tests for new-borns around 2001.
It’s very important to diagnose hearing levels at the time of birth, to help children understand language and communication. Otherwise, it could impact their school education and their ability to navigate a complicated world.
The National Deaf Children’s Society charity supports deaf children and their additional needs. It is also the organiser of the annual Deaf Awareness Week.
I’m an advocate for mental health. Not just for deaf people, but everyone in general. Deaf people are likely to experience mental health issues at twice the rate of the general population. Mental health doesn’t stem from being deaf, but from “parental, societal and cultural factors such as communication and attitudes towards deafness” (quoted from NHS England).
It’s important that deaf people have support networks in place like having friends, family where they meet on a regular basis. More information on mental health for deaf people can be found on this NHS blog.
When you communicating with deaf person, please bear in mind with the following guidelines:
Dinner Table Syndrome was coined by the deaf community. It describes deaf or hard-of-hearing people being left out of conversations at the dinner table, especially over Christmas. I've experienced this before, where I would stare into space, working out conversations. These two articles may help you to understand Dinner Table Syndrome. You may have deaf family members or friends invited over for a meal:
How to beat ‘Dinner Table Syndrome’ this Christmas (2021)
Rebecca-Anne Withey: ‘Dinner table syndrome’ is for life, not just for Christmas (2018)
It’s good to be working at an organisation that’s committed to supporting people with any kinds of disability, including deafness. It’s signed up to the government’s ‘Disability Confident’ scheme – and also works with its clients on a range of projects on accessibility, which is great to see. It was particularly good to see that Opencast has worked closely on a platform on health and disability with DWP.
I hope you find this article interesting and helpful for collaborating with your deaf and hard-of-hearing colleagues. If you have any questions, please get in touch.