Discrimination is a topic that society doesn’t address very often. Like mental health, politics or religion … it’s still taboo. Why is that?
It’s 2019, we live in Britain, a society which is widely viewed as ‘equal’, accepting differences in age, race, gender, sexuality, but somehow still hasn’t addressed disability, even though it’s a majority group, not a minority.
Living with deafness is challenging, it’s an invisible disability that as logical as it should be, it seems to be the most complicated disability for people to get their heads around.
Due to lack of awareness and understanding, deaf people are constantly faced with barriers on a daily basis, meaning they are treated ‘unfavourably’ as The Equality Act says, often leading to discrimination cases, purely because they aren’t granted access to services or don’t seem to have the same rights as their hearing peers.
One of the biggest factors of disability discrimination no doubt, is inaccessible services. Deaf and disabled people are trying to understand and live with our disability, let alone navigating an abled world that is often not accessible.
For deaf people, it’s everything that prohibits them from being independent. From organisations only offering telephone as a method of contact, leaving deaf people to rely on family members or friends to be able to book appointments and sort out their own problems, to British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters not being provided when deaf people have a right to access information.
It shows in education too with deaf children being failed by the system due to vital communication support cuts which is pivotal to their success, to a teenager fighting for the right for a GCSE in his own language; BSL because foreign languages aren’t accessible to him.
It’s even social situations that deaf people are excluded from, like not being able to go to the cinema on a regular basis with family or friends due to the lack of subtitled showings. The list just goes on.
Lack of awareness
I simply put most cases down to lack of awareness and understanding of the disability. As people aren’t aware of disability, they’re more likely to come up with excuses or say something inappropriate which doesn’t help.
An example being; my third party phoned up the bank on my behalf and they refused to speak to her, unless I turned up the volume or put it on loudspeaker so I could hear them to be able to have a conversation with them. I’m deaf…. no matter how loud you turn it up, I still won’t be able to hear you!
The amount of times someone has told me to ‘phone this number’ when I’ve specifically explained I cannot hear on the phone and for them to email or text me to resolve the issue. It just creates yet another problem! Not to mention names but a huge public service organisation should be leading by example but simply aren’t…
Sadly, there’s been a few times in my life where I’ve come to face with discrimination, both direct and indirect due to my deafness. I’ve had to learn from each experience and use it to make me stronger. I’ve built up resilience, to be able to stand up to these people, to educate them, even if the comments hurt the most.
- I’ve been refused access on a golf course, because of my deafness as I’m a ‘health and safety risk’ because I can’t hear the golf balls flying?!
- My Media Studies teacher told me ‘you can’t do Media Studies because you’re deaf’
- One of my old bosses always introduced me to people as; ‘This is Ellie, she’s DEAF and you NEEEED TO SPEEAK TOOO HERR LIIIIKE THIIIS’ – to which I had to respond ‘please speak to me normally’ – it was embarrassing.
- I’ve been denied access to my bank account as two high street banks refused to put accessibility measures in place to allow a third party to call on my behalf…
Let’s change this…
We can work together to erase stigmas and raise awareness, but first things first, here are some deaf awareness tips that I’d like you to share
Please don’t tell a deaf or disabled person what they can/can’t do
The sky’s the limit! There is always a way around things, rather than putting up barriers. Please ask what they need rather than assuming you know what’s best for them.
We have to admit, some things are impossible for us to do, but that’s for us to judge.
Some organisations are aware of their inaccessible services and implement something which they think will work, which may not necessarily be right for the disabled person.
My advice – Please use them to help you! They know their disability more than anyone. They can help your company become more accessible and once they are, they’ll attract more disabled customers – more business!
Work with them, rather than against them
So many businesses I’ve been in touch with have refused to work with me to make their services accessible. I get the impression they think disabled people cost them money to implement these changes.
If you think about it… it’s far cheaper to implement change quickly, than the time and money it takes to send standard copy and paste replies to complaint letters, sending disabled people round in circles! All it takes is someone to listen to what we have to say… and let’s face it, we don’t like complaining but it’s the lack of access which means we have no choice but to say something to make change happen. Why should we have to though?
Everyone has a place and a say to help raise awareness of disabilities, particularly invisible ones. You don’t have to be disabled yourself to spread knowledge! The more understanding people and companies have, there will be less barriers and the world will become a better and happier place.
My role as Deafie Blogger is not only raising awareness about deafness, but also to make a change to improve things for the next generation of deaf people, so they don’t have to experience what we did. I strive to inspire others to share their stories too, as there’s nothing more powerful than people’s feelings.
It is hard work, and we have a right to equality as everyone else does. It’s difficult enough to navigate this world with a disability, let alone people putting more barriers up. Please work with us to help make the world a better place!