Why Deaf Awareness Week is important

This week, 6-12th May we are celebrating Deaf Awareness Week

There’s so many incredible things going on this week, from UK Council on Deafness’ theme of ‘Celebrating Deaf Role Models’ to Action on Hearing Loss’ ‘#DontBeADonut Be Deaf Aware’ campaign and people sharing their stories on social media. But why do we celebrate Deaf Awareness Week?

One of the biggest disabilities

Deafness is one of the biggest disabilities, but it’s an invisible one. It doesn’t just affect the deaf/hard of hearing person, it has an impact on hearing communities as well, because communication is the biggest obstacle that deaf people face. Communication is a two-way process, and with a little deaf awareness and understanding, these barriers can be broken down.

Why the importance of deaf awareness week?

Daily, there are still stories of inequality, lack of accessibility and frustration from deaf people; unhappy and angry sometimes that others just don’t understand. We aren’t asking for a lot. We don’t expect the hearing world to make huge adaptions, all we ask for is a little consideration. Is that too much to ask?

The disability itself can cause feelings of isolation from the hearing world, we can often feel like we exist in our own little bubble, excluded from the rest of society, the world going about their noisy, complicated business with little clue as to the daily struggles which deaf people face constantly.

Having the condition is one thing, trying to live in a hearing world is another, but it’s part and parcel of the condition. For those with a disability, many learn to come to terms with it, many accept their lot and try to make the best of it to overcome it and the difficulties. What we often struggle with is the intolerance, impatience and discrimination which is still widespread today.

Deafness… simple or complex?

In my experience, many people just don’t get deafness and hearing loss. To that, I’d say, but it’s so simple, we cannot hear to different degrees, so we require a little consideration and adaptions when communicating, but usually if you ask the person with a hearing loss how they would like to communicate and be prepared to make some allowances, communication can usually work to some extent.

I always say that ‘communication is at least a two way process, so the emphasis shouldn’t just be on the person with a hearing loss to put the effort in.’

There is a BIG misconception that if the volume is turned up or increased on sounds or speech, that it will all fall into place and everything will be tickety-boo and when that doesn’t happen, people often become impatient or give up.

Deaf people shouldn’t be viewed as difficult or confrontational, all we ask for is a little help. We don’t mean to moan, but little seems to be improving.

No-one objects to a wheelchair ramp, or disabled toilets, people understand the need for disabled parking bays or wider doorways, but many haven’t read the memo about the need to speak clearly, the importance of facing a deaf person, providing accessible contact methods, or providing subtitles so the person with a hearing loss can actually access the video, DVD, film or TV programme!

We all have a part to play… please spread the word!

I would encourage any readers to do their bit. If we join forces; D/deaf, hard of hearing, we are united by our hearing loss, together we can be a strong force for good to get the word out there.

No-one knows if they will lose their hearing one day, it can happen to anyone. Society needs a little more education, that’s all, then it’s up to them. Surely, we can meet in the middle?

It might feel like a mountain to climb, so many have given up, but where would we be if campaigners and advocates of the past had given up, nothing would have changed. Women still would be second class citizens, sexuality still wouldn’t be a choice and those with a different skin colour would still be treated unfavourably. We’ve come so far.

As a nation, we’ve successfully made such strides in stamping out much of the discrimination around Race, Religion, Sexuality and Gender, but for the Disabled, this group of people, I feel, still needs more done.

So, by doing our own little bit, whether it be explaining how you feel to a loved one, doing a deaf awareness presentation at your school or work place, directing friends to deaf blog sites or by supporting deaf charities, we can make these changes to make the hearing world listen!

Here’s how you can help…

  1. Raise deaf awareness
  2. Share communication tips
  3. Tell your story
  4. Spread the word!