Deaf Awareness Week 2022 – #MyDeafStory
By Michelle Heyes, Serious Injury Team Leader – SIU Bronze Team
Deaf Awareness Week is run on an annual basis by the UK Council on Deafness, it will be taking place between 2nd – 8th May 2022.
The theme for Deaf awareness week 2022 is Deaf Inclusion, to explore the entire theme of inclusion within our community.
The aim of the campaign is to highlight the impact of hearing loss on everyday life and increase visibility and inclusion of Deaf people.
Emphasising the importance of mental health and empathising with underrepresented groups amongst deaf people such as migrants, and women, as well as raise pertinent issues of deafness being overlooked in education, health settings and the workplace.
My 15-year-old daughter was born profoundly deaf.
She was one of the first children in this area to receive an early diagnosis through the Newborn Hearing Screening program when she was just 6 days old.
She underwent her first cochlear implant surgery when she was 2 years old and a slow switch on of the processor followed with two years of therapies thereafter. She then had a second cochlear implant surgery when she was 5 years old.
Today she can hear reasonably well when wearing her processors and is able to communicate verbally thanks to many years of speech therapy and support from the Cochlear Implant Centre in Manchester. She is an expert lip-reader!
Deaf awareness week is a time to put the spotlight on the positive aspects of living with deafness.
When I ask my daughter about what she sees as the positive aspects of being deaf, she tells me that she loves the fact that she can “switch off the noise” and that the world looks very different and peaceful when it is silent, and she finds that she can think and focus clearly which helps with her creativity.
However, some negatives are that she can feel very isolated when people leave her out of conversations because of the extra effort it might take to explain things or because they assume she may not hear or understand what they are saying. Or, if a person shouts and talks very slowly to her in a manner that draws unnecessary attention and makes her feel stupid.
Let’s share positive, inspirational stories about living with deafness and overcoming challenges.
Recently my daughter was invited to prepare a speech for her school year as part of her English GCSE. It was a real challenge for her, and she was incredibly nervous as you can imagine, but she didn’t shy away! She used this as an opportunity to speak about her deafness and raise awareness among her peers.
She also took part in a deaf pen pal experience through the National Deaf Children’s Society and contributed to a published article discussing the importance of making connections with other deaf people and sharing your experiences and challenges.
Deaf Awareness Week is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on challenges faced by deaf people and how positive change can happen. There is so much more that can be done to ensure that all people with a hearing impairment of any degree do not feel excluded or precluded from any opportunities or experiences.
If a deaf person doesn’t hear you properly, don’t just say “never-mind” and move on.
I want my colleagues to be mindful if speaking to a deaf or hard of hearing person of their experience of the conversation and how small adjustments that can be made to help them to hear and understand/be understood. Here are some of my tips:
- Make sure you have the deaf person’s attention before you start speaking to them
- Make sure you are positioned in good lighting and in good view of the deaf person to help with lip-reading
- If you can, avoid trying to have conversations in areas that have a lot of background noise
- Use your usual voice level and speak naturally – don’t shout
- Be happy to repeat yourself or rephrase what you have said – the deaf person should feel very comfortable to ask you to repeat what you’ve said and equally if you don’t understand what they have said, ask them to repeat.
- Add hand gestures or visual clues where you can
- Speak one at a time
Including these small adjustments to your conversations will make a big difference to being inclusive of deaf and hard of hearing people.
If you need more information on how to be more inclusive, please click here.