This week is Deaf Awareness Week 2018! One of our mottos here at CSW is that resilience is for everyone, and sometimes this means thinking outside the box and adapting services to make sure they’re inclusive for the 1 in 6 people in the UK with some form a hearing loss.
If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, have you thought about whether you can hear your smoke alarm if it goes off? If not then no problem – why not get one fitted with a strobe light or vibrating pager instead? Action on Hearing Loss sell some great options in their online shop, but if you’re not sure what you need then you can contact your local fire service for advice – and they’ll even fit your new smoke alarms for you! Find out more at https://www.wmfs.net/your-safety/at-home/people-with-disabilities/ if you’re in the West Midlands, or https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/firesafetycheck if you’re in Warwickshire.
It’s important for everyone to think about communication in an emergency, but if you’re one of the 87,000 people in the UK who count BSL as their first language this isn’t always straightforward. We’re big fans of encouraging everyone to have a Grab Bag so you’re always ready to evacuate in an emergency, so if BSL is your first language consider adding some flash cards or a paper and pen so you can communicate more quickly with the emergency services.
Speaking of the emergency services, did you know that if you can’t hear or speak on the phone then you can text them? It’s really easy to register for the emergencySMS service – just go online to http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/ to sign up. One you’re registered, if you ever need the emergency 999 service you can do so my sending a text message – just remember that this should only ever be used in a genuine emergency!
These are all great tips for deaf or hard of hearing people, but an important part of Deaf Awareness Week is helping hearing people communicate better with hearing friends, family and colleagues. As a fun first step, why not try learning to fingerspell? You can learn the alphabet by using the chart below;
Action on Hearing Loss have also put together some great communication tips for talking to deaf and hard of hearing people;
- Start by asking the other person if they need to lipread.
- Make sure you have face-to-face contact.
- Get the listener’s attention before you start speaking, maybe by waving or tapping them on the arm.
- Speak clearly but not too slowly, and don’t exaggerate your lip movements as this can make it harder to lipread.
- Use natural facial expressions and gestures.
- If you’re talking to a group that includes deaf and hearing people, don’t just focus on the hearing people.
- If you’re using communication support, always remember to talk directly to the person you are communicating with, not the interpreter.
- Don’t shout. It can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users, and it looks aggressive.
- If someone doesn’t understand what you’ve said, don’t keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way instead.
- Find a suitable place to talk, with good lighting to aid lipreading, and away from noise and distractions.
- Check that the person you’re talking to is following you during the conversation. Use plain language and don’t waffle. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations.
- To make it easy to lipread, don’t cover your mouth with your hands or clothing.
And remember – deaf people can do anything except hear!