Deaf Awareness Week, 14-20 May, highlights the positive outcomes of being deaf aware and how involvement on a daily basis can improve the understanding of all types of deafness along with the best ways to communicate.
Deaf Awareness Week is a good time to learn about this often hidden disability and how we can help colleagues in our workplaces.
There are more than 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss – that’s 1 in 6 of the population.
Disabled men experience a pay gap of 11% compared with non-disabled men, while the gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is double this at 22%.
Deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and twice as likely to be at risk of suicide compared to hearing people.
Tips on communicating
Hearing impaired people often feel isolated as they struggle to follow and understand conversations. Hearing impaired people are often perceived as ignorant or stupid when they don’t understand or hear a conversation.
- Find out how the individual prefers to communicate. Not all deaf or hard of hearing people use British Sign Language (BSL), can lip read or follow a conversation where there is a lot of background noise. Every individual will have a preferred way of communicating, so find out what it is.
- Get the individual’s attention. To get a deaf or hearing-impaired person’s attention you can wave, tap the table, or tap their shoulder or arm lightly.
- Face them when you’re talking. Don’t move around while you’re talking. Stand with your face to the light.
- Watch your mouth. Covering your mouth with your hands, eating or smoking can make lip reading very difficult. It will also muffle any sound you’re making.
- Make it clear what the topic of conversation is. The hearing impaired or deaf person will find it easier to understand your words if they know what you’re talking about.
- Speak one at a time when in a group and ask people to make a sign if they want to speak. Deaf and hearing-impaired people follow conversation through visual cues. Keep background noise to a minimum.
Access to support in the workplace
Support in the workplace can vary from ensuring the right lighting and noise levels, through to one-to-one BSL interpretation. Your local PCS rep will be able to help gain access to whatever workplace adjustments you need.
There is also a lot of good information on access to work for disabled people on the Disability Rights web page.
A version of this article first appeared in Disability Matters.