Deaf Awareness Week runs from the 1st to the 7th of May this year, and the theme is access to communication. Approximately 12 million people in the UK suffer from deafness or hearing loss, and Deaf Awareness Week works to shine a light on how we can all support the deaf community through the challenges they are faced with.
Many deaf people often face significant barriers when it comes to communication. Sometimes not being able to communicate with others can lead to social exclusion, which can then exacerbate mental health problems and withdrawal from social activities. Of the people who have hearing loss, approximately 151,000 use British Sign Language, with others using a variety of other tools such as lip reading, hearing aids, or body language cues, amongst many others.
Many deaf people also face a lot of stigma. However here are some tips for communicating with the deaf community that enables society to be more inclusive of deaf people’s needs:
- Don’t cover your mouth when you’re speaking
- Avoid shouting, as this can make lip reading more difficult
- If a person has an interpreter, don’t address them, address the person you’re speaking to
- Ensure that you have the person’s full attention and that they feel included in the conversation
- Try and learn some sign langauge – even just learning a few words or phrases is really helpful!
- If you’re not sure, just ask! Be honest if you haven’t understood them, and ask how they like to communicate so you can help each other out!