deaf awareness

How Deaf Awareness Week is breaking down barriers

It is Deaf Awareness Week in the UK, May 15 to 21, and in the theme of celebrating collaborative work, I want to share with you some of my favourite 2017 awareness initiatives. There were many to choose from, but the ones mentioned below touched my heart.

The purpose of this week is to share knowledge around the fact that 1 in 6 people in the UK is deaf or hard of hearing. It’s important to know how you can communicate with us and include us in everyday life. This week is dedicated to highlighting how you can communicate with deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Spreading awareness aims to improve peoples’ understanding of deafness, hopefully leading to better support and accessibility.

Even though there is no ‘typical’ deaf or hard of hearing person, you should be aware of the possibility that a deaf person might join your seminar, workshop or eat lunch at your restaurant. Are you aware of our needs? Have you made it easy for us to communicate with you and join the conversation? If not, I hope this year’s awareness week inspires you to make changes.

What is deaf awareness?

Being aware of deaf and hard of hearing peoples’ communication needs and making an effort to understand them is what deaf awareness is all about. Reducing discrimination and improving access to work, education and entertainment will decrease the barriers between deaf and hearing people.

Usually, hearing people only notice when someone’s deaf when we start to use sign language. However, most hard of hearing people prefer to use alternative forms of communication, like lip reading.

It’s not reasonable to expect everyone, hearing and non-hearing, to learn an entirely new language, but everyone should at least attempt communicating on a basic level. This is why there is a special week dedicated to improving peoples’ awareness of the deaf community and what you can do to ensure we receive the same opportunities you do.

7 of my favourite deaf awareness initiatives for 2017

Many organisations, companies and groups endeavour to do their part for this week, from training dogs to be hard of hearing companions to helping children understand their deaf classmates. It’s a great week for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Here are my 7 favourite awareness initiatives for 2017.

  • Overcoming barriers

    Action On Hearing Loss is first on my list because they do so much in support of deaf and hard of hearing people, especially regarding how work environments can become more hearing loss friendly. During the awareness week, they share daily communication tips on social media and encourage others also to share their stories. What makes them my top choice is their unwavering commitment and passion toward ensuring people with hearing loss gain and remain in employment.

  • Uniting the community

    Students at Exeter Deaf Academy are doing their part by teaching British Sign Language (BSL) to schools, neighbourhoods and shops in Exmouth and Exeter. Their final masterpiece of collaboration will take place on Sunday, the 21st of May, with a 10-mile race and marathon, including BSL storytelling and teaching at their gazebo.

  • A partnership of support

    Puddle Ducks Merseyside swim school partnered with National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) to provide deaf awareness training to all the swim instructors. A wonderful initiative to help deaf children build confidence and for hearing children to better understand and communicate with their hard of hearing friends.

  • A special day of celebration

    MKfm Radio is hosting a day of learning how to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people. The event is free for everyone, and there will be tea, coffee and cakes to enjoy. More importantly, the 19 of May 2017 will focus on communication tips and BSL.

  • Learn to fingerspell your name

    The Royal Association for Deaf People started the Sign Your Name campaign, teaching viewers how to fingerspell their name using the BSL alphabet. ‘Learners’ were then encouraged to make a video of themselves signing their name and then to share it on social media. This campaign is a great way for the deaf community to gain exposure and help hearing people feel more comfortable with communication tactics.

  • Get active, play sports

    According to a 2016 Sports England’s Active People survey, only 10% of hard of hearing adults take part in sport once a week, with 1 in 5 people stating communication being their main barrier. During deaf awareness week 2017, UK Deaf Sport is sharing how both hearing and deaf people, groups and organisations can enjoy being active.

  • Safety first

    The Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) celebrated the week by reminding us to make sure we have effective smoke alarms in place. The HWFRS helps deaf and hard of hearing residents check that their smoke alarms will get their attention. Strobe lights, vibrating alarms and small wearable radio linked pagers are some of the features that should be considered.

We can all do our part to spread deaf awareness, not only in the UK but worldwide. Creating awareness will contribute to the inclusion and integration of deaf and hard of hearing people.

There are 365 days of opportunity. Together we can spread awareness and improve communication. 121 Captions offers deaf awareness training courses and consultancy for organisations, helping you break down barriers to communication and increase your understanding of the different levels of hearing loss.

How are you encouraging change and spreading awareness?

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