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What, are you deaf or something?! Part 4

What is Deaf Awareness?

  • RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People) reckons that 12 million people in the UK having hearing loss or are deaf. Of this number, less than 100k are born with hearing loss or deafness.
  • Only around 100,000 are British Sign Language (BSL) users.
  • Deaf Awareness is not a “thing” – it is a mind-set geared toward bridging communication gaps between hearing and non-hearing people. It promotes equality and inclusion, and in my opinion, confidence to deaf/hard of hearing individual that they can contribute to and be a part of society.

You may have heard the terms “Deaf culture” and “Hearing culture”. Deaf culture is all about expressive communication: direct eye contact, body language, and direct communication – especially where sign language is being used. Hearing culture is rather the opposite of that. Facial expressions without thinking, uncomfortable with direct communication, and especially uncomfortable with eye contact. It was one of the first things I noticed when I came over to the UK – people looking away if you looked in their eyes or at their mouth. The eye contact isn’t for deep soul searching – it’s to gauge the speaker’s intent with the communication that they are taking part in. Deaf and hard of hearing people take so much from facial expressions and body language in order to interpret what is being said. You can see a lot of emotion in a person’s eyes.

Communication Tips

One of my favourite things to recommend to people is to observe people in public environments and watch how they are communicating. Next time you are in a coffee shop or walking through the Christmas markets/shopping centres – watch how people are talking to each other. Note their body language and expressions. Can you lip read them? Accents fall to the wayside when you lip read. Speaking English has the same word formations regardless of the accent. There might be variations in how the tongue forms sounds, but the mouth movements are largely the same.

Here are some very helpful posters from RNID on how to communicate effectively with deaf or hard of hearing people (please click on the image if you want to download the PDF):

It’s important to remember that you don’t know if the person you are speaking to in person, in the video call, or on the phone is deaf or hard of hearing.

I hope that you find these tips useful. If you do my suggestion of observing people, I’d love to know what you thought!

Next week is the final post in this series. I’ll outline what I hope to achieve as B+M’s Disability Officer and in the wider legal field. I’ve also got a Q&A lined up and a list of resources for further reading/support.

Get in touch with your comments and feedback!