Deaf awareness update

Nobody could have anticipated Rose Ayling-Ellis’s contribution to raising deaf awareness when she won the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, reports Jamie Miller, CSP DisAbility events and education officer.

Jamie Miller
Jamie Miller is a physiotherapy team lead at Spire Edinburgh Hospital. He has a severe bilateral deafness and wears hearing aids

We must capitalise on this greater awareness of the deaf community. I know each individual with hearing loss has different communication needs. And as health professionals, we must take the initiative and ask a deaf person – whether it’s a patient or colleague – how best to communicate with them. 

If you want to embrace deaf awareness, I’d recommend RNID’s resources. You’ll find useful tips on becoming more inclusive, for example: 

  • make sure you have the person’s full attention
  • face the person and speak clearly, not too slow or too fast
  • find out if an interpreter is needed
  • communicate by writing
  • rephrase using plain language
  • move to a quiet area

But above all, be patient and considerate.

The last two years have been more challenging for deaf people; face masks hide essential information and muffle sound when many rely on lip reading and facial expressions.

We’ve failed to adopt clear masks and, as you can imagine, it wears thin reminding people to remove their mask. Through my involvement with the CSP DisAbility network and UK Deaf Healthcare Professionals Network, I’ve been astonished by the number of members’ unsatisfactory experiences. Managers have lacked empathy, made assumptions about needs, or are unwilling to provide reasonable adjustments (for example, adjusting the room layout and using good lighting to help the deaf person see and lip read clearly). 

The best managers and colleagues take positive action and show flexibility so that deaf workers – and others with disabilities - can achieve their full potential. Those who feel appreciated and included nearly always achieve more than is expected of them. I now eagerly anticipate reading about Disability History Month in the December edition of Frontline.

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