Charlie Swinbourne: Communication barriers in sex education put deaf people at risk

Posted on December 7, 2012

There is a telling moment in a documentary called Snapshot: Dicing with Sex when a group of young deaf people are shown cards with different words on them. They all instantly recognise the words Facebook, Wii and YouTube, but the words syphilis, genital warts and hepatitis ABC are met with blank expressions.

Broadcast in sign language on digital TV in 2010, the documentary revealed a remarkably uninformed attitude to sex, with several young deaf people saying they preferred not to use condoms, despite experiencing sexually transmitted infection (STIs) or pregnancy.

The charity Deafax says deaf people’s lives are being put at “extreme risk” when it comes to sex education because their communication needs are not being addressed.

A survey for the charity’s Education & Advice on Relationships & Sex  (Ears) campaign found 35% of deaf people received no sex education at all while at school. Everyone else surveyed – 65% of respondents – said that what information they did get was inaccessible. As a result, they often found out about sex through the media, talking to their friends, or direct sexual experience.

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