This week’s question could be seen as being a bit provocative. Am I suggesting that deaf awareness courses have no value, or that the work of deaf awareness teachers is ineffective?
Not at all. There are some fantastic deaf awareness courses out there which can really benefit hearing people who do not have any experience of communicating with a deaf person. They can enter that classroom with no previous experience, yet go away with the knowledge and tools they need to get started.
I have met people who have spent their whole lives working with deaf children or adults yet continue to mumble, to turn away when they speak, or wear a big bushy beard that covers their mouth, yet act like that’s an appropriate decision.
Equally, I have met people who have never met a deaf person before, yet somehow know, as if it comes naturally to them, how to adapt the way they speak to make it easier for a deaf person to understand. They maintain eye contact, speak clearly, and gesture to make themselves understood.
It seems to me that although people can learn how to become more deaf aware, and can certainly improve their communication skills, a big factor in how successful they are in the long run may depend on something more basic: whether they have the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes.
The mistake that I see most commonly is people who start out communicating well, only to forget after a minute or two other person is deaf,and return to their usual made of speaking. It’s as if they forget, or their mind wanders, and they need to be reminded again. And again…
I don’t think this is something that only applies to deafness. I remember working in a London theatre as an Access Officer, welcoming people with different disabilities to the venue. Some of the ushers instinctively knew how to guide a blind or partially sighted person up the theatre’s stairs to the auditorium. Others found it more difficult.
So, what do you think? Is putting deaf awareness into practice more about possessing empathy than anything else? Tell us below.
By Charlie Swinbourne, Editor
The Limping Chicken’s supporters provide: sign language interpreting and communications support (Deaf Umbrella), online BSL video interpreting (SignVideo), captioning and speech-to-text services (121 Captions), online BSL tuition (Signworld), theatre captioning (STAGETEXT), Remote Captioning (Bee Communications), visual theatre with BSL (Krazy Kat) , healthcare support for Deaf people (SignHealth), theatre from a Deaf perspective (Deafinitely Theatre ), specialist lipspeaking support (Lipspeaker UK), Deaf Build Expo (SDHH), language and learning (Sign Solutions), sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting (Action Deafness Communications) education for Deaf children (Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton), legal advice for Deaf people (RAD Deaf Law Centre).
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Rayovac: Never run out of hearing aid batteries again by subscribing!
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out how to add Live Captions to Facebook Live!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Cast Theatre, Doncaster: The UK's the UK’s first fully BSL integrated pantomime
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people