Hi Suzie! Describe the aims of the group?
The needs of deaf and HOH people are diverse. We listen if we have residual hearing, we lipread, we use body language, gesture and facial expression. We may use hearing aids, including CI and BAHA. Some of us use a sign language like BSL but most will use other communication methods such as speech to text, lipspeakers, personal listeners/loops, communicator guides, cued speech and more.
All of us seem to have issues with access to communication – whether it is for work or for social purposes – that we need to address as a group. There are many other issues in access to services, information and facilities that also need to be debated and acted upon.
The group is a place to seek peer support, to encourage others with their confidence to ask for support they need. The group have so far educated others in ATW, UNCRPD, Equality Act 2010 NGTR and many others. The most important aim, from the beginning, was to make sure that those who don’t use BSL are aware of what is available to them and how to access it.
The second most important aspect is to help many members out of isolation, to empower all deaf deafened and hard of hearing people to have a voice for change, and focus on changing imbalance of perceptions – not all deaf people use BSL, so where is the support for non-signers?
Who was involved in setting it up?
The group was set up by me and other deaf people who advocate support for those who do not use BSL, who have previously had nowhere to go.
For a long time we have seen deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people getting frustrated with lack of information, peer support and general ignorance of their needs. Some of us got together, and discussed doing something about but we were not too sure if Facebook was the best way at the beginning.
In the end, getting included in the Facebook group which had nothing to do with our ethos “ Spit the dummy” was in the way a turning point. We decided “nothing about us without us” and “Pardon Group “was born.
What has the response been like?
The response was humbling! So many people joined within the first month, 900 people. It proved that there is a need of this kind of information and support, which is provided in a more accessible manner: not by just providing dry reports and documentation.
One thing that has come out of the group is the fact that quite a lot of the members feel their access needs are not being met. Do you feel this is a big problem?
This is a very big problem and we are sure that with right encouragement, our members will feel assertive enough to stand up to authorities, public bodies and so on who often out of ignorance, or misunderstanding do not provide communication support for those who do not understand BSL.
What are your ambitions for the group?
At the beginning, we did not have any major ambitions but seeing the needs and “cry for help” daily sometimes, we are looking at forming core group of activists who will now engage with Parliament, Local Authorities and try make positive changes for all.
Right now, having been part of the meeting of deaf groups with Sir Malcolm Bruce recently, our priority is to support his Private Members Bill.
Interview by Charlie Swinbourne, Editor
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