Esta Watson: How young deaf people like me are not getting the health support they need

Posted on February 21, 2014



I’m Esta Watson, I’m 17 and from North Yorkshire. I have single sided deafness but the other ear fluctuates so I wear BiCROS aids (which are a boring colour, so I accessorize them to make them look nice).

I’m currently in my last year of A-levels and have applied to go to university to study deaf studies and special needs.

This month I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to London to be involved with the launch of My life, My health, a new campaign led by the National Deaf Children’s Society’s and their Young People’s Advisory Board.

The Young People’s Advisory Board are a group of 17 deaf young people (including me) from all over the UK. We have got together lots of times to chat about what is important to deaf young people and what needs changing or improving. We knew that getting good health care can sometimes be a challenge, so we wanted to see how we could improve things.

Each member of the Young People’s Advisory Board was given a role, for example, designing how the report and campaign should look. I had an interesting role as I did some research, for this I got the opportunity to go to Chester to hold a focus group with some deaf teens.

We talked about the positive experiences and not so good experiences of accessing health care, such as whether they felt there was enough support and information available and if they felt they could manage their own health care independently.

I was quite nervous at the start of the focus group but as I got into it I found it really interesting and it was nice to hear other people’s experiences. We found many deaf young people are struggling to access health care, so it was reassuring to know that the topic we had chosen was relevant and we were trying to change something which could help people. Some of the things I heard really shocked me. One person said: “I would still go to the doctors with my mum when I am 55”!

I think that’s just unbelievable, at 55! Would you really still want your mum to go with you? I know I’d want my independence and be able to do stuff on my own, I want to go on my own now, but it’s hard to because I don’t always understand what my GP is telling me.

There were a lot of comments about how people who need sign language interpreters struggle to access them, their doctor isn’t deaf aware, or information is badly worded so people don’t always understand what’s happening.

However, there were some comments from people who had experienced a good appointment. It’s important we don’t forget these examples of good support, for example one person said: “our doctor’s clinic has a screen which brings up your name – this is fantastic.” I know that although some GPs lack deaf awareness and patience, others do try really hard and that’s noticeable.

I have been to appointments that have been bad though. For example I once went to a hospital appointment and previously I hadn’t understood the GP, so I decided to book an interpreter for next time. My mum booked me one (because it had to be done by phone) and when we got there, there was no interpreter and the hospital didn’t have a qualified interpreter. To be honest I could write a long list of appointments that have been bad.

My life, My health is about change. Changing and improving health care for deaf teenagers. The campaign launch was a really good day. Lots of people came and it was so good to see that the room was full. There were GP’s there and other health professionals, deaf young people, parents of deaf children and paralympic medallist. Ben Rushgrove.

I think the whole day went really well. Lots of people took away the resources; we listened to presentations and chatted to health professionals. There was also a panel, including Ben and a deaf young person who were asked questions by the audience. We explained simply what needs improving, mainly the difficulties in accessing GP services, poor deaf awareness and how the campaign can help deaf teenagers become confident in managing their own health care.

Hopefully people will learn how they can make improvements and things will change for the better. Overall this is an incredibly important campaign, I am really pleased and proud at what the Young People’s Advisory Board and the National Deaf Children’s Society have created. I’m very happy I got onto the Board and was able to be involved with this campaign.

You can find out much more about this great campaign at ndcs.org.uk/mylifemyhealth

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