Joanna Wootten: Why I love Access to Work

Posted on December 16, 2014

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In the last few years, it’s been a brilliant time to be deaf. Technology has emancipated us – the internet, subtitles, skype, SMS and emails have all helped us to participate in the world.

More and more deaf people have gone to university, got good jobs, and are flourishing. It’s been OK to be deaf and different.

The biggest game changer has been Access to Work paying for communication support for deaf people in the workplace – interpreters, speech to text reporters or lip speakers.

This has enabled us to have a choice of jobs. Friends of mine have been able to work in ways which suit their skills and education.

I know people who are clinical psychologists, lecturers, accountants, lawyers, chief executives and managers.   They have all been able to do this, thanks to Access to Work.

Access to Work has liberated deaf people from boring jobs. My husband’s mother was born deaf, and worked in a factory. When I left school, most deaf people had to choose jobs that didn’t require much communication.

We accepted the limitations imposed by our deafness.

Of course Access to Work must make sure that public money is spent appropriately. It was time for a review of how much communication support professionals should be paid.

However, it has gone too far.

I have heard from friends and seen on Facebook that some deaf people are thinking about changing careers, and some have already done so.

Some interpreters have already left interpreting, and others are seriously thinking of doing the same.

I wouldn’t mind if only the rubbish interpreters who were leaving(!), but it’s the competent ones that are going.   This doesn’t feel right to me.

It’s not just about work, it will not be good for deaf people in hospitals, seeking help from the social services or who are victims of crime.

If we want deaf people to have graduate level jobs, we need to have interpreters who are capable of working at that level.   This won’t happen if they don’t get paid enough.

This is why things like the National Framework Agreement and Access to Work matter. We need to work together to ensure that deaf people do not lose out.

I don’t want deaf people to have to stop being accountants, lawyers, academics. I do not want to give up the rights that we have gained. I don’t want deaf people to have to do more routine work – now or in the future.

I don’t see why deaf people should have to choose jobs that are ‘suitable’ because we cannot hear. We all need to work together to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Together we stand, divided we fall.

Many people don’t know how brilliant Access to Work is, and how it has changed the lives of deaf people. Let’s tell them!

I have just set up a Facebook page here so that we can share our stories: https://www.facebook.com/accesstoworkdeaf.

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Posted in: joanna wootten