Gary Williams: Introducing the deafPLUS Manifesto

Posted on April 8, 2015

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Readers can hardly have failed to notice that the 2010 – 2015 Parliament has come to a close and that an election campaign is now underway.

During the coming weeks parliamentary candidates will be knocking on doors across the land, shaking people’s hands in the hope that they can secure a vote for their party.

How might the average deaf person respond to this rare sighting of politicians on their doorstep? How can you make the most of the opportunity to have a conversation about your concerns?

Well, deaf people naturally share the same concerns as the wider population about the NHS, the economy, the welfare state, education and the environment.

But deaf people also have a unique set of concerns and issues, which largely relate to the barriers and obstacles encountered on a daily basis in world designed by hearing people.

At this point I should admit: I am a hearing person. One who was appointed last year to the role of CEO at Deaf Plus, a 44 year old national organisation which used to be known as Breakthrough Deaf-Hearing Integration.

80% of our staff are deaf, and most are BSL users. Five out of seven of our managers are also deaf. Last year over 4,500 deaf and hard-of-hearing people used our face-to-face support services a total of more than 6,500 times.

Most of our services involve the provision of advice, help, and support to enable the very barriers and obstacles I mention above to be overcome.

This is how I know that deafPLUS has significant insight and understanding into the concerns of deaf people, and can claim to be as much a national authority on deaf issues as the more famous organisations!

And that is why deafPLUS has published a list of measures that, if enacted by Government, would transform the lives of isolated deaf and hard of hearing people. It draws directly on the day to day concerns that our clients bring to us.

The deafPLUS’ manifesto is an urgent call to action for all political parties ahead of the 2015 General Election. It asks party leaders to make ten commitments in their party manifestos that would vastly improve the lives of people who are deaf or who have hearing loss.

The ten measures, which range from specialist healthcare to employment access, are designed to end isolation, better integrate deaf people into local communities and improve quality of life.

I hope that, if you agree with these measures – and I am sure most readers could add many other points – you will feel the manifesto provides a useful tool that can be used during the coming weeks, whenever you meet a politician who is after your vote.

It can be used on your doorstep, or at local election hustings and ‘meet the candidates’ events.

The manifesto is below. It is also available as a free poster at http://www.deafplus.org/images/deafPLUSManifesto.pdf

By Gary Williams, deafPLUS CEO

DEAFPLUS’ MANIFESTO:

health & audiology

  • Improved access to specialist mental health services for deaf people. Improved after-care and support for audiology patients. NHS hearing aids should not be rationed. Audiology patients should receive the hearing aids they need.
  • Routine screening of hearing for people with learning disabilities. Increased research and specialist support for people with dementia who also have age related hearing loss. This should include specialist language support for those who are BSL users who develop dementia.

employment

  • Ensure access to work is properly resourced and legally protected.Provide more BSL programming on TV, and better quality subtitling – particularly of live broadcast TV.

tv & cinema

  • Provide more BSL programming on TV, and better quality subtitling – particularly of live broadcast TV.
  • Ensure that all on-demand TV services from the main broadcasters (streamed and downloaded content) are subtitled. Wider availability of subtitled screenings at cinemas.

social care

  • Commit to better communication support for deaf people who live in care homes. Where necessary, this should include ensuring that staff members are adequately trained in BSL or other appropriate communication techniques (e.g. lipspeaking).
  • Make a commitment for accessibility to be routinely built into public buildings and care homes as a legal requirement – including loop systems.
  • Provide lipreading classes for our aging population; together with more support for people who are losing their hearing.

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