The Secret Deafie: Being discriminated against by the family court

Posted on August 26, 2015

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I was in family court recently to attend a final hearing about where my two children should reside.

I have a severe high frequency hearing loss that makes it difficult to discern speech.

I have a responsible job and have the capacity to appear ‘normal’ to most people, but I place heavy reliance on my hearing aids, lip reading, sub-titles, hearing loops in public places and simply working hard at following other people.

The court website states clearly that ‘This court has hearing enhancement facilities’. I took it as a given that this would take the form of a hearing loop or infra-red system that was compatible with hearing aids.

My court application stated clearly that I was hearing impaired. Imagine my surprise when, once in the court room, I was presented with an infra-red receiver which had ear buds to go into my ears and which was designed to hang very conspicuously around my face.

I explained it would not work (for obvious reasons as I would have to take my hearing aids out in order to wear it) and it was swiftly put away. There was no ‘plan B’. I was just told I could ask for things to ‘be repeated’.

It was a very difficult day. I was told off for not looking at the Magistrates while lip reading the Barrister.

I was asked to refer to numbered paragraphs when giving evidence, and had to ask for the numbers to be repeated time and time again causing the Magistrates’ and the opposing Barrister a degree of openly expressed frustration.

I told the Magistrates I could not hear everything the other witnesses said.

The discriminatory treatment I received from the court really mattered on that day because my communication ability was significantly impaired in a situation where effective communication was vitally important.

It was not just a matter of a hearing loop not working properly in a bank or post office where I was carrying out a minor transaction. It was about the future of my family.

I have filed a disability discrimination complaint with the court and am waiting for an official response. Ironically, the family court I attended is linked to the county court.

If I bring a disability discrimination case, it will be heard by the county court. I have a degree of incredulousness about this at present….

Do you have a story you want to tell anonymously? Just email

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