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Last month was a big milestone in our household. We were given the result of our son’s primary school admission application. We found that although we hadn’t got our first choice we had been offered a place at our second choice, a smaller voluntary controlled school that was actually closer to our home.
We were comfortable with the idea of our son spending the next five years of his education there but a conversation I had had with the headteacher was still at the back of my mind.
“Would we be able to have interpreters at meetings or school events and such?” I had asked.
“Oh, we have never done anything like that. We would have to look into it as the interpreter would be for the parents not the child…”
“We still need access to his education though, surely that’s a priority?” I pushed further…
“I am not sure, we could always get volunteers or a charity to help with the er… Signing as we don’t have the money to pay anyone,” the headteacher concluded before disappearing.
Both myself and my husband heard alarm bells ringing. And no, it wasn’t our tinnitus. We were worried. Worried that we would be sending our son to a great school but being excluded ourselves.
So when we were offered a place at the school I realised I had two options. I could appeal on the basis that our first choice school was best suited to us as it had provision in place already for interpreters and general deaf friendly attitudes. Or I could approach the school we had been offered and find out what our rights were and, more importantly, what the school were going to do.
While I pondered this, a quote I have in my home came to mind.
Even if we appealed and won a place at our first choice school, the second school would still be lacking in deaf awareness. Maybe another deaf couple would encounter the same problem there in a few years. I felt that I didn’t want to just walk a familiar road, I wanted to change things so that other people could benefit too.
So I started to do my research and began an email correspondence with the school. I realised that they didn’t have any funding currently for things such as interpreters and were in the dark about why we needed them and how they could put them in place.
I discovered and relayed to them that as deaf parents we are protected under the equality act 2010 so that schools do have an obligation to provide interpreters for all statutory duty meetings or wherever the child’s wellbeing or progress is involved. Asking volunteers to “help sign” is not the same.
I found details of agencies that worked with schools in my area and the school in question contacted another place they knew had deaf parents too, so they sought their own advice and support regarding funding.
Online I made use of the Facebook forums Deaf Parenting UK and Deaf Mummies & Friends to gain insight on whether this has happened before and what other people did.
I contacted and received brilliant support from both Deaf Parent UK (www.deafparent.org.uk) and the BDA (www.bda.org.uk) They provided me with the right literature to hand to the school regarding working with interpreters, reasonable adjustments and also resources on the unique identity that CODA’s have.
I was so pleased to speak to the school again last week and they confirmed that they had secured funding so in future I could book whichever interpreter I preferred and they would cover all payments. Success!
It’s been an eye opening month for both the school and us.
Parenting is a minefield and even more so if you have access requirements when it comes to your child’s education. Not all places will be deaf aware and they may not even understand that you have a right to access school activities.
I could have easily given up on this battle and opted to fight for the “easier choice” of an already deaf-friendly school. But I now see that with the right support, determination and persistence we can initiate change, form new paths and leave a deaf friendly trail for others.
By Rebecca-Anne Withey. Read more of Rebecca’s articles for us here.
Rebecca-Anne Withey is a freelance writer with a background in Performing Arts & Holistic health.
She is also profoundly deaf, a sign language user and pretty great lipreader.
Her holistic practices and qualifications include Mindfulness, Professional Relaxation Therapy, Crystal Therapy and Reiki.
She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.
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