This week is Deaf Awareness Week (3 – 9 May 2021) and we are talking about D/deaf awareness and the support that is available at Warwick.
The importance of language
Written by Eleanor Hassall, Deaf student and current Warwick Enable President
Often when hearing people hear the word ‘deaf’ they assume we are referring to someone with absolutely no hearing at all. However, this is incorrect. Within the community, we use ‘deaf’ to refer to someone with any level of hearing loss at all, from mild all the way to profound (more on what those words mean below).
Within the Deaf community, there’s a whole host of language used and how people refer to themselves ultimately comes down to personal preference, however, here’s a quick guide to some expressions you might see used, and which ones to generally avoid.
You might also see deaf written as Deaf or D/deaf. The capitalisation of Deaf is often used by people who see their deafness as more than just a disability but also their cultural identity. The Deaf community is an especially strong one with its own cultural norms and rules, and obviously also our own language in British Sign Language! Some people might prefer to just say deaf instead of Deaf if they don’t feel very connected to the Deaf community or see their deafness as a disability rather than an identity.
You might also see people referring to themselves as ‘hard of hearing’ (often abbreviated to HoH). There is no rule as to what constitutes ‘deaf’ and what constitutes ‘HoH’ – it just comes down to how the individual prefers to view themselves.
However, one phrase to avoid at all costs as it is seen as highly offensive by the entire D/deaf/HoH community is ‘hearing impaired’. This is because this term implies that there is something wrong with us and that we need fixing. There’s a really good article on the use of 'hearing impaired' here if you’d like to read more.
Hearing Aids should be the answer. The problem is mine don’t always work, and getting them repaired is always a faff. Then there’s the problem with masks. Put the aid over the mask loop, and you worry about losing the aid. Put the mask over the aid, and you worry about damaging them.
I never knew how much I lip read. Add in how much masks muffle voices, and it’s all a very real problem. Voices are muffled at the best of times. I know you’re speaking, but for the life of me, I haven’t got a clue what you’re saying.
People have lived in bubbles with relatives these past few months. Without help, people with hearing difficulties live in a bubble of one their entire lives. When you can’t hear, people stop talking to you. You can’t hear birds sing, or the wind in the trees. The world is very boring when you can’t hear it properly. Worse, you’re isolated.
But hearing difficulty does not need to lead to a deaf sentence. Colleagues are universally very good. They understand the importance of clarity over volume. They readily spell out words when I ask them to do so. Vitally, they are patient. For that, a big thumbs up, and a huge “thank you”.
Deaf Awareness Week Top Tips
The UK Council on Deafness have provided a list of top tips to support communication as part of D/deaf Awareness Week:
- Face the person while you are speaking. Don’t turn away.
- Repeat yourself if necessary.
- Never say ‘It doesn’t matter’. If the person doesn’t understand you, don’t give up!
- Write it down or draw a picture.
- Speak one at a time, don’t talk over each other.
- Keep your mouth visible. Smile and relax.
- Don’t speak too quickly or too slowly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Read the latest Library study blog about how you can use freely available software and apps to support your hearing needs.
Guidance for teaching staff
IT services provide a wide range of guidance for digital accessibility for online teaching materials. Transcripts, subtitles and captions are paramount for video resources. Find out more about why it is important to make accessible video content, captions and audio descriptions, and how this applies to SiteBuilder video and audio clips.
Hearing Loops on Campus
There is a dedicated webpage for portable hearing loops with a list of locations as well as links to instructions. These portable hearing loops are designed to work for 1:1 or very small group conversations to help hearing aid users minimise background noise. Centrally Timetabled Teaching Rooms have larger fixed loop systems more suitable for larger group or teaching activities. Rooms with fixed loop systems fitted can be found using the Centrally Timetabled Room Information Facilities Search, which allows you to filter rooms by Induction Loop and other features before booking the room. This website also contains details of how to report faults with both portable and fixed loop systems. The downloadable instructions associated with each loop on the webpage also includes instructions on positioning for portable systems. Across campus, to indicate loop systems, where appropriate we use the World Federation of the Deaf sign to indicate facilities for Deaf people, with the letter T indicating equipment to enhance microphone sound is set up for people whose hearing aid is fitted with a “T” switch.
If you know of a portable hearing loop that is not on the list, please get in touch with the Estates Accessibility team.
Face coverings and visors
Although the Government has recently changed its guidance to say that a visor on its own does not constitute a face covering, as a University, we recognise our obligations to be proactive to anticipate the needs of disabled people under the Equality Act 2010. As such, we will continue to issue and allow the use of visors on their own for service provision activities in combination with existing additional measures that we have in place on campus, such as social distancing, asymptomatic testing and transparent barriers as specified in local risk assessments. Examples of relevant service provision activities include teaching, customer service, and direct communication with people who rely on lip reading or the interpretation of facial expressions.
A polite reminder that not all disabilities are visible and some people may be exempt from wearing a face covering either due to their disability or to aid communication with a disabled person.
Where to go for support
You may also be interested in:
Disability Framework (workplace adjustments)
Staff Networks - including Disabled Staff Network
Taskforces and SIC - including Disability Taskforce
Policies - including Disability and Mental Health Policy
Charters - including Disability Standard