While over five percent of the world’s population, or about 430 million people, have what is considered to be disabling hearing loss, deafness is a disability that often feels invisible due to the fact that you cannot identify a deaf person purely based on sight.
In fact, it is estimated that there are 11 million people in the Uk with hearing loss, yet concerning research has revealed that an alarming 94 percent of British people do not know more than two words of British Sign Language. Furthermore, the research conducted also revealed that over a fourth of us, or 27 percent, are embarrassed that we cannot communicate with people that are hard of hearing, with 59 percent of people pushing for sign language to be made part of the National Curriculum.
With such staggering statistics, this year’s theme for Deaf Awareness Week 2022, “Inclusion Deafness,” focusing on raising awareness and advocating for the inclusion of deaf people in our communities could not be more appropriate. The theme will also highlight the importance of mental health for the deaf, underrepresented minorities within the deaf community, and implementing change within systems such as education, health settings, and the workplace.
Read on to learn 5 ways how you can help change these statistics, raise awareness of the deaf community, participate in events, and continue to help bridge communication between the hearing and deaf.
5 Ways to Participate in Deaf Awareness Week’s “Inclusion Deafness” in the UK
1. Participate in Deaf Awareness Events
One of the best ways to honour and raise awareness of the deaf community is to participate in Deaf Awareness Week events. Whether you choose to attend seminars, workshops, meetings, or BSL classes; participate in fundraisers or charity events; or host fun events at your workplace or in your community, there are plenty of ways that you can be a part of Deaf Awareness Week. Remember that although Deaf Awareness Week 2022 takes place from the 2nd to the 8th of May, events and opportunities to learn more about the deaf community are ongoing. Becoming a more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse community is a goal that can and should be pursued year-round.
2. Learn Sign Language to Communicate with Deaf People
One significant way to connect and communicate with the deaf community is to learn sign language. In fact, for more than 870,000 deaf people in the U.K, British Sign Language (BSL) is the preferred language. Whether you want to take BSL classes or practice with a deaf person, learning sign language shows the deaf community that you want to communicate with them, understand their experiences, and interact with them in daily life.
3. Educate Yourself and Others About the Culture and Identity of the Deaf Community
Deaf people are much more than just people that happen to not be able to hear. They are a community of people with a rich culture and unique identities, and no two deaf people are the same. Educate yourself and others about the culture and identity of the deaf community by attending seminars led by deaf people, social gatherings in the deaf community, events such as deaf music festivals and raves, reading their stories, learning about their history, learning sign language, having conversations with deaf people, etc. Regardless of what your interests are, you will be sure to find a community of deaf people who share this interest with you and can teach you more about their cultures and identities.
4. Try to Understand What It’s Like to be Deaf
While a hearing person will never truly know what it’s like to be deaf, attempting to understand the experiences of someone who is deaf takes us one step closer towards a more empathetic and inclusive community. You can do this in many ways such as talking to deaf people about their experiences, going to seminars about deaf people, watching films about what life is like as a person that is deaf, or reading first-hand accounts of their experiences. There are also activities that you can do such as attempting to read lips without any sound; watching silent, captioned films; or learning and attempting to communicate using sign language that can help you understand how deaf people experience the world in their daily lives.
5. Get Involved in the Deaf Community
The best way to get connect with the deaf community is to get involved. Don’t be intimidated of communicating with them, even if you know little to no sign language. Remember that some deaf people are skilled at reading lips so when talking to them, make sure to face them, speak clearly at a normal pace without over-enunciating, make eye contact, and refrain from covering your mouth or looking around/ turning your head while speaking. Making new friends and getting to know more deaf people in your community helps bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf, fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment for all.