Deaf Awareness Week – Andrea’s Story
9 May 2019 by Andrea Godfrey
Deaf Awareness Week (6th -12th May)
I was working on a Christmas stall a couple of years ago when a couple approached me to ask about Wills. I realised that they were deaf and although it was a struggle, I managed to get the information across. However, that moment stayed with me and over the next few weeks, I realised that I needed and wanted to be able to communicate to anyone hard of hearing or who was deaf. Not being able to communicate with the couple properly played on my mind; so in 2018 I made the decision to sign up to complete the Level 1 in British Sign Language (“BSL”).
BSL is a means of communicating using gestures, facial expressions and body language; it is a vital communication link between the deaf/hard of hearing and those who can hear. I have learnt so much already and I can communicate in BSL about my family, work, home, pets and a whole range of other topics. I have also met some lovely people along the way.
This week is Deaf Awareness Week (6th -12th May). This is a campaign to promote the “positive aspects of deafness, promote social inclusion and raise awareness of the huge range of local organisations that support deaf people and their family and friends”.
The theme is role models and the one I have chosen is my tutor Amy Smith.
Amy has 80% hearing loss and is a teacher at iSign Learning & Development. She has been a true inspiration to me. She is never without a smile and nothing ever seems to phase her, but it was humbling when she explained to me the obstacles she has had to overcome. The main one being she was made to go to a mainstream school and did not enrol in a deaf school. She found it very challenging because she was alone and stood out as being “different”. It knocked her confidence. However after she met her current husband Seb who is deaf, she gained the confidence needed to pass her course to be able to teach sign language to others – like me.
I asked Amy what she would like more people to be aware of considering it is Deaf Awareness Week. She said she just wants people to be aware of the obstacles and everyday difficulties that deaf people face. She also states that the pointers raised by the Deaf Council as to the do’s and don’ts of meeting deaf people is incredibly accurate. (see below)
At FJG we are deaf aware and proud partners of the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD). We have been awarded a Deaf-Aware Quality Mark. We are also the first law firm to work with SignLive, ensuring that Deaf clients gain swifter access to a qualified British Sign Language Interpreter.
Deaf Council, Do’s and Don’ts – when you meet a deaf person
- Face the person while you are speaking, don’t turn away
- Speak clearly without shouting
- Repeat yourself if necessary
- Never says ‘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
- Please use gestures