Deaf Awareness : Picture Yourself!
Life today is very hectic. We are always rushing; checking the time; complaining about queues in shops, at the bus stop, traffic jams. If anything happens to disrupt our routine and make us late, we become very agitated.
With a lifestyle such as this, is it any wonder that so little is done to improve communication between the hearing majority and deaf and hard of hearing people?
Statistics show us that the number of people with a hearing loss is increasing all the time. The main reason for this is that people are now living longer than ever before, and losing our hearing is a natural part of the ageing process. Therefore there are more elderly, hard of hearing people in this generation than we have ever experienced before.
The latest figures issued by the RNID state that:
8.7 million people or 14% of the population of the UK
have some form of deafness, ranging from mild to profound
On average, 1 in 7 of the population has a hearing loss.
Do you find these figures surprising? Did you realise that so many people in the UK were deaf?
Deafness is often referred to as an 'invisible' disability. There are no obvious clues to indicate that a person may be deaf. This perhaps could partly explain the lack of consideration shown towards a great number of deaf people.
Once you have raised your awareness, the 'clues' that you had previously overlooked may become more obvious. A little thought and consideration can make all the difference.
Just take a few moments to consider the following:
1. You are waiting for a train on platform 6 when an announcement is made telling you of a platform alteration. You should now move to platform 8. How would a person who is deaf know about the platform alteration? All too frequently the display board does not change when an announcement is made.
2. You finally board the train. During the journey the train slows down and then stops for a few minutes. Eventually an announcement is made apologising for the delay and advising passengers to change at the next station if they are travelling much further as there is flooding on the line a few miles ahead and more delays are expected. How could a traveller who is deaf be expected to know the reasons for the delay and that they may have to change trains at the next station. Very few trains have visual displays on board.
3. You are about to cross a very busy road when you hear the sound of emergency sirens approaching. You wait. The person next to you steps into the road just as a fire engine races around the corner. 'What and idiot!' you think to yourself. That person might not have heard the sirens - they might be deaf.
4. You are sitting reading in the library when the fire alarm sounds. Everyone leaves quickly. One person is still sitting there reading quietly. Why? That person probably has not hear the alarm - they might be deaf.
5. You are shopping in the supermarket. The person in front of you is blocking the aisle with their trolley. You say politely 'excuse me'. You get no response. You repeat your request. Still no response. You are getting angry now - is that person just being awkward? You say it a little louder now and through gritted teeth 'excuse me', knocking their trolley slightly at the same time. The person looks up, sees that they have been blocking your way, apologises and makes way for you. It is quite possible that the person was not being awkward or bad mannered - they might possibly be deaf.
Hopefully you should by now be starting to realise why deafness is said to be 'invisible'. There are no obvious clues, but there could be any number of 'subtle' clues to indicate that a person might be deaf. Next time you hear an announcement, or feel that someone is ignoring you just stop to think for a moment - they might be deaf.
Deaf Awareness Lecturer
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