Quotes from the article:
Tell us a little bit about deaf culture and how it differs from hearing culture.
"The biggest difference is the way we communicate. Most obviously, deaf people use sign language to communicate – they can’t hear so they use their eyes to see. Something which is less obvious is that in deaf culture, it is often necessary to touch people if they are not facing you order to get their attention. Hearing people often are not used to this, and are not as comfortable with strangers touching them to communicate."
Tell us about the challenges which face deaf people and how these can be overcome.
"Deaf people look just like hearing people, which means hearing people don’t immediately know if a person is deaf or not. Some hearing people can be a bit scared of deaf people – they don’t know how to communicate. For example, I once went into a bank to withdraw £10 over the counter. The person who was serving me just panicked and got on the phone to find out if anyone in the branch spoke sign language.
All I wanted was £10, and I could have easily have communicated this without the aid of someone who could translate sign language. Most deaf people can lip read, so the best way to communicate with a deaf person if you don’t use sign language is to emphasise lip movements, don’t speak too quickly, or too slowly, and definitely don’t shout. It would be great if more people know sign language, and if it was taught in schools.
Children learn French, German and Spanish – why not sign language? You just need to break down the barriers – deaf people are exactly the same as hearing people."
How has understanding of and facilities for deaf people improved in your life time?
"Technology these days is so much better. When I was a child, there was very little help for me and my family. All my family are hearing and I have two brothers who are hearing. I have got on with it, and I am very lucky that I have a lot of support from my family and friends – both hearing and deaf. We all support each other. Now, people, councils and organisations generally are more aware. Social services have a specific worker for deaf people, and can provide lots of devices to help deaf people live independently, from flashing lights for door bells and fire alarms to a vibrating device which alerts deaf mothers and fathers to their baby crying. Improvements in communication, such as text and email, have also helped a lot.
Who knows, in another 46 years, we may have moved on a lot further. I don’t expect the world to change for deaf people, I just hope people can learn more about each other and try to understand each other better."