Thursday, 21 May 2020

New world order.

What isn't properly explained is that difficulties in lip-reading people (or not seeing anyone using sign for you), has been the norm pre-virus. Today interpreters are reluctant to stand anywhere near a deaf person to facilitate them either.  Everything is being done by remote.  

Who do they want wearing these clear masks?  Medical staff have no approved safe clear masks as we understand, so we are assuming the deaf want the public to wear them?  or just certain areas of them? But will that satisfy sign users?

They are also critical of 'homemade' masks (As are medical people saying they are only partial protection from others in the street and not approved for clinical use as they need stringent safeguards built-in), as stated, patterns and vivid colours detract the eye away from the clear panel they want as well. At two metres, lip-reading starts to pose problems anyway doesn't it? As we know next to nobody on the street is sign using or aware either.  

COVID 19 has 'exposed' the two primary means we use to facilitate communication, i.e. sign language, and lip-reading, should we not now be adapting to systems or devices that rely on neither exclusively?

Video conferencing also posed problems as did phones because of the unreliability, or simple non-existence of speech to text technology included, and/or it being ineffective too.  More than 4 participants participating renders following academic.  The prime area benefitting, is the sign user who relies on visuals anyway, but not the lip-reader who followed oral speech approaches, often with with hearing aids.  

Deaf communications are heavily reliant on face to face meetings, club social aspects, dedicated schools, peer signers, etc, it is an essential part of their community ethos and cultural aspiration, the virus has stopped that to a large degree too.

The 'New World Order' post virus means those with hearing loss are going to have to set up/learn alternatives, there will be no 'norm' to return to, and the old norm has clearly been found wanting.

Quit with the complaining

Despite 6 blogs notifying deaf where their BSL support is, and 14 notifications to BSL sites, they are still complaining there is next to no BSL access during this pandemic, here is the official version of what's available, try reading it!

Covid-19 poses unique challenges to the 12 million people in the UK with hearing loss, many of whom rely on visual cues such as lip-reading and sign language, which leans heavily on facial cues and expressions for communication. 

[1] In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, not all UK government briefings were accompanied by British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and this provoked appreciable concern among the 151,000 people who are BSL users. 

[2] The Equality Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made to support disabled people, including providing information in an accessible format. The Accessible Information Standard puts a legal requirement on all health and social care providers to identify communication needs and provide information in people’s preferred format. The government should provide and publicise comprehensive, timely public health information in BSL and ensure BSL interpretation for all daily televised COVID-19 briefings and emergency announcements. As a result, a petition was put forward by the Deaf community. 

The recent response by the government explained that in accordance with Public Health Guidance it is not possible to safely include a physical BSL interpreter in the room for daily briefings, without potentially putting them and others at risk. However, BSL interpretation of the daily covid-19 briefings are now provided via the BBC News channel and iPlayer. 

[This will put at rest the current complaint England is not providing BSL updates live. Downing Street is an exception.  Such BBC access has been there since early March in reality.]

[3] In response to the needs of the Deaf community to have timely and accessible information, the UK’s D/deaf charities have mobilised swiftly. Charities such as the British Deaf Association, SignHealth and the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) are providing BSL versions of the Government’s briefings on coronavirus. SignHealth continues to provide Deaf mental health support to members of the community and have moved their service for helping victims of domestic abuse online during the pandemic. deafPLUS charity’s BSL advice line remains open and Action on Hearing Loss have set up a BSL information service to support Deaf people during the outbreak. Due to social distancing Enabled Living set up virtual drop-in sessions for Deaf patients to access GP and Health Visitor appointments via video call, to address health concerns. New innovations and free services for people with hearing loss A great example of organisations coming together during COVID-19 is BSL Health Access. 

[AOHL is also running a campaign about LACK of access on the BBC too, where HAVE they been?].

[4] The service provides immediate, on-demand access to BSL interpreters for communication with Deaf people in all health settings, including pharmacy, opticians, general practice and dentists, free of charge during the current coronavirus situation. Access to BSL interpreters takes place through two methods: Video Relay Services (VRS)—when a BSL interpreter relays information over a telephone call between a BSL user and the hearing person receiving or making the call; and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)—where a remote interpreter is used to facilitate communication with a Deaf and hearing person in the same location. Innovation in response to covid-19 has been notable. A student in the USA reminds us of the importance of compassion and not overlooking the unique needs of people as we respond to this challenging time. She created a mask that uses a clear panel to enable people to read lips and facial cues. 

[Clear panel masks are an issue currently, none are approved for use in medical or clinical situations, and DIY masks are not deemed reliable or offer any immunity to COVID 19.]

[5] However, there are no transparent masks available for use in healthcare settings in the UK and these are not classified as suitable for use in a healthcare setting, where type IIR or FFP3 masks are required. The Government’s latest guidance advises wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces such as public transport, where social distancing may not be possible. Nine charities all joined in solidarity, led by the National Deaf Children’s Society and asked for future Government guidance on face coverings to include advice on speaking to deaf or deafblind people whilst wearing masks. They also wrote to Public Health England and NHS England asking them to commission transparent face masks. A UK Doctor created digital flashcards which enable medical staff to ask critically ill or Deaf coronavirus patients questions and share vital information on digital flashcards displayed on a phone, tablet, or computer. 

[6] In just 72 hours it was used by NHS trusts and hospitals in 50 countries across the world. Cardmedic is currently available in 10 different languages and features a “read aloud” option to help those who are blind or too unwell to read. An app is in development which will include illustrations and videos for British Sign Language, as well as creating downloadable PDF versions for healthcare professionals to print, laminate, write on, wipe off and reuse. Personal protective equipment communication barriers, isolation and loneliness are challenges common to many patients, but the needs of those who rely solely on lip reading have been largely ignored. Two deaf doctors have recently written powerfully about their experience. 

[7] I have witnessed this myself, with my grandmother who wears bilateral hearing aids. She is in hospital currently and struggles to understand what the healthcare workers are saying beneath their face mask as she’s reliant on lip-reading. This can be exhausting, especially with each new encounter, update or explanation. Simple measures to aid patients with hearing loss who don’t use BSL and cannot use visual cues, such as on the telephone or when wearing PPE, including speaking clearly but not too slowly, and not loudly; checking understanding by asking the patient to repeat information back or rephrasing if the patient asks to repeat the information; using plain language; sticking clearly to the point and reducing background noise as much as possible. Using the written word, speech to text apps or digital flashcards are additional helpful aids.

[The deaf are going to have to use other/additional means to follow, albeit remote interpreting is a better option for those who are BSL reliant there is no system of lip-SPOKEN support, there never has been, see-through mask effectiveness is relative obviously to the person's own skillsIf you are not 100% confident you can don't use it.  COVID 19 doesn't forgive errors or guesswork.]