Monday, 29 March 2021

A question of access...

[I bet they were up all night ensuring no capital D was seen lol]. What does accessibility mean to you? We’re most familiar with the term in relation to accessing products, services and environments. It’s important to people with disabilities. But what is involved in making something accessible?

Over the last 50 years, there have been significant changes to make communities more accessible. Policy changes, technological advancements and growing awareness have contributed to a more inclusive society. But many barriers still exist.

Why accessibility is important to the deaf community

According to Public Health England, there are “around 11 million people across the UK with hearing loss”. Accessibility plays a fundamental role in their day-to-day lives. It allows deaf and hard of hearing people to participate in society and social life, something most of non-deaf people take for granted.

Inadequate accessibility bars deaf people from exercising rights and taking up opportunities that should be available to all. It can lead to fewer educational and job opportunities. It can also result in social withdrawal, a sense of isolation and mental health issues. Barriers to basic access are barriers to inclusion and equality.

Accessible communication

Challenges faced by deaf and hard of hearing people are mostly related to communication barriers. We live in a majority-hearing world and deaf people are often faced with a lack of understanding or awareness of their communication needs.

It is a common misconception that deafness means you can’t hear at all. In fact, there are many levels of hearing loss. Every deaf person is unique and interacts with those around them a bit differently. Some use sign language, others use speech and lipreading, and some use a mixture, or other methods.

Communication barriers can result in a lack of confidence, depression, a sense of isolation and unemployment. Deaf and hard of hearing people have to make adjustments and efforts every day. The burden to make communication accessible shouldn’t have to be their responsibility alone. It’s vital that non-deaf people join in and play a part too.

Not sure how? Start by asking what type of communication they would like to use. Becoming more deaf aware can help remove some of the barriers. Deaf Unity runs Deaf Awareness, Introduction to BSL and accredited BSL courses. Get in touch to start learning more about what you can do to make communication easier.

There are assistive listening technologies and devices available which can be a big help. They include those listed below but the range is expanding all the time:

Induction loops or amplifier systems

Speech-to-text apps

Video Relay Service (VRS) – some services such SignLive offer 24/7 availability

Some simple situational adjustments can also make a difference:

Addition of visual display (text, images, icons)

Written materials

Accessible materials (BSL)

Reducing background noise

Availability of BSL interpreters


A G Bell was he misunderstood?


Another chapter with the USA deaf obsession with anti-oral tuition of the deaf.  So choice shouldn't be allowed? To be fair the bloke died 100 years ago, time to move on?  Live in the past you stay there.  Deaf people can speak and can lip-read and we advocate that, what's the beef?  

He clearly misunderstood about deaf genetics, 9 out of 10 are born to hearing people, there are few genetic deaf at all, less than 2%.  Areas like Martha's Vineyard prompted his view.  While viewed as some 'inclusive utopia' by modern-day deaf pundits, the reality is their isolation created it, once that changed so did the 'inclusiveness' and fewer deaf being born.  Surely they can't be holding Bell responsible for that?  It was progress.

A new book about Alexander Graham Bell that explores the relationship between Alexander Graham Bell and the deaf—including his wife and mother.

Katie Booth tells the story in “The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness.” She grew up in a mixed hearing/Deaf family; her grandparents and great-aunt were deaf. Booth now teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Her book explores Bell's promotion of deaf education that prioritized the spoken word and lip-reading. His oralist approach included a paper he wrote in 1884 titled “Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race.” In it, he warned that if deaf people began socializing and inevitably intermarrying, they would create “a defective race of human beings [that] would be a great calamity to the world.” 

Booth explores how Bell's hatred of sign language left scars on the deaf in the U.S. for decades. She writes: “In the deaf world . . . he’s remembered with rage. He’s the man who launched a war in which the deaf would have to fight for their lives.”  While Bell's disturbing story is not new to those who are a part of Deaf Culture, Booth's book is expected to reach a number of people in the hearing world who were not aware of this part of American history.