[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.
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
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)
Accessible materials (BSL)
Reducing background noise
Availability of BSL interpreters