Disability: Deaf Inclusion
Throughout this post I will be using the term "d/Deaf". 'Capital D Deaf' refers to Deaf people who belong to and identify with Deaf culture, 'small d deaf' refers to those with medical deafness but who do not necessarily identify with Deaf culture. The term "d/Deaf" includes both of those groups of people. The acronym HoH stands for 'hard of hearing', meaning at least partial deafness. It is worth noting that many Deaf people do not consider themselves to have a disability. For more information please see Deaf Culture on Wikipedia).
When discussing disability inclusion it is very easy to jump straight to ramps and wheelchair access. This is, of course, absolutely essential to building an inclusive environment (and one which fully complies with disability rights regulations and the Equality Act 2010), but disability goes beyond mobility issues.
In the UK and across the world there is a thriving d/Deaf community, one which has a proud history and culture. In England, the majority of d/Deaf people speak British Sign Language (BSL), an officially recognised language which uses facial, head, and hand movements to communicate non-orally. 15,000 people in England and Wales report using BSL as their first language, and the British Deaf Association estimates there are 151,000 people who use BSL in the UK, 87,000 of whom are deaf. Read more about BSL.
Sign language is not taught in UK schools, despite it being one of the only methods of communication available to many. d/Deaf people struggle to find employment, engage with media, and access education because of the dire lack of support and understanding available to them.
What can organisations do to help?
There are several things that organisations can do to improve accessibility for d/Deaf service users, stakeholders, customers, and employees, including:
- Hiring interpreters for events
- Making BSL an option for Continuing Professional Development
- Adding subtitles and captions to all media
- Ensuring induction loops (also called hearing loops) are available and working for those who use hearing aids - portable induction loops can be purchased for relatively low cost where this is an issue
- Consulting with d/Deaf people about their needs, and learning from d/Deaf disability rights activists - they know best what will support d/Deaf individuals and should always be the first port of call