Thursday, 1 July 2010

Re-evaluating deaf awareness

Yay! Almost the weekend!

So, the private view was great fun last night, and only one person asked about my love life! Perhaps they've come to realize there's no longer anything to tell!!

Anyway, last night, as I was dozing in bed, I caught the late-night repeat of the BBC2 programme Are You Having A Laugh: TV and Disability.

All about how disabled people had been displayed on TV over the years, it included input from both disabled and non-disabled people and, although a little clich├ęd at times, it really did make me realise that, even though things are far from perfect now, they're a hell of a lot better than they were.

But perhaps what I gleaned from the programme was the importance of tolerance, from both sides. As the award-winning producer of The Office, Ash Atalla said, ‘When people ask me to step over here or take a walk with them, I don't make a big deal of it as that would make me the idiot.’*

And then someone who was perhaps Dom Joly or at least looked like Dom Joly (the subtitles covered his name so I don't know exactly who he was) said something along the lines of, ‘If only disabled people are allowed to make jokes about disabilities, then they shouldn't be allowed to make jokes about us "normals".’

Teehee!

But anyway, as I was saying, what I am learning this week, especially as it's Deaf Awareness Week – and not all the writing on the internet about it is good, I should point out – is the importance of tolerance on both sides of the fence.

No one is ever going to get it completely right. The dos and don'ts of interacting with anyone, whether they're deaf, blind, in a wheelchair, have any kind of disability or are just a ‘normal’ should never be assumed as the only way to do something.

In addition to their disability, that person might be painfully shy and dislike eye contact, or one-to-one interaction, or having allowances made for them.

And no matter how many guidelines are drawn up, we're never going to get it just right for everyone.

So perhaps what's more important is to raise awareness of this. So people are less afraid of causing offence when they chat to a deaf person or of helping a blind person struggling to cross the road. After all, at least they could be bothered to make the effort.

I’m certainly going to give this tolerance a go next time someone actually makes an effort with my deafness, no matter how annoying it is. Because if I react negatively to their help of tapping me on the shoulder, turning the TV up even though this is actually painful for me, or speaking so slowly I’ve forgotten what they were talking about by the time they finish their sentence, they may be afraid to do that for the next deaf person they meet, and that might be just the help that deaf person needs.

Don't get me wrong though, that doesn't mean I'm not going to make my needs known, and I've always done that within my social group. But is there really any point in schooling a complete stranger who you might never meet again when all we're really talking about is personal preference?

It’s all amazing food for thought, really. And no matter what bad – or good – press there is on Deaf Awareness Week right now, if it’s got me thinking I should be more tolerant and less gung-ho when people get it wrong, then that can only be a good thing!


*I think this is what he said but the subtitles were gone before I could grab a pen!

3 comments:

MM said...

There was only a single item from the deaf area, I noticed a distinct lack of deaf involvement in disability issues, but that is nothing new. I think the deaf are years and years behind the other disabled sectors in empowering themselves.

I can name a dozen disabled people who are funny, intuitive, and ardent advocates, few deaf at all. Far too often deaf use the fact they cannot hear and have a culture to not participate in things. An excuse in short.

I attended a Welsh celebration of Disability, out of a few thousand during the day that went, I found FOUR concerned with sign, and only one charity in attendance the deaf-blind.

There was me, a lady who was a carer for other deaf and two interpreters the deaf asked for and then didn't turn up to use. I agree with you deaf are the last to show tolerance an acceptance.

They give introverts a real run for their money ! There seems no interesting deaf people at all does there ? apart froma few deaf film makers, the claim there is only a single BSL deaf comedian in all the UK, John Smith.

He is funny sort of ha-ha, but like all deaf asides the jokes are based on misunderstandings and he doesn't do topical. watch disability humour for real laughs and very astute observations.

Ria said...

Mmmm. Great food for thought - yeah we shouldn't expect those to be an expert on deaf awareness before they meet us for the first time and the only time ever - I totally agree :)

MM said...

Our British deaf week was a shambles as usual, it was the old stand-by of wheeling out deaf children and plugging 'support'. The awareness didn't really apply to signing deaf at all, it all assumed you could lip-read..

The RNID (The UK's alleged largest deaf charity), on their Twitter and Facebook sites, were seen asking "HOW do we get deaf people interested in deaf week...?", answer, you won't, because the RNID portray the medical model of deafness.. and were fed up being attacked for it by them.

The very few deaf now involved in campaigning oppose the RNID, think the UKCoD a poor and unsupported joke, and the NDCS the only people with any respect to be earned, the only criticism being their alliance with the medically sponsored RNID. You had the NDCS trying to promote the social model of deafness and the RNID doing the opposite.