Monday 28 June 2010

Supporting Deaf Awareness Week

Deafinitely Girly’s usual spiel is interrupted today with an advert for Deaf Awareness Week!

People are so judgemental, right?

From what you’re wearing, to the colour, cut and style of your hair. From your interests in life, hobbies to choice of partner and the way you behave.

But so many of the above are personal choices – you choose your haircut, what you wear, what things you like to do and who you go out with. But imagine being judged on something you couldn’t change – something that you yourself struggled with on many occasions…

…your disability.

To be on the receiving end of this kind of judgement can be soul destroying. It’s a battle you can’t win. And, while there are certainly some judgemental people out there, all too often the reason the person judging you is behaving that way is simply because they’re not aware about your disability, or how to deal with it.

That’s why, when the RNID asked me to support Deaf Awareness Week simply by writing about it, I was more than happy to. From my own personal journey as a deaf person to watching Ma struggle with losing her hearing, I can honestly say that a little bit of deaf awareness goes a long way.

As a kid, I was very bull-in-a-china-shop about my deafness – I told people in a ‘Don’t care’ way and often liked the shock factor it caused. I thrived on being the only deaf person in the village and if I’m honest, I don’t think I even knew what ‘deaf awareness’ was.

But then came the realisation that not everyone was so accepting. My teacher made me stand in the corner of the classroom for not wearing my hearing aids and then spoke to me without letting me face her to prove that I couldn’t hear.

At a charity evening one day, I missed my number being called out in a tombola and the man on the microphone asked if I was stupid or something. When I told him I was deaf, he replied, ‘Oh, so you must be stupid then.’

And stupid I may well be, sometimes, but it wasn’t his judgement to make.

So if you do just one thing today, make sure its peruse the RNID’s website – particularly the section on Deaf Awareness Week. There you’ll find simple communication dos and don’ts, with my favourite being up there:

Do repeat yourself. Or rephrase until you're understood.

I can honestly tell you, there’s nothing worse than someone giving up on what they’re trying to say to you! It makes you feel very, very small!

For me, being deaf aware is as much about the little things in life as the big – and it’s also about recognising that everyone has different needs and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. I actually find being tapped on the shoulder makes me jump out of my seat at work and prefer to have my desk tapped.

I know I’ve got lots to learn this Deaf Awareness Week, and maybe you have, too. So why not make a big change with something little and support Deaf Awareness Week.

Oh and one more thing – I can't report back on the T-loop system in my car as when I put my hearing aids in on Friday, I discovered they had no batteries in them. See, I really have still got lots to learn!


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