- DO remember that deafness doesn't define me
It's part of who I am but it's not all I want to be remembered or known for... It's a fine balance between understanding my needs and assuming those are my only needs. It's hard to get it right. Even I don't get it right all of the time. However, that said, I'm pretty sure that 80% of my Tweets are food related and not deafness related. I don't make my life all about my deafness - EXCEPT DURING DEAF AWARENESS WEEK - and don't expect anyone else to either.
- DON'T give me sympathy
Believe me, being deaf isn't the worst thing to have happened to me. In some ways, it's one of the best things. So no head tilt, sad sigh or hand holding necessary. Unless I've just got off a compulsory phone call with the HSBC credit card fraud squad, in which case bring all of the above... and a large bottle of gin.
- DO speak clearly and ensure I can read your lips
That means things like ensuring you don't have your back to the light - otherwise all I can see is a fuzz of you surrounded by a halo. Great if I was painting you as a religious idol, but not great if you want me to actually follow what you're saying.
- DON'T say "It doesn't matter" if I don't hear you the first time
Actually don't say "It doesn't matter" even after the 50th time. It always matters. When I am struggling with something, I ask people to spell it, to give me the synonym. I never tell them it doesn't matter. Because it always does.
- DO ask questionsSeriously, ask away. Ask me about my deafness. Ask me about the life hacks I have. Ask me what snacks I ate before midday - although maybe don't ask me how many snacks I ate before midday. Oh OK, it was three Milkyway bars and a Twix... but in my defense, I had a small breakfast.
- DON'T shout
I cannot stress this one enough. Ever listened to heavy metal? My Pa used to like a band called Napalm Death - and their lyrics were once likened to someone throwing up blood. When you yell, it distorts the sound. It doesn't make it easier for me to hear. And who wants to sound like they are throwing up blood, eh?
- DO remember what you've learnt about making things easier for a deaf person
You know when you go home and your ma gets all your favourite food in? Or you hit the road with your bestie and she's made a playlist of all your favourite songs? When you remember the things that make it easier for me to hear in the world, that's the warm and fuzzy feeling I get. Things like going out for dinner and your friend having your back when the specials are recounted at top speed by a heavily accented waiter and your friend simply says, 'Aaah you love beetroot and goats cheese - that's the starter for you!' while ignoring the lobster because 'Shellfish are friends not food,' instead of recounting the specials in front of the waiter without giving them any context and freaking them out.
- DON'T assume because you know about my deafness, you understand all deafness
You really don't. Some things will be applicable to other people and some things won't. I've said it many, many times, there really is no-one-size-fits-all for deafness.Sorry. We don't make this easy for you. But then, it's not exactly easy for us either.
- DO get involved
There are amazing charities that support deaf people in all areas of their lives and you don't need to be deaf to support them. You could sponsor, foster or volunteer for Hearing Dogs, run races to support Action on Hearing Loss, sign petitions to get better access for deaf people to things like cinema, and find out more about what incredible charities such as Sign Health do. All these charities and more have a wealth of information that will help you understand a little bit more about what sort of support deaf people need. Why not learn a bit more about BSL and how it works as a language?
- DON'T confine deaf awareness to one week of the year
It's not a novelty. It's a reality. For 466 million people worldwide... according to the World Health Organisation. That's a lot eh? Let's keep the conversations, ideas, innovation, acceptance, and changes happening 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.
Happy Deaf Awareness Week peeps