The other week, when returning to teach at one of my client’s, I discovered a pair of old, well- loved, but worn, shoes I was wearing, had come to the end of their wearable life. Rather embarrassingly, the said shoes gave up the will to function in the middle of class whilst teaching the BSL alphabet. One of my deaf learners, froze in the middle of earnestly spelling ‘I’, stared at my feet and informed me “your shoe is flapping!” much to the amusement of everyone around us.
Hindsight is a marvellous thing; I knew I shouldn’t have ignored that little nagging thought at the back of my head to double check they were ok before I wore them. A shoe cull post lockdown was indeed long overdue.
I guess the moral of the story might be to always check something’s ok before assuming it is. However, there is much more to this story than meets the eye.
Firstly, it is no surprise that a deaf learner spotted my predicament before others. Many Deaf people view the world in a much more vivid and visual way than their hearing counterparts. It really is true that the eyes become the Deaf person’s ears.
Secondly, I began to think about how being Deaf Aware is much more than being aware of a person’s deafness. There are numerous misconceptions around the term.
Much of the time we may not even know a person is Deaf; this might be because they may not wear hearing aids or have Cochlear Implants, or they may choose to hide them if they do. Deafness is often invisible to others.
That is why understanding what being Deaf Aware means to each of us is so important.
Often, when we meet a deaf person at work, in different styles of meetings, socially or in the community, we make assumptions about what they need or do not need. Sometimes, we just need to step back a minute, and ask them the key question that can change everything; ‘Are you ok?’.
By that, we are asking if they need anything to change to enable them to have a better experience. Are they ok with the light, so that they can see your face and lipread you more easily? Are they ok with the surrounding noise levels, (for example, for some deaf people who wear hearing aids, all sounds are amplified, making it difficult to concentrate), are they ok with all the different visual distractions (making it more difficult to focus on your lips and/or signing or the interpreter signing at a meeting etc) or would they prefer to go somewhere quieter or less busy?
This is what we mean by Deaf Awareness; it is about making small changes. A change in thinking, a change in focus and ensuring that you try to never assume things. It is always better to check that a Deaf person is ok with things.
Back to the shoes…perhaps my old worn-out shoes might have gone for another autumn season if I had only thought to check them first and had them repaired.
If we all try to put ourselves in a deaf person’s shoes sometimes, we might be able to remember to just ask that one question next time, which could make all the difference.
Be smart… be like StudySharpe… be Deaf Aware.
Study Sharpe helps organisations recognise the importance and benefit of embracing the Equality Act in their business operations.
For British Sign Language or Deaf Awareness courses please visit their website: https://www.studysharpe.co.uk/
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