RNID: Massive shift needed to improve public’s deaf awareness 

New research from RNID has found that a staggering 59% of people would not feel confident communicating with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss.

Shockingly, this number rises to 84% who would not feel confident communicating with a British Sign Language user. 1 in 10 (10%) even said they would actively avoid communication with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss all together.

The reasons why

When asked why they wouldn’t feel confident communicating with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss, reasons included:

  • 62% said they hadn’t had much experience interacting with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss.
  • 48% don’t know how to communicate with people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
  • 40% worry that they may seem patronising to the other person.
  • And almost a quarter (24%) worry they may say or do something that might seem inappropriate.
  • When asked about communicating with a BSL user specifically, 50% of respondents said they just don’t know how.
Picturing scenarios

RNID also asked individuals to picture themselves in scenarios and say how comfortable they would feel. They found that over a quarter (26%) of people would feel uncomfortable being told to manage someone who was deaf or has hearing loss. 25% wouldn’t feel comfortable being driven in a taxi by someone who was deaf or has hearing loss. And 22% of people wouldn’t feel comfortable going on a date or meeting someone in a bar who was deaf or has hearing loss.

Teri Devine, Director for Inclusion at RNID said:

“These findings lay bare just how much everyday stigma and misunderstanding the 12 million people who are deaf or have hearing loss in the UK face in daily life. Many may find these statistics shocking: unfortunately, we know all too well that our communities frequently face barriers in the workplace, when accessing public services and in social situations.

“We want to encourage everyone to practice our simple communication tips during Deaf Awareness Week, shared by deaf people and people with hearing loss, so that everyone is included in conversation.

“Despite the majority of people saying they lack experience talking to deaf people and people with hearing loss, hearing loss affects 1 in 5 adults, so the chances are there is someone in your family, your friendship group or at work. Hearing loss can be slow to spot, so the person may not realise they are losing their hearing, or they may not feel confident being open about it.

“We want to open up conversations about deafness and hearing loss during Deaf Awareness Week, build the public’s confidence in communicating, and highlight the support available. The most important thing is just to ask someone how you can help.”

Be more deaf aware: E.A.R.

People who are deaf or have hearing loss have individual communication needs and you should ask how best you can communicate with them. RNID is encouraging people to use E.A.R. to help them remember simple tips they can use to make communication easier:

  • Environment – reduce background noise or move to a quieter area. And make sure the room is well lit if the person relies on lipreading.
  • Attention – use simple gestures such as pointing, waving or a light tap on the shoulder to get someone’s attention. Face the person you’re speaking to so they can lipread, and speak to them, not their interpreter or anyone else with them. 
  • Repeat and rephrase – if someone doesn’t understand you, try repeating what you said or rephrasing it in a different way. If this doesn’t work, you could write it down, or speak to a friend or relative if they ask you to.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2095 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 21st April 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Results based on 87% of UK adults that said they have never been diagnosed with hearing loss (1725 respondents).

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