Deaf Awareness Week: How to be an ally

Last updated at 06:26
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Deaf Awareness week: Top tips for communicating with deaf people.

In the UK, more than 10 million people are deaf or hard of hearing, including 50,000 children.

Deaf Awareness Week runs from 4-9 May and this year the theme is 'Coming Through It Together'.

It's a week all about educating the hearing community about how to be an ally to those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. In this case, being an ally means to try to learn about the difficulties deaf people face and help in any way you can.

Not only does the week aim to promote all the positive aspects of living with hearing loss, but also highlights how isolating it can sometimes be.

What does it mean to be deaf?
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Being deaf or hard of hearing means a person can't hear at all or can only hear a little.

It's very common and most people lose a little bit of their hearing as they get much older.

Like many disabilities, some people are affected in a huge way by their hearing loss and others very mildly.

Some people use hearing aids, which are devices people use in or around their ears to make sound easier to hear.

Some use radio aids and others use a microphone to amplify the signal of their voice to a hearing aid.

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How can I be an ally to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community?

Although most people who are deaf or hard of hearing have mostly positive lives, occasionally for some being deaf or partially deaf can make them feel alone.

That's why each year Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated, to help make life a little less isolating for people with hearing loss. It also aims to bring more understanding to the hearing community about the struggles that some deaf and partially deaf people face.

One of the biggest and most helpful ways to become an ally to the deaf community is to learn and promote British Sign Language or BSL.

According to the government in the UK, there are 151,000 BSL users.

Learning simple and common BSL signs could help open up communication.

Check out the video below to learn some simple signs for yourself.

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Deaf Awareness week: Useful BSL to know!

There are lots of other ways you can be an ally too - the National Deaf Children's Society recommends finding out how someone communicates.

Some people use BSL, others can lip read and others use speech. They say never be afraid to ask how a person would like to communicate.

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Other ways you can help
  • Always face someone when you're talking to them, keep your mouth and face clearly visible and try not to move around so that the person you are talking to can read your lips and hear you as clearly as possible.
  • Talking of faces - don't cover yours! When communicating clearly with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, it is important they can see your lips and read your face.
  • You also don't have to slow your speech down, It's very easy to assume that speaking really slowly would be better but it isn't - it's best to speak as naturally as you can.
  • Be clear and use what you have around you. If you're talking about something you can see, point to it to make it clear and remember to be patient and persevere with what you're saying - don't give up!
  • If talking and pointing doesn't work, write it down to make sure the person you're talking to doesn't feel excluded from the conversation.
  • Make it clear you want to communicate - you can wave or if you know somebody well enough, lightly tap them on their shoulder to let them know you want to talk to them.

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