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19 May Deaf awareness week: Kate & Carve, one year on

In 2016 I wrote a rather cathartic post about what deaf awareness means to me, and to Carve. The intervening year has seen a more active association with the charity, Action on Hearing Loss, and, naturally, my involvement in campaigns, interviews and conversations has meant a degree of reflection about my hearing loss and the fight for awareness, understanding and patience.

In previous workplaces I’d wonder, ‘what am I missing?’ and yearn for the ease with which other members of the team seemed to grasp a joke or swing from one conversation to another in their office banter. Sometimes it was easier to laugh when others laughed and fake knowing what the heck was going on. Active listening requires great concentration, and situations that should be a fun part of the working day may feel stressful, as you have to remain alert to keep up.

So, what can colleagues do to help? For 2017’s Deaf Awareness Week I’ve put together a little list of ways colleagues can help communicate.

  • Make sure I can see your lips – put that pen down that you’re chewing and stop waving those papers around in front of your face
  • Don’t over-exaggerate, slow or shout your words: that actually makes it more difficult to lip-read
  • Please, PLEASE don’t say, ‘it doesn’t matter’ if I ask you to repeat something: try repeating what you’ve said, or re-phrase it. Be patient…it matters to me
  • Understand that deaf people communicate visually, too. Expressions, eye contact, gesticulation, etc. all help in getting your message across. (At one of Carve’s parties I suggested people communicate with me through the medium of interpretive dance… I was only half joking, actually)
  • Don’t stand in front of a brightly lit window during a meeting. What might make the most effective silhouetted shot for Instagram doesn’t allow me to see what you’re saying
  • Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask me, ‘what’s best for you?’ Sometimes it’s lip-reading, maybe it’s moving to a better-lit area, or away from background noise, perhaps writing something down. Being flexible is appreciated!
  • In a large group, it can be difficult to see who’s talking – maybe give me a wave as you’re speaking

To my fellow Carvers: I know it sometimes means that we add an extra ten minutes to a video conference trying to figure out if the camera is pointing in the right direction and to ensure I can see the speaker’s face, but you do it. You’re responsive, considerate, and make my workplace a wonderful, inclusive place: thank you.

Now, back to that interpretive dance idea…

Kate Halls

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