Empowering deaf individuals through inclusive support
David Ashton-Jones, Chief Executive at care home group Homes Together, discusses the importance of supporting the deaf community during international week for the Deaf and beyond.
It is currently International Week of Deaf People, which is a chance to celebrate and highlight the Deaf community across the globe. Deafness is a different way of experiencing the world for many people, and in the UK alone 12 million adults are deaf or have hearing loss.
At Homes Together, we care for many service users that live with hearing impairments, so know firsthand some of the challenges that these people face in their day to day lives. One thing we believe is that everyone should be treated as an individual, so we look at ways to support the specific needs of our hearing-impaired service users and ensure we’re putting processes in place that best suit the person.
Training for staff providing care for Deaf people is essential for fostering effective communication, safety, emotional support, advocacy, and access to necessary services. Many of our team members are trained in British Sign Language before they start, but we ensure that all our new starters undergo a six-week British Sign Language course that is led by a Deaf instructor - following this is a four-week face to face course with our in-house activities tutor. It’s important to remain informed about the latest developments in sign language, so we also implement regular refresher sessions so our teams can keep up to date.
Supporting Deaf people
Deaf individuals, like anyone else, have unique talents, perspectives, and aspirations, but they often face communication barriers that can limit their opportunities and social interactions.
As part of our wider goal of integrating each service user as much as possible within the community, we take every available opportunity to make use of local facilities and attend events. We think that everyone, regardless of ability, deserves to experience life to the fullest. That is why we provide a wide range of activities to suit every interest and level of ability.
Developing personalised care plans is vital when proving a high level of care. We communicate with our Deaf service users regularly to determine their specific needs, preferences, and ambitions and provide the necessary level of assistance to help them achieve this. For instance, our team will provide support in helping to find a job, encourage practicing a hobby (such as waterskiing) and finding suitable groups in the community for exercise, social interaction or whatever else they may be seeking.
While significant progress has been made in the UK to support deaf people, there are still areas where we believe improvements are needed. Here are some areas where more can be done to support Deaf people in the UK:
- Mandating the provision of captioning and sign language interpretation for public events, broadcasts, and online content.
- Ensuring health and mental health services are accessible to Deaf individuals, including the availability of qualified therapists who can communicate in sign language.
- Offer training and increase the teaching of sign language to raise awareness and understanding of Deaf culture and communication among the wider public.
- Develop programs to provide job training and placement services tailored to the needs of Deaf job seekers.
- Implement visual fire alarms and emergency alert systems in public spaces that accommodate the Deaf community's safety needs.
Supporting deaf people is important not only during special awareness weeks but as an ongoing commitment to inclusivity, equal rights, and the well-being of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. It fosters a more inclusive and diverse society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.