Hearing people who do not have Deaf friends or relatives generally know little about the lives of Deaf people, or how to communicate successfully.
These pages are designed to help.
Most Deaf people who use sign language in this country use British Sign Language (BSL). It’s a rich combination of hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. At first it can appear confusing and impossible to understand, but picking up signs is much easier than it might seem, and finger-spelling is a simple first step. BSL was recognised by the government as a language in its own right in March 2003.
Sign Language isn’t just a sign by sign translation of English, it has a completely different grammar and sentence construction. That means people who have grown up with sign language as their first language, and have never heard English, often don’t become as fluent as people who speak it as a first language every day. It can make reading complicated ideas in English hard, and vocabulary issues can make communicating with the likes of doctors difficult too.
Learn to avoid the typical mistakes and assumptions which hearing people make every day, and which make deaf people despair. How do you spot someone is Deaf and then how do you communicate successfully? How many Deaf people are there, what is it like to be D/deaf, and how much does hearing loss vary? We’ll answer all those questions, as well as giving advice on how to help a lip-reader and how to work well with an interpreter.
All through this site, and other D/deaf publications, you’ll see the words Deaf and deaf. It’s not a typing error, so what is the difference? When it’s written “deaf” with a small “d” the word refers to anyone with significant hearing loss. The word “Deaf” with a big “D” refers to people who were born profoundly Deaf, or went Deaf before they learned to speak. Find out more about Deaf culture and sign language.
The isolation which deafness can cause means that Deaf people are twice as likely as hearing people to suffer from depression, anxiety and other similar conditions. What makes it even worse is that Deaf people then face difficulties and barriers getting access to help, in a way that hearing people don’t.
Our Sick Of It report has revealed that bad access, caused by the health profession’s failure to provide interpreters, means that Deaf people get worse healthcare. It leads to poor diagnosis, poor treatment and poor access to information. And it really is simple to put right.