Pen and Paper.

pen and paper

How many times have you reluctantly asked for some pen and paper as an alternative medium to relay your message when not understood/misunderstood? Patience is a virtue especially when one can resort to this method. However, for some BSL users – they cannot.

Some people feel “When hearing can’t sign, deaf should write down because signing at a non-signing hearing person is as ridiculous as a hearing person speaking to deaf.” Astonishing to hear comments as such. “Just use pen and paper?!” Naturally, it depends on the context the words are used within.

Well, I sincerely apologise but….

We all have a voice albeit some will have a more deaf voice than others. Some choose to talk with their hands. Some HAVE no choice but to talk with their hands. For them, actions speak louder than words.

Very strong BSL users rely on interpreters to attend appointments to bridge the communication barriers between the two worlds. Unfortunately sometimes within society, the extreme lack of deaf awareness and education regarding deafness in many senses is not sufficient to aid the user. The user will more often than not feel extremely frustrated almost daily, facing communication barriers everywhere they turn. Communication professionals for some, is a must.

One may say (and have said) “That deaf people should meet hearing people half way and that expecting them to understand is futile!”

Deaf service users, are always having to meet hearing people more than half way, struggling and then some. How about hearing people meeting deaf people their way for a change? It does not hurt to learn sign language or to respect deaf people’s rights and access needs with some proper deaf awareness, experience and dignity. One is asking for an interpreter as it is their right to do so, so that they have 100% understanding of the information given to him and that the professionals for example, nurses/doctors also has 100% understanding of the predicament they are in. Having an interpreter works and protects both the client and staff, especially where spoken and written language is unfortunately not the correct route to go down. Everyone is different and no one is perfect. If one would rather use pen and paper, that’s fine because that is your choice. Just as it is some people’s choice to prefer using an interpreter. Let their wish be granted as it is within their rights to do so.

If you are confident that your grasp of the English written language means you will accept pen being put to paper when an interpreter has either been failed to book or cannot attend (for whatever reason as long as it’s not due to a pet!) you will naturally reluctantly accept. Whereas for some, the grammatical structure of the written language, terminology and complexities would mean that the “message” would not get across sufficiently. Otherwise there is nothing wrong with wanting it written down to keep for posterity or as evidence… Yet to tell a BSL user to master English is belittling and insulting for some. I have experienced this attitude and managed to turn the tables on them when they could not understand a video which was made in BSL to reflect the English context that was relatively attached. “Learn sign language?!” Why is it ok for some to have one rule for themselves and another for others? To belittle other deaf people when they *need* a BSL interpreter only to be told to use “pen and paper”? When they cannot due to no fault of their own.

Addressing the communication needs of deaf users is extremely important especially where the NHS and police force is concerned. Due to safeguarding and duty of care, one should really know or at least find out their needs and not put interpretation to chance. If their duty of care fails it can be a breach of your human rights. To cut corners despite knowing the guidelines and policies will inevitably realise serious consequences.

Would you put pen to paper to a foreign national who could not speak / write English?

It is dangerous to make assumptions so please, do not assume that “we” can get by with just “pen and paper”.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)


4 thoughts on “Pen and Paper.

  1. Whenever a hearing person says something stupid like that I say…
    “In the dark? In the rain? I’m expected to mess around with pens and paper?”

    Because you know, these things never happen in a nice comfortable well lit office, not in the real world.

  2. Pen and paper will certainly not be convenient in an emergency situation, imagine a paramedic trying to communicate with an injured deaf person through pen and paper. You will find Most paramedics don’t sign. What chance have you got with an ordinary hearing person on the street?
    I guess education has to start from the top. Educating the necessary people, Doctors, police teachers etc. Then teach kids from a young age to at least finger spell. As a hearing person I have used finger spelling in the past and it works.

    • “I’m dying… Help me!”
      “Erm…just let me get some pen and paper!!”

      Touch wood that this and any potential misdiagnosis will not happen but it is somewhat rather inevitable – unfortunately. If so, then please seek legal advice in order to make a claim as it will contribute to raising the profile for better deaf awareness and communication skills within society.

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