Deafened and Hearing Impaired: We are a special case – By Mervyn James

Continuing recent views regarding the UK charities insisting BSL using deaf are a ‘special case’ and deserve access more than other deaf do by producing information not accessible to deaf who need subtitles only, or, both subtitles/captioning and sign. Ideally, public information videos aimed at deaf and others with hearing loss should be law include dual access of sign, and subtitling.

Indeed there are areas who would take this further and demand why no lip-spoken access… at ALL? The current deaf charity UK stance suggests an equality elitist attitude is being supported in the UK.  Where the addition of a cultural aspect, priorities communication access for the few. When it is so simple to include both formats at the same time, you have to ask why BSL areas demand no subtitling all the time when UK access n TV Media is accepted at less than 5% BY deaf charities ?

The biggest issue is the acceptances of sign-using deaf having priorities in access terms, there should be no prioritising of support or access, we should all have it equally. I would argue too, those of us gone deaf thus have lesser issues than someone born with deafness. This is not true. We have to counter loss, trauma, lack of access, poor and biased lobbying by charities and activists, mental illness issues, family break-ups, loss of social areas and friends, and the real sufferers of the ‘invisible disability’, which, deaf don’t actually allude to.

Inequality is unacceptable no matter how it is hyped up. By far we are not being served with support, it is vital those areas concentrating only on one form of access, should justify it, I don’t think they have, since most rely on subtitles even when sign is there, and the majority (95%), want subtitling only. The whole access campaign suggests the stats if not being deliberately reversed, are being hyped in a biased manner.

WE, I suggest, are the most in need if push comes to real shove, by numbers, and by factual statistics. I think charity should drop the lobby approaches that divide us, it plays into an ‘elite’ of support need area. You can see sign language, so technically we are still worse off because society still cannot see OUR issue. It is pointless to suggest we learn BSL simply to get help, this is then discrimination, not least, because the proposal fails to understand the people that idea is aimed at.

Who learns most sign language? Actually, HEARING do, not the deafened and HI areas. They were set up for us originally, then business took over, when the saw profit in it. Now ‘deaf awareness’ is solely the domain of the sign user. Hearing, attend most of the sign and lip-reading classes too, WHY? Because the communication access these classes do, are aimed at prospective support staff and those with useful hearing to utilise them, that excludes US. In part, families (Hearing), of deaf people have to pay to learn to communicate with their own, so the inequality just gets worse….

In a practical sense, making the most use of dual access via subtitles and sign is the most cost-effective way of raising awareness and supplying information and support, what we appear to be seeing is the whole concept hijacked to push aspirations of the deaf cultural activists instead, even to the point of lobbying Parliament to help them and ignore the rest. It has been left TO politicians to actually ask the question ‘What about the other deaf? What access do they need?”

Charities et all have a duty to cease supporting polarised approaches to access, pitching one deaf person against another, is no way to raise any sort of awareness, what it does, is raise the division barriers instead.

~ Mervyn James.