My name is Megan Betts and I am Deaf. This Deaf Awareness Week (May 15 – 21) I want to give hearing people a few tips for making life easier for the 11 million people in the UK who suffer from hearing loss.

 

I am actually one of the 900,000 people in the country who suffers from severe or profound levels of deafness and have since I was about a year old, when antibiotics given to me to treat septicaemia, at two weeks old, gradually caused hearing loss.

 

Being profoundly Deaf hasn’t stopped me from living life to the full and enjoying many of the things that hearing people do. I visit friends from across the country, go to the cinema and socialise lots. I’m 19, and currently studying at Communication Specialist College Doncaster where I am also fulfilling my dream of working with children.

 

I struggled at a mainstream secondary school, there were just too many barriers there stopping me from fitting in and being able to communicate. I chose the specialist college because I want to work in a nursery and I knew that I would get a lot of help with my learning, including Maths and English. I also wanted to be with people who could sign.

 

Deaf Awareness Week is a about raising awareness of what it is like to be deaf and this gives us a great opportunity to talk to hearing people and give them an insight into our world. In the Deaf world people use sign language, lip reading and the written word to communicate and people find ways that work best for them. It’s when you step out of that world and into the hearing world that problems can occur.

 

I do struggle with communicating if I’m out and about, everything from public transport, shopping and eating out, they all bring their own issues but could be made easier.

 

There are some simple things that hearing people could do, just by being a little bit Deaf aware, that would make life so much easier for people who are Deaf or have hearing loss.

 

The first thing is to face a person when you are talking to them, we might be trying to read your lips and if you are looking away or also having a conversation with someone else it makes it really hard to try and work out what is going on. These days’ people are often looking at phones, ipads or other electronic devices which doesn’t help at all. We need you to look at us so that we can work out what is happening.

 

The second thing is please don’t all talk at the same time, you know that feeling that you get when you are in another country and lots of people are talking to you at once in a language you that you don’t understand? Well that is what it feels like to be Deaf when lots of hearing people are talking at the same time. It can be bewildering and really overwhelming.

 

The last thing, and I know this one is a big, big ask, but it would be great to see more hearing people learning to sign. Just the basics would be make a difference. It is a great skill to have and both adults and children really enjoy learning it. It would be amazing if people took five minutes to learn a new sign each day this Deaf Awareness Week. A simple hello or thank you being signed by a hearing person makes you feel more a part of things, it makes you see that people do care and that they are wanting to make communicating easier for you. Learning the British Sign Language alphabet can be really useful, as then you can fingerspell the words you want to say.

 

In our town we are working with businesses and schools throughout the week to help to make Doncaster more Deaf Aware, why not get your workplace or school to find out more. There is a great international sign language project that we are a part of that offers easy to follow videos of signs for many words, give it a go www.spreadthesign.com