Hello! My name is Craig Jones and this is my first blog post on the new Carers Leeds website. I’ve been working here for the past 3 years – supporting carers and coordinating our Carers Advice Line (0113 380 4300).

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There’s no doubt that Carers Leeds is a valuable resource for those providing unpaid care to a family member, friend or neighbour. It’s often crucial to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who understands, or drop in and have a chat. But what if you’re deaf?

I’d like to take the opportunity today to talk to you about deaf carers and how being deaf can impact on quality of life in ways that we hearing people might not have considered. I’ll also give you some communication tips to make life easier for any deaf person that you might encounter.

But first, consider this – the world is built around interaction and community support. Deafness can take all of this away. Deafness doesn’t just affect a person’s ability to hear – it can totally isolate a person from others, affecting their confidence and taking away their independence.

It’s hard enough trying to understand the complexities of becoming a carer, but adding isolation, barriers to services, and communication difficulties to the mix can be overwhelming. Imagine looking after someone who can’t manage without your support, in a world where you are unable to communicate with the majority of people!

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Information leaflets, noticeboards, and letters written in English may not be understood by profoundly deaf people with British Sign Language as a first language. This is because BSL is a visual language, with its own grammar and principles that are completely different from the grammatical structure of English.

In addition, hearing people have access to ‘incidental information’. We overhear conversations and learn information without meaning to – even background noises count as incidental information. We don’t think about it happening because it just does. Here are a few examples:

  • When an announcement is made in a public place.
  • When a hearing person laughs at something someone said.
  • Overhearing multiple conversations around you simultaneously.
  • Listening to what someone is saying while looking down to write notes.
  • Learning new information by listening to co-workers answer questions from clients.
  • Knowing what someone is doing in another room by listening to footsteps, cupboards closing, water running, etc.

A hearing person has access to a wealth of information without even realising it. A hearing carer might find out about support available by overhearing a conversation on a bus or listening to something on the radio or TV. This information isn’t available to deaf people, which often means that vital support isn’t provided, and isolation is much more likely to occur.

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This is where we can help! Carers Leeds are proud to be a deaf accessible service – No interpreter required!

I’m Signature qualified to a level 3 standard in BSL and I’m available to support deaf carers by providing information, advice, and helping with telephone calls, benefit forms, access to services, etc. If you know a deaf carer that would benefit from support in their caring role, please ask them to get in touch by emailing craig.jones@carersleeds.org.uk or texting 07792662121.

Carers Leeds are very much involved with development work throughout the city to identify and support deaf carers, and will continue to work in partnership with other organisations to raise awareness.

Now – here are those communication tips that I promised earlier…

When communicating with a deaf person, it’s important to speak clearly and at a normal pace. Don’t slow down or exaggerate your pronunciation. Ensure that you face the person you’re talking to and that they can see your features – don’t put your hands over your mouth while talking.

In order to communicate with hearing people, deaf people have to concentrate on lip patterns to understand what is being said – focusing on facial expressions and grasping onto what little sound they might hear to try and piece things together.

The most important thing to remember is that deaf people are just people. They want equal access and to be treated like everyone else. They will appreciate it if you try to communicate with them.

We naturally gesticulate to express ourselves. Using even basic gestures while talking will greatly increase the likelihood of being understood by a deaf person.

If you really want to go above and beyond – learn some basic sign language! SpreadTheSign is a good resource for this.

Craig Jones – Carer Support Worker / Advice Line Coordinator