Deaf Awareness Week: the stats, signs and stigma

Alex, Claire and Joseph have a beginners guide to BSL Credit: ITV SignPost

Did you know, there are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, so that's around one in six of us. Yet only a fraction of those people use British Sign Language.

It's Deaf Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness and challenge perceptions of hearing loss and deafness across the UK.

There's even a hashtag, so you can get involved in the conversation online to celebrate deaf role models on social media: #DAWrolemodels2019.

  • Deaf Awareness Week: 6 – 12th May 2019

According to recent statistics by the British Deaf Association:

  • Did you know? Contrary to popular belief, Sign Language is not international.

Sign languages evolve all over the world, wherever there are Deaf people. As you'd expect with spoken languages, there are variations with sign language too.

For example, even though the main language in Great Britain, Ireland and the United States is English - all three have separate sign languages.

  • But why is there a stigma around hearing loss?

In 2018, over a thousand people responded to an online poll by the charity Action on Hearing Loss. They said the majority highlighted how deafness and hearing loss was still something many felt was appropriate to make fun of, and that people still feel the need to hide their hearing aids.

89% of respondents felt that they were being stigmatised and discriminated against.

Credit: ITV Signpost

Here at ITV, we're proud to work with a multi-skilled team of professionals who provide on-screen sign language content.

Who are they? ITV Signpost!

Based in the North East of England with ITV Tyne Tees, they also run BSL-accessible services for sign users on the world wide web. The team employs both deaf and hearing people working in a bi-lingual environment.

  • Here's Alex from ITV SignPost to show you how to say,"how are you?"

  • And Claire can teach you 'please' and'thank you'

  • Joseph is "pleased to meet you"

  • Learn how to sign 'good morning'... Here's Elizabeth to show you!

  • And finally, Jessica can show you how to wish someone "have a good weekend"

The British Deaf Association wrote a beginners’ guide for communicating with Deaf people. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • For Deaf people with limited hearing, or lip-reading skills, speaking clearly will help

  • Speak clearly in whole sentences, without using abbreviations.

  • Be prepared to repeat yourself if the lip-reader doesn’t understand you first time

  • Even the best lip-readers only catch less than half of the words which are said to them, natural facial expressions and hand gestures can really help

  • Don’t be tempted to speak slowly, loudly or exaggerate your mouth movements, because that just makes things harder for the person trying to understand you

  • Make good eye contact; look directly at the deaf person, don’t turn away, and don’t cover your face or mouth

  • Remember to wait until the person is looking at you before you attempt to communicate

  • Don’t stand with a light or a window at your back; the light needs to be on your face

  • Begin the conversation by saying what you want to talk about

  • Be responsive; nod rather than saying “mmhmm”. Use gestures and body language where appropriate

  • Do speak clearly and slightly slower, but don’t shout as this will distort your lip patterns; keep your head fairly still

  • If you’re really stuck you can write something down

  • Best of all, learn British Sign Language!

Two handed fingerspelling alphabet Credit: BDA