Deaf people are often isolated both socially and within mainstream society. The majority of Deaf children are born to hearing parents and grow up in homes where not everyone uses a signed language. Further, few mainstream providers deliver services in a Deaf person’s first language, which in the UK, is usually British Sign Language (BSL).
BSL is a signed language that has its own grammar and vocabulary and, contrary to popular belief, it is not a representation of English on the hands.
As with spoken language there are hundreds of signed languages across the Commonwealth but there is one commonality that remains - activities that hearing people take for granted every day often prove to be challenging for a Deaf person. Often this means battling for access to services such as health, education and employment, all of which can have a negative impact upon health and mental wellbeing.
Due to the fact that we often learn to read the language that we speak, the majority of Deaf children leave school with an average reading age of nine. Deaf people often have to work twice as hard as hearing counterparts to gain and maintain employment and access to mainstream services.
The Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) is the oldest charity in England established to deliver services for Deaf people. We are proud to be celebrating our 175th birthday this year. The charity was established to address the development and spiritual welfare of Deaf people. Queen Victoria became patron in 1876 and we are immensely proud to continue to enjoy Royal patronage from Her Majesty The Queen today.
RAD provides a wide range of services to support Deaf people including in the areas of employment, families, community development and social care. Meeting the needs of Deaf people is fundamental to the work that we do. We work with Deaf people to ensure that we are delivering services they want and need. We engage with mainstream services to access funding and services that support Deaf people to address these challenges and ensure that they live in a more inclusive society.
It is vital that society continues to make itself more inclusive; be that via increased awareness of Deaf issues or by making services accessible via the use of Sign Language Interpreters.
We are delighted to be providing communication services for the Deaf people attending the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on Monday 14th March this year. Four members of our staff team will be simultaneously interpreting the service from English into BSL thus ensuring full and total inclusion for Deaf members of the congregation.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society