Covid-19 impact on local deaf community

We are marking Mental Health Awareness Week by looking at the barriers faced by the deaf community making them twice as likely to develop a mental health condition. Healthwatch is supporting work to help tackle the added difficulties of Covid-19.

The Gloucestershire Deaf Association says people are struggling to access information and are often unable to use telephone-based support.

The local charity says this means many deaf people don’t fully understand the impact of the virus and recent advice, which could potentially lead to fatal repercussions. Healthwatch wants to ensure all communities get the help they need and wants to raise awareness of some of these issues to help deaf people through this difficult time.

A voice for deaf people

The #whereistheinterpreter campaign has been a voice on behalf of deaf people to petition the urgent need for a BSL interpreter to be present, live, alongside the Government at their daily briefings. GDA says subtitles are not sufficient as they will be in English and unless these daily briefings are provided with BSL translation across mainstream channels, deaf people are at risk of missing vital and potentially life-saving information. 

Communication barrier

Deaf people are also facing more challenges because of the required use of face masks. GDA supports the use of masks, but for those who use lip-reading, the masks are presenting a potentially huge communication barrier. Masks that offer a visual of the mouth can offer a simple solution and GDA is currently investigating its own local usable version.

Help and support provided by GDA.

GDA is  also providing a whole programme of virtual events, wellbeing tips and signed stories for deaf children to try and stay engaged with the deaf community.  They are working with Gloucester Deaf Club to continue to reach out and bring the community together remotely.

Across Gloucestershire, there are approximately 160 adults whose preferred first language is BSL and who may have low levels of literacy skills due to poor educational experiences.  It is important to understand that BSL has its own syntax and grammar and belongs to a cultural and linguistic minority group who are proud of their deaf identity, heritage and rich language.

GDA has also adapted its BSL interpreting provision in order to offer an online remote interpreting service, meaning deaf people are able to continue with medical appointments and use their Access to Work funding for employment needs.

For anyone wishing to know more about arranging a BSL interpreter, please do get in touch on 07875 610860 or email bslinterpreters@gda.org.uk.

 GDA has been offering one-to-one advocacy support to people living with hearing loss – providing a volunteer support group to assist with getting shopping and prescriptions and, in addition, GDA has been a source of support to individuals facing additional challenges during this time of lockdown.

Deaf people can also be refugees, at risk of abuse, homeless, from diverse communities so we are keen to work in partnership with mainstream providers so people get a joined up response to their critical needs.
— A GDA spokeswoman

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