Hearing Concern Ear Logo

DISABILITY

My thoughts below were formulated after reading a draft document of the ongoing process for determining the outcome for Hampshire County Council's Disability Equality Scheme. My comments follow the sequence of the paper; not necessarily in the order of importance.
Read the latest document here

The Foreword

"The scheme is part of an overarching equality and diversity plan which sets out the council's vision to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equal opportunities for all people. There are particular people who may experience exclusion for reasons relating to their race, ethnicity, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion".

While understanding the underlying reasons why the people in the list are referred together as "disabled", my view of the meaning of "disablement" is of a person who is not fully enabled in one particular function; i.e. a person who is deaf is either partially or fully unable to hear. In all other respects that person is perfectly normal.

I am now deaf and accept that entitles me to be listed under the "disablement" umbrella; this would also include people who are blind; those who are physically disabled for whatever reason; people with speech difficulties; people with learning difficulties; people with some mental instability but who can, like people with learning difficulties maintain a reasonable self-reliance with support.

To apply the term "disabled" to all the other 'groupings' mentioned in the Foreword may well be seen as insulting. A person who is of another ethnic race is not necessarily disabled. Many who have been born and bred in this country have English as their first and possibly only language. The only difference therefore would be in the skin colour. This, in itself, is not a disablement. Perhaps this should be realigned to - 'Other people who require special equality measures'?

Age, Gender, Sexual orientation and religion are also not disablements. I am sure most people would consider it an affront to be lumped under the term "disabled" if for example they are:

  • an active older person;
  • a male or female;
  • a bisexual man or woman;
  • a person of any religious faith.

This list leaves nobody out at all !

Bias may be shown towards some of these people perhaps with abusement / menace / bullying and so forth, but that does not make them "disabled". So maybe there should be another overall term used to describe difficulties that some of these people suffer - 'disadvantaged in some way' perhaps? (Not over-arching equality!)

Introduction

The Disability Discrimination Act is a parliament order so of course it has to be followed. However I understand that many of those with a 'real' disability do not wish to be given special preferences. They wish to be treated 'as normal' but at the same time offered some adjustments in the services to meet their circumstances.
So the 'boot is on the other foot' in that "disabled" people would like people without disabilities to change their attitudes! An impossible task maybe.

It is back to the cliché - "deaf and dumb/daft", an attitude which is also applied to any other 'disablement'. It's nonsense to say for example, that because a person needs a wheelchair to be mobile, he/she is unable to use the brain properly.

If you have a disability you have to lead a life and make the best of a bad job, which sadly sometimes means asking 'able-bodied' people to assist. The words - able-bodied - are not liked by some but they do describe exactly what is meant and should not be seen as derogatory.

Involving Disabled People

Regarding the facilities available throughout Hampshire. I do not have personal experience of the requirements for other disabled people in respect of the following: In the work place, Physical barriers, Financial worries/needs or Public transport.

The needs of deaf and hard of hearing people are very individual. Many people who are born deaf integrate with the deaf community and BSL forms part of their lifestyle. There is still a requirement for other forms of communication to be available the same as for other hard of hearing or deafened people.

Hard of hearing people need easy facilities for hearing aids/repair and upgrades, without long delays. Simple loop systems or those of a more sophisticated nature need to be available anywhere that the public are addressed - from places of entertainment, halls, bus and train stations etc. If portable loops are to be used, it requires the services of people who know how to set them up!

Deaf Awareness training under the auspices of the following:
Hearing Link
Action on Hearing Loss

People who are deafened like me rely on Lipreading which is not at all easy. Lipreading and BSL are harder to learn the older you start.
Groups, parties, meetings etc are all hopeless to follow conversation. Pen and paper or the modern equivalent with a Palantypist is one possibility. The Palantypists require special equipment and much expertise - at expense. A good typist with laptop/Ipad is the next best thing but the typist does have to be available - also at cost. The typist needs the ability to type what she/he hears exactly, including questions, responses, jokes and asides!

People who are taking notes by whatever method, need to write EXACTLY what has been said - NOT abbreviated wording, meaning not to make their own interpretation of what has been said which might not be the same as the speaker intended! Some detail may be left out which would have been better for the deaf person to know.
Television Sub-titles also show this problem; because some words are easier to lipread the deaf person looking at the subtitles can judge that what has been written is not actually what was said!

Handouts, Power Point Presentations all go some way to helping - providing the information is given AHEAD of time so one can follow along. Too late after the meeting is closed to make comments etc!

Trying to 'listen' / follow conversations at length and form some answers at the same time is very tiring; a couple of hours is quite long enough. This is particularly so for the hard of hearing; without hearing aids one is relieved of the 'listening' but not the concentration!

General Progress - All Life-savers!!

Now the availability of the Textphone and the Text Direct Service which offers a telephone service nearest to normal and even more up to date online Text Direct.
NGT (Next Generation Text) Now run by BT.

Use of the Internet for email contact, information, forms/paying bills and so much more!