✦ Positive strides being made to ensure more inclusivity for the hearing impaired community.
Let’s be honest, how many times do we take things for granted on a daily basis? Be it where we live, our job, our friends and family, even our health. We’ve all heard the saying “don’t take things for granted” on numerous occasions throughout our lives and, whereas we no doubt try our best, we all fall into the same trap of being guilty of just that.
Imagine then not having the ability to hear or being seriously hearing impaired? It’s pretty scary when you actually stop to think about it. Something that so many of us have had the luxury of for all of our lives that we arguably take for granted on a daily basis. Imagine not being able to hear the early morning birdsong from your garden, the laughter of your children, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore or your favourite music? Well over 70 million people throughout the world cannot hear, which is why campaigns such as International Week Of The Deaf and International Day of Sign Languages are so crucial, and the more attention that is brought their way the better.
International Week of the Deaf was started in Rome, Italy in 1958 by the World Federation of the Deaf and is celebrated globally by the deaf community during the final week of September each year. This year it runs from September 19-25 based on the theme ‘Building Inclusive Communities for All’. A whole host of events will take place globally to not only promote a more inclusive society by raising awareness throughout the non-deaf world as to the typical challenges faced by deaf people but to simultaneously celebrate the unique vibrancy of those living with hearing impairments. Fundraisers, charity events, the learning of sign language and a broader engagement with the deaf community are all cornerstones of the campaign.
Fully fledged languages
Running concurrently is the International Day of Sign Languages, a United Nations (UN) driven initiative that takes place this year on September 23. As the UN website states, the day “is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.” The first International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated in 2018 as part of the annual International Week Of The Deaf, and while structurally distinct from spoken languages, sign languages are fully fledged languages of their own, with over 300 different variations used globally. One popular way of supporting the cause is by learning some degree of sign language so as to be able to engage with the deaf community more effectively.
Aside from the notion of alienation and exclusion deafness can bring, it can also have a significantly detrimental impact on job opportunities, relationships and mental health. Deaf people are often very unfairly classed as rude for either not responding or becoming confused when they try. Worse still are examples of ridicule and mockery which can devastate the self-confidence and worth of someone with hearing issues, especially during formative and teenage years when the frustrations of being deaf are often more acutely felt.
However, progress has been made and continues to. Technology is opening up new doors for opportunity and engagement for the hearing impaired community, be it via enhanced and much more discreet hearing aid devices or social media platforms. Fan engagement at major sporting events is slowly but surely starting to improve, with English Premier League giants Arsenal leading the way with their implementation of British Sign Language into everything that happens on the big screens at their Emirates Stadium. This includes an interpreter relaying all the information and content from pre- and post-match interviews, half-time entertainment and any contentious decisions under review during the game itself. “It makes me feel included, and it’s so positive and so happy. I feel like part of the team and part of the family,” one lifelong fan told the Guardian in March. It is surely only inevitable that other teams and others sports will follow suite.
Last but not least, recall the 2021 movie ‘CODA’, a coming-of-age story of a girl living in a family who are all deaf. Maintaining the highest levels of respect and sensitivity at all times, the film beautifully explores the challenging dynamic and brought the topic to a far broader audience. It won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur, who became the first deaf man to win the award. The only other deaf actor to win an Academy award was Marlee Matlin (who won Best Actress for her film debut in the 1986 film ‘Children Of A Lesser God’) and she also starred in CODA.
So, progress is being made but there is still a long way to go. A robust and equal society should be founded on the core principles of inclusivity and that is why International Week of the Deaf and the International Day of Sign Languages are so crucial to ensure those who are hearing impaired are not ostracised or left behind. And that is why we at Brilliant Online champion both campaigns as we drive towards a brighter future for all.
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