National Week of Deaf People: ‘Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities’
Please note – This is a portion of the blog interview. To read the full blog and others, please join The Dignity project Community Hub
An initiative of Deaf Australia Inc, the National Week of Deaf People (NWDP) ‘is a week-long national celebration of Deaf individuals and the Australian Deaf community, which includes celebrating the International Week of Deaf People (IWDP) and International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL), which are initiatives of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).
These two events are traditionally held during September and are based on the founding date of the WFD (23 September 1951) as an opportunity for Deaf people to celebrate their communities, language, culture and history; make the public aware of their local, state and national Deaf communities; and to recognise their achievements. It is also an opportunity for organisations involved with or wishing to be involved with the Deaf Community to build and maintain relationships with Deaf people and be recognised as an ally to the Deaf community. Deaf Australia has chosen the same theme as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) International Week of Deaf People for 2021: Celebrating thriving Deaf Communities’ (Deaf Australia 2021).
One of the Dignity Project’s first goals – is to uncover a meaning of dignity as understood by people with disability. Thus, as part of this week’s blog, we asked people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, what dignity means to them, and how their dignity can be better preserved within the community, education system and workplace.
Aparna Koirala – Transport for NSW, NSW Government
Aparna works at Transport for NSW and got involved with the age of inclusion because she felt it would bring awareness and focus to the priorities of people with disability working in the public sector.
Aparna became Deaf after contracting an illness when she was six months old that damaged her inner ear nerves. When it comes to being Deaf, she says people are concerned about how they will communicate with her and have a normal conversation. Aparna can lip-read and has spoken publicly about her experience being Deaf and on disability awareness. Aparna loves to watch movies and travel the world – and says her family and friends would say she is always smiling. She has also competed as Miss Deaf Australia in the Miss Deaf World Beauty Pageant in Prague, Czech Republic.
‘For me, National Week of Deaf People is an opportunity to be involved with the Deaf community – to celebrate our language, culture and pride with Deaf people and be recognised as an ally to the Deaf community. Dignity means I feel respected and equal with my team. They support and believe in me and acknowledge that I am capable in doing my job the same as everyone else.’
When interacting with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, Aparna says it is important to:
- Gain attention by waving or gently touching a person’s arm or shoulder.
- Face the person so they can see your face clearly to assist them in lip reading and reading facial expressions.
- Optimise lighting for lip reading.
- Speak at a normal or slightly slower pace and do not shout or exaggerate words as speech and lip movements will be distorted.
- Use facial and body experience, but do not exaggerate.
- Check for understanding during conversations.
Some things organisations should have in place to be more inclusive for Deaf people:
- Workplaces – visual fire alarms and smoke detectors for emergencies and fire drills.
- Deaf awareness training provided to staff across the business.
- Access to communication and technology support – including emails, MS Team live closed caption and video calls, Skype video calls, Auslan interpreters provided for meetings and workshops, National Relay Service (Australia-wide phone service for Deaf people) and Ai Media Live Captioning Service for events.
- Access to Auslan Training Programs and related supports such as Auslan courses and booking interpreting services for any training that is available for everyone.
The most important thing is to have good communication. Some ways to do this include:
- Use paper and pen – it’s OK to use pen and paper. In fact, the Deaf person will appreciate people’s efforts even more if people use a combination of communication methods, such as hand gestures, facial expressions and the written word.
- Take the time to communicate and connect. Deaf people consider communication an investment of time and effort. Slow down, take your time and ask if they need clarification.
- Do not shout or exaggerate words – as speech and lip movements are distorted. Be aware that an unfamiliar accent, beards and moustaches may impede lip reading.
- Understand that Deaf people listen with their eyes. Vision is the most useful tool they have to communicate and receive information. For this reason, only speak when people have eye contact, even if Deaf people are using an interpreter. Maintaining eye contact is a sign of respect.
- Use the beginning and ending of a conversation as an opportunity to make physical and visual contact with the Deaf person, especially if they have been using an interpreter during conversation. Smile, shake hands, touch their arm (if appropriate), make eye contact and wave to gain attention.
- Ask for feedback to check understanding of what has been said. Use open-ended questions rather than yes or no questions (remember that smiling and nodding does not always confirm understanding).
- Deaf people often thump on tables or floors to gain each other’s attention, in the same way as hearing people use a person’s name or shout. This behaviour can appear aggressive to hearing people, but in Deaf culture it is not.
To read the rest of this blog and others in full, visit The Dignity Project and join the Community Hub, by clicking the button that says "Join the Community Hub": http://www.hopkinscentre.edu.au/the-dignity-project
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- Media Release - Launch of The Dignity Project Citizen Science Initiative
- Preserving our dignity
- Share your stories and be part of meaningful change!