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A Deaf Perspective During the Pandemic

Abdi_ScopeAbdi_Scope Scope Posts: 234 Pioneering
edited April 2020 in Disabled people
Covid-19 has brought a huge and - for many - unprecedented change into many our our lives. Fear to go out, creating social distance between members of our own families and households, and working and schooling from home.

Talking to a number of friends and colleagues, it seems this is certainly taking its toll on work-life balance, family relationships and the ability to keep a structure - is anyone else waking up and having to check their phone to see not only what time it is but also what day? 

As a Deaf person, it’s been really interesting to see the changes this has brought, for the better and worse. First and foremost I have a renewed respect for all the stay-at-home mums, most of all my own wife! With three children, this place is like a zoo more than a house. I’m glad I can turn my hearing aids off and shut my eyes for two mins at times - don’t tell my wife though!

Many people are reporting a sense of isolation and feeling cut off - a feeling a Deaf person knows all too well. Recently, Deaf people have had to fight for access even to the daily PM briefings on the BBC and Sky. This is a struggle we face everyday - lack of information and ‘missing out’  - but it becomes acutely concerning when these messages bring daily and fundamental changes to our lives. Thankfully the plea for access was heard and now the BBC and Sky are including live BSL interpreting on these briefings. 

It’s strange though that with the new isolation comes another form of interaction that has posed challenges for Deaf people: video conferencing. To fight the feeling of being cut off, many are reaching out through these platforms like Teams, Google Meet, Zoom and Skype to give themselves that feeling of connection, rather than the standard IM or text message on WhatsApp or Teams. This has caused many Deaf professionals - myself included - to have a heightened reliance on having a BSL interpreter on standby. Our interpreters are having to learn a whole new domain of interpreting and how to be ever-present for their clients throughout the day and sometimes in the after-hours when we need to check in with family and loved ones and video conferencing is the preferred platform now. People have to prepared to be camera-ready at all times and be recorded like never before. Amazon’s purchases of green screens has gone through the room I expect as everyone converts their apartments into video-conferencing studios.

With 1 in every 2.5 Deaf persons struggling with a mental health problem (https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Mental-Health-Taskforce-FYFV-final.pdf) it is more important than ever that Deaf people navigate this new landscape and ensure they are preserving their mental health through positive and constructive interactions and maintain their balance in this trying time. According to British Deaf News, D/deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from depression as hearing people, and sadly the Deaf health charity SignHealth reports that D/deaf people experience poorer overall health than hearing people, largely due to poorer access to services and information.

- Deaf4Deaf (www.Deaf4Deaf.com) is a fantastic provision of Deaf mental health care workers who can provide support through the NHS or privately. They specialise in providing remote support, so it’s perfect for these times.
- SignHealth (www.signhealth.org.uk) is another organisation that supports people with mental health concerns and provides BSL accessible information on the coronavirus and how to stay safe.

- Many freelance interpreters are stepping up and providing a new line of support through volunteer remote-interpreting for NHS appointments, phone calls and other emergency situations: https://m.facebook.com/groups/910360656088095?group_view_referrer=profile_browser
  • There are many other Facebook groups to join that can give Deaf people an opportunity to socialise and just ‘shoot the BSL breeze’ or for those who want to learn BSL to interact with Deaf people in a real-life context.
  • If any Deaf people have concerns about their benefits or other financial support at this time, visit our online community to speak to an adviser and a knowledgeable community. 
The main takeaway from all this for me has never to allow anything to come between me and my loved ones - whether that’s a disability, language barrier, technological barrier or physical distance. If we all pull together at this time, we will come out the other end: changed, but stronger.
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Replies

  • Abdi_ScopeAbdi_Scope Scope Posts: 234 Pioneering
    How have you been finding being stuck at home? How are you keeping a routine or keeping in touch with loved ones? Any sources of support or distraction you have found? Let us know here.
  • JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
    Fantastic resources, thank you @Abdi_Scope

  • SeanchaiSeanchai Member Posts: 411 Pioneering
    Yes indeed Abdi Scope ..... when my deafness took over around 20 years ago ( I went deaf in my right ear due to severe tinnitus ...a jet engine 24/7 ) It did indeed affect my mental health , I did think at times " I cannot cope with this for the rest of my life and was on the edge more than a few times" ....thankfully I have a loving family ( who all have families of their own now) and my doctor was really understanding and after three days with no sleep I was forced ( by my wife) to go with her to see my doctor . He was so helpful , gave me meds so I could get a sleep ( I still need them to this day ) ..sent me to a specialist who  wanted a scan as this deafness/tinnitus hit me so fast ....one day fine , next day " hell" ...with tinnitus classes ect it helped me to know I was not alone in this nightmare( although I would never wish tinnitus on anyone) ...I got a masker for that ear and although I could hear nothing in my right ear , I realised how lucky I was that I still had hearing in my left ear ...Then around six or seven years ago , I got up one morning and was completely deaf . I went through the process once again, doctor, specialist, scan ect ...I eventually was advised by my specialist to have bluetooth ( crossover) hearing aids fitted , it made a difference and can now hear slightly out my left ear with my aids .
    My mental health took a battering though and thanks to loads of support from family, doctors, specialists, audiologists ...I have now leveled out a bit . I am lucky in the fact that I do not go out at all in the winter months due to COPD and very easily catch chest infections ....so this isolation is an extension of my winter months ...but of course my wife is also isolated with me and the family get shopping and drop it at the door for us. 
    I sometimes switch my aids off ( just to give me a break ) 🤔🙄 but don,t tell me wife 😉. I will soon fire up my greenhouse and that will take my mind of things for a wee while each day .
    Thank you very much for adding the links .👍

  • Abdi_ScopeAbdi_Scope Scope Posts: 234 Pioneering

    Thanks for sharing your experience @seanchai - I lost my hearing when young suddenly and was a huge shock to myself and my family. I also suffered with tinnitus, with the doctors giving me all kinds of medication. I ended up stopping the meds and tried to retrain myself to filter out the noise. I find wearing my hearing aids helps. Thanks for being so brave in sharing your story as I am sure it gives encouragement to many. 

    Don’t let the new isolation affect you too much - good to hear you are getting in the greenhouse. I sadly don’t have a garden, so it’s my one daily walk with the family that I look forward to at the moment.

  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Testing team Posts: 7,924

    Scope community team

    Thank you for sharing this with us @Abdi_Scope.

    It took them far too long to include a BSL interpreter on the daily briefings. It was interesting to note that Scotland were much quicker to make their briefings more accessible.

    I was recently shocked to read that Northern Ireland residents don't have access to the relay service that the rest of the UK have when calling 111.

    Did you see the article about a student who has been designing and making masks for people who are deaf?

    P.S. I can definitely relate to the house feeling like a zoo with three kids at home!
    Senior Community Partner
    Scope

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  • worried33worried33 Member Posts: 399 Pioneering
    Thanks for your post, I for sure feel cut off.

    It is odd in a way as I have lived on my own most of my life, and one would think because of this I would barely be affected, however with the struggle to try and keep getting deliveries, and the fact I am now completely cut off from family (even if I didnt see them often before), as well as public services, I definitely feel isolated, not to mention I have had symptoms for the past 3 weeks, which means I have to isolate regardless.

    My father is one of those people who wants to get a video call going between all family members, something never ever considered before.
  • Abdi_ScopeAbdi_Scope Scope Posts: 234 Pioneering

    Hi [email protected] -  it is funny how we can feel even more isolated at this time. As you said so many are struggling with what feels to be even our basic needs like getting food deliveries. 

    Have you seen this information for deliveries https://community.scope.org.uk/discussion/70059/getting-food-and-essentials-during-coronavirus also some member seem to have had success with a Morrisons box in Coffee lounge

    For everyone not able to get a delivery slot, try these Morrison’s Food Boxes. We ordered one yesterday and it’s coming tomorrow. 

    https://www.morrisons.com/food-boxes/

    It only covers the basics but people seem to be getting these a little bit easier and quicker

    Video conferencing is a great way to stay connected with the world. As a deaf person the use of video calling is a basic need but it is now connecting so many with family and friends. Zoom has become an extremely popular platform but in varying degrees Skype Face Time and even WhatsApp although limited allows you to have that human interaction we all need. I would definitely recommend trying to set it up.

    Keep sharing with us

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