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Health

Listening in a different way: Deaf Awareness Week

Health correspondent Mariclare Carey-Jones discovers the many different ways of communicating during Deaf Awareness Week.

Sign language is often used to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing communicate (Photo: Cindy Andrie)

As someone who works in a communication industry I spend most of my time talking, so I can’t imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t hear what others were saying.

I suppose I would feel isolated and uninvolved – but life wouldn’t have to be like that.

To mark Deaf Awareness Week, I’ve been finding out how people who can’t hear can communicate – and it’s like I’ve discovered another language or three.

I spent this morning with a group in Cardiff organised by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People. Those who were there are learning sign language so they can converse with the deaf community.

It was an important session to be at, because until recently there was a shortage of sign language interpreters here in Wales. But, thanks to a successful campaign, there are now three times more than there were.

However, the numbers of palantypists here are still too small. These are people who listen to what is being said, for example at a meeting or a function, and type it word-for-word on an electronic shorthand keyboard, which is linked to the laptop of a deaf or hard-of-hearing person. It means those who can’t hear can be involved.

Lip-reading is also a useful technique, which can make a real difference.

And the earlier people start to learn these methods of communication, the better; which is why the National Deaf Children’s Society is also supporting Deaf Awareness Week.

It’s an important seven days in the charities’ calendars.

By raising awareness, it’s hoped all deaf people in Wales will be able to hear and be heard by everyone – even if it means listening in a different way.

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