Hello! Happy New Year 😊 I hope you had a good break, regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas!
We have just had a much-needed fortnight off before starting our new term today! Though two weeks is very short, I had a good time and really enjoyed it. I went to India for a week and it was so nice to see my family again after 3 years, and to reconnect with cousins who are also now much older! Yes, very little work was done, but I still have time for that, right?
I wanted to write a short post about how the holiday season may not be all fun and games for deaf people. The holiday was a much-needed break away from the hustle and bustle of work, but I came across several challenges. I struggled with the big family gatherings, the new voices and sounds, and family members who did not know about my hearing loss. Suddenly, my deafness affected me much more than it had before, though nothing about me had changed.
So here are some tips, for deaf people and their loved ones, to help make holidays and family gatherings more deaf-friendly:
- Lighting – Try and have bright lighting as much as possible so that it is easier to lip-read or sign. Think about positioning, can the deaf person see everyone’s faces or hands? If eating at a restaurant, ask for a well-lit table.
- Background noise – Turn music off, or keep it to a low. Allow anyone to leave for a quieter space if they need time away from the noise (listening fatigue is real, kids!)
- Conversations – Speak one at a time, and try not to mumble or cover your mouth when speaking. Actively involve them in the conversation, do not just speak to their partner or parent instead. Actively involve them in the conversation, and be prepared to repeat anything. Don’t let the deaf person feel they are burdening you – do not say “it doesn’t matter”, never mind” or “I will tell you later”. I promise you, it does matter, and if you say otherwise one more time, then I just might cry!
- Subtitles – Watching a film? Going to the cinema? Make sure the subtitles are set up on the TV beforehand, and try and find captioned screenings. From personal experience, it can feel very isolating watching a 2-hour movie without understanding anything (or you can just make up your own plot!)
- Awareness – If possible, speak up. If your loved one is struggling to hear or follow the conversation, ask if they may need help advocating for themselves. Talk about how things could be changed to make it easier. If needed, with consent, even speak to family members before any gatherings so they are aware of what they could do to help. Raising awareness and advocating for oneself can be hard, especially in different social/cultural contexts where disability and asking for help is more taboo. Understand this and offer to help.
There are many more adjustments that could be made, but most importantly, ask if anything else could be done. Don’t shy away from the conversation. The holidays can be an overwhelming time for anyone, and if these tips could help make it a little less isolating, then why not try them out?