Call to empower ‘hidden’ BME Deaf and Hard of Hearing community
Thousands of people with a varying degree of hearing loss from Black, Minority and Ethnic (BME) backgrounds across Leicester and Leicestershire are missing out on support services, according to a leading D/deaf charity.
Deaf-led organisation, Action Deafness (AD), believes there are 18,000 people with some degree of hearing loss, from mild to profound, in the city and county from BME communities – and that only a fraction are accessing the important services they are entitled to.
Last year the organisation launched a special project under the banner of its AD Cultural arm, called HearNow, to tackle the challenge of such ‘hard to reach’ communities and encourage more people to come forward.
The HearNow project has registered almost 400 clients, who are taking advantage of specialist services and advice – including free British Sign Language (BSL) courses and D/deaf Awareness Training – but knows there are many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in BME communities it has not yet reached.
Jaz Mann, AD Cultural Manager, believes traditional cultural attitudes reinforce stigmas and fear of disability. This, he says, means many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from BME communities remain reluctant to access services. Language difficulties also play a part and impressions that mainstream services provided are not sensitive or culturally appropriate.
The HearNow project is staffed by trained professionals from BME backgrounds who have been talking to BME organisations, to families and to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the heart of their communities.
Mr Mann, who is himself profoundly Deaf, said: “We are working directly with BME communities at grassroots level to offer appropriate support to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and their families. But we know we have only scratched the surface – and that there are thousands of people with a hearing loss from BME communities across the city and county who remain ‘hidden’ and are not accessing the services they are entitled to. This is often due to stigma and cultural barriers. This can mean they lead lives isolated from the rest of society, never fulfilling their potential.”
Mr Mann said: “I would urge anyone who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, or knows anyone impacted by a hearing loss to contact us. It might be the single most important step they take in improving their quality of life, or improving the life of someone they know.”
Action Deafness works with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deafened and Deafblind children, young people, adults and older people across Leicester, Leicestershire and the East Midlands. The organisation aims to improve quality of life by promoting independence and equality of opportunity for its service users.
The HearNow Project is funded by Action Deafness (AD) and the Big Lottery to provide support services and advice to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from BME communities.