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Every day we have access to a plethora of information – from our friends, family, colleagues, the internet, the news – the list goes on.

But for a deaf person, access to this information can be limited due to the communication barriers they may face through lack of communication skills, or even lack of subtitling.

Missing the punchline of a joke may be frustrating, but it’s not necessarily life-threatening. But what about the more serious consequences of missing vital information?

Let’s take a doctor’s office for example, if a deaf person is prescribed medication, it is vital that they clearly know how many tablets they should take and how often. But if this information is missed – either because there isn’t access to a Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI) or because the written English instructions are unclear. The consequences of misinformation will be far more severe than missing the punchline.

A second scenario, which may seem exaggerated but is still important, is when a deaf person is on an aircraft and the safety information is given. Should the flight become dangerous, it is ESSENTIAL that a deaf person is able to know what to do – which they can only achieve by accessing the health and safety information given at the start. Luckily, aircraft safety is now taught through a subtitled video, rather than spoken through the tannoy system.

How about an announcement is made at a train station. If a deaf person is waiting for a train and the platform changes, how will they know? Usually, this information is initially given through a verbal announcement. By the time there is a visual indicator, or the deaf person has been made aware, the train may have left.

Should this be the train that takes the deaf person to work, this may have serious consequences for them in their work environment.

Many things have been put into place to ensure that information is given to deaf people as quickly as possible, whether this be access to Communication Professionals at the doctors, or subtitles on the news, deaf people have higher access to information than they ever did. But we must not let ourselves get complacent, and start believing that access to information is equal, because it is not.

But the way to not kill a deaf person? Ensure information is delivered clearly, by a Registered Professional when needed and is understood.

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