It’s that time of year again, folks! For the uninitiated, September is International Deaf Awareness Month, and with it comes a chance to make our voices heard.
Deaf Awareness Month began as the International Day of the Deaf back in 1958, which was first championed by the World Federation of the Deaf. Since then, it has been extended to the “International Week of the Deaf,” which comprises the last full week of September.
Celebrating Deaf Awareness Month
Local, regional and national organizations often celebrate Deaf Awareness month of a different week, day or even the whole month. Check with your local organizations and deaf clubs to see how and when they participate.
Where I live, in South Africa, the official Government recognized dates for Deaf Awareness Month is from the 29 August to 4 September.
The purpose of Deaf Awareness Month (or week, day, whatever!) is to increase public awareness of Deaf issues, people, and culture. Sign language, subtitled shows, accessibility at events, noise-consciousness, work safety, Deaf celebrities – there is so much we can share!
I’d like to encourage you to do something this month to spread awareness of hearing loss.
Inform your colleagues: Let your colleagues know about the things we struggle with. By informing them on how you best work, you can enhance your communication within your team. Maybe you can even create a better work environment. If there are tools or resources that help you work better, let your HR department know. Advocating for yourself is one of the best ways to create an even playing field and collaborative environment at work.
Teach Sign Language: If you use sign language to communicate, consider teaching sign language to kids in schools, your friends, colleagues, or other people in your life. Even just a few signs can go a long way, and it’s fun to learn!
Make a Poster: Raise awareness in your community. Make signs or posters to put up at your local library, community centers or schools. Awareness is the only way we can give others some understanding of our disability. You can share information about how common hearing loss is, how to protect your hearing from loud noises, or the different levels of hearing loss.
Support a Deaf Business: Find local or online business that are run or supported by deaf business owners. Finding a job with hearing loss can be tough, but supporting these deaf-owned businesses can help people make their own living.
I personally will be presenting an assembly at the school I work at. I’ll also be keeping my eyes open for other opportunities.
Remember, our biggest enemy is ignorance. People often don’t help because they don’t know how to help – make sense?
“…if it helps to raise awareness and give others some understanding of our disability, share it!”
What are you doing to spread awareness this month?
Mark was discovered to have severe hearing loss – total loss in his left ear, severe in the right – at the age of 3, owing to a Cytomegalovirus infection. He grew up as part of the mainstream community, and only started regularly wearing hearing aids at the age of 15, when his hearing loss dropped to profound levels. Rugby has always been a passion of his, and he’s never stopped playing since getting his first opportunity in high school. His greatest claim to fame is playing for the South African Deaf Rugby team, a position he also uses to advocate for the Deaf community. However, he is afflicted with an interest in anything and everything, which manifests in limitless Star Wars puns, comments on the things making up the fabric of society, requests for your favourite banana bread recipes, a predilection for painting 28mm sci-fi models and the inability to fit into any of the proverbial descriptive “boxes” society likes to place people in. He currently lives in Durban with his wife, Amy.
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