Campaign to raise awareness of challenges faced by deaf community launched

Volunteer Yve Mary Barwood.

Volunteer Yve Mary Barwood. - Credit: WNDA

A campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by deaf and hard of hearing people during the pandemic has been backed by local businesses.

The West Norfolk Deaf Association (WNDA) set up an initiative this week calling for more to be done to help the deaf community who have lost a "crucial part of communication" as a result of wearing face masks in shops and businesses.

Outdoor Antics in Downham Market is one of the businesses backing the initiative. 

Outdoor Antics in Downham Market is one of the businesses backing the initiative. - Credit: WNDA

The King's Lynn based charity, which also runs the No8 The Old Bookshop in Downham Market, said lipreading becomes "impossible" for the deaf and hard of hearing in these situations, and have been campaigning to get businesses to join efforts in spreading the message about the issue.

Around 15 businesses in the Downham Market area have signed up to the campaign so far, which coincides with Deaf Awareness Week.

Richard Gill, butcher on the High Street in Downham Market, is one of the businesses backing the initiative. 

Richard Gill, butcher on the High Street in Downham Market, is one of the businesses backing the initiative. - Credit: WNDA

Deaf awareness packs, which include lipreading signs for businesses, clear masks and leaflets on communicating, have been distributed around shops and businesses in the town following support from the Local People Project in the borough, which is supported by Scope, and funding from the People’s Health Trust.

Sarah Cox, manager of No8 The Old Bookshop, said: “The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but for members of our community with hearing loss the situation is much worse.

WNDA sign placed in businesses to help those who rely on lipreading.

WNDA sign placed in businesses to help those who rely on lipreading. - Credit: WNDA

"Many rely on lip reading either entirely or to supplement whatever degree of hearing they have, so a mask is a huge barrier and not being able to communicate can lead to social isolation."

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WNDA manager Anna Pugh added that the issues the community faces need highlighting so people are prepared to help when needed.

The charity is organising deaf awareness courses for businesses and will also be holding British Sign Language courses later this year when restrictions allow.

WNDA badges to help those who rely on lipreading.

WNDA badges to help those who rely on lipreading. - Credit: WNDA

The manager said: "We want to ensure that as many people as possible can help raise awareness and increase accessibility and inclusion.

“The pandemic brought many additional problems for our community and mask wearing has been a huge issue which we hope can be mostly overcome with campaigns like this.”

For more information visit WNDA on Facebook and Twitter, phone 01553 773399 or email info@wnda.org.uk