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It’s the little things that make the difference this Deaf Awareness Week


During this year’s Deaf Awareness Week (15th 21st May), several charities are keen to promote the importance of the little things you can do to help people who have hearing problems.     

The UK Council on Deafness and Action on Hearing Loss are keen to promote deaf awareness throughout the community by explaining how small actions can make a big difference to everyday life – whether it’s at home, at work, out socialising or accessing services such as healthcare.

It is hoped that by becoming more aware of some of the difficulties deaf people may face and by learning about some of the ways we can help to communicate better, we can work towards a truly deaf-aware society.


Carolyn’s quest to make us more deaf aware

Staff member Carolyn Jones, Specialist Biomedical Scientist in Pathology, is keen to support the campaign to make people more deaf aware. Carolyn, who is profoundly deaf herself, has been working with the British Deaf Association to inspire young deaf people to achieve their career goals.

Carolyn has been profoundly deaf since she was 18 months old. She grew up in Malvern before moving to Devon when she was nine. She attended the Deaf School in Exeter, and later Exeter College, before heading to Wolverhampton University to study a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science.

Carolyn said: “When I was a little girl I always wanted to be involved in forensic science, but had to scale back that career goal as at the time there wasn’t very much deaf awareness and I felt that I wouldn’t have been successful if I just applied. I decided I would have to go another way and prove that I could do the job by building up my hospital lab experience first.”
After completing her degree, Carolyn worked as a trainee at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth for four years.  Once qualified, and with enough experience under her belt, she decided she wanted to work closer to home and considered taking up a position at the RD&E.


“I was worried that I may not be considered for a job if they saw I was profoundly deaf on my application form. I decided to meet with the manager in person to show them that there is nothing wrong with my communication skills. The manager told me he had never met a deaf person, so I asked to meet face-to-face to show him I could communicate by lip-reading, but of course that I was unable to answer the phone or respond to a bleep and required support from the team with that.  Thankfully they decided to give me a chance, and I have been working here since 2005.”

Carolyn works in the Blood Sciences Lab assisting with diagnosis and monitoring patient’s treatments, covering in Haematology, Coagulation, Immunology, Blood Transfusion and Stem Cell departments. At work, she communicates with colleagues by lip-reading, but uses a combination of voice talking and British Sign Language (BSL) at home.

 “There would be no point for me to sign at work as people wouldn’t be able to understand me. My manager has been very helpful - sometimes she or he writes things down, all talks are put up in note form on the board for everyone to see or we go through things 1-2-1.  There may be a few other people who are hard of hearing working here, but I think I am possibly one of the only profoundly deaf members of staff as I have not seen anyone using sign language in this hospital.”

Carolyn is keen to raise more awareness of deaf people at the RD&E and wants to encourage more of us to think about how were communicate with people who have hearing problems. 

“The number of deaf and hard of hearing people has increased and there is now more than 800,000 people in the UK who have hearing difficulties. Deaf people sometimes feel left out in certain situations, not being able participate in or feeling uncomfortable for trying to have a conversation with hearing people, as they may feel they have misunderstood or would be embarrassed to ask them to repeat things. I think hearing people can feel the same in opposite situation. 

“I think it would be good for staff to think about learning and using a little bit of Sign Language on the wards or at reception. As a hospital, I don’t think we are very deaf aware, and it would be nice way for staff to try and make deaf people feel more comfortable and relaxed, especially when having them in as an in-patient or whilst waiting for an BSL interpreter.”

Alongside her work at the RD&E, Carolyn has recently taken part in a British Deaf Association video to act as a role model for deaf children and show them what they can achieve in the future.

“My careers advisor told me I should work in a warehouse or in an office because I was Deaf, as it would be lot easier for me. But I pushed myself to achieve more with the help from my family. I have faced some hard challenges but I have overcome them and they have made me who I am today. I am very proud to have become a Specialist in my field.  For the ‘Deaf Roots and Pride’ (DRP) project they were looking for people who could be role models because of their professional careers and help build children’s confidence. I wanted to show if I can do it, you can too. There is no barrier. This is what you can achieve. You can do anything when you put your mind to it.”   


Say #Hellomynameis in BSL


Making sure staff properly introduce themselves to new patients through the #Hellomynameis campaign is something which has been embedded at the Trust for a number of years. This year, why not try learning how to say it in British Sign Language (BSL) as well?

Carolyn shows us how:


Added 17 May 2017

Call 111 when its less than urgent