3rd - 9th May is Deaf Awareness Week, an annual event to raise awareness of deafness and hearing loss. Here are some beneficiary stories to show how POhWER advocates can help and accommodate people with hearing impairments. 

Oliver’s Story

Oliver is deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate. Staff at the secure unit where he was placed were unable to communicate with Oliver as they were not BSL users and did not feel confident that he could understand what they were saying through lip reading.

Staff reported difficulties in establishing Oliver’s needs and explaining to him why he has been placed at the unit and asked POhWER if an advocate could help. Laura, a POhWER advocate and native BSL user, was assigned to support Oliver.

Laura met with Oliver. She found him to be alert but tired and generally lacking in energy. She established that he understands BSL, is able to lip-read to a degree and also understands some written English. Due to Oliver’s low energy levels, it was difficult for him to use BSL as this is tiring for him.

Laura set up a picture/pointing system that Oliver and the staff can use to communicate with each other. This has helped to improve Oliver’s overall communication and interaction enormously. Oliver is now able to tell staff what he wants and needs quickly and easily. Staff feel more positive about being able to provide Oliver’s care more effectively.

Laura was able to protect Oliver’s right to freedom of expression (Human Rights Act 1998) and helped him to regain control of his day-to-day situation and the services he uses (Care Act 2014).

Amara's story

Amara is deaf and uses British Sign Language. She contacted POhWER for support with making an NHS complaint. Tim, her BSL trained advocate, arranged to meet her to discuss her complaint.

Amara told Tim she had regularly visited her father in hospital, where staff knew she was deaf. One day she arrived to be told that he had died eight hours earlier. She could not understand why no-one had contacted her and was very distressed.

Tim helped Amara to write a letter to the NHS Trust raising all the issues she wanted them to address.

Amara was invited to a meeting with the Trust and Tim supported her to understand what to expect. At Amara’s request he checked that a BSL interpreter was booked, helped her to prepare questions, and agreed to ask these on her behalf as she felt too upset to do so. At the meeting Tim initially spoke on Amara’s behalf, until she gained the confidence to speak for herself.

The Complaints Manager explained that staff had tried to contact Amara on her mobile but when there was no answer, they had not attempted to contact other family members as their numbers had been misplaced.

Amara received an apology and a number of changes were introduced:

  • Deaf Awareness training was for ward staff
  • Changes were made to a checklist to record why the next-of-kin was not contacted and what alternative steps were taken
  • The Trust’s protocol was revised so alternative family members or the police could be contacted
  • Team meetings were held to update staff of the changes.

Amara told Tim that she had achieved what she had intended by making a complaint. She thanked him for his support throughout the process.

Tyler’s story

Tyler was transferred to a secure unit from prison while awaiting sentencing. Tyler is deaf and unable to read or write.

Tyler was referred to POhWER for advocacy support as staff found it hard to communicate with him. Gary was assigned as Tyler’s advocate. Gary found out that Tyler knew some basic British Sign Language (BSL) and used this along with gestures and pictures to support him.

Tyler asked Gary to support him to find distance learning courses where he could learn BSL. Gary supported Tyler to find and register on a BSL course.

Tyler has since achieved a BSL Level 1 qualification and he is working toward the BSL Level 2 qualification. Learning BSL has given Tyler more independence and means that he can now communicate with the staff on the ward. He now feels confident to express himself but he is also happy to approach advocacy when he requires support.

Gary’s support helped Tyler to protect his right to education and freedom of expression (Human Rights Act 1998).