On 3rd March World Hearing Day 2020 NADP welcomed over 45 MPs to our Parliamentary Event. The Event concentrated on information on how to make MP’s constituency more accessible to deafened and hard of hearing people.
Putting The National Association of Deafened People and the UK on the map for World Hearing Day 2020!
Sophia Kleanthous Policy Volunteer at National Association of Deafened People
After months of hard work and planning last week (3rd March 2020) we welcomed over 45 MPs at our parliamentary event on World Hearing Day. The event was a drop in, where MPs and their staff could participate in a lip-reading challenge with a lip-reading tutor and gain knowledge on effective communication tips. We also designed a separate area related to the World Health Organisation’s initiative ‘Make Listening Safe’ where MPs learned more about listening to loud music with unsafe levels and were given a chance to download the ‘hearWHO’ app to test their own hearing. They also received information about next steps, should they be worried. We designed our event and key messaging around this year’s WHO theme for World Hearing Day 2020 ‘Don’t Let Hearing Loss Limit You’. This included messaging on appropriate and timely interventions that can facilitate access to education, employment and communication for deafened and hard of hearing people. WHO’s World Hearing Day has been running since 2007.
So why are we choosing to act now?
The story began last December when our Chair, Lidia Best, attended a briefing at the World Hearing Forum in Geneva which outlined plans for World Hearing Day 2020. Members of the working group shared reports from previous years including a visual map of where activities had taken place. It was through this that Lidia realised that UK was not on the map! She decided to take the initiative to organise a WHO advocacy event in the UK. This would be a great opportunity for NADP to gain greater recognition among policymakers. Having presented the idea to NADP’s Trustees, the plan was approved, and soon enough our President, Lilian Greenwood MP, was on board to host and the countdown began…
3 months later, countless plans and plenty of tea biscuits…
The day had arrived, and we were all very nervous. Would the trains be running on time? Would we be able to conduct all our workshops and activities? And most importantly would any of the MPs we invited attend? We soon found out we didn’t have any reason to worry. Before we had even finished setting up, 5 MPs turned up eagerly to find out what World Hearing Day meant and how they could support their constituents. We gave MPs the chance to test and try out the different assistive technologies available to hard of hearing and deafened people. This included a speech to text service with the fantastic Lisa Cordaro- Cassidy who supported the conversations, and demonstrations of a captioned telephone. We also handed out leaflets on the different communications support available in UK. These solutions are invaluable for the hard of hearing and deafened community and are instrumental in creating an inclusive society, so it was fantastic to see MPs fully engaging in the demonstrations. Most importantly MPs responded positively to our briefing on direct action that they could take to make their constituencies more accessible.
What we learnt and next steps!
Members of Parliament from across the UK and from all the major parties attended our event. It was surprising to find that even those that had a hearing loss themselves were not aware of the different communication support available, such as real time remote captioning (speech to text). Many MPs took our quick ‘5 phrases lip reading challenge’ and it was fun to see the MPs competing against each other to see who could do it best. One of the highlights that we had not anticipated were that a large proportion of the MPs who had only scheduled to drop in for a photo showed their support by getting involved in the exercises and speaking to us. The real and measurable impact of our advocacy effort has been having dozens of MPs interested in working with us in the future. We have some very exciting parliamentary engagement planned in the next few months including an Early Day Motion (EDM), engaging with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness and MPs supporting our members by helping to make their constituency more accessible.