We are currently living in a scary and crazy time. I wake up thinking this was all a bad dream when my alarm goes off in the morning and then I turn the news on and remember what we are dealing with. I remember when I thought storm Ciara/Dennis ruining my London Marathon training plan was going to be my biggest concern for the year. How wrong was I?!
Only a few weeks ago, during February half term, I was in Barcelona with my boyfriend having an amazing time. We were walking around like absolute tourists in shorts and T-shirts while the sun shined during our walking tours (no social distancing) and eating out in restaurants without a care in the world. It is really unbelievable to think how quickly things have escalated since then.
Despite all this however, I do find it weirdly exciting that I’ll be telling my grandchildren about 2020 and answering their questions on what it was like living during this time for their history homework. #homeworkiscool
The news suggests that schools have closed until the foreseeable future, but I am still at work in a very much open school as a teacher for Deaf children. Parents having to home school their kids will be hard enough without the additional need to know sign language as well. How would hearing parents know the right vocabulary to use? Therefore, we are business as usual.
With this in mind, I wanted to share the things I have noticed about the Coronavirus outbreak and the way it affects the deaf community.
With these masks on, deaf people cannot lip read which makes communication quite difficult, especially for children with a limited vocabulary. Many words share the same sign but the context and lip patterns make it easier to know what is being talked about. With this taken away, you could misread a situation.
Do not touch your face
The government have advised the way to stay safe from Coronavirus is to wash your hands, use a tissue for coughs and avoid touching your face however, many signs in BSL include touching your face! This makes me so paranoid when I’m talking to people at work and realised I touched my face!
Deaf way is to get other peoples attention by tapping them and touching them. We are having to be more careful with this and use other strategies such as turning lights on and off and tapping on tables, but this isn’t always appropriate. This would work to get the attention of all the students, but not when I would want to have a private chat with a friend.
Lack of Sign Language Interpreters
We are getting new information every day about how to deal with this crisis but a lot of news reports do not have an interpreter to let the deaf community know what is going on. The subtitles on live TV are awful with many mistakes and time delay. It is really so important that we all have access to the news, especially in a time like this. Many students are so capable of understanding the news, but are coming to me for the answers! I’m just as confused as they are…
No work for interpreters.
Despite needing an interpreter to cover the daily news, many interpreters are out of work. No one is going to doctors appointments, interviews, museum tours and therefore there is no need for interpreters. If there is, they are all trying to go for the same few jobs. The irony is that usually deaf people find that there are not enough available to book for appointments, yet now they are not needed. A sad situation.
I have noticed that a lot of people are offering free online BSL tutoring while some people are isolating. I really recommend if you’re bored at home or want to take a little lunch break that you investigate how you can get involved with this. At least you would be well equipped to home school a deaf child doing so!