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April 29, 2020

Deaf Awareness Week (4-11 May)

What is Deaf Awareness week?

Deaf Awareness week takes place between the 4th and 10th May 2020. Deaf Awareness Week aims to increase awareness in relation to deafness/hearing loss and provides resources and guidance to help- support deaf people, their families, friends and teachers. Deafness and hearing loss can mean different things to different people. People might use different words to describe their own deafness or hearing loss.


Being deaf or having a hearing loss can affect people in numerous different ways and individuals will have their own communication needs and preferred support mechanisms.  A variety of communication methods may be used, including:


  • British Sign Language (BSL)
  • Sign Supported English
  • Lipreading


People will often use a combination of communication methods, alongside the hearing they have and any assistive devices used, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.


What is SHU doing for Deaf Awareness Week?

Unfortunately, Deaf Awareness Week this year has fallen at a time where the University is closed, and social distancing measures are still in place. The Spark! Staff Disability Network had planned to hold a social event with live talks about Deaf Awareness and Deaf History, and with the opportunity to learn some basic British Sign Language (BSL). However, we have been able to move the majority of this online.


On Wednesday 6th May we are hosting a webinar on Deaf Awareness and Communication covering the key points when communicating with someone deaf or hard of hearing including a Q&A session at the end. All participants will receive an email before the webinar including a link to the Google Meet session (please note that Google Meet is best accessed using Google Chrome rather than other web browsers such as Edge, Safari, etc.).


Throughout Deaf Awareness Week we will be uploading some additional content to the blog including a video on Deaf Awareness, in spoken English and BSL with subtitles. We will also be sharing a video covering the basics of BSL including fingerspelling and greetings.



Deaf Awareness week session

Impact of face masks on deaf children

Covid-19 mitigations and deaf students


How can I be more Deaf Aware?

There are many small changes that you can make to allow you to communicate well with deaf/hard of hearing people.  Some suggestions include:


  • Make sure you face the individual when speaking, do not cover your mouth and position yourself so that you are not in front of bright light (i.e. a window).
  • Provide materials and information in advance of teaching sessions or meetings (interpreters and note takers will need a copy too).
  • Repeat any questions asked by other members of the cohort before giving your answer.
  • Manage group discussions so only one person speaks at a time.
  • Ensure that everyone is visible in meetings and on any video calls. This might mean turning lights on earlier than usual.
  • Make use of captioning software for any video/voice recorded content you produce.


What support is available at SHU for staff and students who have hearing loss?

A wide range of support is available including:

  • British Sign Language interpreters
  • Note takers
  • One-to-one support for help with student coursework
  • Radio aids and other equipment
  • Captioning (including live captioning)/transcripts/subtitles


For Staff


SHU is a Disability confident employer which means the University is committed to creating a diverse workforce, ensuring the Equality Act is upheld and making sure that Disabled people get the support they require in the workplace. Requests for support should be made through your line manager. For more details, please read the Disability page on the HROD site.


Disabled Student Support have created a range of resources for staff working with deaf/hard of hearing students.


For Students


Disabled Student Support at SHU offers help and advice to identify support needs and help put support in place.  We also encourage students to apply for Disabled Students Allowance and can offer help with the process if needed.


Where can I get more information?

If you would like more information of Deaf Awareness Week please visit the Deaf Council website.


Additional information about deafness and hearing loss is also available from a range of organisations including the British Deaf Association and Royal Association for Deaf People.



Join SPARK! Sheffield Hallam’s staff disability network.

Sign up to the SPARK! network on our contact/join page.