It’s difficult for hearing people to realise just how hard everyday activities are for the deaf. Probably the most common problems is just making a phone call – unless you have a translator with you, it’s impossible to do things like query a gas bill or talk to the bank. Another option is text messages, but it’s slow and not a great way to communicate. A lot of deaf people suffer from mental health problems, primarily because of the extreme difficulties they have in communicating with the hearing public.
Whilst you can often use interpreters, the reality is you often have to book them a week or two in advance. That’s OK for things like going to the hospital where the appointment is made in advance – but before SignVideo, there was nothing to help in the instant, everyday sort of conversations everyone has. I used to have to spend a large part of my working life working out, in advance, the meetings I’d have to attend – and then try to book an interpreter. But this wasn’t any good if there was a last minute meeting I’d have to attend.
Like most people, my job involves a lot of unplanned phone calls and meetings, which for a deaf person is obviously a challenge. Sometimes I had support workers and translators to help but it’s too expensive to have them available full time. My written English isn’t great so I wasn’t that comfortable using text phones in a professional environment. But now I can use SignVideo, all that’s changed. If I have to make a quick call, it’s easy to use and it lets me do my job quicker and a lot more efficiently. It’s made a huge difference to the way I work.
Our deaf clients also love the service. If they’re sitting down next to me, taking part in a conversation using SignVideo, it’s a real learning curve for them. They get a chance to participate in the conversation – they’re more empowered by being actively involved in the process. It’s now become a central part of my working life – through the ‘Access to Work’ scheme, I get to use the service for a couple of hours a week. As I’m getting more aware about how useful the service is, ideally I’d like to be able to increase my hours.
Like many deaf people, I’m a taxpayer and some of my money needs to go into supporting things like this. I’d like the money to be put in a central fund and not at the mercy of the government spending review. At the moment a lot of deaf people have mental health problems because they’re barred from being able to communicate. A simple thing like the chance to communicate with the world is a right that everyone should have. It allows us to build up our lives, to be more comfortable and to contribute in all areas of our lives.