Deaf communities live in a world where the spoken language is superior to using Sign Language. But this isn’t a new thing. The U.S. banned Sign Language in schools in the 1800s. Whereas in the U.K., schools opened for deaf children to learn British Sign Language. However, the 19th century brought some unfortunate changes. Oral education was the social norm, and deaf students had to learn lip reading.
So, as you can see, the two countries went through stages of acceptance before making ASL (American Sign Language) or BSL (British Sign Language) an official language.
Here is a comparison of resources for the Deaf community in the UK vs. the U.S.
What Resources do Deaf People Need?
This community, in the U.S. and the UK, is still overlooked. Many deaf people find it difficult to access resources that could improve their lives easier. It is all due to unawareness.
This unawareness causes even the most mundane tasks to be complicated. What do deaf people need to function in society? They need resources in all areas; healthcare, academic settings, and accessing public venues.
Resources in Academic Institutions
Having adequate resources for education is crucial for the future of deaf people. Without it, they might be at a disadvantage in many opportunities. What exactly are the options for the deaf in terms of schooling?
Deaf schools go way back to the late 18th century. There was more of a need to open deaf schools all over the UK. There are deaf academies and boarding schools all over the UK. Unfortunately, some of these schools are starting to shut down due to low GSCE scores (the USA equivalent to a high school diploma).
In the United States, two widely known schools have highly specialized programs for deaf students, The American School for the Deaf and The Learning Center Walden School. Some of these deaf schools only focus on listening/speaking skills. They don’t necessarily teach American Sign Language. Others teach American Sign Language but also focus on written English.
Many public schools in the U.S. have IEP programs for students with special needs. That means they get some part of the regular classroom environment. Generally, most of their learning would take place in special classrooms. The class size is smaller, which makes learning more comfortable.
Another option for parents is to do a half-and-half scenario. Parents can enroll their child in a public school for part of the day and a deaf school for the remainder. It benefits deaf children by utilizing resources for social exposure and personalized education.
Public Resources for the Deaf
The Americans with Disabilities Act transformed lives for people in the 1990s. It outlawed discrimination against people with disabilities, including the deaf community. Discrimination can happen during employment, in public transportation, public venues, and more. In the UK, there is also a law known as the Equality Act of 2010. It protects citizens that have long-term impairments.
With these laws in place by the governments in the United States and the UK, they also offer resources to help deaf people.
In the U.S., the Federal government establishes the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination and give people an equal opportunity for housing, mortgages, loans, and more.
In return, deaf people in America benefit from this act. The Department of Housing even created videos in American Sign Language explaining the process of getting housing and the legal process of the Fair Housing Act.
Social Security is another system in the U.S. that offers benefits to the deaf and disabled. It is another way that the U.S. government can help assist with housing, healthcare interpreters, and giving a monthly allowance to cover living costs.
In the UK, there are organizations with assistance that will support deaf people to find housing, whether they rent or buy. The UK government also offers Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It is similar to the U.S. Social Security. It gives deaf people a monthly allowance in addition to other living benefits.
The most common resource needed in healthcare is someone who can relay the message. That is why more interpreters are needed in healthcare to communicate accurately between the doctor and the patient.
In the UK, prominent organizations and charities partnered with the NHS (the UK healthcare system) to provide deaf community interpreters for doctor visits. It was in high demand during the 2019 pandemic.
Meanwhile, in the United States, there are loopholes in the disability act. Sometimes, patients aren’t provided with an interpreter. There can also be a lack of resources for interpreters and doctors trained in working with the deaf. Therefore, the results can be unfavorable like a misdiagnosis or prescribing the wrong medications.
Shopping malls, restaurants, concert halls, and grocery stores can easily accommodate deaf customers. There are efforts by small businesses in the U.S. and the UK to make access for the deaf such as:
- Online ordering
- Staff that can communicate using sign language
- Pen and paper to write things down
Deaf people can easily use technology with the invention of assistive technology. Two examples are in the United States FEMA and the National Weather Service to alert the deaf community of natural disasters light technology that flashes repeatedly. Additionally, FEMA will provide interpreters for those affected by disasters to apply for relief.
Local governments in the United States offer assistive technologies for deaf children through closed captioning and iPads with speech-to-text apps.
In the UK, organizations like the National Deaf Society offer free or purchasable through the foundation. In this area, the UK still has a long way to go in providing more technological resources to the deaf.
Who is Doing Better?
Both the U.S. and the UK made efforts towards recognizing the daily struggles of the deaf community. Laws passed making it easier to access some resources in healthcare, public spaces, and housing. Fortunately, small business and other organizations are also doing their part.
Like Unspoken Language Services. We provide deaf clients with interpreters, whether that is in a legal situation, healthcare, or more. Visit our website to request our services.