As the title says, for those working in the Civil Service who are deaf or hard of hearing, you’re not alone.
According to the British Deaf Association in 2011, it is estimated, there are 151,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language, and of these, 87,000 people are deaf.
The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face, and head. Many thousands of people who are not deaf, also use British Sign Language. They include hearing relatives of deaf people, sign language interpreters or from other contacts with the British deaf community.
British Sign Language
BSL is a complete language. It has its own vocabulary, word order and grammar. BSL also includes finger spelling. Every letter of the alphabet has a sign. These are used to spell out words and sentences on the hand. To find out more, go to the BSL website at https://www.british-sign.co.uk/
I formed the Civil Service Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network in 2017 because I didn’t want people across the Civil Service to feel isolated just because they are deaf or hard of hearing. I also didn’t want them to believe that there aren’t people across the Civil Service, who can help them and provide support.
During my Civil Service career, there were times, long ago (around 2000-2006,) when I went home feeling sad and depressed. Occasionally, I was in floods of tears, because people made jokes about my lack of hearing. It's not my fault that I couldn't hear, and it made me feel that I wasn't really part of the team. I felt worthless and demoralised.
My wellbeing and mental health was also severely affected as a result.
Things have improved significantly
I am pleased to say today, that things have improved significantly. But I knew that I didn’t want others to go through my experiences. Instead, I wanted to provide a network where people felt supported and know there were always people who can help.
Today, the Civil Service Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network has grown to more than 300 members across more than 30 government departments. It is a sub network of the Civil Service Disability Network. There are also a number of department deaf and hard of hearing networks developing across the Civil Service.
The network is championed by Debbie Alder, Director General of People & Capability, Department for Work & Pensions, who is keen to support the network. Debbie is keen to 'help build a more inclusive Civil Service for colleagues who are deaf, or care for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.’
The network is currently developing a deaf and hard of hearing toolkit to be published in 2021. This will significantly help to inform and support all our colleagues across the Civil Service to understand the challenges faced by our colleagues who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The network is committed to supporting government departments where it can, to create their own department deaf or hard of hearing networks. Currently, there are four department networks, with more looking to establish networks in 2021.
The network is also moving forward in developing more support for its membership and our Civil Service colleagues. It includes a 'one stop shop' repository of information on Deaf and hearing loss in partnership with the Civil Service Disability Network and raising deaf and hard of hearing awareness across the Civil Service.
If you’d like to find out more, or if you're interested for the network to present in your department or wish to join the network, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow the Civil Service Deaf and Hard of Hearing network on Twitter @CSDeafHHearing.