Deaf Awareness Month – #Услышьменя and #HearingPrivilege

Yellow background with 5 brown pawns distancing themselves from one black pawn with words above: September - Deaf Awareness Month, #УслышьМеня, #HearingPrivilege

September is Deaf Awareness Month that is celebrated worldwide every year to spread more awareness about deafness and hearing loss. There are about 620 million of deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide (out of total population of around 7 billion) – about 50 million of them in USA (out of total population of around 320 million) and about 13 million of them in Russia (out of total population of around 146 million).

Yet, there is still a lack of awareness about us worldwide – even in the States with many disability laws being around for many years (ADA, for example, being around for 26 years) and many of us still fighting for full and equal communication access to aural information via good quality captioning (for audio, video, podcasts, webinars, live events), sign language interpreting, cued speech transliteration, affordable hearing devices (hearing aids and cochlear implants).

I mention Russia of all countries besides USA – first because it’s where I’m originally from (with Russian being my native language) and secondly because there was a premiere of a movie #Услышьменя that was shown in many cities in Russia on September 25 to celebrate the International Deaf Day. Sadly, I did not get to watch the movie yet (especially that it will be with Russian captions – that I do not get to see in my native language captions in many Russian movies, TV shows, and most online videos).

The movie trailer looked good, and I hope to watch it online soon once it’s released. Also, I was informed about the plans for the English subtitles for non-Russian speakers. One thing I noticed in the teaser that only hearing devices (hearing aids and cochlear implants) and sign language were mentioned – which is great, but the missing part was about the importance of captioning access for audio, video, live events. I hope that will be acknowledged as well.

Today Dr. Joseph Hill from NTID created a #HearingPrivilege hashtag to be shared all day via social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr. You can follow this hashtag to learn more about various experiences of various deaf and hard of hearing people from all walks of their lives.

I can totally relate to posts myself as a profoundly deaf person dealing with the lack of communication access and ignorance (and sometimes arrogance) of hearing people every day. The following are a couple examples of #HearingPrivilege that I shared on social media:

We feel frustrated that instead of asking us, many hearing people keep making wrong assumptions about us and making decisions for us to satisfy their needs instead of considering our needs. There are so many of examples that it’s impossible to list everything in just one article. The saddest part is that deaf and hard of hearing people are also dismissed from the “diversity and inclusion” equation. That’s why I founded Audio Accessibility to provide consulting and training services to businesses about how to improve different types of aural information via good quality captioning and other types of communication access.

Deafness is NOT a problem. The problem is the lack of awareness about deafness, negative attitudes of society to deaf and hard of hearing people and the lack of full and equal access to them. Let’s think outside the ears!