Posted 28.07.2021

Deaf Action is a deaf-led charity (deaf includes people who are Deaf BSL users, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing) providing services across Scotland for the estimated 1,012,000 people living with some degree of hearing loss.  For many, deafness and hearing loss can be isolating and socially debilitating. Deaf Action’s services are geared towards removing barriers for deaf people and empowering them to access and participate in society. 

What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?

Deaf people are amongst those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They already face increased risks of social isolation and higher rates of poor mental health.

There are also many barriers to accessing healthcare even under normal circumstances. Long periods of lockdown have deaf people of all ages feeling isolated, anxious and excluded. The mandatory facemasks have also created further communication barriers for people in the deaf community.


What impact did you see on your services as a result?

The pandemic impacted on our ability to deliver our services, and it took us time to adapt to new ways of working. Demand for our services increased and we also saw demand for new kinds of support particularly around digital skills, mental health support and help with understanding the ever changing public health information around the pandemic.

As a charity we also faced economic challenges since our ability to earn income to support our charitable work was impacted.


What has the NET funding enabled you to do for those people you help?

The funding provided by Net allowed us to deliver targeted support to people who were experiencing the worst effects of lockdown.

We provided access to counselling in BSL and developed an online befriending service so that we could ensure our clients had at least one hour of social contact per week. We also brought people together in groups for fun activities like bingo and quizzes.

Having the additional resources to allow us to support people to adapt to new technology was critical to the success of our work, and none of this would have been possible without the support of NET.


What challenges/opportunities do you see ahead?

As we emerge from the pandemic we expect to see challenges in helping people to understand how to best keep themselves safe.

The information around what is expected is very confusing, especially when there are different rules in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The effects of the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come and will affect our wellbeing, our finances, and our social lives.  These are all areas where the deaf community already face additional challenges and so we expect to see ongoing demand for the new forms of support that have been developed.


The future of DPO’s - Why DPOs are important and why we need to invest in them and protect them in the future?

We see DPOs as being critical to working towards a fairer society for all. Whilst not everyone in the deaf community identifies as having a disability, there is a shared experience in facing multiple barriers to access and feeling part of society.

There are so many examples of decision making which did not take account of the needs of deaf people, facemasks being an obvious example, and we know that this was also true for people who are differently abled.

Without the vital work of DPOs we risk creating a more divided society where the needs of the most vulnerable are overlooked.

Read more about Deaf Action