Tell me more about Deaf People and their Community

How many D/deaf people are there in the UK and how many use sign language?

According to Government statistics there are approximately 70,000 Deaf people whose first or preferred language is BSL (British Sign Language). In terms of the number of deaf people, i.e. those who do not use BSL but have a hearing impairment, it is estimated that there are about 5 million people throughout the UK.

Why is Deaf written with a capital ‘D?

This is related to a sense of identity. Deaf people do not see themselves as impaired, rather they are a linguistic and cultural minority with their own language and culture. Big D deaf people are the signing community as opposed to small d deaf who are those who do not use sign language or identify with the Deaf signing community, generally those whose first language is spoken, such as English, or have acquired deafness at a later stage in life; they may use hearing aids and depend upon lipreading and/or written English to access information.

Capital D in BSL

Do Deaf people take sugar?

Many people find it difficult to talk directly to Deaf people, they will ask the LSP questions rather than engage with the Deaf person direct. One of the most frequent questions asked of a BSL/English Interpreter, for example, about a Deaf person is “Does he/she lipread?” Of course the interpreter is unlikely to know the answer to this and even if they did they will not respond, but will interpret the question to the Deaf person. Please try to remember that the Deaf person can answer any questions you may have about their access, language, culture… and sugar intake…. all you need to do is ask!

So… do all D/deaf people lipread?

Lipreading is not an exact science. Research has shown that, on average, only approximately 40% of English words can be lipread accurately; lipreading can involve a lot of guesswork and is enhanced by prior knowledge of both the subject and the person speaking, amongst other factors. Many D/deaf people do lipread to a greater or lesser degree, but it would be dangerous to assume that D/deaf people who appear to lipread well do not, therefore, require the services of an LSP. Always consult your D/deaf colleagues or customers as to their individual access requirements.


My Deaf colleague uses her voice, why does she say she needs interpreter?

Many Deaf people may choose to use their voice when interacting with colleagues, this does not necessarily mean that they can hear. Deaf people have experienced an education system which focuses on teaching them to speak, therefore many Deaf people will wish to use those skills. In relation to receiving information however, Deaf people may prefer to use interpreters or lipspeakers or other LSPs to ensure that the information is accurate. Furthermore, in a one to one situation or when conversing with known individuals such as work colleagues it may be that the Deaf person has become familiar with lipreading that particular individual and therefore may not require the services of an LSP.

What is the Cultural Model of Deafness?

The Disabled peoples movement have for many years promoted the Social Model of Disability as opposed to the Medical Model. Deaf people have often felt that they do not fit easily under this model as, although society does see Deaf people as disabled, the Social Model does not recognize the Deaf Community as a cultural and linguistic minority. The Deaf Community has its own language and culture and therefore, whilst they do experience disabling barriers in society, it is the lack of access to information that is the main barrier to their inclusion. In recent times the British Deaf Association, amongst others, has promoted a new way of describing the Deaf Community and the barriers they face. The model is entitled The Cultural Model of Deafness