It’s the end of Deaf Awareness Week, and while many of us are (understandably) wrapped up in our own concerns and issues right now, this week is a great reminder for us to strive for inclusivity, especially when it concerns the disabled community. Let’s take a look at how our friends from the deaf community are doing during the pandemic:
The grind never stops
With face-to-face interactions discouraged, we now look toward our screens for classes online. While this new setup is challenging enough for the vast majority of students, hearing-impaired students face unique challenges.
In a limited study conducted by the University of Malaya, researchers found that hearing-impaired students had four main learning challenges due to the pandemic:
- Hearing devices are unable to pick up speech or sound completely and accurately during online lessons, and lip-reading needs extra focus and effort.
- Some hearing-impaired students also have motor skill issues, and so typing quickly is a struggle. Many disabled students also need more time to digest lessons.
- Unfamiliarity with technology was also an issue, and many students also do not have the resources to purchase an online device.
- Many students were also affected emotionally due to the pressures of keeping up with online classes and having to acquire expensive gadgets.
In spite of these challenges, some hearing-impaired students, like KVC, an Applied Deaf Studies student in DLS-CSB, continue the grind online.
Bravely taking the leap
Though it’s understandable why many students — disabled and otherwise — have opted to take a break during this new normal, some have decided to keep going. KVC, for one, hasn’t let the pandemic affect her drive to excel. She is also a member of the Benildean Deaf Association, an organization for the student leaders of DLS-CSB’s deaf community. She is only one of the many deaf students who chose to take on their online classes with open arms and continue their studies while on lockdown. KVC says this new normal is testing her patience and challenging her to be responsible.
When it becomes too much
Although KVC is gamely facing the new normal, she’s not invincible. Sometimes, she has trouble sleeping at night, and the overfatigue makes her feel dizzy and throw up. Thankfully, she says that the stress from being required to stay at home hasn’t affected her school work.
As more of us Filipinos experience anxiety with this pandemic, it’s no question that continuing one’s studies is one of the boldest decisions one could make. Some find support from friends and family — KVC says she was motivated by her mom to push through with online classes.
We can find motivation by staying connected to our support network and taking care of our mental health, but it’s also important to note that in these exceptional circumstances, productivity isn’t everything.
What about mental health?
We all experience mental health issues from time to time, and in this pandemic, they’re even more prevalent. In these uncertain times, we should remember that the deaf and disabled community experience this too.
Mental health writer Marcia Purse mentioned in her article “Deaf Community and Mental Health Care” that their common mental health issues include anxiety and depression. According to multiple studies, deaf people suffer from mental health issues at around DOUBLE the rate of the general population.
Why is the deaf community so vulnerable to mental health issues?
One study found that 41% of hearing-impaired individuals attribute their mental health issues to communication problems, family stresses, and overall prejudice.
Purse expressed that the challenge extends to the difficulty in looking for deaf interpreters, and communication issues with health care providers. Based on her findings, she emphasized the relevance of deaf professionals, sign language, and mainly, lack of inclusive services.
Simple ways to help
Hearing individuals can help by carefully understanding the messages of our deaf friends passed on whatever mode of communication it may be — writing, lip-reading, phone messages, notes, and etc. And oh, don’t forget to be inclusive in hosting events — simply including a deaf interpreter while speaking in a well-paced manner could greatly help!
Schools can also make an effort to include closed captions or subtitles in their video materials. They can also make presentation slides readily available to their students. Lecturers should also be mindful of their hearing-impaired students’ challenges.
Practicing self-care through learning
To cope with mental health issues, KVC recommends exercising, eating healthy food, and having a gratitude list (for things you’re grateful for), asking for assistance, and practicing time management. But hearing-impaired individuals could also make the most of the many readily available free mental health seminars for the deaf community. One is the “Online Learning Session: ECQ Self-care” of Rochelle Martin, a faculty of the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies in DLS-CSB. Here, she gave coping tips similar to KVC’s recommendations, such as having enough time to rest and taking deep breaths.
Regardless of who we’re communicating with, each one of us is experiencing a battle we know none of. The best thing we could do is to be understanding, compassionate, and, most importantly, inclusive to everyone we encounter.
So, what can we do for a more inclusive society?
Are you from the deaf community? Do you have a loved one who is hearing-impaired? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!