Last Saturday I represented Action on Hearing Loss at City Lit’s Deaf Day, the biggest deaf-related event in the UK. This is an annual event, attended by almost 2,000 members of the public and this year, there were 60 exhibitors there, including Action on Hearing Loss. There were also various workshops and entertainment events happening throughout the day too.
This was the first time that I had worked at this annual event. It was incredibly busy and very popular. I was struck by how many different types of exhibitors there were, represented by people from all ages and backgrounds. They were all there, from Hearing Dogs to charities, travel companies for deaf people, speech to text and media captioning companies. There was even a BSL martial arts comic there, with young people dressed in martial arts costumes going around demonstrating various combat-like poses for the camera.
I really enjoyed working on the Action on Hearing Loss stand. I was kept really busy all day dealing with lots of enquiries. Most of the people who came up to the stand to talk to us were Deaf people who used BSL as their main form of communication, so I was really glad that we had two BSL interpreters to help, although I really tried to communicate in BSL myself. I found that at the beginning of the day, I felt rather unconfident about my BSL skills and how I would be able to cope communicating in BSL. However, over the course of the day, I found that my receptive skills improved. Also, I thought that people would dismiss me as soon as they found out that I couldn’t communicate fluently in BSL, but I found that although there were a few who lost patience with me, the majority of people were just pleased that I had made the effort to try to communicate with them in BSL.
I also enjoyed meeting new people during the day, getting to know them a bit, sharing our experiences of living with hearing loss and trying to help people in some way. We showed the people who came to our stand a range of products that Action on Hearing Loss provides to help people living with acquired hearing loss, such as specially amplified phones, vibrating doorbells, alarms and smoke alarms. One lady told me that she worked for a charity, which helped elderly people who were losing their hearing and often their sight too. They often have difficulty seeing the numbers on the phones, have arthritis in their fingers and are also often not very technically aware, so the products need to be as simple as possible to use and not too technical. I agreed with her because I know from my own experience in my voluntary work how important these phones are to elderly people. They can act as a lifeline to people who are losing their hearing and find it difficult to talk on the phone to their families and friends.
After the event, I felt really tired after a long but very interesting and productive day. I went to a local café nearby with Joanna and my friend Andrew for a drink and early dinner to discuss the day. The place was really lively. I was amazed that about half the people there looked like they had just come from Deaf Day too. They were signing and socialising with their friends, which was an amazing sight to see. They were also queuing outside the local pubs, with the area buzzing with people signing away to each other. I was happy that it had been such a positive, inspirational and social day for lots of people.