Our sponsored silence.

Today, the 1st August 2017, is the day of our sponsored 24-hour silence. For the entire day, we will refrain from speaking, attempting to achieve a better understanding of the struggles that hard of hearing people face everyday, revolving around this area. We are also hoping to raise both money and awareness for the sensory impaired community, with a lot of support gathered already in such a short space of time.

So far, it has proven to be fairly difficult: we are forced to communicate through notes, messages and random hand gestures since not everyone knows British Sign Language. This struggle has raised an important issue for us, one about how more people should learn this language, which would greatly reduce the communication barrier that we’re currently facing. Whilst our uncoordinated hand actions may be getting some points across, we are unable to communicate understandable sentences like we could if we were educated in sign language. Messaging and note passing has proven to be the most effective form of communication, but the time it takes has been greatly affecting our conversations: writing the message, waiting for it to send and then having to read all take up time in what could be spent progressing the conversation, limiting us to fairly basic topics. Because of this, you can’t instantly say what springs to mind, perhaps making you question whether or not it needs to be messaged. If said phrase was going to be hurtful then it’s probably best that it remained just a thought, but it also means that deep and thoughtful things also remain unshared. This takes away the personal feel of the conversation, almost making it seem robotic. Sign language is a quick way of communicating, meaning that these problems are easily avoided.

If you would like to donate to our cause, then please follow the Just Giving link on the right-hand side of the page – everything is appreciated. Below is a video that we’ve recorded that explains what we are doing today, with both sign language and subtitles.

Why Sign?

Every day, deaf people endure struggles that most of the community pay little or no attention to – even the simplest things can be a challenge to them. Having to try to lip-read constantly, as well as having to sign your thoughts grow to be extremely strenuous, requiring your full attention, especially to someone who doesn’t understand. We strongly believe that signing should be a part of every curriculum, as the benefits don’t just come to the deaf community; there are many hearing people who feel much better from signing too.

It improves spelling, a lot.

Finger spelling is a big part of sign language, which involves spelling our words with individual letters. It is a perfect way to learn for beginners since there is just 26 signs (corresponding with the alphabet) and you can sign out practically anything you want. This method may be time consuming at first, having to take time thinking about what letter comes next, but all this will benefit your spelling. If your brain is constantly having to recall what letter comes next, it will end up becoming engraved in your mind. Practicing enough will make you pretty much fluent when it comes to spelling, which will help a lot in your day-to-day life.

It broadens career options.

Some career branches will require or prefer certain skills, with sign language being a must for jobs which involve working with the deaf or hard-of-hearing. There are approximately 70 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the world, with around 8.7 million people in the UK. With these statistics, there will most likely be a large deaf community in your area, one which may offer regular jobs. As well as this, many companies would prefer to employ someone with a skill like this, just the same as they would prefer to employ someone who can speak another language – to deaf people, signing is their language.

It allows you to communicate in difficult circumstances.

Trying to speak to people from far away ends up with a mix of shouting and struggling to hear each other, ultimately causing a scene. Sign language is quiet but effective in these types of situations, offering a simple way to communicate with each other. It also allows you to get your message across through windows and glass, whereas with normal speech that can prove fairly difficult. How many times have you tried to talk to people through glass and ended up awkwardly shouting and moving your mouth to unrecognisable shapes? As well as glass, sign language can also be used to communicate underwater. Even though this may not be extremely practical, it can still be quite a cool party trick to show your friends.

It brings the community together.

Deaf people often feel isolated from the hearing community, simply because they don’t understand what they’re talking about. This issue could be easily resolved if more of us would take a little time out of our day to learn sign language, allowing as all to communicate with each other. People who are hard of hearing put a lot of effort into learning how to lip-read, even if the speaker is rather unclear. If we put both of these skills together, then communication could be made simple between the hearing and the deaf, bringing the local community much closer.

Why are Changing Places important?

Most of us think nothing of visiting public toilets, already knowing that they’ll meet our needs, but many disabled people are unable to participate in activities that we may take for granted due to standard accessible toilets not meeting their needs. In the UK, there are over 230,000 people who need personal assisstance to go to the toilet, but the lack of specialist accessible toilets and changing rooms is making this increasingly difficult for them. Would you like to have to change your close family member on the uncleaned floor of a public toilet?

Changing places toilets are essential for disabled people – as well as their families and friends – since they allow them to take part in their local communities. With these, they are given a sense of independence, not having to rely solely on their carer to take complete care of them in these private situations. They often save them the embarrassment of having to get changed in unhygienic, uncomfortable places, giving them a safe place to carry out what they need to do.

Unfortunately, there is just 1,000 changing places in the UK, often leaving people without one for miles. Having a changing room in the local community will greatly benefit both disabled people and their families. The number of people with complex disabilities is growing, and we are living longer – so more people are likely to rely on these accessible changing places in the future.

‘British Standard 8300:2009 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people’ recommends that Changing Places toilets should be included in larger public buildings and complexes. The government also recommends that local authorities should provide Changing Places toilets, under the guidance ‘Improving Public Access to Better Quality Toilets’. 

At the moment, the Changing Places Consortium is campaigning for Changing Places toilets to be installed in all big public places – like shopping centres, city centres, hospitals, service stations, airports and railway stations. We believe that Changing Places toilets should be provided in addition to standard accessible toilets, becasue accessibility should be a priority, for everyone.

Who are Action 4 Access?

We are Action 4 Access; a small NCS group from Stoke-on-Trent hoping to make a difference for the overlooked disabled community in our local area. This is our social action project, which includes raising both money and awareness for multiple causes that will greatly benefit the disabled population. Our project isn’t aimed at a single age group, but in fact, at a range: there are different aspects to our goals which will affect different people, hoping to impact a greater variety of disabled people.

The first of our aims is to raise money for Blackfriars School, with some of the money going directly to them to buy specialist equipment, and with some of the money going towards making sensory boxes for the students. These boxes with vary depending on the child’s needs and disability, but all will be covered with a range of fabrics with different textures, helping them to understand and interact with their surroundings. We will also include multi-sensory toys with vibrant colours, different surfaces and bells that will encourage children with limited hearing or sight to put their remaining senses to better use, aiding in their development. Our group aims to prove that even a small box of toys can have a huge impact of the lives of children with sensory impairments, hopefully encouraging other members of the community to help too.

To raise money for this, we will be doing a sponsored silence whilst wearing ear plugs for an entire day on Tuesday 1st August, also raising awareness for the struggles that the sensory impaired have to go through every day. Any donations for this would be kindly accepted on our Just Giving page.

Another goal that we have is to encourage Newcastle-Under-Lyme Council to install a disabled public toilet in the town centre. This would open a range of opportunities for disabled families, meaning that they would no longer be required to go home when there weren’t the facilities that they needed. We have set up a petition on Change.org to ‘construct a disabled toilet in Newcastle-Under-Lyme’. It would be greatly appreciated if you would sign this petition and make a change that would help thousands of people.

Support of any kind would help us immensely in our social action project, whether it is simply signing our petition or making a donation for our sponsored silence. Thank you.

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