Have you ever been on holiday to another country without learning even the most simple phrases?
I haven’t! I always make sure that I have picked up some of the basics; how to greet someone, and say goodbye and, of course, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’
But in hospital the other day I found that I didn’t have the language to even say “Hello” to someone.
Now this wasn’t someone from overseas, but was someone who was deaf.
It happened at our Equality and Diversity Day with a stall which Victoria from Deaf Direct was staffing, along with a deaf volunteer. I really wanted to go over and see them, and it was then I realised I didn’t even know how to say hello. And surprised myself even more with how anxious I felt about it. I didn’t want to appear rude, but then I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself or cause the person any embarrassment.
But I plucked up courage and went across anyway. When I got there the volunteer smiled and gave a wave- which I took to mean “Hello,” so I repeated the gesture.
After that Victoria used her skill of British Sign Language so that I could have a conversation. She described the frustration of turning up to a hospital appointment when the staff had not booked an interpreter or worse, a time in Accident and Emergency when she was asked if her 10 year old daughter could sign for her!
I didn’t need to know sign language to see the anger and humiliation that had caused.
I, to my shame, had no idea of the lived experience of a deaf person. As she spoke to me it was a “light bulb” moment.
Firstly, I was grateful to Victoria for the interpreting because without her I wouldn’t have been able to have a fantastic conversation. In fact, Deaf Direct provides essential interpreting services for deaf patients in hospital.
But, secondly, more than that, it was a challenge to me personally. I would never dream of going to France without brushing up on my vocabulary, but right here on my doorstep I had missed a trick. So thank you Deaf Direct! You have inspired me to take your course on British Sign Language. Think of what I’m missing out on without it!