65th edition of the International Week of Deaf People
During the last week of September, the International Week of Deaf People is celebrated all over the world. The initiative, promoted by the World Federation of the Deaf, includes activities and meetings to raise awareness about deafness, the sign language, the freedom to choose how to communicate and bilingualism. The aim is to advocate for the inclusion of deaf people in schools, work places and social spheres, as well as to demand equal rights and opportunities.
On 23 September, the United Nations General Assembly established the day to recognise and promote the more than 200 existing different sign languages and to protect cultural and linguistic diversity. Like spoken languages, sign languages are characterised by signs and ways of expressing themselves that are typical of the different geographical areas in which they are used.
Language should not be a barrier
Until very recently, deaf people had great difficulty in gaining access to non-manual professions. It was only in 1994 that subtitles were introduced in universities to ensure the same educational opportunities for all. “These people are perfectly capable of studying, choosing and carrying out the profession that best suits their personal inclinations,” explains Professor Stefania Vetrano, Humanitas University Delegate for Disability and DSA, “their barrier is language. In a truly inclusive society, the sign language should be introduced as part of the school training and there should be greater awareness of hearing disabilities’.
In many spheres – last but not least the health sector – little attention is still paid to the discomfort of deafness, which causes quite a few problems for those who experience this condition on a daily basis. They often find themselves having to be accompanied by a relative or a person acting as an interpreter. In the case of a doctor’s visit, the patient should feel free to talk about his or her condition without having to be accompanied,” continues the expert. “Or think about the difficulties that deaf people encounter during diagnostic examinations or stays in the ward: here, the staff may not be able to communicate because, for example, the hearing aid may have been removed or the interlocutor may be wearing a mask. Language should not be a barrier, especially when it comes to health’.
The conference, a time for discussion
In order to make a concrete contribution to raising awareness among citizens, students and all healthcare personnel, on 20 September Humanitas University organised, together with ENS (Ente Nazionale Sordi), the meeting “The complex relationship between healthcare and people with hearing disabilities“. The event was an excellent opportunity to discuss the issues of accessibility of deaf patients to the hospital environment. It is only through clear and comprehensive communication between doctors, nurses and patients that deaf people can be guaranteed equal access to healthcare.
“A very important meeting attended by more than 40 people, including doctors, health workers, engineers and students, together with several ENS members. In addition to raising awareness, it was possible to assess the current situation. Among the various topics discussed,’ Professor Vetrano continued, ‘I consider it particularly important to include a course on LIS (sign language) in the curriculum of healthcare degree courses, in order to facilitate the dialogue between professionals and patients.