In her engaging blog, Naomi, highlights that working as a #deaf advocate is never a barrier because good communication is everything.
Becoming deaf/deafened in my late teens made me realise very quickly that good communication is at the very core of everything we do, everything we are, and everything we become.
In learning British Sign Language, I learned so much more. It is a non-verbal language in its own right and not related to English whatsoever. It is not merely hand shapes and positions but an holistic language consisting of facial expression, body language and lip patterns. Emotional intelligence plays a role in good communication, it’s that instinct that tells you not what someone is saying but what they actually mean. It is also this basic instinct that provided me with the skill to adapt and survive in a hearing world. Other senses take over and you learn to tune in to them, develop them and use them to the utmost I use these abilities and skills not only for myself but for the benefit of others who have difficulty in communicating. Every person or child has the ability to communicate in their own way, the secret is to find the key. I work with an individual and slowly, patiently with time identify their style, I need to find that key. As a #deaf advocate working with both deaf and hearing people, I have a small team of sign language interpreters who work with me on a weekly basis and I am able to employ these by using the Access to Work Scheme which is funded by the government.
To ensure continuity with everyone involved in my working life, clients, colleagues and other professionals, I use only a select few interpreters who have worked with me for several years. This produces a comfortable, trusting working relationship for everyone. My interpreters need to know my job, terminology, abbreviations and the way I work almost as well as I do.
I have to be super organised, thinking of all the extra things I have to do which enables me to work. I can't just plan to go to a meeting like a hearing person would or pick up the phone without giving it a second thought. I have to prepare my interpreters right down to the last detail so the meeting will run as smoothly as possible. From meeting me at my visit location on the right date and time, providing them with every detail down to car parking, a background on the case, any risks involved, who will be there and so on. To ensure continuity and of course confidentiality, I will try and book each case meeting with the same interpreter for the duration of that case.
Sometimes I may need more than one Interpreter for the same event such as training or meeting which will last longer than 2 hours. I need them for office support particularly at the moment with the COVID-19 situation, they enable me to make and receive phone calls and have meetings online remotely.
It can be challenging and hard work but also brings a lot of positivity. I have had clients say to me “it is so nice having someone represent me who also has a disability” although I don’t really see my hearing loss as a disability but rather a challenge I need to overcome on a daily basis.
My work can be complex and emotionally challenging, I listen through a visual form so it can be really tiring. Working as an independent Care Act Advocate is immensely rewarding and I am grateful to my small team who enable me to work in the way I do. Interpreting is a difficult job that is often misunderstood, It isn't just tiring for me but for them too and it really is a two way relationship.
I have huge respect for the interpreters that work with me.
If you take away communication, everything is removed. By working with my clients, they are able to express their thoughts, wishes and feelings in whatever form of communication they choose.