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Opening ears to deaf access

Hearing people sometimes don’t realise what’s needed to support deaf and hard-of-hearing people. There have been many times when I’ve received poor service or been met with downright rudeness because of lack of understanding on how to cater for deaf individuals.

Twice I’ve stayed at hotels when the fire alarm has sounded. Due to my lack of hearing I didn’t know anything was wrong until I met firemen asking why I’d not evacuated the building. The hotels hadn’t made a record that there was a deaf person staying on the premises so the fire service didn’t know about me and there weren’t any visual indicators that the alarms were going off. This could have been potentially dangerous had there actually been a fire.  

Ultimately I want to help raise public awareness of issues affecting deaf people and see if I can create a more inclusive environment.

Thankfully my disability hasn’t affected my business thus far, though I’ve had occasional difficulties in making people understand the significance of some of the technology available to help deaf people, such as Text Relay, Text Phone, Sign­Video and SmartCaptions.

The problems I experience tend to centre more around the way the deaf community is treated by the general public. Because we don’t look physically different, people often assume there’s nothing wrong with us and this can lead to poor treatment. I hope my business can be a catalyst for change.

I’d like to work with Tourism for All, a charity supporting disabled access in the tourism sector, after discovering that only 67 of their accommodation sites across the UK cater for deaf visitors. I’d also like to work with Disabled Go, a firm that produces online access guides for disabled people, to help increase the number of deaf-friendly venues on their books.

My advice to other would-be entrepreneurs would be to ensure they have the necessary business acumen and skills before making the leap. There are plenty of good management courses that teach these fundamentals, and distance learning means that further study is accessible to those who may find it difficult to attend traditional classes due to a physical disability.

For me the turning point was realising I could gain a recognised qualification with Home Learning College from the comfort of my own home. This let me access all the tutorial support I needed by email, and become part of the wider student community via the college’s online learning platform.

• See supportthedeafpeople.co.uk

RUTHY FLETCHER: CAREER PATH

• 1979: Left Thomasson Memorial School for the Deaf in Bolton and went to Horwich College of Further Education.
• 1980-2001: Worked for a number of companies as a typist and administrator, and doing data entry.
• 2001-10: Peninsula Business Services, word processor operator/copy typist.
• 2010-11 Home Learning College studying business management.

Disability Now website 07/09/2011

www.disabilitynow.org.uk/

 

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Disabilities Fife
New Volunteer House
16 East Fergus Place
KIRKCALDY, Fife 
KY1 1XT

Scottish Charity No: SC 026112