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Disability Pride Month in the Deaf Community with Deirdre Maguire

Image shows a photo of Deirdre Maguire
Deirdre Maguire

Can you please briefly introduce yourself:

Hi, my name is Deirdre, originally from Dublin, grew up in Scotland but the Black Country has been my home for over 10 years now (Aye bab!) I am a bookworm; I tend to know a lot of useless trivia which makes me very popular at quiz nights. I’m rarely seen without coffee or water.

Can you briefly explain your roles and work as Community Development Officer for Zebra Access?

I see myself as a bridge between the deaf community and the hearing professionals from the public and the third sector, also the local governments, medical services and many more. I listen to the deaf community and being deafblind myself I share their common experiences and can empathise with their frustrations which is something I advocate for change within the wider services and work with them alongside to ensure that change is happening.

What does Disability Pride Month mean to you?

To keep on being me 24/7 365 days a year (+1 every 4 years )

Can you explain how you consulted with the deaf community on We Are Walsall 2040 and what they fed back?

We held three in-person consultations to give people the opportunity to attend and to give their thoughts. Each question was translated from English into BSL which was recorded by a notetaker via voiceover from a BSL interpreter.

We also had an online survey as well with BSL and captions where people could reply in English or BSL if they wanted to.

The Deaf community generally felt they couldn’t comment on different services because they didn’t really have access to these current services so if they did have access to these services then they would be better equipped to provide comments/suggestions for 20 years’ time. Their main views were- better accessibility, more visibility of BSL being used, easier access using BSL everywhere, better education for the younger generations and a better future for everyone.

What can be done to make Walsall town centre more accessible to disabled people?

  • Learn basic signs like hello, good morning, how are you, alright?

  • Tap people on the shoulder if you need to get through, don’t yell or huff

  • Try to use basic gestures when talking e.g. drink sizes, it is easy to use hands to show small, medium or large or use props to show

  • Have paper/pen or notes on phone ready

  • Provide more visual notices - not only Deaf people will benefit from this!

  • Provide alternative methods of contact- landlines… they don’t really exist in the deaf people’s world!

Image show British Sign Language charts illustrated by Rhiane Winter for right-handed and left-handed fingerspelling
British Sign Language charts by Rhiane Winter

What can allies of the disabled and deaf communities do to support throughout Disability Pride Month and beyond?

If you have a big platform- give it to them to use! Don’t talk for them - don’t be that person- ‘Oo I have a friend’, you don’t have that lived experience. Always let them have their voice unless they say so. Remember no two deaf people are the same- they all have different experiences and some have extra disabilities, some don’t sign, some do, and some do both. There’s no perfect Deaf person even though I am pretty close to it.

Are there any other projects you would like to mention?

We just started a new outreach project for the hard of hearing, deafened and newly acquired hearing loss to get together to share their experiences and also there will be a lipreading class for people wanting to learn.

We also have our Black Country Health Living Project which is running until next spring, we will be doing a series of walks, workshops and trips. This is to encourage an active lifestyle as well as to learn more about their health too.

Is there anything else you would like to add that you didn’t get the chance to say?

We aren’t aliens; deafness isn’t a disease. We all are just like everyone else; we have our ups and downs. We like to watch soaps, play sports, read, go out, socialise, rock out at festivals and so on- we don’t live in a silent world (you haven’t heard my family at Christmas… not so silent!) the difference is that we have a communication barrier and haven’t been able to benefit from the opportunities most people get from hearing things but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

If you would like to contact me (or sign me up for a quiz team) -

Web: Facebook: @ZebraAccess Twitter: @ZebraAccess Instagram: @Zebra_Access


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