I have and will always struggle with hearing loss. When I was in my childhood, I was diagnosed with Glue Ear which means there is a blockage in my ears. I rely on lip reading and body language or the bog-standard ‘Pardon, can you please repeat what you have said?’. Sadly, it appears the Government consistently appears to be reducing funding available for deaf people.
A recent study found deaf children are falling behind their hearing classmates due to funding cuts. Unfortunately, only 40 per cent of deaf students achieved two A-Levels compared with 65 per cent of hearing students. The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) attributes this attainment gap to ‘year on year cuts’. The attainment gap shows deaf students are not receiving the support they need, which makes vital difference to deaf children.
Only earlier this year, the NDCS confirmed that 45 local authorities in England are cutting specialist education support for deaf children. This would result in £4m being cut with each local authority losing 10 per cent. Accessibility and social inequality for deaf students is largely part of the problem with only 9 per cent of deaf students attending a Russell Group university. The paradox between hearing and deaf students is fundamentally unfair because deaf students can achieve the same as hearing children with support.
Deaf students are not asking for any special treatment and they have never done so, they are simply asking for the support they need to achieve. Surely denying deaf children support is not allowing children to fulfil their shot at their education.
Speaking from personal experience, some people believe that deafness is a learning disability. I was once in a nightclub and some guy tried talking to me. I could not hear him and they then made a daring comment that I am stupid for not being able to hear. Deafness is not a learning disability and with support, deaf children can achieve just like hearing children.
There are many reasons for the cuts to deaf support, including misunderstanding the level of support children need. The Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group on Deafness, said the cuts should “shame us all. The incredible potential of deaf children is being extinguished because the system that supports them is being completely undermined.”
Personally, I had no support at university. I did complete a form to say I have hearing loss and would like to find out about receiving further support. For some reason, I only received an email in my final year of university to ask whether I did want to find out about the support that was on offer. I have always wondered whether any additional support would have improved my grades but in hindsight, I should be proud that I completed a Law Degree at The University of York.
Since it is the start of the academic year, it is time voices of deaf children are finally heard. It is time the Government starts providing deaf children with the support they need and it is time the Government seeks to educate itself on the barriers facing deaf people.