We visited the Deaf Across Leeds Enablement Service (DALES) headquarters to meet the team and find out a little more from Julie Newsome, their Senior Team Leader, what services they offer and what it means to them to ‘get involved and get aware’ as part of the Deaf Awareness Week.
It’s Deaf Awareness Week and the theme this year is get involved and get aware, how can people in Leeds get involved and get aware Julie?
Hopefully by doing this blog with you today, we will make people more aware of the deaf services that are out there and how we can promote and support people with a hearing loss. Getting involved and becoming aware? Well, we do that on a daily basis working with customers who attend the service!
Getting involved for us, means opening up the barriers to communication that exist and being aware of what services we can offer to close the gap for deaf or hard of hearing people.
For example, making sure somebody can hear a caller at the door. We might provide them with an instant doorbell if that’s their need. It might be that they can’t hear somebody on the telephone so we would provide a telephone amplifier. This may sound like a small thing, but the impact can be quite huge. To hear a telephone means that perhaps they’re not sat at home in isolation waiting for visitors or family members to contact them.
Maybe they are sat at home with a television on really loud and it’s annoying the neighbours. All that is needed is a loop system that we can tune in to their hearing aid so they can hear the television at a volume that is appropriate and not annoying and possibly causing conflicts with neighbours. It really can be that simple – small changes that can make a big impact and all that’s needed is a chat with us.
When we talk about getting aware, what do you think that means? What do you think the key awareness points are?
If you come across a person with hearing loss, just not being afraid to establish some sort of communication is really, really important. If you can’t sign, there are so many ways and means of communicating.
Write something down or even draw a picture for example – you really don’t have to be a brilliant artist to get across what you mean. I draw all the time and the more you do it, the more everyday words in picture form actually look like what they’re supposed to! I still wouldn’t call myself an artist and don’t think Leeds Art Gallery will be commissioning me for any drawings any time soon (or ever!) but I am definitely getting better. Sometimes it can be quite fun too…
What other awareness points are there? Looking straight at the person, facing them and not turning away when you’re speaking can really help. Maybe that person is profoundly deaf and can read your lips, so speaking clearly and not shouting will help enormously and it’s really ok to keep repeating yourself if needed. Please don’t give up and don’t think it doesn’t matter, because it does.
Above all, it’s just not being afraid to initiate a converstaion – building the bridge of open communication.
What difference do you believe DALES make?
We make a massive difference to the quality of people’s lives on a daily basis and this is often measured by outcomes. It could be short term support – for example somebody coming to this service needing a door bell or telephone amplifier – we can provide the equipment on the same day.
It might be somebody that comes to the service in real hardship and we support them to access benefits – we might go with them to a One Stop Shop for example. It could be somebody that is coming and looking for employment and not knowing where to start, we would support that person and help with the job centre process. There’s so much we can do and if we can’t help directly, we almost always know where to point people so they get what they need.
We also make all the different agencies we come into contact with on a daily basis that a BSL Interpreter will be required if the person is profoundly deaf.
How many people in Leeds do you deal with?
Up to now, we’ve had nearly two thousand people come through the doors and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The actual statistics for Leeds in 2007 was 2415 people that were registered deaf and 8840 registered as hard of hearing. We know that numbers are increasing and, as numbers increase, so will the need for our services and support, something we’re all committed to doing here at DALES.
What do you think would happen if DALES did not exist?
There are so many people out there that don’t know where to turn when they acquire a hearing loss or if they have been born with a hearing loss. This does impact on an individual’s independence and their ability to have control over what and how they live. Not being aware of the services that are out there, the rights they have, that’s where we step in, to signpost what’s available and how to access these options, information, equipment etc. Without this, without the services we can offer, daily living can be so much harder when it really doesn’t have to be.
And I think that last part is really key, a really important message – it really doesn’t have to be hard. I think if you asked all the people of Leeds we’ve helped already, they’d support me in saying how with our support, how they wish they’d known about us sooner. Life would be have been so much easier – less stress, less frustrations, more hope, more opportunities. It just takes that first step.
What’s the best part of your job?
Having helped so many and seeing the change, the relief, even a transformation from sometimes just one visit, that’s what drives me and that’s what the best part of my job is.
As an enablement service, we support someone until they acquire the skills and confidence to make sure they can do what they need to do by themselves, independently. When you’re part of that change, when you can help someone get more skills, be more confident and be closer to where they want to be, that’s quite something and can be quite an extraordinary journey, one we take together.
I can think of so many examples. Seeing people coming to the service that may be bogged down with worries and debts and not knowing where to turn. Through the support from the staff at DALES, we can signpost people, for example to the Citizens Advice Bureau, or local charities that can support people that may be in debt. Sometimes they don’t know where to start though because communication can be such a barrier. Then seeing that person’s health improve through our intervention, seeing that person’s financial situation improve because we may have signposted them to employment, help them to secure work, that’s a great part of my role, of the team’s role.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I think it’s knowing that there are hundreds more people out there that don’t know that we are here and its’ getting the message across that we are and we can help. That’s one of the reasons why I’m talking to you today – to open as many doors as we can for people who need to walk through ours by just letting them know we’re here.
What would you like to achieve as an organisation for the next five years?
To continue giving a high quality service and to expand and provide more in areas that really are needed by our community.
Exploring more avenues of volunteers too, working with the service, so that we can go out to more people – people that may have small problems with their hearing aids or their equipment for example. Small support issues that often have such a big impact yet are often so easy to resolve.
Finally, and probably the most important goal for me, is expanding the befrienders and volunteer teams. This would help enormously with people who are out there on their own with very little support – isolation can’t be tackled by equipment alone. Sometimes we all need a real person to talk to, to know that we’re not on our own and the time commitment it takes to do that can be really small. And it can be great fun too! If anyone reading this is interested in joining us, please get in touch. We’d love to talk through the opportunities we have and how rewarding it can be. And, as most of our visitors know, you’re always guaranteed a warm welcome, tea or coffee and biscuits too if we have them!
Many thanks to Julie from DALES for sharing her thoughts and experiences for our Better Lives Blog. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing real life stories from people who have used the DALES service, and, in turn, now have a Better Life in Leeds.