Continuing our series of presentations looking at different disabilities, requested by our members, at our open meeting on 30 July 2019, Brian spoke about deafness and about DEX and the work they do. DEX is an entirely deaf-led organisation that exists to raise awareness of the daily struggle that deaf children have in mainstream education. DEX uses the English dictionary definition of the word “deaf” to mean “wholly or partially without hearing” to apply to all children who have hearing loss. More about Brian and DEX
Presentation – Key Points
Brian Daltrey was born moderately deaf, became severely deaf aged 5 and is now profoundly deaf.
He went to boarding school as the only deaf child there, amongst 450 boys. DEX don’t think any child should be alone – you need to have deaf peers so you can get some idea of what you are capable of and about you deaf “identity”, both important for your wellbeing.
The organisation is deaf-led and they believe themselves to be the only organisation focusing on the improvement of the education of deaf children. When the organisation began 25 years ago, it was because the founders felt that the difference between the education of deaf people and other children was considerable.
They feel that the only difference between a deaf child and any other child is that they don’t get the same experience.
They believe in the post-Warnock report policy of including deaf children in mainstream schools, not special schools exclusively for deaf children. But, they emphasise that these children need extra support. Children need proper support.
DEX supports all deaf children, whatever the level of deafness.
Their fundamental role is to campaign for a national British Sign-Language/English bi-lingual framework, ensuring that all deaf children, regardless of hearing loss, have access to the curriculum at school. They also support multi-lingualism in British Sign-Language (BSL), Welsh, Urdu and English. Closely related to this, they also campaign for BSL to be part of the national curriculum up to GCSE level.
They also campaign for deaf children to be placed and educated with other deaf children.
They conducted a best-value review with Lottery funding, resulting in a handbook of deaf education. The British Deaf Association described it as the “bible of education of deaf children.” It included a framework for action which they continue to pursue.
Their research includes work with many groups, government organisations, voluntary sector organisations, plus children and parents. They also visit other countries to explore their education systems.
They feel deaf children don’t get the same information as their peers, which is why they don’t reach the same level of attainment.
Research into bi-lingualism, whatever the languages, has also been studied, with the benefits including greater cultural awareness, greater empathy, and greater problem-solving capabilities.
Research that conducted by the Welsh Language Board, into the promotion of Welsh in Wales has been particularly illuminating. They have successfully turned-round a language which was declining in use, but which is now growing again and DEX have identified this as an excellent model of how BSL use might be expanded.
DEX’s campaigning has occurred at all levels from local authority to prime-ministerial level.
They want a BSL act of parliament to be passed, making the promotion of the language a higher priority. Politicians had argued that the equality act would achieve the same thing, but in reality it only protect the right to have access to BSL, rather than actually promoting its use.
The DEX Deaf Youth Council was set up a few years ago. They are self-governing. Most are in late school years, and higher education. They do a lot of educational activities, visits to interesting places (including parliament and the High Court), wellbeing activities. They have also written and produced plays on the subject of deafness.
There are about 50,000 deaf children in the UK, 12% profoundly deaf. Of them, only 21% are bi-lingual. It highlights the need to extend the use of BSL.
Recent research has revealed that c. 78% of school aged deaf children attend mainstream schools, where there is no additional support available for them; 6% attend mainstream schools where there is some resource to support them; 3% attend special schools for deaf children; 12% attend special schools where there is additional support, but not exclusively for deaf children. Additionally, around 7% of deaf children have a cochlea-implants.
They are now hoping to submit a private members’ bill to get the BSL act into parliament. But this is currently difficult with Brexit effectively overshadowing all other work.
BSL has had its successes and was finally recognised, some 15 years ago, as the fourth language of the UK after extensive campaigning, which involved DEX and other deaf groups.