The impact of COVID-19 on deaf people.
Deafness comes with its peaks and troughs. The elephant in the room which needs to be addressed and scrutinised is the issue of unemployment and underrepresentation.
11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing. Deaf people are more likely to have poor mental health - up to 50%, compared to 25% for the general population and deaf people are more likely to be unemployed - 65% of working age deaf people are in employment, compared to 79% of the general population (gov.uk).
Whilst deaf people work in a wide range of jobs, they do face barriers to employment particularly if employers do not make reasonable adjustments or deaf people don’t have access to communication support (NDCS). For me, a university graduate with moderate/severe hearing loss, finding paid employment has proved difficult as I am somewhat limited to what jobs I can do. The jobs I do apply for (45 in the last 9 months), I usually don't make it through to interview stage, despite being eligible for the guaranteed interview scheme and ticking all the criteria boxes. I am not alone in this. There are numerous cases across the nation echoing my experiences, such as a woman applies for 1,000 jobs in 18 months - and is rejected from them ALL (https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/deaf-woman-applies-1000-jobs-13985129).
"if they were employed they were more likely to be working in the informal sector, self-employed and in low-wage work (UNDESA, 2019). Women with disabilities commonly experience double discrimination, and are more likely than men with disabilities to be unemployed and live in poverty" (UNDESA, 2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gaps in communication access, resulting in poorer mental health and increased barriers. It is concerning what this economic crisis will mean for deaf young people leaving education like I did in the summer of 2020. Now, D/deaf people are up against a double barrier - a lack of jobs as well as the discrimination we have always faced.
"People with disabilities will experience the same financial and economic impacts of the pandemic as people without disabilities, but they are at risk of experiencing more severe and long-term impacts due to the exacerbation of their pre-existing socio-economic exclusion"- DFID Growth and Resilience Team
This pressing issue needs to be addressed properly in parliament and there needs to be opportunity for proper representation and discussion, taking the opportunity to really think about the support deaf young people need to move from education to work and implement a better support system moving forward.
People with disabilities are more than capable of exceeding expectations, if only society would break down existing barriers and give us the opportunity to showcase what we have to offer.