The deaf YouTuber shares what we can do to better support those with hearing difficulties
Since Rose Ayling-Ellis took the crown on Strictly last year, interest in learning sign language has shot up, with the British Sign Language (BSL) Courses website seeing a 2,844% increase in people signing up for its training programmes. There are around 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK, so this tide of change is something YouTuber and influencer Jazzy Whipps is championing. Born profoundly deaf in both ears, Jazzy wants to help make sign language more accessible to everyone. To mark Deaf Awareness Week (2-8 May), Jazzy tells us the changes we can all make to be more deaf-inclusive in our daily lives.
Caption your content
Captioning is a big challenge for the deaf community – some films, TV shows and social media platforms don’t provide it, which is ‘frustrating as we don’t understand what’s going on’, says Jazzy. There are lots of tools you can use now, to make your social media more accessible. On Instagram stories, you can include subtitles and Jazzy recommends people add subtitles to their videos before uploading to social media.
‘You can also turn on an accessibility feature that will automatically add captions to your YouTube videos, and TikTok introduced auto-captions last year,’ says Jazzy. ‘It only takes a couple of minutes, but means deaf people can enjoy your online content the same way as hearing people do.’
Learn basic signs
‘My first language is BSL; I use it every day to communicate with family, friends, colleagues and anyone who knows it,’ says Jazzy. It’s a struggle for the deaf community when hearing people don’t know sign language, Jazzy tells us, as they face many communication barriers, such as finding and keeping a job, doctor appointments etc. ‘Learning even basic signs, like “Hello”, “Thank you” and “How are you?” can make a big difference,’ says Jazzy, who suggests looking for a course for beginners that is taught by deaf tutors.
Five BSL signs to try
As Jazzy says, learning even a few simple signs can make a big difference to the deaf community. Here’s some to get you started...
Be an ally
Support the BSL Act Now campaign. The private members’ bill, introduced by Rosie Cooper MP, asks for BSL to become an official language of the UK. ‘This would provide legal recognition and be a step towards equality and accessibility for deaf people,’ says Jazzy. ‘Raise awareness by sharing, and joining in, on social media using the hashtags #BSLBill and #BSLActNow. It’s also great when hearing people share deaf people’s social content.’
‘One of my favourite quotes is: “Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do – except hear.” For me, it’s accurate, because some hearing people pity deaf people, which upsets the deaf community,’ says Jazzy. ‘We don’t want to be seen this way, we want to be seen as equal.’ Searching for jobs has been one of the biggest challenges for Jazzy, who struggled to find a job for two years. ‘Companies were put off once I told them I was deaf – they didn’t give me a chance.’ But she still loves doing everything else a 22-year-old enjoys – hanging with friends, going to clubs and festivals (‘I love to feel the vibration of the music!’). ‘So, embrace deaf people – the only thing we can’t do is hear, that’s it,’ says Jazzy.