A NEW champion to look after the interests of deaf people in the Isle of Man has just started a two-year tenure.
Gareth Foulkes and his hearing dog Derfel are based for three weeks in every month with the Manx Deaf Society at its offices in Somerset Road, Douglas.
For the other week he will work from home in his native Anglesey.
Commenting on his role in the Isle of Man Mr Foulkes, who has been deaf from the age of three because of a genetic condition, said: ‘The primary aim is to ensure that deaf people’s life, health and liberty are not put at risk in the Isle of Man through lack of appropriate communication support. For example, sign language interpreters, of which there are none in the Isle of Man.’
Other services which can be provided include lip speakers/readers, note takers and speech to text transcription services.
‘The benefit of having services to hand is that a deaf person could go to the doctor and have full access to what the doctor is saying, otherwise they could come away not knowing what their diagnosis was or how to use their medication,’ he said.
‘We are not just talking about equality but about basics like patient safety or even access to justice.’
The post of champion for deaf people in the Isle of Man came about following recommendations from a study commissioned by the Manx Deaf Society in 2011.
Estimates put the number of deaf people in the Isle of Man at about 800; the number who are hard of hearing is one in six overall, but more among old people.
The first objective, in a few weeks’ time, will be to set up an assessment day to find out what people in the island want or need.
‘On that day I will be demonstrating working with sign language, stenography, lip speakers, using i-pads, i-phones and laptops. That will be the first step then we can look for solutions. I want to encourage as many people as possible to come to the day,’ Mr Foulkes said.
He has worked on the civil and human rights of deaf and disabled people, and for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Disability Rights Commission in Wales.
Julie Smith, Manx Deaf Society chairman, said: ‘Our challenge is now to increase awareness of the different types of interpreters and lipspeakers amongst deaf people and ensure resources are available.’
Mr Foulkes wants as many deaf people as possible to get involved with the assessment day. Anyone interested should email him at gareth.foulkes(at)deafway.co.uk, text him on 256025 or write to him care of the Manx Deaf Society, 3 Somerset Road, Douglas.