Posted Friday 20 May 2016
Midwives, students and healthcare professionals have called for improvements in antenatal and childbirth services for deaf families, at an event organised by Kingston University and St George's, University of London.
The Deaf Nest Project conference was run by final-year midwifery student Paulina Ewa Sporek, founder of the Deaf Nest Project, and created an opportunity to discover more about the issues that affect the deaf community.
Attendees heard from deaf charity representatives, hearing and hard of hearing healthcare professionals, and deaf parents who shared their personal experiences of the barriers they have faced during pregnancy and post-natal care. One mother told her story of being left distressed, trying to lip-read her midwife as her husband received bad news about her pregnancy.
Event Chair, Dr Jacque Gerrard, Director of the Royal College of Midwifery, described ‘huge gaps' in equality of support to deaf parents or parents with deaf children. "From some of the stories that we've heard, health services say they don't have budgets for British Sign Language interpreters – but if there are budgets for interpreting in other languages, why aren't there budgets for interpretation for a deaf parent?"
Dr Gerrard went on to commend Ms Ewa Sporek for taking the initiative to create the project and tackle these issues: "It has taken the efforts of a student midwife to actually bring it to the attention of the maternity world – now we need to get the word across to politicians, policy makers and healthcare providers, so they also get the message and take it seriously."
The day provided a platform for practitioners to share good practice, exchange ideas and connect with national charities including Sense, and Deaf Parenting UK.
In keeping with the nature of the event, attendees were provided with ear plugs to use during their lunch break so they could experience what it may be like for someone with hearing difficulties when trying to communicate with others. British sign language interpreters were also present throughout the entire conference.
Paulina Ewa Sporek created the Deaf Nest Project with the goal of improving deaf peoples' personal experiences, equality of access and choice and control over maternity care. "It's great that healthcare professionals are becoming more aware of issues faced by deaf parents," she said. "I hope that in the future, deaf awareness will be offered to midwifery and nursing students as a part of their training programmes."
The Deaf Nest Project has been recognised by a number of governing bodies – it has been awarded the Royal College of Midwives Slimming Award for Public Health and a certificate of commendation by the Cavell Nurses' Trust.