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Barriers to healthcare for people who are deaf in Wales

Deaf female patient visiting young male doctor

People with hearing disabilities in Wales face serious challenges in getting the health care information and services that they need, according to a recently published report

The report focused on individuals who are Deaf with a capital “D”. These are people who are culturally Deaf, were typically born deaf, and use a signed language, such as British Sign Language (BSL), as their first or preferred language. In contrast, deaf (lowercase “d”) refers to the audiological condition of deafness.

While the Deaf community is relatively small, they face substantial health inequalities with increased barriers to health information and health services.

The study, which included interviews conducted in both North and South Wales with Deaf participants, indicates that a number of factors contribute to this situation. These included a lack of consistently available British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and a general lack of understanding and awareness of sign languages and Deaf culture by healthcare providers and personnel.

Michelle Fowler-Powe, Access and Inclusion (Advocacy) Coordinator, for the British Deaf Association noted that BDA Cymru welcome this report.

She said: “the findings in the report tally with what we have found through our own surveys; in particular, the finding where members of the Deaf community are potentially at greater risk of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of chronic diseases. We very much hope that this report leads to a more detailed examination of how Deaf people’s health and wellbeing can be improved.”

The report was funded by Public Health Wales with research undertaken by Bangor University and the University of Graz in Austria to explore the barriers and enablers to staying healthy in Deaf communities and to identify potential actions for different professional groups.


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