Jewish Deaf Association
by Judith Morgan
Good evening, and thanks for inviting me to speak about the Jewish Deaf Association.
Some of you know me already, as my community, and yourselves, have strong links, also, I lived and was very much part, of your kehillah, for a while, albeit back in 1996
JDA has been in existence since 1951. Beginning life in Stamford Hill until moving to our current purpose-built premises, just up the road from your shul, in 1998.
Our Chaplain for many years, was your own emeritus Rev Michael Plaskow, with whom as it happens, I’m still in close contact.
So what is the JDA?
We are a charity supporting people with all levels of hearing loss. Originally set up to support the needs of Jewish deaf people, now, our services are much broader and open to everyone regardless of culture or religion, in Barnet and way beyond, even overseas at times.
Deaf and Deafblind people - mostly people who are born Deaf, and communicate using British Sign Language (BSL)
Deafened people – generally the result of illness, accident or severe noise exposure.
Hard of hearing people – mainly age related, sometimes from illness or due to medication
Those experiencing Tinnitus – something that can occur at any age- even children
Jewish families with deaf babies – with whom we often become involved soon after the initial shock of diagnosis and then offer onwards support.
We advise relatives, carers and professionals. Including other charities, medical personnel and Residential Care home staff.
We aim to:
Give access to information and services.
To enable full, active, safe and independent lives for deaf people.
To Reduce social exclusion, isolation and improve physical and mental health and wellbeing.
When Covid shut down our building we were not going to let that shut our services. Our older profoundly deaf members, who use BSL along with Lip reading for communication, relied upon us. Day Centre gatherings were obviously stopped. It was a confusing time for us all let alone if you were Deaf or deaf andblind. Lip reading with a mask on – impossible.
We started researching companies that produced masks with a clear lipreading panel- we tried many types & samples which either fogged, weren’t suitably Covid proof, weren’t comfortable, clear enough or too pricey.
We gave crucial feedback to various companies and ultimately you can now find a choice of good ones on our website. SHOW MASKS- --------
We helped a National campaign, started by a local Jewish teenager who wears hearing aids. She obtained over 45,000 signatures to alert the government that obligatory mask wearing in schools, for hard of hearing pupils, was discriminatory. The announcement, that from Monday, mask wearing has been rescinded, is a huge relief for Lip reading pupils.
You may have seen in the Press, about a client who is Deaf and blind and was taken to hospital with Covid. The medical team were unable to have any communication with him, however he handed them a note saying ‘Call JDA’. The hospital phoned and despite a multitude of NHS red tape and changing what was previously standard protocols, we managed to find an interpreter that, not only was able to use the ‘hands on’ deafblind language, but was willing to brave a Covid ward, in full PPE
It was crucial the patient was informed of his situation, and permission sought to ventilate him. Specialised braille equipment was taken to the hospital. Staff were trained how to use it, so explanations could be converted from speech to text and then, from text into braille. This was invaluable. Communication and treatment could continue. He has, Thank Goodness, made a full recovery. READ MORE on our newsletter which Karen will be sending to you later………
For those with more mild hearing difficulties – did you know, that most standard smartphones have apps, that can be downloaded and help in a similar way?–-Speech is automatically transcribed to text.
This is typical of the type of advice the Technology and Information Centre at JDA can give. We have a room full of equipment such as amplified telephones, alerting doorbells that have a flashing light or loud ringtone or a vibrating attachment, and amplified personal listening devices for meetings or TV.
In pre Covid times, 1 to 1 appointments meant you could visit, and try out devices to check which might best suit you.
When Covid stopped this, we continued to give advice by email, phone and videocall – and we’ve never been busier. People with Tinnitus, classically described as ‘noises in the ear’ are also given pointers to reassure them and Tinnitus Retraining therapy to help them cope.
JDA have continued to run 2 lipreading classes each week. My colleague taught each member of the class to use zoom, in those early days when we were all just becoming familiar with it. She proved that her students’ age was no barrier!
Likewise, for our Deaf members, they continue to get together regularly on zoom, have talks, health advice, quizzes and keep abreast of all Covid developments all in BSL. Support for these members even include having their challah and shopping bought and delivered by our volunteers.
Volunteers also help with our Hearing Aid Maintenance Service ‘HAMS’ as it’s known! Unbelievably, hearing aid repair and audiology clinics closed, so JDA initiated a ‘doorstep’ home visiting service. Having a functioning hearing aid is absolutely crucial for communication & wellbeing. Hospital audiology departments have been asking our small charity to help their patients. All of this - provided free of charge.
Care homes are another aspect of our work. We advise and train managers and staff on Deaf awareness & best practise in order to communicate with residents, and also on how to maintain their hearing aids. Incredibly there is no statutory organisation that does this.
Some members have no access to computer technology or a mobile phone – we maintain contact by - Fax! Yes, I still use my old machine regularly for this purpose. This proved absolutely invaluable when, at the start of total lockdown, an older, very independent member, was persuaded that NOW would be the time to purchase her 1st ever freezer……… you can’t imagine the numbers of faxes that were needed to explain how to use and set it up, and what can, and cannot be frozen!
I think I’ve really run out of time despite not mentioning Book Club, or even our DCafe which is a café run by Deaf volunteers for Deaf people. Currently on hold, we’re hoping to restart shortly using the garden of the hotel next door!
As you can imagine our small band of staff are always busy.
Roll on Covid free days so we can resume all activities as previously.
Please do contact us if we can help you or anyone you know in any way. Thanks for listening. And Chag Sameach in advance!