Deaf Life29th December 2013

Deaf Man fails to get the support he needs following accident

When deaf people are involved in a car crash, we expect more from our emergency services in respect of help and understanding

by Sarah Lawrence

There are times in our lives when through no fault of our own we need people's help. If you are deaf, you hope the people with a responsibility to help you are professional and caring enough to do all they can, even if that takes a little more time and effort in the communication department.

Sadly, for deaf people throughout the UK, there are many examples of when they have been let down by our public services. Even more disappointing is the fact that a lack of knowledge and awareness of a deaf person's needs or the inability to communicate has been central to the poor service provided.

One such example took place on Friday 27th December when a deaf man, Andrew Jordan and his family were involved in a car crash close to Belvedere, Bexley. Struck by another car being driven by a drunk driver, Andrew's wife received head and facial injuries in the crash, but thankfully neither of his toddlers suffered any harm. The car was struck with force on the front offside, despite Andrew taking evasive action which limited the impact.

Police, Fire and Ambulance attended the crash site with none of the emergency responders able to communicate with Andrew and his wife who is also deaf. The driver of the offending car was found to be under the influence of alcohol and was promptly arrested. Fortunately, as Andrew was not badly hurt he was able to communicate with them by writing things down and then relaying what was said in sign language to his wife.

Thinking ahead and knowing what difficulties can arise, Andrew asked the paramedics to contact the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, London so that they could make arrangements to get a BSL interpreter to the hospital as that was where his wife was being taken.

Despite Andrew being deaf, having a wife that needed hospital treatment and needing to look after his toddlers, Andrew was told by a Metropolitan police woman at the scene of the accident that he had to make his own arrangements to get his car towed away. There was no consideration about how he might arrange that or offer to help in making those arrangements. It appears from the police woman's perspective that this was Andrew's problem and something she was not prepared to help him with, despite the obvious difficulties Andrew would have in making contact and despite the historic police role of being there to help people.

Police practices vary area by area but we do expect more from our police officers in situations like this. With ready access to recovery services, we don't understand why the police woman did not ask Andrew if he wanted her to arrange pick up and to be more helpful. As this would be a standard police response, we can only assume that Andrew received a lesser service because he was deaf.

Fortunately, unable to telephone for help, Andrew was able to text his brother and parents in Yorkshire to ask them to make arrangements to get his car towed for him.

When they arrived at the hospital, and despite the paramedics making the call, an interpreter had not been arranged and no-one seemed to know what to do to get one. Wholly unacceptable, Andrew's priority was for him and his wife to be able to communicate with medical staff, so he had to contact a hearing friend to come to the hospital to help them communicate effectively with the medical staff. Fortunately for the friend, they did not have to stay at the hospital very long before they could all go home.

Andrew was given a piece of paper by the police woman with her name on it, but sadly there was no text number or email address which would have been far more useful and would have shown some knowledge of his communication needs.

Being involved in any car accident is a stressful and worrying ordeal, but with his wife injured and still needing to look after his children, this is another example of a case when the emergency services seem ill equipped to deal with deaf people effectively. The police and hospital staff seem insensitive to their needs and incapable of adapting their services appropriately. It simply isn't good enough!

If you enjoy the SLFirst Magazine and want to be notified when new articles are published, like us on facebook

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

29th December 2013