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Celebrating World Hearing Day means breaking down barriers  

OPSEU Disability Rights Caucus, Caucus des personnes handicapees du SEFPO

March 3 marks World Hearing Day – an important time to raise awareness about deafness and hearing loss and to promote hearing care across the world. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is celebrating the theme of Hearing Care for All: screen, rehabilitate, communicate.

As part of the celebration, the WHO is calling on policy makers around the world to invest in cost effective interventions that benefit people with hearing loss and to integrate ear and hearing care into national health plans for universal coverage – a move that OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says is long overdue in Canada.

“Good hearing is part of good health,” said Thomas. “It’s high time that ear and hearing care – along with dental and Pharmacare – is included in our universal health care package.”

“Our federal and provincial governments must focus on removing barriers to good health,” said Thomas. “As one of the richest countries on Earth, we can do a lot better.”

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida calls this year’s World Hearing Day particularly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the deaf community.

“We’re all striving to keep ourselves and our communities safe and healthy by wearing masks,” said Almeida. “But masks also create communication barriers at an already difficult and challenging time for those who are hard of hearing or deaf.”

“Facial expression is a crucial part of ASL,” said Almeida. “My heart goes out to people with hearing loss, who must deal with this added barrier due to the pandemic.”

The ability to communicate is important at every stage of life. World Hearing Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the barriers that exist and commit ourselves to working hard to break those barriers down – today and every day.

“Communicating with those who are deaf or are living with hearing loss need not be difficult. Some helpful tips to ensure that the interaction is respectful include: Face the person directly and where possible, remain at eye level. Speak clearly and remember that there is no need to shout. Keep your face visible as this gives the person a chance to see your whole face,” said Gillian Axten, Co-Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Disability Rights Caucus (DRC).

“World Hearing Day is about recognizing that we all have a part to play in ensuring that everyone is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of any disability they may be living with.”