Deaf Fathers Need Equal Access…

Written by Charlie Swinbourne, limpingchicken.com

Charlie Swinbourne is a freelance journalist and scriptwriter – often (but not always!) writing about the world he knows: he is partially deaf and grew up in a deaf family.

Image: David Castillo Dominici

There’s a bit of a departure from the usual column this week because I want to tell you about a friend of mine who recently got in touch to say he was going to be a dad.

I was so pleased for him – since I became a dad myself, I’ve become a bit of a softie about all things kid-related.

Now, I know what kids mean, the change they bring, the way that life’s made about a thousand times better (and more “knackering”) after they arrive. All of it. And soon, he’s going to know too.

I was all set to message him straight back asking when the due date was, whether they were going to find out the baby’s gender, and how his girlfriend was feeling, when I read to the bottom of his email, where it all got a lot more downbeat.

The reason? Their maternity unit was stalling on providing an interpreter at their 12 week scan.

My mate’s [friend’s] deaf, you see. But his girlfriend isn’t, and the unit was asking her to translate for him to save money.

He was gutted.

From his point of view, this was their first step on the road to becoming parents, and he was going to start off a step behind. They’d argued their case during several long phone calls using text relay, but it hadn’t made any difference at all.

He asked me whether I could help, so I gave them a hand with a letter to the maternity unit. We soon got the head midwife’s email address, and we set about trying to change their minds.

In the email, we referenced the Equality Act and argued that he should have an interpreter so that he would have equal access to what was said during the appointment – in the same way as any other father.

We wrote about the importance of a father being an equal part of the process – after all, he would be supporting the mother through the labor and beyond.

The other thing we wrote about – that worried him most of all – was what might happen if something was shown to be wrong in the scan.

I for one know people who’ve been told devastating news after 12 weeks. The more I thought about it, the angrier this made me.

If anything were to go wrong, his girlfriend would know before him. She would then be forced to break the news to him while feeling deeply shocked and upset, and he’d spend the time in between in limbo, wondering what was wrong.

It’s a horrible thought, isn’t it? We outlined that scenario in the email too, and sent it off.

It’d be nice to say that this email prompted them to change their minds, but as of writing this, he still hasn’t had a positive response.

Let’s hope he gets better news soon.

Update: One week later, an interpreter was booked for the scan. Cue relief for both parents, who can now go along to their 12 week scan with the same access to communication as anyone else. Phew.

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