More than 4,000 people in Mallorca are living with hearing impairment, and this number doesn’t include young children and the senior community. Thanks to helpful organisations and new technology such as apps and websites, the simple things in life – like socialising or making a reservation in a restaurant – have become much more accessible to them.
ASPAS supports the deaf Community
As new apps keep popping up, the doors of communication open up to the hearing impaired, and just like everyone else, they frequently connect on social media. They are constantly updating statuses on Facebook, sharing pictures on Instagram, or texting friends via WhatsApp. “Online, I have no disadvantages because I can’t hear”, says Henry, one of the employees at the ASPAS café in Palma de Mallorca.
ASPAS is a private organisation, financed by public funding, and it is constantly working to raise awareness about the deaf community. The organisation has been active since 1977 and has been running a café in Palma de Mallorca since 2009. It provides education, courses, speech therapy and learning support, among many other things, and the café offers internships and regular jobs, employing people from the deaf community.
95% of people in the organisation use some form of oral communication. For many, tools such as hearing aids, sign language, cochlear implants and subtitles are very useful. Lip reading is another useful skill that some people develop.
ASPAS is actively working to get the government to facilitate more public support for the deaf community and to change the legislation to their advantage. As an example, they have developed a city guide app with subtitles together with the government.
Living with Hearing Impairment
“It is the small initiatives that are important”, says Maria Magdalena Vanrell, Technical Coordinator at ASPAS. “Imagine if the TV, theatre or cinema would have subtitles or loop systems. The latter offer the audience a chance to hear the soundtrack directly, without background noise”.
“Other places where the disadvantages of hearing impairments become evident, are in waiting rooms of hospitals and clinics. If you can’t hear, it becomes very hard to know when your name is being called out”, says Maria.
Members of the deaf community may hear at levels that range from profoundly deaf to slightly hard-of-hearing. There is a wide spectrum of different hearing levels and each person has a distinctive story.
“Everyone has to adapt to them, but they don’t have to adapt to us”, says Mateo Bosch, responsible for training and learning support. Every deaf person is unique, but there is one thing they all have in common: they want to be treated with respect. They all have families, friends, communities and lives that are just as fulfilling as anyone else’s.
“It’s not a visible disadvantage, which makes it more difficult for other people to know about it in advance and adjust to the situation. For example by talking louder, articulating more or using their body language”, says Mateo.
In the Balearics, all infants are tested for hearing impairments just days after their birth. The earlier it’s discovered, the earlier ASPAS can get involved with support and education. Other people become deaf later on in life. It can be due to trauma, or because their hearing abilities decrease over time.
With all the technology that exists today, a deaf person can manage daily life smoothly. They can study at university and integrate well with international companies. At the moment, there are about 250 people available for work in the ASPAS database. All of them with different education levels and operating in different industries.
Some companies adjust easily to people living with hearing impairment. Whereas others might need more guidance. This is why the organisation offers companies the opportunity to receive personal support until the daily activities run smoothly without any external help.
Text by Marie Andersson
Photos by Pernilla Danielsson