Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I'm Deaf, were you aware? It's Deaf Awareness week!

Once again Deaf Awareness week has been and gone (the last day was Yesterday) and this time around, for once, I was aware of it before the week had even begun. Previous years have seen awareness levels so high that I only found out it was Deaf Awareness week either on or after the last day of the week.

So what can be done to change this and increase awareness? After all, 1 in 10 people in the UK has some form of Hearing loss which means that a large portion of the population are, or should be should I say, aware of the issues and problems surrounding Hearing Loss and Deafness.

I for one feel that people could do well to remember that awareness should be for 52 weeks of the year rather than one week in May. Look at the Cancer charities, for example, in 2012, according to the stats released by the Charities Aid Foundation (see the links listed at the bottom of this post for more information), the combined Cancer charities raised a staggering £1,124,844,220, thats an incredible £1billion whereas the totals raised by the major charities for the Deaf raised a total of £232,728,202. 

With the sheer power and visibility of Cancer charity fundraising such as the Race for Life and other national events it is hardly a surprise that such huge amounts are raised. My issue is with the other stat that I am about to reveal. Charities for the Sight impaired raised, in 2012, £604,689,789 which is over 2 and a half times the amount raised by Deaf charities. Why is this? Why the huge difference in what are two very life changing disabilities. Do the charities for the Blind have better awareness or, is it a case of the charities for the Blind being that more in the public eye through the Guide Dogs for the Blind and the various Blue Peter appeals that have focussed on this particular charity?

Looking at the Top Tens for four charity sectors reveals some startling statistics. The combined totals of the charities in four sectors are as follows:
Top Ten Charities by Sector

When we look at the statistics for the top charity in each sector we can see just how much more effective the publicity and support the top Cancer charity has compared to the top Deaf Charity. Comparing the two graphs (above and below) we can see that one Cancer charity, raises more almost FIVE times the amount of funds that ALL the Deaf Charities raised combined in 2012 and FOURTEEN times the amount raised by the top Deaf charity.

Top Charity by Sector
Amazingly, as a nation, we put the welfare animals way above the quality of life needs of the Hearing imparied AND the Sight impaired. I love animals very much but I do think that people who face difficulties on a day to day basis could be given, at the very least, equal consideration to their needs compared with our furry friends.

Let's look a little more closely at the ratio of money donated and the number of people helped (in the direct sense for simplicity) stacks up. Let's start with the official figures provided by the top national charity in each sector. We'll ignore the Animals, Birds, the Bees and the cuteness mob as they do not directly affect people in the same way that Hearing Loss, Sight Loss or Cancer do.

  • "There are more than 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, or one in six of the population. More than 800,000 people in the UK are severely or profoundly deaf". (Source : Action on Hearing Loss)
  • "There are almost two million people in the UK living with sight loss. This figure includes around 360,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK, who have severe and irreversible sight loss." (Access Economics, 2009) (Source : Action for Blind People)
  • "331,487 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer in 2011". (Source : Cancer Research UK)

So how do these figures translate into portions of the population?

Firstly, let's look at the population as a whole. In the two graphs below we can see how the population of the UK is made up of our three charity sectors compared to the rest of the population.

We can see already that the Deaf and Hearing Loss portion of the population is a significant group in size whereas the Blind portion makes a sizeable dent the Cancer portion is barely discernable in the graph.... Almost the complete opposite of the funding proportions. Odd? Possibly? Wrong? I couldn't possibly say. 

The next pair of charts concentrate on our three funding sectors and exclude the rest of the population. (Sorry folks but you're not the focus of this article).

We can see here that the vast majority of the people affected by either Cancer, Sight Loss or Hearing Loss are those who are affected by Hearing Loss to some degree. Again this demonstrates the hugely skewed fund-raising efforts towards Cancer as opposed to Hearing Loss and likewise with the Sight Loss community.

At this point I should mention that Cancer covers a multitude of different areas, for example you have Lung Cancer, Bowel Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Skin Cancer, Oesophagal Cancer and many other equally distressing and painful conditions that require different solutions and of course separate (to a degree) funding for the widely diverse research requirements needed to battle each type of the disease. Additionally fundraising for Cancer is a very emotive subject for many people and for very obvious reasons. 

For this reason, I'll concentrate on the comparison between the Hard of Hearing and Sight Loss since, in fund-raising terms, these are more comparable although we will come back to the Cancer charities later to see what we can learn from their experiences.

As an interesting aside, a recent interview with the naturalist Chris Packham caught my eye and revealed a train of thought that may alarm some people but may also resonate with others. The interview transcript in the Daily Mail has quoted him as saying 'We need to stop chasing cures for cancer and things like that and start realising that the health of the planet goes beyond the health of human beings'. Interestingly contrary to his observations the funding for Animal related charities shown in the first graph are two-thirds of the total raised for Cancer... 

This however is not the whole story as the figure shown for Animals is only for the Top Ten Animal Charities (e.g. The RSPCA, The RSPB, PDSA, Cats Protection etc). If we use the Charities Aid Foundation's search tool and search for donations to charities, to April 2012, whose mission involves Animals we find that (excluding the Wellcome Institute which is included for some reason) the figure raised for Animal charities in 2012 reaches a hefty £1,373,526,329 or, put another way, £1.3billion which more than matches, and indeed exceeds, the charitable donations to Cancer charities (all Cancer charities raised a total of £1,039,532,508 in 2012) and exceeds by some considerable distance the donations to the Hearing Loss and Sight Loss charities. Note also that the £1.3bn figure does not include Conservation charities such as the various Wildlife Trusts and other similar organisations so the final total is even greater.

So what lessons can the Deaf charities learn from the all-conquering Cancer charities? Certainly successful fund-raising is about having a high profile and visibility in the public eye but more than that successful fund-raising is about gaining support, sympathy and understanding of the issues involved.

Web Links

Guardian Article on Charitable Giving
Top 1000 Charities by Donations 2010
Charities Aid Foundation  
Action on Hearing Loss : Formerly the RNID
Royal National Institute for Blind People : The RNIB
Cancer Research UK
Chris Packham Daily Mail Interview