Publish date: 4 May 2021

Deaf awareness project officer, Margaret Robertson tells us more about her role and the importance of understanding the needs of our D/deaf community this Deaf Awareness Week

As the trust’s deaf awareness project officer my role is to deliver D/deaf awareness training and support to colleagues in all roles with the aim of having a positive impact on the wellbeing of our D/deaf patients and staff.

The term Deaf is used to identify Deaf people whose first language is British Sign Language. When deaf is written with a lowercase ‘d’ this reflects people who may have different degrees of hearing loss but have English as their first language – some may have gone deaf as they have aged but still use English as their first language (i.e. they may lipread or use hearing aids). This is why when referring to both groups ‘D/deaf’ is used.

My main focus is to help staff have a better understanding of the needs of our D/deaf community. This has been a passion of mine ever since I had children – I am the very proud mum of twins, Sarah who is hearing and David who was born deaf. After receiving David’s diagnosis when he was just 18 months old I became very dedicated to promoting D/deaf awareness and my family and I also began learning British Sigh Language.

I began working for the trust eight years ago in our Learning and Development department and I have been working as the trust’s deaf awareness project support officer for the past three years. My role is a very unique one which was made possible through the support of our Bright Charity and I am very proud that we were the first NHS trust to provide a dedicated resource to enhancing the care of our D/deaf patients.

Being able to share my personal experience of the barriers that my family and I have had to overcome has really helped me to improve the knowledge and understanding of our staff about the different needs of our D/deaf patients. What I enjoy most about my job is being able to work with and meet so many different colleagues across the trust.

We are proud to be the first NHS trust to support Jo Milne and her charity CureUsher. Jo Milne is a local lady who has a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome which affects the vison, hearing and balance of more than 400,000 people worldwide. This year Northumbria Healthcare supported the very first national Usher Syndrome Awareness Day which was held on 2 March. This day is significant as it is in honour of Charles Usher, a Scottish Ophthalmologist who discovered the condition, and Jo’s charity was set up with the aim of helping to find a cure for people that have this condition.

Covid-19 has presented additional challenges for our D/deaf community as face masks can act as communication barriers, particularly for those who rely on lipreading. However, the trust is working hard to try and find a solution that is safe for everyone.

What I will remember most about this year is how emotional it has been. My colleagues across the trust have been amazing, and the support that they have given, not only to patients and their families, but to each other has been a true testament to the trust and its values. I am so proud to be part of the Northumbria Healthcare family.

This year Deaf Awareness week is taking place from 3 – 9 May. The theme is ‘coming through it together’. If you’d like to get involved and find out more about how you can support D/deaf awareness visit