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May 26, 2004

Centre's lifeline for the deaf

From: North Devon Gazette & Advertiser - Barnstaple,England,UK - May 26, 2004

By Tony Gussin

A SPECIAL roadshow laden with state-of-the-art technology to help deaf children and adults has rolled into Barnstaple.

The "Listening Bus" was paying a visit to the headquarters of the North Devon Deaf Children's Society to show both deaf people and their families the wide range of gadgets available to make their lives easier.

Specially adapted telephones and mobiles, videophones, vibrating alarm clocks and smoke detectors were all on display for visitors to try out – with the roadshow team on hand to offer advice or assistance.

The aim is to ensure that people with all degrees of hearing loss are able to lead a normal life, while raising awareness among the hearing community of the kind of obstacles deaf people face.

The Listening Bus tours nationwide and was a useful way to highlight the work of the centre in Charles Dart Crescent at Gorwell.

"Our job is to try to make sure that deaf children have the same opportunities in life as hearing ones," said Miriam Wakefield, who is advocacy support worker for the centre.

"People often don't realise how isolated and excluded deaf people can feel - the hearing world does not understand that unless we raise awareness. Even going into a shop can be very difficult for a deaf person."

The centre promotes awareness by running sign language courses and offering help and support to families with deaf youngsters.

"The aim is to include hearing children within the deaf community and open it up for them so that they can be included with their brothers and sisters," said Miriam.

The centre arranges various trips for children and families to go on, half-term activities such as arts and crafts or computer studies, plus visits from music and drama groups.

"We try to include other agencies in what we do, and have worked with North Devon College's Entry to Employment scheme, The Princes Trust, the Early Years Centre, the Wren Trust and Sure Start," said Miriam.

Families with deaf children or anyone who wants to find out more about the centre, or would like to help in any way, can call Miriam Wakefield on (01271) 326333.

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