“We Need More Support for the Deafblinds’ families”

Frankie McLean - Deafblindness in Scotland

Deafblindness is a unique disability, effecting both sight and hearing. In the UK there are around 400,000 of deafblind people, according to Deafblind UK. This figure could increase up to 570,000 by 2030 due to the ever increasing average life-span of the population. Jordi Albacete and Guillem Lisarde interviewed Frankie McLean Social Care Manager of Deaf Action, a charity that has been offering services for 180 years for the deaf and the deafblind communities.


Guillem Lisarde and Jordi Albacete

Deafblind people need specific services designed to meet their needs, in order to overcome different barriers of communication, information and mobility. Deaf Action has been at work since 1835, trying to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from hearing impairment.

Advances in the integration of deafblind people into society has been enormous in the last  years, however there is still so much to be done to meet the basic needs (1) of this collective. For example, Frankie McLean, social care (2) manager of Deaf Action, believes that emotional therapeutic counselling for the families at the diagnosis stage is still lacking. Similarly, McLean criticises that deafblind communities, which are in great need of support, often become an easy target when welfare budgets are cut.

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Sign language and accessibility to public services for deaf and deafblind people have been two fields where recent legislation has made significant progress, since 2014. In April of that year, a legal framework was passed for sensorial impaired people, the See Hear Strategy,which is based on nine goals that pursue the counselling (3) for people with any sensorial impairment. Months later in the Scottish Parliament the British Sign Language Bill was passed, in order to make public services accessible in sign language.


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The new law is seen as a step forward by different entities such as Sense Scotland because it “gives responsibilities to public organisations to develop action plans for the communication of deaf and deafblind people”, according to Irene Suttie, Quality Assurance Manager from this organisation.This organisation is currently working in a project from the government that aims to raise awareness for local enterprises about the communication challenges faced by the deafblind people. They also offer them support and trainingto make their businesses more accesible. Frankie McLean thinks that both measures are in the right direction and they will help to promote independence,empower deafblind people and creating new opportunities for them.

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The specific needs and the level of isolation of these collectives are many times difficult to understand for those who do not suffer from them according to Frankie McLean “deafblind people are isolated from the world and still there is a long way to go”. Organisations such as Deaf Action, Sense Scotland or Deafblind Scotland, work to make the needs of the deafblind visible and guarantee that the needs of the deafblind are covered. This is a challenge that involves changes in legislation, regulation, social care strategies, and overall change of attitudes in the rest of society.

Use of English for Spanish Speakers

(1) Meet the needs (as opposed to solve the needs).

  • Definition: To fulfil needs.
  • Example: “[…] there is still so much to be done to meet the basic needs of this collective.” “queda mucho todavia por hacer para satisfacer las necesidades de este colectivo”.
  • Translation: satisfacer, resolver, cubrir necesidades.
  • Comment: The use of meet for Spanish speakers might be confusing when thinking of a translation for cumplir. ‘Meet’ is often used for abide to targets, criteria, needs, requirements, etc.

(2) Social care manager.

  • Definition: Individual responsible for coordinating the different social services within an institution.
  • Example: “ […] social care manager of Deaf Action” “coordinador de servicios de Deaf Action
  • Translation: asesor social/coordinador de servicios.
  • Comment: Some dictionaries translate social care manager as asesor. However, it’s important to note that in Spanish we need to put this term in context often referred to social services.

(3) Counselling.

  • Definition: advice.
  • Example: “[…] counselling and support for people […]” “asesoramiento y apoyo para las personas […]”
  • Translation: asesoramiento, terapia.
  • Comment: In the UK the use of counselling is widespread in advisory services.


Have worked in this article:

Author: Guillem Lisarde and Jordi Albacete (in Spanish).

Editors: Jordi Albacete, Amaia Garmendia, Jonattan Lozano.

Proof-reader: Poppy May Henderson.

Translation into English: Jordi Albacete.

Use of English for Spanish-speakers: Jordi Albacete.

Videos: Guillem Lisarde (filming and edition).









Autor: Jordi Albacete

I am an environmental journalist. My passion for the protection of human and environmental rights has been inspired by research led journalism. My ambition is to communicate and inspire people to make positive changes in the environment. Twitter @albacetejordi or Linkedin.

Periodista medioambiental. Mi pasión por la protección de los derechos humanos y medioambientales se ha forjado a través de la investigación periodística. Mi objetivo es comunicar e inspirar a la gente para hacer cambios positivos y proteger el medioambiente. Twitter @albacetejordi o Linkedin.

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