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All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness

Home - Membership - Meetings - Deafness in Parliament - Background - Contact - Early Day Motions


The All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness held its inaugural meeting on 15th June 2004.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness recognises the social model of deafness and covers the full spectrum of deafness including deaf people, deafened people, hard of hearing people, deafblind people, those experiencing Tinnitus and the sign language community.

The Objectives of the Group are the:

  • Establishment of comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for deaf people
  • Removal of barriers in policy, laws and practice to deaf people's equality and participation
  • Establishment of appropriate services for deaf people, based on the concept of civil rights and equality
  • Creation of opportunities for deaf people to participate in all aspects of life and to exercise their civic responsibilities, as well as their civil rights

The Activities of the Group are to:

  • Influence policy, across Government Departments, that has an impact on deaf people, their families and carers
  • Represent the interests of deaf people to both Houses of Parliament through meetings and correspondence with Ministers and key officials
  • Inform the Members of the Group and the wider membership of both Houses of Parliament about the issues that are relevant to deaf people
  • Meet regularly with organisations of and for deaf people to hear at first hand the issues and policies of concern to them
  • Provide, for deaf people, the opportunity to have direct contact with Members of both Houses of Parliament
  • Monitor all new legislation to ensure that it is not against the interests of deaf people
  • Support change to existing legislation that discriminates against deaf people
  • Support increased access for deaf people as Members, staff and visiting public to the premises, processes and facilities of both Houses of Parliament

Some facts and figures about deafness

There are estimated to be about 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. The number is rising as the number of people over 60 increases.

450,000 people cannot use a voice telephone, even with equipment to make it louder. People who cannot use voice telephones might use textphones or videophones.

Over 1 million people are totally reliant on subtitles to enjoy television and the cinema.

Deaf children

In the UK, there are about 20,000 deaf children aged 0-15 years. About 12,000 of these were born deaf. Children who are born deaf or become deaf before they develop language are sometimes called 'prelingually' deaf. They have particular educational needs.

An estimated 840 deaf children are born in the UK every year. Vaccination means fewer babies are born deaf as a result of their mothers having German measles (rubella) during pregnancy. This drop has been offset by more babies being born deaf from other causes such as premature birth or lack of oxygen during birth. More babies survive with multiple disability than used to be the case.

Deafened people

The term 'deafened' describes people who were not prelingually deaf, but have become deaf after developing spoken language. This often happens suddenly as a result of trauma, infection or ototoxic drugs - drugs that can cause hearing loss.

There are an estimated 123,000 deafened people in the UK aged 16 and over. They often rely heavily on lipreading and written communication. They may require communication support, such as speech-to-text reporters, lipspeakers or notetakers, in meetings and other situations where lipreading is difficult.

Sign Language

Many people who are prelingually deaf use sign language to communicate. It is difficult to say how many people in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language - current estimates suggest between 50,000 and 70,000.

Many thousands of hearing people also use BSL, it is estimated that about 250,000 people regularly communicate in sign language. More people (Deaf and hearing) use BSL than speak Welsh or Gaelic.

Contrary to popular belief, sign language is not international. Wherever communities of Deaf people exist, sign languages develop. As with spoken languages, these vary from country to country. They are not based on the spoken language in the country of origin.

Deafblind People

Being deafblind does not necessarily mean that you are completely deaf and/or completely blind. Many deafblind people do have some useable sight or hearing and can benefit from information presented in an accessible format such as sign language, large print, Braille or tape. However, people with a combined visual and hearing loss will experience significant problems with communication, mobility and access to information.

Deafblindness can be congenital - caused by rubella, for example - or acquired. There are approximately 23,000 deafblind people in the UK. The majority of people with acquired deafblindness are elderly. Almost 50% of very elderly visually impaired people also have a significant hearing impairment.


Tinnitus is the name given to the condition of noises 'in the ears' and/or 'in the head' with no external source, described variously as ringing, whistling, buzzing and humming. Tinnitus is not a disease or an illness, it is a symptom generated within a person's own auditory pathways. The precise cause of tinnitus is still not fully understood but is usually associated with some types of deafness. Mild tinnitus is common - about 10 per cent of the population have it all the time and, in up to one per cent of adults, this may affect the quality of their life.

Home - Membership - Meetings - Deafness in Parliament - Background - Contact - Early Day Motions

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