Deafax believes that all deaf and hard-of-hearing people should receive adequate sexual health education in schools, alongside a service that is equally accessible at sexual health clinics, and whilst being treated by midwives and doctors.

We are always looking at current education and healthcare provision and seeking to bridge gaps. This is why we spent three years asking young deaf people what they knew about sexual health. Socks, crisp packets and cling film were all cited as alternatives to condoms! Most of this misinformation was due to barriers in communication. After examining research findings, Deafax found that the essential requirement for sex education for deaf learners is that it must be delivered in a style that matches their needs.

Yet our research reveals that deaf young people are not leaving school with sufficient knowledge of sexual health.

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Deafax is a core member of the Sex Education Forum


Deafax believes that…
  • Young deaf and hard of hearing people are not being given adequate sexual health education in schools due to a lack of access to information.
  • Sexual health clinics are not geared up appropriately to cater for deaf clients.
  • Midwives and doctors generally lack awareness of deafness and the importance of interpreters; therefore do not provide a service that is equal to that which other service users receive.
We will aim to…
  • Encourage healthcare organisations to cater for their deaf clients as equally as their hearing clients; providing guidelines and training to staff where necessary.
  • Encourage teaching staff at schools with deaf students to take specialised deaf awareness training that assists in the delivery of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education.
How will this improve the situation for deaf and hard of hearing people?
  • Young deaf people will be able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding their sexual health.
  • Prevalence of teenage pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) will reduce
  • Deaf women will receive adequate support during pregnancy and labour.
  • The healthcare and education systems will be in line with the Equality Act 2010 which stipulates that deaf people should receive the same access to care and support as hearing people.
Deafax will work towards achieving this through:
  • Launching a sexual health package for schools with deaf pupils.
  • Providing a British Sign Language (BSL) resource focussed on sexual health that will assist schools, healthcare professionals and interpreters when discussing sexual health or reproduction with a deaf person.
  • Releasing information on deafness and sexual health based on research by Deafax.
  • Encouraging schools, health care clinics and midwives to take deaf awareness training.

Campaign Findings

Click to download Research findings on how accessible sexual health services and sex education is for deaf people in the UK (PDF)

Download PDF

Deafness & Pregnancy Guide

This guide contains our research findings along with recommendations

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No Sign of Support

Understanding young deaf people’s sexual and reproductive health needs

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Case Studies

Our case studies tell the real life stories from midwives, deaf teenagers, deaf parents and our trainers who work directly with deaf young people, teachers and healthcare professionals

Each story is unique but highlights a national problem - sex education and sexual health and pregnancy services are not reaching deaf people in a way that allows them to make informed decisions and receive equal treatment.

All case studies are signed or spoken by a representative. The person who has provided the case study is anonymous

Case Study: Deaf Mother

A deaf parent shared their experience on learning about sexual activity. She stated her parents had not communicated anything related to sex to her and that they just let her get on with her life and experiences without any input. Her parents were from Africa. She wanted to make sure her own children were more aware, sexually safe and responsible.

She had explained to them about using condoms, she did not realise there were other options such as an implant, a patch, or the cap. Also, she was surprised to hear that you can still get infections even if you use a condom. The topic of ‘wet dreams’ was discussed - she had never heard about this and she has four boys. I asked if she had seen the bed wet? She replied, ‘the boys always bring the bedding for washing stating it is dirty’. It had never occurred to her that this could be because of ‘wet dreams’ as she had never heard of them.

Case Study: Tampons

A deaf Muslim teenage girl asked “will I get pregnant if I get a kiss?” and “am I pregnant because I have a period?”. She felt so worried and confused about why she had started her period. Her mother just told her to “wear the pads” and no further explanation was given. She felt anxious and needed a clear explanation on how you actually can or can’t get pregnant and what periods were.

Case Study: Sock

Whilst delivering an SRE workshop on the topic of condoms, a 14 years old deaf boy asked me a question as he was unsure whether it was true or not. His question was “can you use a sock?” He had been told this by his friends in the playground. Perhaps he had even seen a picture of a ‘condom’ and it looked like putting a sock on and he, therefore, assumed it could be true.

As trainers we would ask a student further questions like ‘would it be comfortable?’, ‘what would it feel like?’, ‘what would be the risks?’. We try to encourage the student to think through the question visually, so that it would become clear that if they did what they asked in the question the results might not be successful. At the end of this discussion another boy teased this boy asking him what size sock he would use and the group laughed together!

Case Study: Teenage Girl

I didn’t know anything about Sex, contraception or relationships when I left school, there was never anyone to ask who could explain properly to me in sign language. I didn’t know how many sexual partners were ‘normal’. When I left school and left home, I was raped by a man. Then I had lots of men coming to my flat and asking me for sex, I just thought that it was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t learn about Sexual Health until I was 18, when a deaf man explained it to me.

But during this time I had become pregnant. There were so many things that I didn’t know. There is lots of written information out there, but it isn’t accessible to me – it stressed me out trying to read it because of the jargon, and my literacy skills are not good, because of my deafness. I was lucky that eventually I was put in touch with a midwife who used sign language, and understood about the impact of deafness. I am told that there are hardly any midwives in the UK who have these skills.

It was awful that when the birth came my midwife couldn’t be there. I had someone else who I didn’t understand, and no one there could understand me. They gave me a caesarean and I was frightened. I still don’t know why I had a caesarean, but I was angry, I wanted a natural birth. I was very lucky that for some of my pregnancy I had a midwife with deaf awareness, but there was still so much that could have been improved.

Case Study: Midwife Interpreter 1

We don’t have a set system to deal with deaf mothers to be, we take the lead from their GP. One lady I had, relied on her sister for every appointment; we just managed. We try and use interpreters but it is difficult.

One lady had an interpreter during her birth but it was hard. I had no rapport with her as I couldn’t make eye contact; she was looking at her interpreter for every word and not me. All of the information was delayed too and came from the interpreter rather than directly from me. It had a big effect on how I normally interact.

Case Study: Midwife Interpreter 2

We don’t have a specific policy for deaf mothers to be, we just take each case as it comes. We have always relied on their family to interpret, but the patient doesn’t always want someone there, so we sometimes use lip-reading. When they want an interpreter, there isn’t always one available. We try and use written information when this happens.

We don’t have any community midwives that can use sign language. We had one deaf lady who was in labour; she was very distressed and had no interpreter. Normally, I would talk to her and soothe her, but she couldn’t understand me so we decided to give her an epidural.