The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has launched its manifesto ahead of the Senedd election, and called on the next Welsh Government to tackle the inequalities faced by people who are deaf or have hearing loss - inequalities which have been laid bare by the pandemic.

The manifesto sets out a number of deliverables it says are needed frompolicy makers over three key areas: employment, health and social care, and improved access to services.

The changes asked for, include establishing a clear strategy to support those who are deaf or have hearing loss, gain employment, and ensuring equal access to everyday goods and services.

In Wales, 1 in 5 of the population – around 600,000 people – are deaf or have hearing loss, an average of more than 15,000 adults in each Senedd constituency, and more than 120,000 adults in each of the electoral regions.

With an ageing population, these figures are set to increase, with approximately 70% of people aged 70 or over having hearing loss.

RNID aims to make life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus by campaigning for an inclusive society, connecting people to practical advice and pioneering new treatments.

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RNID’s director in Wales, Karen Robson, said: “We are fully committed to working with and offering support and advice to the incoming new Welsh Government to enhance the lives of those who are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus and support the development of policies and strategies to give those people in our Welsh communities equal life chances and opportunities as their peers, throughout their lives.”

“Over the last 12 months, during the global pandemic, never before have the inequalities in society been highlighted so starkly across Wales for those are deaf or hearing loss.

“The mandatory wearing of face coverings has resulted in far too many feeling isolated and cut off from the outside world and life itself, as they rely on facial expressions and lipreading to communicate.

“The next Welsh government must put in place policies and commitments to ensure equal life and social opportunities for everyone in Wales.”

Among the top priorities for RNID is establishing a clear and accessible strategy to support those who are deaf or have hearing loss into work.

In Wales, 25 per cent of adults who are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus are currently unemployed, compared to the 4 per cent figure for the country as a whole.

The charity’s JobSense operation is one employment service that has already been set up - to help those affected find work or gain qualifications, or work experience, and has shown that people with a sensory loss can be successfully supported into work with appropriate pre-employment support from specialised advisors.

It's also hoped that promoting these schemes will raise greater awareness of the support available to employers and employees, and increase the number of employers creating inclusive workplaces for disabled people.

The manifestocalls for greater leadership from the Welsh Government in health and social care, ensuring that patients and service users have equal access to health and social care services, and get the support they need to communicate well when using them.

“When it comes to health and social care, we know that hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia, so we need to see leadership in this area,” Ms Robson said.

“We also need to see concerted commitments made to ensure those who are deaf, or have hearing loss or tinnitus, have equal access to everyday goods and services.

“Research tells us, for example, around 60% of people who are deaf, or have hearing loss, do not get all the information they need from their GPs because of the barriers they face. This needs to change.”