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and I started to wonder -- how do the
wider deaf and hard-of-hearing (HOH)
communities cope with that in their life?
I didn't get the outcome I wanted from
my visit and left without the answer I was
after. In the end I asked a family friend
who is a retired doctor for advice!'
After graduating from university and
becoming Australia's only deaf and HOH
registered pharmacist, Maryan was often
approached by deaf and HOH people
with questions about their medicines and
health conditions and issues relating to
visits to their local doctor or pharmacist.
'Most of the Deaf and HOH people I know
are depressed,' she said.
'They feel that there is a barrier
between them and their health-care
professionals. I thought -- what if
there was a website that could
cover information such as
consumer medicine information
and health conditions on videos?
A website with a blog in English
with news, updates, recalls, tips,
an open forum where they can
ask questions that I can answer
by private email, and Facebook
or Twitter? All in Auslan (Australian
Sign Language)?' she said.
And so, Butterfly Pharmacy (www.
butterflypharmacy.com.au) was born.
Butterfly was chosen as the name
because butterflies are deaf and are a
popular symbol of deaf people. It is a free
health information website dedicated
to Bridging the gap in health for Deaf and
Hard of Hearing -- its mission statement
-- and is for people whose first or
preferred language is Auslan, or are fluent
'I have had more than 200 views on
Butterfly Pharmacy YouTube channel
videos so I'm sure a lot of deaf people
are using the site. The feedback I have
received is positive and they found it
helpful and beneficial,' she said.
Ms Raffaello approached many
pharmaceutical companies seeking
sponsorship and Aspen now supports the
Butterfly Pharmacy website.
'I must thank them so much for their
sponsorship and continuing support.
They provided me with access to
their IT team to design the website,
they provide the website, their time to
help me keep it maintained,' she said.
'The videos I make are in a
comprehensive, easy to understand
format and are done in my spare time
free of charge to subscribers via a
What can pharmacists do?
Ms Raffaello suggests that pharmacists
keep the following in mind when dealing
with deaf or HOH people.
• Be patient and allow time to sit down
with them and find out if they can lip
read, hear a bit or prefer to sign.
• If they can't lip read/hear get a piece
of paper and write out if it is ok to
communicate with them by writing
on paper. If they are ok then go ahead
and counsel/communicate by writing
strong as Auslan, then you or your
deaf patient can contact NABS (the
National Auslan Interpreter Booking
and Payment Service: www.nabs.org.
au) to arrange a time for an Auslan
interpreter to come into the pharmacy
at a time convenient to you and your
deaf patient. If NABS is unable to
book an interpreter to come into the
pharmacy, Video Remote Interpreting
(VRI), a communication service to allow
people who are deaf to communicate
with you via Skype using webcam.
The pharmacy will need a private room,
What is Auslan?
Auslan has its own distinct
grammatical structure. This structure
is seen (visual) rather than heard
This example shows the difference:
'I saw a beautiful black cat this
morning,' (English sentence
'Black cat beautiful this morning
I saw,' or 'Cat black I saw this
morning beautiful,' (Auslan
They also can't hear but few of them
can lip-read well when wearing
hearing aids or have cochlear implants
if it is successful for them.
According to the WFD (World
Federation of the Deaf ), 80% of the
70 million deaf people in the world
don't get an education and only
1-2% get education in deaf schools.
So worldwide, the majority of deaf are
illiterate or semi-literate.
'As a pharmacy
student I experienced
my local pharmacist
because of his
a computer/iPad with an internet
connection that supports Skype and
a Skype program, microphone and
speakers. NABS will contact the practice
for their Skype address details prior to
the appointment date. (email NABS:
(NABS is funded by the Australian
Government to provide interpreters free
to deaf people for private health-care
appointments (and public for Aboriginal
& Torres Strait Islander people). NABS is
also for deaf-blind people.)
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