Andy Palmer is from a largely Deaf family, and is a single father to his son William, who is also Deaf. Andy works for a hearing loss charity and also volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society, managing their website, PDDCS News (www.pddcs.co.uk). We spoke to Andy about his life as a father, his career (including flirting with a job in sports journalism) and volunteering on behalf of local Deaf children…
Tell us about growing up in a deaf family – what was that like?
It seemed normal to me. I didn’t see a difference or even look for differences to how I was bought up compared to my friends and their families. If anything I think it made our family unique and gave me skills like sign language that none of my fiends had. When I was only about 10, I remember going to teach the local Brownie group some sign language and people who were there still remind me of it and still remember the manual alphabet. I was never bullied because I had a deaf family and I even got my first job at 16 on the back of my experience contacting customers on behalf of my dad, who was a self-employed sign writer.
Did you think of yourself as a CODA – did you know what the term meant?
It was Facebook that taught me the term CODA. I genuinely never knew the term existed until I saw a Facebook group from America for CODA’s. I just see myself as the third child of my parents. Although I’d be up for joining a Facebook support group for people continually referred to as ‘the Baby of the Family’.
You were a sports journalist for a while – was that fun?
I really enjoyed that job. I got into it initially because of a friendly rivalry with the local newspaper editor who supported Rotherham United while they were in the same Division as my beloved Peterborough United. I used to send him a cheeky fax before the matches telling him how I saw it and eventually he offered me a column in the paper covering the team.
It was a dream come true for a teenage football nut as I had access to the press box and after match conferences at the football club I adored. One thing led to another and I landed a full time job covering news and sport which I really enjoyed doing but eventually I could take the editor’s ‘Gordon Ramsay’ style critiques of my work no longer. Looking back – I wonder what could have been if I wasn’t so sensitive and stuck it out.
One memory in particular that sticks out was when Swansea City (when they were rubbish) came to town. They were player-managed at the time by Liverpool Legend, Jan Molby. For the entire game he didn’t leave the centre circle (he was getting heavy by then) but showed his class by spraying passes all over the pitch with pin point accuracy. That didn’t help the Swans though and they lost and Molby knew he was getting sacked after the game.
Molby entered the post-match press conference (conducted in the tunnel) after the game in a crisp blue shirt and suit and gradually, following awkard question after awkward question from the Welsh press, was completely soaked in his own sweat; and I mean drenched. At the time I though it was due to the pressure of the situation but knowing how I much I sweat after a kickabout with the my son, I’ve changed my mind.
You now run an equipment shop for deaf people – how big is the team you run and what kind of equipment do you sell?
I work for a hearing loss charity and there are 11 people in my teams, 7 of whom work on the equipment side.
We sell a big range of products designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It ranges from alarm clocks, textphones, flashing alerts, tinnitus relaxers to hearing aid batteries. The catalogue and website have hundreds of separate items so its a lot to learn but I enjoy working with deaf people and helping solve people’s problems. I also manage the Information and Tinnitus Helplines. In all, my teams can deal with 10,000 enquiries per month.
Another interesting part of the job is moderating our forums. Its a small but growing community and we really hope that more people get involved in the conversations on there. Lots of topics are discussed from subtitling, benefits, access to hospitals, equipment and tinnitus. It’s a wide ranging job I do and I love it.
Tell us how you first got involved in working with young deaf people?
My son, William, is also deaf and when he was small, I was introduced to the local deaf children’s society in Peterborough. We went on some summer trips and I experienced the goodwill that is extended to parents of deaf children by other parents of deaf children. I went along to the AGM, took the role of secretary and have been involved more or less ever since. I was the chairman for a bit, took a break for a bit, secretary again and now look after the website and help organise different events and activities. It’s a very rewarding thing to be involved in and its an exciting time for us. Our membership is large, we’re an active society, we have a few brilliant projects on the go and the number of views on our site is approaching the tens of thousands every month.
Did running the website bring your days as a journalist back to you?
Absolutely. I enjoy writing and our website gives me an opportunity to do that regularly. TQ (her pen name) is the other writer for our site and has to be one of the hardest working people I know – always doing a million different things at once. She makes roadrunner look like a slowcoach. With that in mind, we tend to keep it brief on PDDCS News – in the end its something that has to be done in spare time along with housework and making nutella sandwiches.
I do miss the exclusives and the more in depth interviews I used to do when I was a journalist and I think there could be scope for some of that on our site but I haven’t figured out how to survive on anything less than 7 hours sleep so I’ll have to wait!
Check out the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society website here: www.pddcs.co.uk
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