Meet Bethany Eason: she’s 15 years old and yesterday she appeared on Channel 4 News to tell the world in no uncertain terms why they should listen to the views of deaf young people, and how their lives will be changed when DLA for over 16s becomes PIP. The Limping Chicken’s Contributing Editor Ni Gallant caught up with her to ask about her busy life campaigning for the NDCS as well as doing her GCSEs.
Hello Bethany! Could you tell the Limping Chicken a bit about yourself?
Hello my name is Bethany, I am 15 years old and I am profoundly deaf in both ears, I wear a cochlear implant on the right side and without it I wouldn’t be able to hear anything at all, even an aeroplane taking off. I go to a mainstream school which only has two deaf students, me and a younger boy.
It was very weird when I moved to my second school as I was bullied in my first and found it very hard to cope in the situations that I had then because nobody was deaf aware! When I moved to my second as there was a deaf boy already there staff knew what it was like for James in a classroom, so I felt comfortable to “fit in”.
I got scared at the beginning as I didn’t know what people would say if they saw my implant, so I hid it by wearing my hair down for months! Then one day I had it up and I got the loveliest comments from people, they were ever so supportive and appreciated that they had to use tips from me so that I could communicate with them! Every now and again I get a snide comment but I’m a passionate and strong minded person and they just get that side of me when I explain about my deafness.
You always seem like a very busy person! What do you get up to in your spare time?
I have quite a few things going on in my life at the moment. I do lots of voluntary work with the NDCS as I am on the Youth Advisory Board campaigning for deaf young people. I do ballet and have been doing it for 13 years. I have ballet since I was 3 years old. My ballet teacher has supported me right the way through it and has been there, she has made sure I can hear her and has made sure she’s always in front of me and not behind, and has been very understanding…better than others I have to say! I have been doing British Sign Language since October 2012. I am also a First Aider with St. John’s Ambulance.
That’s a good mix of deaf and mainstream events, what made you want to start learning to sign?
As I joined the NDCS YAB I wanted to become more involved with deaf young people and so I took up signing as another form of communication, not only for myself but to communicate with my deaf friends!
Tell us more about the Youth Advisory Board, what’s it all about?
The YAB is made up of 17 deaf young people who meet up together a few times a year to be able to voice their opinions on what they want to happen for their future, and to be able to campaign and help other deaf young people out there. There are 45,000 deaf young people in the UK and they need our help.
Lots of us have done a variation of things; two members of the board have been to party conferences. At the moment we are campaigning about the NDCS Stolen Futures petition, but we are creating our own health campaign too.
Bethany at the Labour party conference last year talking to Sky News.
You were on Channel 4 news last night talking about changes to DLA and representing NDCS, how did that come about and what was it like?
I met Jon Snow at the Labour Party Conference; I thought it could be an idea to write to him thinking he wouldn’t reply and he did and wanted to do a story on it! Filming was very scary and nerve racking! At the end of the day I was absolutely shattered… I guess that’s showbiz for you!!
They asked me all sorts! It was one question after another! They asked about what I felt was important about the cuts that were being made and about the DLA. I am one of the first deaf young people who will lose out in May as the piloted areas include Merseyside and North West England, the rest will lose out in October time. I talked about my signing and my ballet and how I thought it was important to sign.
Do you feel that the views of young disabled people are being represented enough in the current coverage of the welfare benefits changes?
No I don’t at all! Something needs to be done about this. It’s important to represent deaf young people’s views because what has to be told to the government may sound cruel and harsh to them, but all that I’m doing is sticking up for myself.
On behalf of the 45,000 deaf young people across the UK it’s vital that we can pass over how strongly they feel. The Government shouldn’t just make changes – because they aren’t the deaf ones, it’s not affecting them, it’s us!
Your coverage was a great opportunity for the world to hear the views of deaf young people and for the NDCS to explain their concerns! How do you feel about the change from DLA to PIP? How will it affect you if you lose out?
You have to be deaf to be able to understand the challenges we face. The DLA transferring to the PIP is absolutely criminal! I don’t understand why they should do this when there are 45,000 deaf young people out there who NEED the money for a range of things! I use my DLA to get to my appointments for my Cochlear Implant…it’s an hour away via car, bus and train! And it costs an absolute fortune to get there and back…where else am I going to get the money from!?
If I get ear infections I have to once again travel to Manchester and stay in for a few nights, which means I have to pay for travel and parking once again – it costs a bomb! It all ties in together eventually, I mean I NEED to go to Manchester to get reviewed, to get my equipment looked at, to get new equipment, to check my hearing levels…without my DLA I will feel very lost without it.
Watch Bethany on Channel 4 News (unfortunately without subtitles) here: http://www.channel4.com/news/disability-benefits-shake-up-unfair-to-deaf-children
Ni Gallant is a Contributing Editor for the Limping Chicken and a deaf teen who has just started university. This year she was on the NDCS Youth Advisory Board and she also runs a Youth Group for Worcestershire deaf teens called “Deafinity.” She writes a blog (www.nigallant.blogspot.com) about life from a deaf teenagers perspective and says that “somehow what I said resonates with other young people – so I carried on!”
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