Graham Johnston: Deafness is still a barrier to learning new skills on short courses

Posted on October 8, 2014



For those who do not know who I am, my name is Graham Johnston, and I am 46 years old. I’m profoundly deaf, living in Portsmouth.

At the moment, I run an online fashion business, buying and selling fashion clothing from home (keeping the stock in a storage space nearby).

I sell my goods via my website and also via eBay. Since eBay has changed a lot, I have sold less goods in the past year, so now I want to learn new skills while running a ‘slow’ business.

So recently, I have looked to go on short courses which can help me gain better knowledge and more confidence when running my online fashion business. But I’ve run into problems.

2When Deaf people go to university or college, they can get Disabled Students Allowance and funding for communication support and equipment – for example, an interpreter or a notetaker. That’s great!

But, what if you wish to attend a short course, or go to a non-government funded college (run by private companies), for example?

I have made contact with a number of fashion and/or photography schools/academies, but none of them are willing to fund BSL interpreters or note-taking services.

I wanted to attend a 1 year professional photography school. But I can’t get Disabled Students Allowance because it is not run by a designated higher education course provider.

I had received numbers of e-mails from them:

Letter 1: “Our school does not offer special support for deaf persons. Nevertheless, if you have speech reading ability, it might be possible to attend the courses which are very practical”

Letter 2: “We would be delighted to enrol you in our 32-week program in London, but we just think from our past experience as a school who taught photography to deaf students that it is impossible if you don’t use the services of a translator”

This is also true of many other private companies I have contacted, including a 3-month full time Event Management Diploma course followed by 3 months placement I looked into several years ago, and other courses I have looked into for fashion merchandising.

The new skills I could learn on the photography course would help me take my own photos of models for my online fashion business rather than putting them up on mannequins or photo given by my supplier.

I could also develop my photography skills in case I close my online business in the future.

In conclusion, I believe Deaf people are still very much at disadvantage when it comes to further learning.

I would like to see DSA and funding for interpreting / note-taker services in any courses, regardless of whether they are run by government-funded companies or not.

Graham Johnston is 46 and lives in Portsmouth. He has been profoundly deaf since he was 3 years old (caused by meningitis).  He attended Burwood Park School (1980-1985).  His interests include sports (horseracing, tennis, football, cricket, road cycling), travelling, photography  and fashion.

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