Born in London to Jamaican parents, it was a shock to find myself going deaf at the age of 8. Hearing loss can be described as profound, severe, moderate or partial, which is used to demonstrate how much a person’s hearing diverges from the ‘norm’.
Though I am diagnosed as profoundly deaf, my deafness is comparatively invisible – I have clear speech and I lip-read extremely well. Consequently, I am culturally from the little “d” side of the deaf community.
Growing up, I was forbidden from associating with members of the deaf community due to my parents’ prejudice – I had to strive to identify with the hearing population and regarded my hearing loss as a purely medical term, as I attended mainstream school throughout my childhood.
Secretly, however, I had Deaf friends who were from “the big D” who proudly identified themselves as a part of a culturally deaf society, and had a strong deaf identity and extremely supportive parents.
Day trips were daunting as my parents frowned when they saw me wearing my hearing aid, because it was visible and they were always conscious of the judgments that their friends made at first glance. Upon learning that I was deaf, you could see the discomfort and pity on people’s faces that my parents chose not to notify them that I was deaf unless it was absolutely necessary to do so.
Growing up I came to the realisation that certain cultures have an environment that stigmatises disability and deafness. My parents did not speak to me about my aspirations, nor acknowledged the high grades that I had achieved in my GSCEs after leaving school.
It was clear that their perception of me was that I was the ‘poor deaf one’, who was never going to go to university or have a successful career. Despondently, this was a perception I at times believed in myself. I blame this largely on the lack of deaf role models in our society – deaf culture should be celebrated.
Nevertheless, I grew up with a determination to prove, not just to my family but to society, that deaf people can be successful in life. It is hugely important for the sake of the deaf community and parents of deaf children to challenge negative perceptions and to prove our self-worth.
Hearing people do not always understand the importance of Deaf culture or BSL (British Sign Language), which comprises a large part of society but remains a mystery to most of the hearing population – this needs to change.
I am fortunate to have had a successful career, working as a Personal Assistant for a high-profile organisation for the past 11 years. This task proved greatly challenging, as I was turned down time and time again for prospective positions due to my difficulties in using telephones and audio typing. With the right support, these are challenges I have been able to overcome.
Following redundancy, I happily took the exciting opportunity to attend University and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Event Management. This course provided me with ample opportunity to think about the career expectations and priorities of the Deaf community in the millennial generation.
It was clear from observing my classmates that millennials place great importance on their own careers, and have realistic expectations of a first job that would allow them to develop fresh new skills – ‘Did the Deaf community feel the same way?’, I wondered.
I conducted a research study for my dissertation into the existing provisions of accessibility to music events for the deaf and hard of hearing community, and identified which factors were most important to the deaf community when attending music events.
My findings suggested that 87% of Deaf people are proud of their history, but are more motivated than ever to develop their lives to the fullest by immersing themselves within the hearing community wherever they can. Of course, for this to happen, the Deaf community need more accessible events to get involved in!
We are planning to lead the way in organising mainstream events that will, in turn, generate creative, new solutions that provide the deaf community with a platform to develop new skills and work experience that will serve them effectively.
We hope this will lead to more event managers considering deaf culture when organising events. The “Disability” wheelchair sign that many event managers factor in during the planning stages, does not necessarily safeguard the Deaf community, as services are rarely extended to factor deafness in.
By creating more mainstream events that place an emphasis on deaf culture, this will assist in changing the attitudes of event managers, as well as wider society, by providing a supportive environment that will affirm not just deaf children but the deaf community as a whole, of their self-worth, boosting self-confidence and providing many more role models.
Culturia Events Management is a community focused company dedicated to raising the profile of the underrepresented deaf community.
H.E.A.R The Runway is our first, exciting mainstream fashion show that will provide a platform for the deaf community to show off their talents and skills, and participate alongside hearing people to boost their self-worth and self-confidence through gaining hands-on experience.
Other countries like America and Germany have a strong network of talented, confident, deaf people on the rise, and it is now time for our talented UK Deaf Community to rise up and show off their own creative skills to the nation!
We need greater recognition of the fact that deaf equality is not a campaign against the hearing community, but is about providing guidance to the hearing community on how to understand and support the Deaf community.
I am looking forward to seeing the Deaf community in the millennial generation motivating workplaces and society by rising up with confidence. There has never been a better time to pave the way for a more “egalitarian nation”!
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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