Janine Davis: My search for deaf and hard of hearing leaders in the Caribbean

Posted on November 29, 2017

This morning I was reading a Richard Branson article. He stated 40% of the world’s self – made millionaires have dyslexia and he asked “Still think of it as a disadvantage?”

Well, my question this morning is how many leaders and or self – made millionaires does the deaf community have as role models? Is being deaf or hard of hearing a disadvantage? I thought I should do research on this.

However, only one local West Indian from our Caribbean hemisphere came instantly to mind, Dr. Eric Williams (he wore a hearing aid as the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago).

My research for local deaf leaders in Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados seemed to run on empty based on my google searches. There must be more that I can locate!  “Deafinitely” need to keep checking on this (if there are others out there who can fill me in, please feel free to share).

Although I couldn’t find any local deaf leaders or self – made millionaires from our Caribbean hemisphere, I did find a ton of information related to famous deaf people from the United States.

Among them, Hellen Keller (Deaf/Blind), Marlee Matlin (actress), Thomas Edison (inventor) had hearing loss and Rush Limbaugh (talk show host) experienced sudden deafness.  

Some of these people experienced hearing before their loss and as a result it must have been difficult to adjust but clearly not impossible. Those growing up with access to sign language would definitely have more options and accessibility available.

Looking at the career paths, in particular Marlee Matlin and Rush Limbaugh which was in media and acting, listening would be a key skill in carrying out their job but they found ways to work around it. Rush Limbaugh received a Cochlear Implant, Marlee uses sign language as well as lip reading and a hearing aid.


I was a bit disappointed with the limited results for Caribbean deaf nationals but perhaps I can become more involved in the deaf community and I will meet or learn of those leading and providing inspiration to others. There was little information online though and maybe there is a need to provide this kind of information.

Internationally, there was no shortage of results though; including Martha’s Vineyard which many years ago had a community where almost everyone used sign language due to the number of deaf persons living there. A sort of deaf utopia they say, you had to learn sign language in order to live there. The history of the deaf at Martha’s Vineyard was something of a marvel for scholars since it appeared everyone spoke sign language there.

Judging from the many deaf that are leading fulfilling lives, we are not limited by disabilities but it’s a case of mind over matter and whether we decide we will overcome no matter the challenges presented to us. In fact these challenges make us stronger….which bring to mind a quote “Don’t pray for it to be easier, pray to be stronger”.  

In the meantime I have already started reaching out to the deaf community in Trinidad and I am due to meet with a group later this month consisting of both hearing and deaf persons. So I am looking forward to it and finding out more about deaf persons living here and in the Caribbean as a whole.

Janine Davis is happily married with two children (boy and a girl) and a stepson. She is an accountant by trade but has always had a passion for writing and says it provides an outlet for me with the challenges she faces as a deaf person living in the hearing world on an island some may consider the hub of the Caribbean. Her goals include learning sign language (she uses the internet and a book) and writing as much as she can about her experiences as a deaf person in the Caribbean.

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