There are many deaf related blogs and vlogs that circulate round on the social media sphere, and I have noticed that some can be focused on quite negative topics. Some, focus solely on the barriers that deaf people face and their daily struggles such as interpreters not turning up to their doctors appointments or how deaf accessibility is limited in the hearing world resulting in some deaf people feeling isolated. It is really great however, that there are these platforms for people to discuss issues that they face. It is important to hear about all people and their experiences and being able to use their voice.
I also came across an article from a CODA (child of deaf adult) who was discussing how she felt she is a much more open person due to being exposed to sign language, deaf people and being part of both the hearing and deaf community. She was explaining how she felt so proud of her parents for working hard to break barriers, having jobs in hearing environments and for giving her the most wonderful childhood.
After reading this, I felt inspired to talk to a couple of my close deaf friends to get an insight into how they feel about their deafness and their deaf identity. It is important to note that, people will feel differently about their deafness, and therefore I do not expect these answers to be the same for all.
The first friend I interviewed was my flatmate Ellie. I have known Ellie for almost two years now and she continues to be one of the kindest and most caring people I have in my life. Ellie comes from a hearing family but, both herself and her older brother are deaf. Ellie wears a hearing aid to assist her hearing during the day and communicates through the use of British Sign Language and speech.
I was born deaf.
If you could become hearing, would you?
No, I would not change my deafness because then I wouldn’t be me.
What barriers do you feel you face?
I think probably showing hearing people who I really am because I cannot fully express myself through speech
Do you prefer hanging out with deaf or hearing people?
I enjoy hanging out with all people as long as the communication is there.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently while growing up?
I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently at all. I went to a mainstream primary school and a mainstream secondary (with a deaf unit) and it was all a really positive experience for me.
What would you say is your biggest achievement in life so far?
I think my biggest achievement would be my English MA and now, I am an English teacher in a deaf secondary school.
Favourite thing about being deaf?
Taking my hearing aids out at the end of a long day and being able to shut out annoying babies crying!
I then interviewed my friend Emily. Emily and I went to University together and we were on the same degree course, which means I have known her for 5 years! She was the very first person I met on the day I auditioned for my place at University. Emily wears a cochlear implant and comes from a hearing family. Emily communicates through British Sign Language and also speech.
I became deaf when I was 2 years old through Chickenpox. I know, every time I say this, the response I usually get is shock. People either gasp or show me dramatic hands on their mouth as a response. It is unusual and very rare to become deaf from the Chickenpox, it only happens to a tiny percentage of people.
If you could become hearing would you?
This is easy to answer, no. I wouldn’t change my hearing even if I was offered an injection to make me hearing in an instant so, definitely no! It’s made me who I am today.
What barriers do you feel you face today?
Communication, communication and communication. Everywhere. I could give you lots of different examples of this, but I would be here all day. It could be in a large group of hearing people in a restaurant, attending meetings or a last minute emergency doctor’s appointments. The worst one which gets on my nerves the most is when I’m out in public, someone may be shouting from behind me, but I don’t know that it is happening. Next thing you get a nudge, a wave, or even someone on a bike making an annoyed expression right at you whilst cycling past. It feels like it happens in slow motion. Another example, my best friend who is deaf too has got hit by a supermarket trolley by a customer because she wasn’t turning around to hear this woman. People just assume we all can hear in this world and the lack of their awareness is terrible! It is like do we need to wear a t-shirt to say ‘I am deaf’?!
If there is one thing you could make accessible what would it be?
Same as above, communication as the world would be a better place if we could all have the same awareness.
Do you prefer hanging out with hearing or deaf people?
There is no preference for me actually as I love both of my circles. With hearing people, they have to have the awareness, knowledge and sometimes to have the skill to sign where I am able to understand and communicate with them really well. I love both as long as we understand each other! Happy days!
Most favourite thing about being deaf?
Everything! The beauty of sign language, the culture, it is more expressive and deaf jokes… they are all part of my world. Plus having a good night sleep of course!
Anything you would have done differently growing up?
This is a hard one to think about, perhaps I would say to encourage my hearing peers to have signed more at my Mainstream school where there was a deaf unit, around 20 deaf people. We used to have a signing choir where we all got together every week and signed some songs, it was great! I wished to encourage them and bring more people round to learn sign language as I know they would have loved it, but was not aware at the time. I am a bit braver now compared to what I was like before.
Thank you to both of my girls, for giving us an insight into their world, showing humour and positivity around their deafness. They wouldn’t change their deafness for anything, and I wouldn’t change them either.