My name is Christianah Adenrele. I am 20 years old. I’m a woman. I’m black British and I’m deaf. I want to share my experience with you
being deaf just makes you feel like a waste of space.
Feeling all three acts of discrimination in extreme circumstances is emotionally painful at times.
I know that one in six people are deaf or hard of hearing. There are nine million deaf or hard-of-hearing people and 700,000 severely or profoundly deaf people in the UK, 70,000 of whom use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language. I am not alone.
I was born to hearing parents and grew up in North London. My older sister is also deaf, but my two older brothers are hearing. The cause of my deafness is not known for sure but is weakly explained through genetics.
I have registered into more than six schools, trying to find the best support for my disability. In one extreme case, I attended a boarding school in Nigeria but it didn’t last long. After consistent problems in mainstream schools due to lack of deaf awareness and support, I was finally accepted to attend Mary Hare school for the deaf, which held up to 200 pupils at the time.
There, all of my needs were attended to and we had thorough support as well as speech therapy. But then when we finish our GCSEs and A Levels, we are thrown back out into wider society, relying on our independence and outside support.
But after much perseverance I’m a last year undergraduate student at Kingston University studying Psychology BSc Full Field.
A CONSTANT REMINDER
Recently I went to the doctors in Central Milton Keynes about my back. Not long into the appointment, I had to inform her that I was deaf. I presumed she already knew based on my medical profile. She spoke to me while she looked at her computer and I couldn’t understand her at all. She appeared frustrated and annoyed at my request that she face me when talking so I could lip-read. It’s those moments when I feel horrible about myself, as though it should be me feeling ‘guilty’ instead of being discriminated.
She started to rudely wide mouth questions at me and patronise me in ways that made me feel uncomfortable and upset. She sent me on my way, visibly relieved. But what if I had missed vital information on my back or misinterpreted a medical suggestion?
After submitting thousands of job applications, when I mention I have a disability, I get rejection after rejection. But when I submitted an application without mentioning my disability, I got two call backs.
My point of this message is that Deaf people need to be heard. Deaf people deserve more credit!
Tell me how many deaf people you work with; One? Two? None? A deaf person can be just as qualified as a hearing person, but who is more likely to get the job? Perhaps we are too much to take on? Perhaps the company wants to avoid having to adapt their environment for us, or perhaps we’re not good enough or too complicated, they might say.
WHAT I WANT
Living in this society where women have fought for gender equality, where black people are stereotyped and targeted because of racism and where deafness is unheard of – makes it difficult to get through every day.
A deaf person with a medical degree, with no speech, might find it difficult to get employed, but what about deaf patients, what about their needs? We need to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds and help mix the two abilities together so we can better assist everyone’s needs.
Politicians should make sure that deaf people have the same access to information that hearing people have – it’s truly not fair!
HOW CAN I BE PART OF THE CHANGE I WANT TO SEE
I want to fill the gap in the recruitment industry for deaf people. I plan to build my own organisation, providing advice to deaf candidates; enabling qualified deaf people from different industries to work in different sectors. I don’t want to be the one to just educate colleagues in the office, but I want to set an example when serving deaf customers.
I want to set up a CV profile for deaf people and send these to employers to see if the profiles match their requirements. This will help deaf people to be both independent and confident individuals, rather than feel intimidated or discriminated.
My local mayor is in full support for my idea to create a deaf recruitment consultancy business and help deaf professionals to work among their qualified colleagues.
We don’t want our children to go through the struggle we went through so we need a better change, an actual difference. Too many talented deaf people are not getting noticed.
The best way to improve access is to educate the public. Get primary schools to teach sign language, get secondary schools to teach BSL in extra curricular classes or as a GCSE, provide free deaf training in professional work places, introduce TV programmes focusing on deaf people.
My key message to others is that ‘to never be afraid of change’.
I hope more people will continue to sign up to the BDA for free membership and help campaign for equal rights for deaf people.
Kevin Buckle from the Deaf Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) steering group wants everyone to embrace cultural diversity within the deaf community
“I want to see more inspirational events that celebrate our unique identity, such as Black Deaf History and Caribbean and Asian cuisine festivals that promote our rich history within Deaf community. I’d also like to see more interpreted academic lectures, such as the Stephen Lawrence Memorial lecture – for which I fought to get an access to. It’s important to raise awareness on different cultures within the deaf community.
It would be wonderful if Deaf people from the BAME community would come together and celebrate BDA’s 125 year anniversary. Deaf and hearing people of any racial background should all be welcome to join deaf related cultural events.”