How did you get involved in Community Connections?
I suffer from tinnitus, which has got progressively worse over the last three years, resulting in me now being profoundly deaf. I speak well, as I was hearing until I was in my 20s, but I have to lip-read people to understand them.
My situation has got worse and worse as, because I speak well, people think I can hear. In social or group situations, I cannot follow what is being said and people think I am being arrogant or rude. These situations have caused me to avoid social and group scenarios, meaning that I have become reclusive and withdrawn.
I had a very good education and was a bright student, but I feel that I have ended up choosing jobs where my deafness has been less of an issue, such as being a courier. Although there was contact with customers, it was limited, repetitive and face-to-face.
When I was younger, I was an estate agent and I had originally planned to be a lawyer. I used to play football, enjoyed going to the gym regularly and was in good physical condition, but as I felt worse, I stopped doing these things.
I have experienced such negativity from people who do not understand my disability. I felt lonely, isolated, and trapped with less and less options in my life. This led to me suffering with depression and also insomnia. I have been unable to work for 12 months and have been attending therapy.
When I joined the project, I was really keen to improve my current situation, but I just didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I was aware that my confidence was low and I did not have much hope or aspiration for an interesting job. I was open to looking at other options and ideas, including working for Disability Confident employers.
What support did you receive to start training or education?
Seeing how people who are deaf use British sign language to communicate really made me see that this could be something that is useful for me. It meant I could use British Sign Language interpreters at work and it opens up another option for employment.
What difference has the project made to you personally?
From starting my volunteering with the Royal Association for Deaf People, and being in an office environment, I feel this project has made a massive difference to me. I am starting to mix with people and can see a way forward. From being reclusive and feeling very low, I am starting to be able to mix with people and can see a way forward.
I am currently volunteering two days a week and it has been good for me to get into a routine – I look forward to my next day volunteering.
I have enjoyed speaking to people and being in a positive environment where everyone is helpful and friendly. I have found it very emotional receiving such a positive response and feedback and out my work.
I am now going to be a Community Connections champion and help out at the job skills hub in Chelmsford.
Is there anything else you would like to say about the project?
These projects are vital to support deaf people and those who have lost or are losing their hearing. Having help and support from the Royal Association for Deaf People has opened up a whole new world for me – one I didn’t know existed. This world offers me a wide range of opportunities and job roles that I thought were closed to me.
I still have a long way to go, but I feel much better than when I joined the project. I am looking forward to the future.
The project has been essential to my wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.