Deaf Awareness Week: what Jack wants you to know!
This week (14-20 May) is Deaf Awareness Week and at RNC (The Royal National College for the Blind), we support students with dual sensory impairment. 19 year old Jack Yare from Keswick, Cumbria, talks about what his life is like as someone with both a hearing impairment, and a visual impairment.
“What are them things on your ears?” Jack recalls, “This is the most common thing that kids would shout at me when I was in the playground. I used to get picked on a lot in school because I was different, the school was good and the teachers were nice but when their backs were turned the other kids used to call me names.”
Jack is the only member of his family with sensory impairment but says he was always treated the same as his siblings by his parents, and jokes, “They still told me off the same as them when I was playing up and I still had to share all my sweets with my sister!” As a teenager Jack says that his parents encouraged him to get involved in lots of activities with various charities with disabled and non-disabled youngsters, “Mum and dad wanted me out doing things and making friends, they didn’t want me to sit at home on my own. They wanted me to get out there and be like anyone else my age, they didn’t want me to feel different.”
Jack has previously been in a school for hearing impairment, and is now at RNC; a college for visual impairment. He says “In the past I’ve had people seeing my cochlear implants and thinking I can’t do stuff because I’m deaf. They talk down to me, like I’m stupid.” Now, nearing the end of his first year at RNC Jack says that he’s accepted his dual sensory loss as part of who he is and wants to share his story.
Jack was born with some hearing but when he was very young he lost all of his ability to hear. “I’m not sure what caused it but mum said I got ill and lost all my hearing when I was little so I was registered as profoundly deaf. I had to have an operation to insert cochlear implants, which are basically magnets, onto my skull. I stick these processors onto my head behind my ear and they have a 360 degree microphone on them so that it sends signals to the cochlear implant and I can hear what’s going on all around me.”
As well as being hearing impaired Jack was also born with a visual impairment; coloboma, which are gaps in the structure of the eye where the eyes have not developed properly during pregnancy. Jack explains “I was born with coloboma but I can see quite a lot if I’m having a good day, I can see in the distance and up close. But my eyes are really light sensitive and on a bad day it can take a lot of time for me to adjust from dark to light and I get headaches. Concentrating on a computer can be hard to I need to use ZoomText – RNC has helped me with learning how to use this properly.”
Studying at RNC, and being 5 hours away from home, Jack says “I miss my family but I still go home in the holidays and keep in touch with them over the phone. Being away from home has improved my confidence so much. I’ve got loads of friends at RNC, it’s really inclusive with different groups of people who get on with each other. I feel really independent now and I can just go into town with my friends when I want, just like any other teenager. I used to be embarrassed for people to see my cochlear implants and my cane but now I realise that they’re part of me and who I am and I’m proud of that. You’re born who you are so you just need to get on with life.”
Jack’s advice for deaf awareness
- Don’t shout at me – the microphones on my processors are really sensitive so just talk at a normal volume.
- Speak clearly – Don’t talk too fast because it can come out as gibberish and don’t speak too slow as it can sound patronising, just speak in your normal voice.
- Don’t say “It doesn’t matter” – If I don’t hear you the first time, repeat yourself. Don’t leave me wondering what you said.
If you would like to find out more about you could fit in, as a student at RNC, call our student enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC