Interview With Leading Deaf Blogger, Ellie Parfitt
Published: Jan 4th, 2016
Also known as ‘E’ or ‘Deafie Blogger’, Ellie is 19 years old and profoundly deaf. She started her blog, Day in the life of a deafie in early 2015 to share her experiences and thoughts as a young deaf woman – and to be a source of guidance to young people with hearing difficulties. Ellie is currently doing an apprenticeship in marketing, but she also finds time to be a lifeguard, Avon Rep and Girl Guide leader! We can’t keep up!
Hi Ellie. Please can you tell us about your deafness and what it means to you on a daily basis? How do you manage it?
I’m profoundly deaf and have been since birth. I wear two Phonak Sky Q hearing aids. I communicate through lip-reading and speech. I don’t use sign language, but I’d love to learn it one day.
I am proud to be deaf. During my life there have been times where I’ve wished to be hearing, but if I was; I wouldn’t have achieved any of these amazing opportunities during my life. As I’ve always been deaf, I’ve never known any different and wouldn’t change it. There are things I miss out on, like being able to use the phone, and not having to rely on lip-reading all the time.
My parents have brought me up to be as independent as possible, which means learning how to adapt with my hearing loss. For example, travelling by train to work every day – I use my disabled person’s railcard. When I experience a problem regarding my deafness, I come up with a solution. There’s always a way around disability; you can turn it into ability!
Please can you tell us a bit more about your blog and why you decided to set it up?
I started my personal blog in May this year. At the time I just felt that I had lots of frustrations relating to deafness that I wanted to vent about, but I had nowhere to do it. I had doubts about what people would think about my writing style because throughout high school, I struggled with getting my ideas written down, when they were stuck in my head.
My boyfriend was very supportive of my decision to start a blog, and before I knew it, it became very popular within the deaf community. I think there was a target audience of teenagers who were missing out on a deaf role model, which is my aim through this blog. I want to inspire deaf people to realise that they can achieve anything in life, given the right support.
Has your blog helped you since you started writing it?
Yes, it has really opened my eyes to the deaf community, and has made me more confident. I love receiving comments from my supporters, listening to their personal experiences and sharing things in common… It’s great!
It also gave me the confidence to stand up to Odeon Cinemas and fight for more reasonable subtitled showings. I was offered the chance to go to Parliament in November for a deaf launch which was fantastic! I have also been nominated for the Royal Deaf 175th Birthday Honours Awards through my blog. Best of all, I am writing about my experiences for Phonak. Who knows what’s next!
You’ve recently finished full-time education. What are your future career goals and ambitions? How do you aim to tackle any challenges you may face?
I completed my A-Levels this summer at mainstream school, it was a challenge, but with 2 As and a C, I’m chuffed! Did I mention, I did A-Level German?
I didn’t have many friends at school, as I couldn’t fit in with ‘normal groups’ and they weren’t very understanding of my deafness. However now I realise who my true friends are. I experienced discriminated by my Media Studies teacher, who told me I ‘couldn’t’ do her subject because I was deaf. It was ridiculous! The school dealt with the situation very well, and if I ever see her again, I’d love to show off the ‘A’ I achieved! Don’t let anyone tell you, that you can’t do anything, there’s a way around it!
In terms of my career goals, I would love to work with a deaf charity – within the campaigning or marketing sector. I just love the idea of using my personal experiences and skills to make a difference to deaf/HOH people’s lives. My back up plan would be to work in retail or marketing in general.
How do you tell others about your deafness and educate them to be better communicators? Can you offer any tips on how to best approach the issue with new people?
With people who I’ve never met before, I only explain my deafness if I feel they need to know, or if I have trouble understanding what they say. Otherwise I just wait until it comes up in conversations. One of my pet hates is people who label others, and introduce me as: ‘This is Ellie, and she’s deaf’. I know I’m deaf, but it’s not who I am. I would prefer; ‘This is Ellie, she’s my friend, we went to school together’ etc, the deafness comes later! You wouldn’t go up to someone and say; ‘This is Ellie, she’s blind and is wheelchair-bound’, would you?
Deaf awareness tips to remember when talking to deaf and HoH people:
- Please face us when you’re talking, and speak clearly so we can lip-read.
- Don’t say ‘I’ll tell you later’ – it’s not fair!
- Tap us on the shoulder to get our attention; it’s no good for anyone if you yell from across the room.
What do you think the biggest misconception is about deafness and young deaf/HoH people?
There are many misconceptions about deafness, like: ‘deaf people can’t drive’, ‘deaf people are dumb’, but the one that I feel is the biggest is: ‘all deaf people can sign’. This is not the case; each deaf individual has their own ways of communicating, some by sign language, and others by speech, lip-reading, cued speech, or a mixture. Don’t stereotype us. Also, some think hearing aids, are like glasses in the sense that they can instantly make you hear fine… They don’t! They just help.
What advice do you give to young deaf and HoH individuals who are struggling to come to terms with their deafness and may feel unsure about their future.
Just remember that you’re not alone. Statistics suggest there are 11 million people in the UK with hearing loss. Being deaf/HOH is a challenge, but it can offer you great opportunities in life, like meeting other people like yourself. Your local audiologist can offer great advice about technology, get in touch with your local deaf society and see what they do. Sometimes deaf people have gatherings which can be great fun! There’s always someone to talk to, so don’t suffer in silence.
If you’re unsure about your future, your local jobcentre might have some fantastic opportunities to get involved in. If there’s a career you’d like to do, but your deafness is stopping you- find a way around it! Voluntary work/work experience is a great start to any job opportunity.
Finally, where would you like to see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I would like to see myself really making a difference to deaf people’s lives, through promotion of my blog and by working with a deaf charity. I’d also like to have done a big fundraising event for a deaf charity, like a sponsored swim! Who knows!
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