The Importance of Role Models

Published: Jun 17th, 2013

RoleModelsDeaf Unity is involved in a deaf role models project in partnership with RAD (Royal Association for Deaf people). This has given me, a profoundly deaf bilingual person, food for thought: what does being a role model mean? Especially a deaf role model?

Throughout my life, I have had the privilege of meeting and learning about people who have inspired me and spurred me on towards the dreams and goals I have had in my life. They have given me confidence, helped me to understand myself and other people better, and have shown me that deafness itself is not a barrier to achievement. At times in my life when I have faltered or felt uncertain, there have been people who have contributed to my determination to push myself further. Why is this especially important for a deaf person?

Blazing a path

Role models are people who are an example of what we can achieve in life, people we might feel we can relate to. People who have blazed a path through for us so there are not as many barriers. In the case of deaf role models, these are people who are living their lives, doing things that you might feel are impossible or difficult to do. They show us that it is possible, that sometimes things are a struggle and that’s fine because you can still get there. Sometimes role models are people who achieve something new in their fields, and help you realise that we all have something different to contribute.

In the criteria for the RAD and Deaf Unity role models project, there are six things they define as a role model:

  • Able to inspire, motivate and be passionate – sharing own personal experiences both positive and negative – how you achieved your own personal goals.
  • Proud to be Deaf.
  • Committed to supporting young D/deaf people through a regular programme, encouraging them to achieve their full potential.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Friendly and approachable.
  • Flexible.

In my opinion, from a long journey of my own, being proud is pride in your achievements against the barriers and issues you have faced within society. It is a cultural thing too – to be a person who is part of a rich and diverse history and language. Many deaf children and teenagers now are defining deaf identity in their own unique ways. Parents of deaf children may also be inspired by the achievements and life experiences of other deaf people; it shows parents that their child is more than capable of achieving their potential with the right support networks.

Why is it important to support each other? As deaf/deafblind/HOH/deafened/BSL users, we go through things that are unique to the deaf experience. It can be difficult to navigate a hearing world, no matter how much you participate in it. Sometimes you might feel stuck and need the support of other deaf people, people who have experienced these barriers and may have solutions. Having support from people who understand spurs you on and makes you feel less alone.

If you would like to know more about the Deaf Unity and RAD Role Models Project, please visit this webpage and feel free to contact us for more information.

Lizzie is a deaf Masters graduate, writer, blogger and creative professional. She is working on various writing projects, including writing her first two novels, and editing and writing articles for Deaf Unity. Interested in social networking, social research and breaking down barriers for deaf people, she hopes her work with Deaf Unity will encourage more people to strive for their dreams and push through the barriers within society. She has a keen interest in the Arts, loves to read, and dreams of travelling to far flung places.

Photo credit: Sarah Ward.

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