What is in Your Future?

Published: Feb 14th, 2020

Deaf Unity is holding an accessible conference on July 2, 2020 as part of its Aspiration Project, entitled: ‘Deaf Futures 2020.’

Deaf people face, not only societal and systemic barriers and disadvantages, they also face attitudinal barriers which can be more pervasive and destructive than one might initially think.

‘My world came crashing down’

Upon diagnosis, many parents express a profound experience – that of questioning what the future holds for their child and accepting that many of their aspirations may not be fulfilled: happiness; a wedding; grand-children; university and financial independence. Whilst the eventual result may not be so bleak, why do parents go through this ground-swell of emotions and uncertainty?

This pessimism is then reinforced by professionals – sometimes well-meaning, sometimes not – who explain how their child will struggle in all areas and will have to fight to be ‘normal’ – they need to learn to speak, they need to have surgery to fit an implant, don’t sign to them as it will hold them back.

This view of the child’s future is almost concrete before the child has entered school, sat a test or even shown mild interest in a future career. The effect on the child? To accept their lot in life, to set their aspirations to meet already decided levels of achievement and to understand that they are dependent on others for the rest of their lives.

Having conducted research in America, funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Deaf Unity recognised quantifiable and anecdotal differences which it could not ignore. Visiting Deaf schools, children were as fanciful with their future careers as their hearing peers (astronaut, mountain climber and fireman) and their teachers were committed to their pupils achieving; creating career plans as early as 7 years old. Rather than being bearers of bad news, teachers acted as mentors and guides, adjusting support frameworks and opportunities in line with the child’s actual performance. Deaf adults acted as resident experts, dedicating a month or longer to sharing their stories and successes, providing tangible evidence that deafness was only a barrier if allowed to be. When visiting Gallaudet and the Rochester Institute of Technology, undergraduates were motivated and trail-blazing in their studies. They were taught by Deaf professors and surrounded by a culture of celebration rather than of pessimism.

‘I just accepted what they told me’ 

In the UK, however, many D/deaf youths express a feeling of deflation rather than defiance:

“When I met with my careers advisor at secondary school, I was told practical trades would be better for a deaf person or working with computers as that would require less interaction.” – Sam 

“When I asked about careers in the City working in finance, I was told that this would require a high level of communication skills. I said that I possessed those skills and I would have an interpreter. The teacher had no idea how getting or paying for an interpreter worked as the school provided them and they were low-skilled CSW’s.” – Hamzan 

“When I asked my parents about going to university, they said it would be best to go to College and focus on child-care or computers. They said I needed to find something that always needs workers, as I would struggle to compete to get a high-level job.” – Zandria

“I really wanted to be a teacher when I got older, but I had never seen a Deaf teacher and came to realise that this wasn’t a career open to Deaf people. We had Deaf caretakers and dinner ladies at my school, but never a teacher.” – David 

Interpreters can be provided, lip-speakers arranged and technology bought, but if D/deaf youths and adults are surrounded by these attitudes, from birth, then we will never see any change. With educational and employment gaps persisting and worsening, D/deaf children need to be smothered with a feeling of excitement, aspiration and support. Rather than having an attitudinal glass-box placed around their future, they need to be reassured and shown that they have the same opportunities, chances and rights as any other child and allowed to explore their potential.

Time for a Change!

Our Aspiration project seeks to address this! Building a framework of support and proving D/deaf people can achieve is vital to making real change.

Join us at City Hall, London on July 2, 2020, 10am – 4pm, to listen to keynote speakers who are committed to making this change, as well as participating in workshops that focus on:

  • Education – What approaches maximise Deaf Learning? What support is there in transitioning from secondary to Further and Higher Education?
  • Employment – What support is out there for D/deaf employees and job seekers? What are employers looking for?
  • Well-being – Why can mental health not be underestimated? What is the value of a Community? What support is out there to support wellbeing for D/deaf people?

We will also have a CV clinic – make your appointment now to have 1-2-1 guidance from an industry expert how to market yourself effectively to be competitive when applying for positions.


If you are an organisation or company and would like to sponsor the event and/or hold a stall to showcase your work


We look forward to seeing you there!

This conference welcomes sponsors. At time of print, our current sponsors are:


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