Why Deaf People Should Go Into Research?

I was having a conversation with my Dad about deaf people entering research and thought I made a few good points about why, indeed, we need to see more of it.

Research makes a difference – when I was doing an autoethnographic study as a research project, my supervisors were shocked when they heard my story for the first time. My experiences in sport really resonated with them, as they both have sports backgrounds. Hearing my story made them, as coaches, feel “not as good on reflection”. It disturbed them to realise that they probably would have acted differently when coaching deaf or disabled athletes, as they hadn’t been given information at the time on how to effectively coach deaf or disabled athletes. My point is that I used my journey into research to change people’s perspectives on deaf people in sport and education, or anything. Stories have the potential to discover or develop into something that can make a difference in people’s lives, or a change in the world. I am not saying that all deaf people should use stories, but there are many ways they can do so to make a difference. I just think that stories are the most impactful because no one can tell you your story is a ‘lie’ if you have lived it. It is your world, your knowledge, your experience and your own truths.

Research introduces you to great people – I have made great friends from Canada, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham and many more places, too many to list. As much as I loved my university supervisors, one of the best parts was being able to meet people who shared their ideas and thoughts on whatever they were researching. Not only that, but you have the opportunity to work with them if you are passionate about the same ideas. About a month ago, I went to two conferences to get my ideas out there, and also with the hope of meeting researchers who shared my ideas with me. However, aside of my desire to meet fellow researchers and make friends for life, my ultimate goal is to get a PhD. I think before doing that, though, I must create a network of people who can guide me on that future path.

Research can be challenging when things do not go the way you want them to go, such as during experiments and their results, or working with participants. But that’s okay because in these instances you can question the process, make changes and think beyond your initial expectations. Since I completed my BSc (Hons), I have learned a lot, because research challenges you, tests you and, most importantly, stretches your mind to new ideas, new reasons to pursue things and new possibilities. It’s exciting because you could change the future.

Research is something that constantly pushes you to something greater; there are no limits to research. It’s crazy how today you might discover something about how the world works but that it could be different tomorrow, thus making it unpredictable. This is why we have technology and pen and paper in order to constantly document our insights and answers, which will inevitably create new questions. My MSc research project, sparked many new questions that compelled me to go away and answer them and, trust me, if I went away each time to embark on yet another new project, it would have always created new questions. Research never stops. The last thing I want to say is that research changed me as a person and that is the cumulative effect of learning something new every day. I think differently to how I did three years ago. My speech is improving, my knowledge is always being built upon and my style of creativity is something I never thought it would be, and so on.

So, what do my points have to do with deaf people? Well, deaf people are constantly facing many of the barriers that occur in life but more severely than non-deaf people, and we allow non-disabled people to do the work to fund solutions for us. Non-disabled people don’t know what it’s like to be deaf because they’ve never experienced it. Non-disabled people do, however, go away and study deaf people and ways to support us, despite it being impossible for them to ever fully understand what we are going through.

For example, we cannot watch movies at the cinemas with subtitles regularly. We have to visit cinemas at more limited times and places to watch a movie. Hearing people can go anytime a movie is on. It got me thinking that the person who wrote the movie script, directed the acting, etc. can put subtitles on and off as they please, without considering deaf people, and it simply does not occur to them to do so because they are not deaf themselves.

And what about communication? Sign Language? Why are Sign Languages not used more frequently in schools? Did you know that I didn’t learn how to speak properly until I was 7/8 years old. My mother taught me sign language because she wanted to communicate with me, to teach me what I’ve missed out on at schools, and also to ensure I didn’t feel left out.

Education. How many deaf people are failing their exams at schools? Trust me, you would be surprised if you Google it. We don’t have enough specialist support for us, and they probably don’t even know how to support deaf people. We need to do something to encourage them. I think deaf people should get into research in order to make this change. I know that the majority of my deaf friends drop out of university and, I’ve got to be honest with you, I did consider doing that too. It’s not only because of the lack of support and how the delivery of education is geared towards hearing people, it’s also the social aspects. People still see us as “deaf and dumb” – in the 21st Century. Come on, really? Times have changed so can’t they ditch the “deaf and dumb” and replace it with “deaf and have the potential to change the world”? I could go on about reasons why deaf people should go on to do research at the same time as imparting my own experiences. I feel that non-disabled people need to hear what deaf people need and take note, and use that understanding to achieve something positive such as giving them opportunities to make the changes themselves. Now I’ve shared my thoughts with you, I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions as well.


My friend Sophie Sandor is doing a project on why the poorest get the worst deal out of the UK’s education system. It would be amazing if you could support and donate to make a difference.  Here’s the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/education-documentary-uk#/

God bless,

Thomas Irish

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  1. Elrose

    Hi Thomas, I am truly amazed at the level of maturity enamsting from your piece. I feel as if I now have a greater understanding of some of the issues that you have and continue to face on your journey to PhD. Do not give up in schooling us as you conquer the ‘speaking’ and ‘hearing’ world Thomas. You are destined for Greatness! God bless.


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