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

I’m Back! Starting a New Chapter.

The last time I uploaded a blog post was when I went to Canada and, since then, I decided to take a break from social media for about three months. It was a time when I wanted to focus on my master’s project and people whom I met in Vancouver, inspired me in many different ways on what path or career I want to take.

Anyway, I am not going to go on about how much I love Canada. I am going to talk to you about my experience between July and September when I was doing my project. It was the most rewarding and stressful month I have ever experienced. This was mainly because when I was doing the interviews with the participants for my research project their experiences made me recall my own experiences. When I was doing so, there was always a thought at the back of my mind:

“What if different things had occurred in my life and, accordingly, I chose to take a different route? Would things be better or not?”

The thing is, I love to reflect on what I do and I keep a diary of my goals and anything that is meaningful to me. I wish I could tell you about what my participants said during the interviews I conducted but it’s confidential. But what I can tell you is what I learnt from my master’s project. I only had a year to complete my project. It was the first time I had conducted interviews using instant messaging, and it was also the first time I had used thematic analysis on data. If I had more time, I think my interview skills would have improved more, or maybe I could have garnered more participants in my study.

 

One word I would use to describe thematic analysis is “intense”. I had never used thematic analysis during my degree one reason being that you must explain why you put words under certain themes and codes. I honestly cannot bear to talk about it now. My brain got so hooked on it. I knew I needed to take a break and do something else but I couldn’t because I often felt that something was missing or not making sense. So instead of taking that much-needed step away, I had to visit my university supervisors every week to ask for help out of the situation I found myself stuck in! I cannot even begin to describe how relieved I was guided onto the right path, meaning I could go back understanding why I put words into codes etc. To those who understand thematic analysis: how do you even cope?! I enjoyed it because when I was on the last stage of producing a report, everything started to come together nicely, and it was rewarding!  Now I am working on a project which I am excited to show you when the time comes.

 

Not only was I focusing on my master’s project but I went to the Sport and Discrimination Conference at Oxford Brookes University and Durham University for British Sociological Association (BSA) Sports Study event. I went because I wanted to expand my knowledge, meet people and share ideas. I’ve got to be honest, the conference in Durham is my favourite because it is an area that I am interested in. I happened to meet a D/deaf girl who is a PhD student! This was amazing to me because I never thought I would meet a D/deaf person who is studying a PhD or even into research. It was an interesting conference because there were a few people’s presentations caught my attention and I wanted to know more. There was a guy who did autoethnography when he was an undergrad student, just like me, but, he was talking about his experience being a “black person trying to be like Pogba, Drogba and Lukaku” and how he does not want to be like them when he is playing academy football. Really interesting. For his MSc Project, he wanted to find out if there were other young black men who had been in the same experience. It was not about racism but about how coaches see young black footballers as “mesomorphs” or “tanks”, like the black professional footballers. I got really excited about hearing his thoughts and experiences, and that’s what I love about research. There was another one which a girl talked about the “identity construction” and racial humour in a German U-19 football team. I never thought I would get into something about racism because it’s a topic I don’t like to talk about. It was about the interaction between the players using racial humour with their own players if that makes sense? I would give some examples but I don’t feel comfortable posting it.

Read this article when you get a chance:

“Just because he’s black”: Identity construction and racial humour in a German U-19 football team – Solvejg Wolfers, Kieran File, Stephanie Schnurr.

I promise you won’t be disappointed! I like to read uncomfortable topics that no one wants to talk about because taking new things into consideration is the only way to learn and expand one’s mind. It has been a while since I wrote something on my blog and I am still always willing to improve it! Now that I have finished my master’s, my goal is to do a weekly post every Sunday evening – I hope you enjoy reading it! I will be back on YouTube as, like I said earlier, I am working on a project which I cannot wait to show it to you!

God Bless, have a good week! 

Thomas Irish

My views about The Silent Child Film

Last night, I was watching a short film called The Silent Child. The film is about Shenton’s own experiences as the child of a parent who became deaf. The film features profoundly deaf six-year-old first-time actor Maisie Sly as the titular child. British Sign Language (BSL) is used in the film and her parent believe speech-language would help a “deaf” child with a better life and future without sign language.  At the end of the film, I cried and my body tingles because I have been through a similar experience as six-year-old Maisie when I was a child. My time in Montserrat when I was a kid wasn’t great. It was horrible, people would look down on me and treat me like an outsider, for instance, my pre-school teacher slapped me because she thought I was being rude and wasn’t listening. I do not want to go on talking about it because it hurts me because being deaf, I did not really have anybody to talk to at school and my parents didn’t know what to do with me but “find help” by moving to England in 2000.

When I first came to England, you probably think my life was perfect after having my first hearing aids and I would get my speech back. It wasn’t perfect. I’m grateful for my mom who took so much effort and time to learn sign language to be able to teach and communicate with me. On the other hand, my dad would teach me how to talk properly and  I didn’t learn how to speak properly until I was about between 8-10 years old. Yes, I was bullied at primary school because the kids didn’t want to talk to me because I can’t talk or hear. But, I still go up to hearing children and play sport because I didn’t want to see myself differently. I want to be normal, I want to be treated as normal, not an “alien”. I’ve been through the dark time when I struggle to speak to people whereas sign language with extra support has made me who I am today. Honestly, I am grateful for those kids who bullied me because they have made me stronger, better and realised that I am capable to do anything. It is because it’s not about how you can’t hear things that makes you can’t do something. It’s about how you run your life as a deaf person to fulfil your dreams and you have to believe in yourself. Have Faith.

I went to mainstream primary school with a deaf unit. I never really hang out with my deaf friends at school because I didn’t want to be different but I went through the dark moment when I couldn’t get back up but my parents who did for me. I started my love for sport there because it takes me to a different world where I can be happy and not think about what people think of me. I went to boarding school for the deaf because I couldn’t cope being bullied with hearing kids. I’ve had best 7 years of my life going to boarding school for the deaf because they taught me how to be independent and gave me a purpose life where I told myself I have a future and dream I can achieve. Then I went to university and to be honest with you when I was an undergraduate student, it wasn’t that great. I didn’t get I wanted but you know what? I published my first ever paper about my personal experience in sport as a deaf person. Do you know why? because I have people who believed in me, my supervisors, my parents, my brothers, my sisters and friends. I struggled to hear the people in a group task, lectures and every place I go at uni but I am grateful to have those people who supported me.

Here are the things you need to know:

  • 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with little or no experience of deafness or knowledge of how to communicate with a deaf person
  • Over 78% of deaf children attend mainstream school with no specialist support in place.
  • Deafness is not a learning disability. There is no reason why the majority of deaf children should achieve any less than hearing children.
  • Deaf children need to be able to communicate effectively, access information and influence the world around them by any appropriate method whether through sign language, oral communication or a combination of approaches.
  • Without the right support, deaf children and young people are vulnerable to isolation, abuse, bullying, poor self-esteem and low levels of achievement.

In the world we live in, people still think us deaf people are different to hearing people. Well, my friend, did you read the key information above? We are not different, we are normal human beings. Why not bring in sign language to schools to make the world a better place to live in.  Every deaf child have different dream and goals that they want to achieve. I am doing masters and never in million years I thought I would reach this far and I am going to Canada for Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise. Unbelievable opportunity! It is all because of sign language is what got me being able to communicate with my parents and friends then I learned how to speak afterwards.

My advice to hearing people: Just go and learn sign language, even the alphabets or something like food. If you do that and be the reason someone smile and you might change a life.

My advice to deaf people: Don’t just sit down playing games or watch tv because you feel that you can’t do something. Just go to school, travel or whatever to get whatever you want to be and work hard because you will get there. It takes time, just have a little faith.

Take care y’all.

Montserrat is my home and always will be.

It has been a while since I decided to write. Before you get started, I just want you to know that it is going to be personal.

As some of you probably know I went back home in the Caribbean last month. Before I already planned to go back, I lost someone who was like a mother to me. I was absolutely devastated because losing someone who used to look after you when you was a kid is never easy. When the volcano was acting up in Montserrat, my parents had to leave me in Antigua so they could go back to Montserrat to work. I was scared and sad because I did not understand why did they leave me with a stranger. When they left, my godmother took me and made me feel welcome in her house in Antigua. But having that thought when I was a kid, I did think that my parents did not want me so that is why they left me with her. But that is not the reason why they left me. They left me because in 1995, the year I was born the volcano destroyed Montserrat. My parents lost everything, house, money, food, anything you could think of. So when they left me with my Godmother, they had to go back to find a way to get their lives back together and I can tell that it was not easy for them.

But let me tell you about my godmother who passed away just before I went to the Caribbean. When I heard the news, I was really torn and heartbroken because she is a person who looked after me when I was a kid. She was a mother who made a massive impact on my life, she made me who I am and she put me where I am today and I would never forget that. She is an amazing mother who always wants what is best for us. It is sad how life just come and go and losing someone that we love the most. I would never forget everything she has done for me and everything about her. She is in God’s hand. When I was at the funeral, the minister said I did not just come to the funeral and preach about death. I came here to talk about redemption! For those of you who do not know what is ‘Redemption’ in the Christian bible, it means that we are saved by God from evil. She passed away because God saved her from suffering by the devil. I would not go too much about what does the bible say and so on because I believe people who are reading my blog may be Christians or not. But I am who I am and I am a Christian who always have faith in God.  My godmother had a lot of pain when I heard the news that she was at the hospital but I had faith that she will get better. Sometimes you cannot question God or life about how you want it to be or what is it going to happen. This is why we have to treat every day as our last day.

During the time I was at Montserrat or Antigua, my friends kept asking me how come all the sudden I am in the Caribbean? I did not tell anyone that I was going apart from telling my close friends. Some of you may have seen my recent vlog when I said that I went back not because I needed a break but to learn. But, what did I learn when I went there? I learned about life. Antigua and Montserrat is my home and always will be my home. I went back because I wanted to know a little bit more about where I come from and how I grow as a person I am today. So I discovered how people see me differently, for instance, they used to know that ‘Thomas cannot talk or Thomas cannot hear.’ I was labelled “Deaf and Dumb” over there because they do not have the knowledge about Deaf people. I am not saying it is happening now over there but when I went back people in Montserrat was surprised that I can hear, talk and do you know what shocked them the most? I went there by myself without my parents. I usually go back with my mom but I did not this time. I went there because I wanted to asked questions about why people see me differently and how come it’s only now they see me as a normal person? They were surprised how my speech was good, they were surprised how I was capable coming to the Caribbean myself without having to rely on my mom and dad, and they were surprised about how I am coping so well in England. I used to hate going back to Antigua and Montserrat because everyone used to treat me like I am nothing to them. After when they heard about I being an athlete when I was a teenager, playing for GB deaf basketball, going different countries, going to university and published my first paper as an undergraduate student. They treat me as if I am famous over there when they heard the news about me doing so well. I am not doing it because I wanted to prove people wrong. I did all of this because as a deaf person I am capable to do anything and wanted to make sure that I get a good life. So I am grateful for people who always stand by my side and believed in me.

I want to talk to you about Montserrat and I will talk about Antigua another time soon. I was not born in Montserrat, I was born in Antigua. This is where my friends who want to get to know me get mixed up. My family comes from Montserrat and I stayed with my cousins. It has been 5 years since I went back and believe me Montserrat has changed so much… Not only because people treat me as a normal person. It’s because the atmosphere was different, everything over there is different. I am not sure if it is a good or bad thing. When I was there just for couple days, I was surprised how everyone in the island is so far behind. Montserrat have so much potential to change and become a better country and well advanced, but no everything out there is so old-fashioned. People looking at me like “Why does this person dress like that?” or “Where did you get this from?” and so on. As much as I love Montserrat, everyone out there is full of themselves and do not care about one another in my opinion. Why? because after what I discovered seeing the pictures and videos of Montserrat being completely destroyed by the volcano about 3/4 of the island. Everyone moved out of the country and they never come back home, well some. They lost everything because of the Volcano and it is still going on since 1995. The volcano is sleeping but it is still active. I am not going to talk a lot about Montserrat because I went there for personal reasons. Not just discovering life but something more to it and hopefully maybe one day I will tell you the real reason why. But all I can say is that I needed time off to figure out what I want to do and look forward to many things this year.

Take Care Y’all! 🙂 Hope you enjoy some of the pictures of Montserrat!

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“Thomas, when you did your presentation, your speech is excellent. How did you do it? ” (8.11.17).

Woke up a little early but I had a good sleep.

I arrive in Cambridge at 8:10 am, here I am at the station waiting for my friend. It is becoming a routine for me every Wednesday before we go to the University together. We were catching up on how our week was and also talked about the presentation. She thinks that she did well but believes that she could have done it better and I felt the same. I told her about the questioning part of the presentation I felt that I did not do well. She said “It is only 10%” and I replied, “10% does really mean a lot so I hope I did okay.”

We headed to Compass House for our 9 am lecture and the presentation today is about Doping. If you wanted to ask me how I feel about the presentation about Doping. Honestly, I find it all right. I do know how it is important to know about doping in sport but there is so many laws, regulations, testing and debate about why people are against it or not. One of the students was talking about is it okay for the coach to give young athlete to take drugs for certain sport? I’m talking the age between 12 – 16. Do you think it is okay? Do you think it is the young athlete’s responsibility to know what they are taking or even if they got positive for taking one, it is their own problem? With these questions about young athletes taking drugs makes you think about what would you do if you are in this situation.

Anyway, I had my result for the presentation for modality last week on. I didn’t get the grade that I was expecting. However, hearing a feedback from the marker. He said that what’s interesting about my presentation is that when I said my modality is me he was really interested in that. He wanted to hear more about what I have to say. First, I did explain about ontology, epistemology and how they linked together. He liked how I asked the audience the questions to see if they understand. He wanted me to explain things little more in-depth. He wanted to hear how I did with my journal article and how am I used to use that as part of my research to get people to share their experiences/story. It was mainly more that he wanted me to talk more about my research and what am I looking for. Something more in depth rather than me talking about the ontology and epistemology.

Not only he talked about what he was hoping for, he was amazed about from his experience when he sees a deaf person doing a presentation, they seem to struggle but he was surprised about how my speech was excellent, I took my time to explain things slowly and so on. But he was confused how can a deaf person like me can do the presentation so well? I explained to him why I hard to learn things in a hard way because every time when I know I have to do the presentation. I like to practise my speech and that is important for me. I am not sure about other deaf people but it is for me massively because I come from hearing family and I know what it feels to lose my hearing since when I was a kid, as well as the thought of me not being able to speak again to communicate with my family.

I literally go to google translator and type in the word I want to learn how to pronounce like “Emancipatory or Autoethnography.”  Believe me, it is not an easy word but I would spend an hour learning how to say these words. Then go and tell my parents if I am pronouncing the words correctly. To be honest, they do struggle on how to say it but, it was my parents who keep encouraging me to speak every day, correcting my grammar and everything you could think of to improve my speech and they still do that to me today. It is really annoying but I am grateful for that. I know most deaf people prefer to sign rather than to speak but for me, I think it is important to learn how to speak properly as well as signing. So, this is what I told him and he was really impressed with that. He said “If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about your grade because your research project is unique and I look forward to it and congratulation with your publication. Also, you can’t fail a master student who has published his academic journal.”

Honestly, when he said that I never felt so proud of myself listening to his feedback. Of course, there was some criticism but it was something that I could learn from him and see what I need to improve next time.


QUOTE OF THE DAY:

DON’T WAIT FOR OPPORTUNITY. CREATE IT.

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“Sport saved my life” but “I am tired of being an alien!”: Stories from the life of a deaf athlete.

ABSTRACT

Objectives: This study explores the ways in which a deaf athlete’s experiences of participation in sport can affect his psychological and social well-being, and how social and interpersonal relationships play a role in shaping these experiences.

Design: To produce an understanding of the embodied experience of being a deaf athlete over the years and in different social situations, an autoethnographic approach was adopted.

Method: To generate the stories represented in this study, three main strategies have been adopted: memory writing, emotional recall, and the use of memory. Adopting the position of the storyteller, data was represented through an evocative autoethnography, with the aim to describe subjective emotional experiences to create empathy with, as well as increase awareness and encourage reflection in the reader.

Results: Five story fragments taken from a deaf athlete’s life are presented, in relation to key moments of the athlete’s life. The stories show how social relationships affect the athlete’s experience of sport participation, spanning from an enthusiastic inclusion in playing sport with hearing and non-hearing peers, to the feelings of alienation felt due to social exclusion from hearing sport events, and the hopelessness deriving from a lack of understanding of the specific needs that come from coaching a deaf person.

Conclusions: The theoretical and practical implications of this study are discussed, with particular attention towards the opportunity of portraying the experiences of a category of athletes that has been scarcely investigated, and even more rarely allowed its own voice.

CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE ARTICLE

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Irish, et al. (2017)