Express & Star

What it's like to... Be deaf

Sean Noone is a man with many strings to his bow. By day, he's a Citizens Advice Bureau advisor and a mentor, while on evenings and weekends, he's a wrestler, footballer and a bit of a party animal.


He's also profoundly Deaf, and has been since birth.

We were interested to get an insight into his life, and – as a hearing team here at Weekend – find out more about what it's like to be Deaf.

Sean, aged 28, who is from Warley, makes it clear that using a capital D when writing 'deaf' is important to him – we ask why. "I would class myself as being Deaf rather than deaf. It shows I am proud to be Deaf, that I have a Deaf identity and that I am also culturally Deaf. I use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate and not English. I don't see myself as disabled – I am very proud to be Deaf. To me, being Deaf is a way of life and one that I am happy with.

"Society often labels me as disabled but I don't agree. Just because my ears don't work doesn't mean that I have a disability!"

He goes on to say: "I was born profoundly Deaf and have never been able to hear anything at all without hearing aids. I currently don't wear them, but I have in the past. They help me to hear a little bit but I can't really be bothered with them. I am not totally sure what caused my deafness as most people in my family are hearing. My father has a mild hearing loss but my half sister is also Deaf, so it could be as a result of genetics, though I couldn't be sure."

Sean has a very busy life as he has two jobs. The first is working for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) as a Deaf advisor where he sees a variety of Deaf and hard of hearing clients and assists them with phone calls, filling out forms, translating letters, and providing advice.

His second role is with the British Deaf Association (BDA) where he is a project mentor around the Midlands. He helps to recruit other mentors as well as meeting with mentees to help them get a better quality of life.

Sean is passionate about helping others, and his positivity is inspiring. "I do not see myself as having to face challenges as a result of being Deaf. I feel that I am a normal person who can go about everyday life the same as anyone."

But there is the occasional challenge: "One of the biggest issues I have is the number of barriers that society puts in the way of a Deaf person. Not many people can sign and this can lead to issues with communication and not understanding each other.

"Although I can write well, BSL has its own structure and grammatical rules so it can be difficult to read and write in English as the languages are so different. I can find phone calls a big problem as many companies will not talk to me through my interpreter.

"They tell me it's a breach of data protection and that I would need to call back using type talk. This would require me to use a special phone on a keyboard to type what I wanted to say. They would then type the reply from that person back to me in order for me to read what has been said."

Sean doesn't think that this is the best way to communicate for everyone. "Type talk can cause issues for lots of Deaf people as many of them can not read and write English. We want to be able to use Sign Language in order to communicate and say what we want. The best way for us is through an interpreter."

Fun times - Sean front, and his friends head to Malia on a stag do

Despite the occasional stumbling block, though, Sean is accomplishing great things. "I have many achievements that I am very proud of. I've travelled to America and Japan as a wrestler, Sean Midnight, as a representative for British Deaf wrestling which was a real adventure. This November I am returning to Japan to complete the matches."

Sean is also very proud of his role within British Deaf Football.

This year he was part of a movement that was able to link his team with West Bromwich Albion, so they've become West Bromwich Albion Deaf FC. This has helped to secure the future of British Deaf football which secretary Sean says is fantastic.

As well as this, Sean's giving back to the community that has allowed him to achieve such exciting things. "I have been asked to become vice chairperson at my old school, Longwill School for the Deaf, in Birmingham. It means I can help shape the lives of Deaf children. I am also one of very few Deaf people who is a qualified youth worker, which means that I can support them."

Sean has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but at the end of a long week, he loves nothing more than blowing off steam with his friends.

"I have friends who are both Deaf and hearing and enjoy mixing with them both. The Deaf community is very different to the hearing community – we meet up as often as we can, often at specialist clubs, although many of these are now closing down due to lack of funding. It's a wonderful experience as everyone signs!"

Sean is keen to point out the Deaf community is as varied as the hearing community. "We all do different things, different jobs and different hobbies.

"There are regional differences, a bit like an accent, in Sign Language and each country has its own Sign Language too. Anything a hearing person can do, a Deaf person can too – except hear. We can work, we can drive, we can dance, feel rhythm, we can party and have a drink. We can do anything!"

By Kirsty Bosley

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