• Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Watching Rose Ayling-Ellis on BBCs Strictly Come Dancing has made me proud to be deaf

Dec 17, 2021

Rose Ayling-Ellis has been undeniably incredible on the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom floor, and she's currently the hot favourite to pick up the Glitterball with partner Giovanni Pernice.

While watching her has been a joy to many people around the UK, it has been particularly special for the deaf community to see representation on a prime time show.

Phoebe Capewell, 25, who is a Video Editor from London spoke to OK! about what it has meant to her…

"There weren’t many deaf well-known people on TV or in films when I was growing up. There often wasn't even the option for subtitles, and so I would always rely on my parents to relay what was being said. It is only in the last few years that I have noticed a difference.

"At first it would be someone who is deaf or a BSL user, and they would be a background/supporting act, but now the number of deaf role models is growing. It’s about time that people like Rose are getting under the spotlight and are being recognised for their talents, and not just their deafness.

"I actually know Rose through mutual friends. The deaf community is quite small, and I have close friends who are also in the TV industry and went to Deafinitely Theatre with her. She is a lovely person and it has been great to see her raise deaf awareness and raising the profile of the Deaf community!

"She's made people realise that deafness comes in so many different ways. We deaf people do not need to be ‘helped’, it’s society that needs to adapt, so we don’t have that communication barrier. Rose has also made a lot of people realise that BSL is such a useful tool, and that it is crucial to learn the language from birth so deaf children can access all forms of communication.

"As a deaf, female video editor, I am incredibly proud to see Rose, on TV, getting the recognition she truly deserves. I have noticed that I have become a lot prouder of my own deaf identity since she joined Strictly Come Dancing. I am seeing a lot more people talking about her on the show, and they are fascinated by her communication skills and how she follows her dance routines by feeling the beat.

"It makes me really proud because I can relate to her on a lot of levels. Seeing Rose on a huge show has also brought the deaf community together. We are all starting to feel ’seen’ because people are finally talking about us, because of our talents and not because of our deafness.

"Growing up I always felt like an outsider, and I’m sure a lot of other deaf people have too, and Rose has proved to everyone that we are just as equal as everyone else.

"Some people can show great deaf awareness because they are either so interested in the topic and have never met a deaf person before, or they instantly know that I’m just as equal as them, so they will simply treat me as someone who relies on lip-reading or sign language.

I also meet people who are aware that I’m deaf, but have no clue how to adapt to that. For example, when I tell someone I rely on lip-reading, some people continue to cover their mouth or ’speak louder’. This is absolutely no help at all! Deaf people need to be able to see your face, and read your lips; we read faces, lips, and body language at all times. A lack of deaf awareness in society is probably one of the biggest barriers that deaf people face.

"It can get exhausting being treated differently every day. Whenever I meet someone new, I never know what to expect from them – whether I will understand them or not.

"I’ve noticed a change since Rose has been on the show. There is more of a positive approach to sign language which should have happened a long time ago.

"I have noticed people are saying they want to learn sign language. I'm incredibly proud to see that people are finally showing an interest in my first language. And I truly hope this will stick around for a long time – not just during the Strictly period! It is also so important that these people are searching for BSL courses that are taught by deaf tutors, because it’s not just the language to learn about; it has its own unique culture.

"People are also becoming more comfortable with asking questions around deafness. It’s something that the deaf community is proud about. Hearing people are beginning to learn that deaf people have been isolated for too long, and it’s starting to change now.

"I went to a dance school for a few years when I was younger, with my hearing sister, and it was always difficult to follow and keep up with everyone in the classes, because of lack of deaf awareness! But now Rose has shown that there are many ways to work around this, it is definitely encouraging more deaf young people to learn to dance.

"If people want to do better for deaf people then they must adapt, and learn to be deaf aware. Deaf people are so, so tired of making adaptations to fit into society – it is a daily struggle we have to go through, and it’s truly exhausting.

"If you work or meet with a deaf person, ask what their communication preference is, because it is so varied from person to person! Never assume that you cannot communicate with a deaf person because they can’t hear; they may not be able to hear, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate with you. Treat deaf people as equal to you, because we are."

Phoebe spoke to OK! on behalf of the National Deaf Children’s Society, which is the leading charity supporting the UK’s 50,000 deaf children and their families.

Anyone wanting advice or support can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society’s freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880. For more information, visit the charity’s website, www.ndcs.org.uk.

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