I am just a ordinary girl who happened to be born profoundly deaf. I grew up with my family in London who all learnt sign language to communicate with me and to make sure I fitted in at home. I went to a local deaf primary school from two years old and then on to deaf boarding school in Brighton which I loved! I had a great time with the friends I met there doing so many fun things and being mischevious! When I reached the age for going to college I had to decide whether to do my diploma courses in a normal boarding school in Berkshire or to stay at the same school environment I'd grown up in until this point.
I had been away from home for 7 years, so decided to go home and take a leap of faith by enrolling myself at a local college that was open to everyone. I was a bit scared and certainly didn't know what to expect. How could I hang out with people if they couldn't be understand me or if they found me weird? However it was the best decision I've ever. I made some amazing friends who even learnt sign language for me. I was also lucky enough to have both an interpreter and typewriter in college who helped me make the most of my studies. I gained so much confidence, and even learnt how to lip read as best I could.
Group and family conversations were difficult for me because everyone was talking at the same time. I was only able to focus on one person at a time to pick up words, especially when there were overlapping conversations going on. It was a struggle to keep up and I ended up giving up because it was very exhausting and I often felt left out. I sometimes asked my mum or my brother to explain to me what everyone was talking about but I knew their shortened version wasn't really the same. I don't blame them as I know that it is difficult to keep trying to explain lengthy discussions. I appreciate that my family learnt sign language just for me, I will always value that so much.
When I reached the age of 23 I didn't know which career path to follow so after working in admin for a media company in central London I decided to broaden my horizons. My best friend Nathan and I decided to go on an adventure, so we went backpacking around South East Asia. It was the best thing I have ever done. While travelling and experiencing so many different cultures, so much amazing food and meeting so many other young backpackers I had a light bulb moment. When I came home I would start a career within the fitness industry
But it wasn't quite that simple. I also wanted to break the barriers for deaf people, to help others gain better access to the fitness world. Every deaf person finds group fitness classes really hard and often get left behind as they're unable to hear any verbal instructions. As you can imagine, this can take its toll on one's confidence.
My aim is to find a way for gyms to be more accessible for not only deaf people, but for everyone with more visual and less verbal instructions. Attending classes in London is a very expensive habit. It's unfair for someone to have to pay that amount when they are not getting the same benefit and often go home dissatisfied.
This is why I am trying to break the barrier for deaf people in the fitness world. To encourage every fitness class to give us better accessibility and to achieve this I have been visiting classes in London and given reviews so that the deaf community can decide whether or not they'd like to train at each studio.
The main reasons that we aren't getting the best out of classes are:
- Rooms are too dark so lip reading is too hard
- Lack of communication
- Having to rely on copying others in a class
- Too much talking and not enough visual instruction
- Interpreters are rarely provided
It had been almost a year since I have been reviewing classes in London and it has been so much fun because I have met so many incredible people. I wouldn't be who I am now without these experiences. But I am stepping up and I am proud and excited to have recently hosted my first deaf fitness class. The class was run in December at Another Space in Covent Garden. The trainer had to manage a whole deaf group which was challenging, but I'm sure it was also very rewarding. I have another class coming up in January and hope this leads to bigger and better things for 2017!
My plan for 2017 is becoming a Personal Trainer. It is extremely important for me to choose the right course as it isn't just the course but I need an interpreter too. Costly, but it is my dream.
I hope to carry on inspiring people throughout my journey through my Instagram account and I won't let the fact that I am deaf ever get in my way. If other people can do it - then so can I!
- India Morse