British Alphabet sign language

Painfully Ableist: Deafness

Watch as Iqbal Hasan thrives in an ableist society while Joya interviews him. 

Author: Joya Choudhury

Special thanks to Iqbal Hasan, our interviewee. 

All quotes can be credited to Iqbal. 

BSL: British Sign Language 

Being deaf comes with many challenges, but it does not limit a person’s ambitions, kindness, or ability to act. A prime example of this is Iqbal Hasan. With Iqbal’s help, today we will lightly discuss the impact of being deaf during a person’s education, job, and time in school. 

Theme: School

From what I remember during our time in secondary school, Iqbal was always a friendly guy who has a bright personality. Yet, Iqbal recounts some adverse or prejudicial reactions to him because he is deaf. Being deaf made it “difficult to make hearing friends.” What this means is that Iqbal found it difficult to make friends with people who didn’t struggle with their hearing. Being deaf or having any disability requires accommodation or adjustment, especially when making friends. If someone is not willing to do a bit extra for someone who has a disability, it tells us a lot about their character.  

Joya: “Did you feel discrimination from your classmates?”

 Iqbal: “Yes I did as they would think we’re ‘dumb’ as we cannot hear but I always stood up for myself” 

It is upsetting to know that there are people who hold callous assumptions that only work for other people who are deaf or with hearing impairments. These are not just the older generations but our generations too. Iqbal went to school with Gen-Z’s, yet he was subjected to these offensive stereotypes. Thankfully Iqbal knows his worth and can stand up for himself. But next time, if you see anyone treating Iqbal or people who are deaf unfairly, step up. Ask Iqbal if he needs help against prejudice or correct your own biases. Even though there was this barrier between deaf students and hearing students, Iqbal explains how this did not affect him from creating bonds with classmates, but it did affect others. Iqbal continues to describe how “…other deaf friends, found it (creating bonds) challenging as I can speak clearly whereas others only rely on communicating via BSL.” 

The tip from Iqbal is to attend “social events during college and university…” this will help you meet people regularly while doing activities together that you enjoy! A great bonding time. Iqbal took a leap and would approach his peers “to chat with them,” extending his communication skills which led him to find precious friends.

“…I can confirm I am in contact with every single deaf friend I know from primary and secondary school.”

Theme: Job

Iqbal tells us that “it is indeed extremely difficult (to get a job) as I feel hesitant to even tick ‘yes’ on application forms when it states ‘do you have a disability’ as I feel this influences the entire application.” 

Society imposes a pressure on Iqbal, and many others like him, leading them to develop a lingering fear of rejection.This is all because of a disability entirely out of his control. Iqbal should not have to feel this way. For Iqbal and others to feel this way means society has been ‘othering’ him for too long – making him different for too long. Therefore, creating a barrier between the disabled and able-bodied people. Although it is unfortunate, Iqbal knows “that there are fewer educational and job opportunities due to impaired communication.” Iqbal also feels his deafness affects his chances of obtaining a job since he has “completed many applications since last July 2021.” Iqbal is yet to get a graduate job. Again these ‘if only I was able-bodied’ thoughts are bred from Iqbal’s community and how they treat or approach him. But some people are considerate and respectful. During one job interview, the interviewer asked Iqbal if he needed the “interview to be on remote, BSL interpreter or captions, which made me feel very appreciated.” This is how one accommodates people. People who accommodate those with disabilities are helping make the world more accessible for millions of people. 

Theme: Education

Iqbal excelled during his studies, where he even attained a “degree in Graphic Design.” (Give him a round of applause, everyone!) I wish I had an eye for design. As Iqbal said, Graphic design was a course he’d “most likely enjoy”, and if you enjoy it, you will excel in it. Iqbal’s tip for everyone thinking of going to university – find a topic you’re “passionate” about. As a deaf person, studying was still a challenge, and going to class to learn was a bit harder as he relied on, “lip-reading and focusing on the BSL interpreter.” Studying isn’t like watching a film; there are no captions or subtitles, and you can’t rewind an in-person class. Sometimes you can’t even rewind an online course as they’re not recorded, or they don’t even have captions for you to follow. As a fellow member of the disabled community, I know there are accommodating teachers or seminar leaders that will ensure you can study well despite any disabilities. But. Some are unwilling to budge and refuse to record lessons or send you the lecture notes/lecture slides beforehand.

I, Joya, remember a time someone said if I missed a certain amount of lessons, I would be marked down, despite the fact I missed classes due to medical reasons. It took a bit of time, but they became slightly lenient in the end.  

 Iqbal, what helped you study, or how could others help those who are deaf?

“I received a Communication Support Worker (CSW), British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter, Note Taker and Teacher of the Deaf.” This means Iqbal had someone who could help him follow the class in real-time or someone who could actively listen and take notes for Iqbal if he was unable to do so. Iqbal was able to have “1:1 session with (his) personal tutor.” This gave Iqbal that extra push to get closer to the same start line as his fellow peers. Yet it would have helped if he had frequent 1:1 session, at least once/twice a week, which would have significantly improved his grade. 

Iqbal:’s tip “If you’re in secondary, I would advise you to grab every support you can apply for!” 

Iqba’s tipl: “I would advise them to get Disability Student Allowances (DSA) which is a huge plus for every disabled students. The funding they provide is so helpful that it provides: communication support workers, BSL Interpreters, Teacher of the Deaf, Note takers, specialist equipment, deaf awareness training for tutors at uni.”

The most prominent challenge for someone who is deaf is “having to remind people constantly to be ‘deaf friendly’ such as face me when speaking, speak normally and don’t scream.” This is unfair and is so common it makes one who is witnessing such a situation feel shocked and embarrassed at the same time. Let’s do better. There is no need for this amount of hostility, and we are more than capable of making these minor adjustments to the way we speak, especially when talking to someone deaf.

Let’s do better. 
Connect with Iqbal on LinkedIn to see what he is up to!

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