Laura Driver: Guest Blog

Laura Driver: Guest Blog

Please note – This is a portion of the blog interview.
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Can you tell us about your lived experience with disability?

I was born moderately-severely Deaf – and so I have lived with hearing loss my whole life. I grew up wearing hearing aids and attending a mainstream school with other Deaf children, as well as attending Deaf clubs. So, I have had exposure to British Sign Language from a young age, although I am not (yet) fluent in the language. Whilst my brother is Deaf too, my family are mainly hearing, and so I grew up with English as my native language – with a fair amount of lipreading too! When I was 25 years old, I went for the cochlear implant, and it literally  changed my life. I hear better with the cochlear implant than I ever did growing up with hearing aids. There were things I struggled to do with hearing aids that I can now do with my cochlear implant – such as talking on the telephone.

You work as a communications and marketing officer at NRCPD in the United Kingdom. Can you tell us about your work in this area?

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve worked for NRCPD for 2 years as their Communications and Marketing Officer. They are the national regulator of language service professionals working with Deaf and deafblind people. I’m responsible for communicating to our stakeholders via our owned channels and for our engagement with stakeholders via social media and our outreach events. Working in the United Kingdom, which has been hit hard during the COVID-19 Pandemic, how have you found communication in a time when wearing masks has been essential and mandated. I’m not going to lie; it has been tough. I’m completely fine with wearing masks and others wearing masks too – as it’s important to keep ourselves safe, but it does come with the obvious challenges for those with hearing loss. It’s been mostly fine, as we’ve now adapted and people are more aware of what they can do to communicate, instead of removing their masks, such as writing things down or using sign language. Every now and then, I come across someone – who upon my repeatedly explaining that I am Deaf – continues speaking with their mask on, and not doing anything different to improve the communication. These kinds of situations are particularly frustrating.

Have you been working from home? How have innovations in technology helped you in your work and day to day activities during this period?

Yes, myself and my colleagues have mostly been working from home for the last 18 or so months. Initially, we were having team meetings on Zoom, which didn’t come with captions, so we moved over to Microsoft Teams, which do have automatic captions. It’s been great having meetings over Teams with the captions. Admittedly, the captions are not perfect, but they help a great deal. For big meetings such as board meetings, I work with NRCPD registered speech to text reporters – who are qualified palantypists, and they are absolutely fantastic, and the captioning is of such a high standard.

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