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Ellie's a workplace wonder

Photo: Read Ellie's story

Working together with her colleagues, Ellie (21) is happier than ever in her office job.

Standing in front of her colleagues delivering deaf awareness tips, Ellie was confident that she’d found a workplace she’d feel at home in. As someone who enjoys being creative, working in marketing at a health club and spa is perfect for her.

But it hasn’t been straightforward for Ellie, who is profoundly deaf, wears hearing aids and communicates using speech and lip-reading. Both her and her mum Lindsay put her success down to hard work throughout her school years.

“We never found out why Ellie was born deaf,” Lindsay explains. “There was a day when she was eight months old and I dropped some saucepans and she didn’t flinch. We took her for hearing tests and she had her first hearing aids at 10 months old.”

“It was hard work and determination all the way through my school years,” Ellie, who went to mainstream schools, says. “I was catching up with school work every weekend. I got really tired lip-reading at school and had a lot of concentration fatigue.”

But the hard work paid off for Ellie; she studied German, Textiles and Media at A-level. “My school wanted me to go to university but I found studying at school challenging so didn’t feel it was right for me. I thought I’d get a job with a view to training through an apprenticeship instead.”

"Don’t let your deafness hold you back, try and be confident and show them what you can do."

Ellie first started work as a marketing apprentice but didn’t complete the apprenticeship because the office wasn’t very accessible. “I tried to educate my colleagues,” Ellie explains. “But they didn’t understand that I needed support. They thought ‘You’re old enough, you can do it by yourself.”’

Ellie could have challenged the apprenticeship managers to make reasonable adjustments for her, under the Equality Act 2010, but with support from her family, she decided to leave and find a new job. Since then, she’s given a talk at her old school explaining that sometimes one opportunity might not work out but it’s not the end of the world, you just need to find a different route.

“When I started at the health club and spa I work at now, my confidence was quite low,” Ellie says. “But they asked me how they could make things right in the office. They let me do deaf awareness training for my colleagues. I explained they needed to stand in front of me when they speak, always get my attention first and speak normally, not in raised or exaggerated voices.

“One thing I found particularly difficult was being unable to use the phone. Now if someone calls for me, my colleagues know to tell them to email me. Little things like that have made a big difference.”

In her role, Ellie designs posters, works on marketing campaigns and social media and enjoys having the freedom to be creative. “The social side of work is good too; my colleagues are good at involving me in chats,” Ellie says. “It’s a small office so there isn’t too much noise. I’m quite lucky, there are only three people in most of my meetings. If there were more, I’d probably use my radio aid.”

"They let me do deaf awareness training for my colleagues."

One thing that Ellie has found challenging in the past is applying for jobs. “Some people say you have to put deafness on your CV but I don’t really agree with that,” Ellie says. “I told my current manager I was deaf in my interview and they were fine with it. I think they were more impressed with my portfolio.”

“It isn’t easy,” adds Lindsay. “But Ellie had a long interview with a disability advisor at the job centre and she said that you don’t need to put deafness on your application.”

Ellie works part-time in marketing and spends the rest of her time running a successful blog. “I love writing blogs about being deaf and all the obstacles we overcome. I like to flaunt my hearing aids like fashion accessories. I hope deaf people will see them and it will inspire them.

“I’ve had so many great opportunities because of my blog. I got sent to Texas for the Good Vibrations Music Festival. It was brilliant; they had vibrating backpacks, live captions for the music and coordinating light shows; you could really relax and enjoy it. I’ve also been to the House of Commons for a hearing loss event and was an Olympic torchbearer!”

Ellie’s blog’s motto is ‘deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support’ and she is committed to inspiring others to work towards their own dreams. “If other deaf young people are worried about working in an office, I’d say don’t let your deafness stop you from doing anything. Don’t think about why you can’t do it, just give it a go and see what happens,” Ellie says. “I might not be able to answer the phone but I can always write an email. Employers like to see you being proactive and coming up with a solution. Try and be confident and show them what you can do.”

“I’m so proud of Ellie,” Lindsay adds. “She’s come so far and worked so hard. It’s not been easy but now she inspires people and she’s a great role model. Nothing ever stands in her way.” 

You can find Ellie’s blog at*

*Please note we promote blogs that we think might be of interest to our readers but the opinions expressed in them are not necessarily our own.