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Emily's making the move

Photo: Read Emily's story

Emily (19) moved out of her parents' home and to a brand new city.

Unpacking boxes alongside her housemate Francesca, Emily was excited to finally be in her new house. She couldn’t wait to be independent, explore her new home town and have a moving in party. But, after saying goodbye to her emotional mum Diana, she also felt a bit anxious about not having any older adults in the house and having to rely completely on herself for the first time.

It had been a long journey for Emily, who is profoundly deaf and wears hearing aids, to get to this point. Born into a hearing family, she communicated through speech until she was 13 but now mainly uses British Sign Language (BSL). “I learned BSL through friends,” Emily says. “Once I learned to sign, that was the best thing ever. I became part of a community and finally didn’t feel left out.”

Emily attended mainstream schools until the end of Year 8 but didn’t feel she fitted in. “I didn’t make a lot of friends and had no confidence in myself or my future,” Emily explains. “I decided in Year 8 to move to a deaf-specialist school, that school made me who I am today.”

After school, Emily went to college to study art and design, then found a youth work apprenticeship with the National Deaf Children’s Society. “I never thought I’d get the job so I was really shocked when I did,” Emily says. “I was excited to start my new chapter as I wanted to become more independent.”

The new job meant a big change for Emily: her apprenticeship was based in Birmingham so she had to move from her family home in Cardiff to a whole new city. “I had so many different feelings about moving out of home,” Emily says. “I was nervous, excited, overwhelmed and sad. My family were very worried and they didn’t really want me to go. When I went to college, I got a bit lazy and  became a bit of a rebel. They were worried if I wasn’t under their eye, I’d do even worse!”

"Technology helped us a lot."

Emily’s first task was to find a house and some housemates to live with. “My mum helped me a lot,” she explains. “It was all very last minute because I had the job interview and then in two months I had to move. I’d only been to Birmingham twice before! It was stressful looking for a house; it was far from my home so we only had one day to do viewings.

“We had to keep emailing estate agents and often they wouldn’t check their inboxes. We couldn’t call so we’d use the Next Generation Text service (NGTS) to call – you type to the relay assistant who speaks your words to the person you’re calling and then types their reply to you.”

Emily’s family helped her prepare for the move and gave her lots of their old possessions to furnish the house with. “I didn’t want to accept that I had to pay for house essentials,” Emily says. “I’ve changed my mind about that now, I’m actually about to buy a £200 washing machine!”

Emily’s housemate Francesca is also deaf so between them they made sure to install the technology they needed in their new home. “Technology helped us a lot,” Emily explains. “We have a smoke alarm that wakes us up through vibration if there’s a fire, vibrating alarm clocks and a flashing doorbell. It was a main priority for us when we moved in, we got in touch with Deaf Services and they installed them.”

But Emily found there were a number of other challenges to overcome living independently as a deaf young person. “The main challenges were sorting out letters about Council Tax or bills,” she says. “I found the English jargon was hard for me to understand because I mainly use BSL now. I had to look up what words meant and ask other people’s advice on what to do.

“It was hard not being able to use the phone as well, I couldn’t ring the GP and it was hard to stay in touch with people at home. NGTS is a godsend for that, I’ve used it lots.”

"I had so many different feelings about moving out of home."

The commute to work was also difficult for Emily at times. “I’ve missed trains because I haven’t heard announcements,” she explains. “I find using the Trainline app useful or asking staff, although sometimes I just have to follow the crowd and hope for the best!”

But other challenges Emily encountered she recognises would affect all young people moving out of home for the first time. “It was tough to budget my money to work out if I could pay for bills, food etc. And it was difficult to do a 9–5 job, keep the house clean and keep my social life on track! I found it really hard to find the balance.”

Overall, though, Emily has had a ball living independently and wouldn’t change it. “Birmingham has lots going on, there’s always something to do,” she says. “It’s also quite deaf aware, I’ve met a few people who sign and those who can’t write things down or type on my phone.

“My parents are a lot more confident about me living independently now, they know I can manage anything and see me as a strong person. They know that I’d go and ask for help if there was something wrong.”