John Kamitsis is a deaf man who feels that the deaf community have been forgotten about since the pandemic began and that more support is needed.
The Preston man is now working to offer support to other deaf people who may feel the same way he did when face masks were implemented and he was unable to lipread.
Before the pandemic began, John had very little trouble communicating with people whilst going about his day to day life:
“I am a profoundly deaf man, have a deaf partner, a dog, a full-time job, and a happy busy life. Before Covid (BC) I took many things for granted, I speak very clearly and can lipread with the best of them,
“So I never really struggled with day to day life, communicating with the hearing world was something I never had to worry about. Shopping, easy. Holidays abroad to my beloved Disney, easy. Life was good.”
But when face masks become mandatory, John was unable to communicate with people the same way in public:
“All of a sudden communication was cut off, I became deafer than I even realised I could be. Of course, I could still talk to people and let them know what I wanted, but had no way of knowing how to receive information, to get answers to my questions/enquiries,
“Masks became mandatory and the masses refused to remove them even to facilitate communication.”
John felt left in the dark about what was happening when the pandemic began:
“I knew there was a type of flu that was taking over, but no interpreters were provided by our government so no access to the news, the daily updates, the rules.”
After doing some research about what support was available, he has now begun working with a charity that has set up a project to support deaf people:
“I knew I had to stand up to the discrimination and during this research period, found a charity called Disability Equality North West (DENW). I soon found myself applying for a job and standing up to make a change.
“DENW secured funding from the lottery to set up a project that aims to support deaf and hard of hearing people through the struggles they are facing because of covid. Everything becoming online overnight, only being able to access doctors via a telephone call and little to no understanding or empathy for those that couldn’t use a telephone for communication.”
The charity is now working hard to raise awareness of the struggles some people have been through during the pandemic and to let people know that the support is out there:
“I have a team of interpreters that I work with Monday to Friday, and slowly we and the DENW family are helping people to break down the barriers. Helping people to access their information, taking back control, challenging discrimination and educating the masses along the way.
“I want people to know the all is not lost because of a pandemic, there is hope and with the right support, anything is possible. I would love to find the people that need us most, the people that don’t have access to technology, don’t have support in place, because maybe, like me, they never thought they would be in this position.”
For any information about the work DENW does, you can check out their website here. You can get in touch with the hearing cohort via firstname.lastname@example.org, 01772 558863 and for the deaf cohort, or you can contact John directly at Johnk@disability-equality.org.uk or via text/FaceTime on 07925356369.