“When I opened the letter… I actually danced around the room! I felt proud because someone recognized all my hard work to support my community,” Reuben said with joy. “I can’t believe it’s going to happen. The Royal Wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event and I’m going!”
Who is Reuben Litherland and what sparked his passion to help the deaf community? It all starts when Reuben was 5 months old and his family found out he is deaf.
The cause was from genetic deafness from his dad’s side of the family. When his parents heard of the diagnosis, they were worried about their child’s future. There are a limited number of UK deaf schools and they were concerned about finding a school that would be best for their son. They were fortunate to receive strong support from social services and DDCS (Derby Deaf Children Society). Reuben went to nursery at a School for the Deaf in Derby which made it easier for him and then progressed through the education system.
Reuben wears his Phonak hearing aids every day and uses a mixture of speech and sign language to help him communicate.
Now at secondary school, where not all his classmates use sign language, Reuben felt lonely and isolated at lunch and break times. He decided to take action to change this situation.
It then sparked the idea to set up a sign language club to teach his hearing peers how to sign and to improve communication barriers.
“The future is looking bright for the club and when they get older, they can use those skills if they meet deaf people,” says Reuben.
“The future is looking bright for the club and when they get older, they can use those skills if they meet deaf people.”
Reuben is passionate about the deaf community because of his deaf identity and noticed that deaf people face barriers in life, such as not being able to go to the cinema because of a lack of deaf awareness and subtitled showings. It inspired him to contact his local cinema, to work with them to see how they could improve their accessibility.
Read more: How to learn sign language
The best news was yet to come, Reuben is one of few inspiring individuals who received a prestigious invitation to the wedding of the year; Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, on Saturday, May 19th!
Reuben’s excitement is so wonderful, that he even hopes to teach Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a few sign phrases!
Reuben Litherland from Derby. Reuben was born deaf and has started lunchtime lessons to teach sign language at school. pic.twitter.com/bpUUO0rIKL— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 10, 2018
His parents are overjoyed with the wonderful news!
“We are very proud of him because he has lots of achievements and he will go far in life!” His parents said.
His parents suggest that if there are other parents with deaf children who feel like they may be worried about their child’s future, to have a look around to see what services are offered in your local area. It’s best to get lots of information to help you and your child achieve their best potential.
Reuben’s also has advice to other young deaf people.
“You should be proud of yourselves and grab every opportunity you can,” says Reuben. “Work hard and lots of barriers can be overcome.”
Does your school have a sign language club? Let us know in the comments.