Ellie Parfitt just turned 22, but already she’s leading the way for positive change in the deaf community, a trait that recently gained her national attention.
When she started her blog, DeafieBlogger.com, it was a way to express her thoughts, rants and experiences about deafness, and what it means to her, she says, but in just three short years it has grown to impact an entire community.
In November, Ellie was awarded the Leadership Award at the Signature Annual Awards in the UK, for “her commitment to making a positive change and the passion she has to inspire the next generation.”
“I was shocked,” she says. “It’s motivation to continue blogging, campaigning and doing all I can to improve accessibility for the next deaf generation.”
One of Ellie’s main accessibility campaigns for the hearing loss community is to increase the number of movie showings with subtitles at cinemas across the UK.
During her childhood, teenage years and even as a young adult, Ellie says that she has constantly missed out on enjoying movies with friends and family because of the lack of subtitled viewings.
“It made me feel like an outsider,” she says. “ It’s very frustrating and isolating.”
“It made me feel like an outsider”
Determined to make a change, Ellie created a petition on change.org, which has now more than 10,000 signatures.
With support from other D/deaf advocates to bring #SubtitledCinema campaigns back on the radar, including YouTuber Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, Michelle Hedley and Deaf Girly, Ellie has since met with the UK Cinema Association to discuss the current subtitled cinema provision.
“Currently, the industry standard is to have two movie viewings with subtitles, twice a week,” she said. “My aim is to have a compromise of more subtitled showings at more reasonable times and days, for example as well as showings during the day, some should be at evenings during the week, especially weekend afternoons.”
As Ellie continues her meetings with representatives from the main cinema chains in the UK with support from the UK charity organization Action on Hearing Loss. In the meantime, you can also support her cause by signing her petition, contacting your cinema or sharing your experiences on social media using the hashtag: #SubtitledCinema.
As Ellie has grown to be an independent, young adult she also says that she’s encountered various accessibility issues at places like banks and hospitals, which she is advocating to find a solution for.
“Now that I’m 21, I would like to talk to my doctor without my mum having to be on the phone,” she says. “Access to healthcare should be accessible.”
Banks, medical services and government facilities should meet our needs, she says. Especially in regards to customer services and communication methods.
“While Next Generation Text Service, Sign-Video Relay, Textphone, and online chat facilities may be available, these services are often for customers who either knows sign language, has a textphone or has internet access at the time of calling,” she says.
Ellie says she would like to see these services use an App to provide voice-to-text services for people who are hard of hearing. These technologies are beginning to exist, such as Phonak’s myCall-to-Text, but they are not yet widely available across hearing aid devices and all phone platforms.
While most of Ellie’s activities has been in her hometown of the UK, her blogs have international reach, and she hopes an upcoming volunteer trip at a Deaf school in Sri Lanka will benefit more deaf and hard of hearing people on a global level.
“With profound deafness’ ourselves, we know how important it is for D/deaf children to get the right support, especially in countries like Sri Lanka where they may not have the resources to achieve their potential,” she says.
Ellie will be traveling to Sri Lanka in July with her boyfriend, who is also deaf and the reason Ellie started DeafieBlogger in the first place, she says.
The trip, which is organized by ‘VoluntEars’, a Deaf Overseas Volunteering Organization, will be “an incredible chance for us to give something back to the D/deaf community,” she says.
The results of Ellie’s advocacy campaigns didn’t happen overnight, and there’s still a lot of work to go, she says. But she’s committed to continuing sharing her story, the stories of others deaf and hard of hearing people, and bridging the gaps between the Deaf and deaf community, as well as the D/deaf and hearing worlds.
“If we don’t make a change no one will.”
“We still have those stigmas and negative perceptions in Deaf versus deaf culture,” she says. “We need to recognize that even if you have hearing loss or profound deafness and you don’t know sign language, we still have something in common.”
Ellie says she has hope that other Phonak hEARos and deaf advocates in her community are going to break down those stigmas.
“If we don’t make a change no one will,” she says. “If you are passionate about something or want to make a change to go for it. Don’t let anything stop you.”