Young Molly Bradley from Londonderry has become a poster girl for a project aimed at raising awareness about communication disabilities.
Molly’s picture and her story about a family trip to Barcelona features in a multimedia exhibition, commissioned by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) as part of its Giving Voice campaign and supported by Disability Action and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board.
It was on show at the Long Gallery at Stormont earlier this month and is still available for viewing and listening online.
Molly was born profoundly deaf, which is a permanent condition and has a significant impact on communication, educational attainment, employment and quality of life.
An increasing number of people with profound deafness like Molly receive a cochlear implant which allows them to hear some sound although they remain severely or profoundly deaf.
Mum Caitríona Bradley said: “Having a communication disability comes with a sense of isolation from peers, of not being able to join in. Molly doesn’t always ‘get’ the more subtle aspects of language such as colloquialisms; jokes etc.
“There are challenges of developing good listening skills and the effort involved in this, of keeping up with peers-both academically and socially.
“Hearing loss also impacts on the family for example it affects choices about going on family outings as some places are less ‘accessible’ for children with a hearing loss.
“For example at the swimming pool hearing aids/cochlear implant can’t be worn, the cinema or theatre and generally large crowds/events where listening is challenging”.
In her contribution to the project Molly recounts a family holiday to Catalonia, visiting Vilanova and Barcelona, and having the crack with her cousin Aoife and little sister Judy.
Launching the My Journey My Voice exhibition, Junior Minister Emma Pengelly said: “We cannot begin to imagine what this must be like, however, we must ensure they have equality of opportunity. Every effort must be made to create a culture which accepts, understands and makes the necessary adjustments for people with communication difficulties, building a shared society where no one feels vulnerable or excluded.”
Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said: “Those living with a communication disability live in a very challenging world. For many of us the ability to communicate is taken for granted. We must create a society where a communication disability doesn’t prevent or preclude people from living a fulfilling life enabling them to participate, and contribute to their local community.
“I commend the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), Disability Action, the Health and Social Care Board and everyone involved in the Giving Voice campaign for this very personal yet powerful exhibition which poses many questions for all of us.”
Alison McCullough MBE, RCSLT Head of Northern Ireland Office spoke about the challenges for those with a communication difficulty.
She said: “It is important that society develops a better understanding of communication difficulties and recognises the individual and not just the disability. Through education and empowerment initiatives such as this, RCSLT is working alongside people with communication disabilities to challenge stigma and enable society to become better equipped to understand their communication support needs.”
Chief Executive of Disability Action Kevin Doherty said: “It is our hope that through viewing the exhibition and hearing the voice recordings, people will become better informed about communication disability and will feel more confident in adapting their own speech and language style to meet an individual’s communication needs.”
It’s available online at www.myjourneymyvoice.org