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Ruth helps MPs broaden their knowledge of deafness

Posted on 22 May 2014

A deaf employee from the University of York, Ruth MacMullen, spent the day at the House of Commons talking to MPs, about what life is like as a deaf person in a hearing working world.

Ruth and Sheryll Murray MP

The University was one of only four companies invited to participate in the event, which was organised in the lead up to support Deaf Awareness Week.

MP’s attended bite-sized training sessions to understand the impact of deafness on people in their constituencies and improve communications skills.

The event was organised by HearFirst, a national award winning workplace training and consultancy company, to help improve MPs’ understanding of the different types of deafness by highlighting the methods of communication used by deaf, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing people, such as sign language and lipreading.

With Chester, her assistance dog, Ruth MacMullen, a Library Assistant at York, who is deaf and working, met MPs to talk about her job, the contribution she makes, the support she receives from the University and what life is like as a deaf person in a hearing working world. Ruth

More than 25 MPs attended the sessions and Ruth said: “I enjoyed talking to MPs and sharing my experience of deafness in and out of the workplace. This was an interesting and insightful experience and I was proud to represent my employer there.”

Julie Ryder, Director and Founder of HearFirst, said: “The aim of the event was to raise awareness of deafness and provide MPs with the knowledge and skills to help them make real changes for Deaf people within their constituencies.

“In the case of MPs, it could mean being deaf aware during one-to-one meetings with constituents, making more formal meetings accessible and considering the needs of BSL users in written or web based materials.  

“I am really pleased that a representative from the University of York came along to support the event and spoke to MPs at first-hand about real life experiences and the barriers and challenges that deaf people may experience in a working hearing environment.”

Jake Berry MP for Rossendale and Darwen who championed the sessions, commented: “Taking part today has really helped me raise my awareness to the issues faced by people experiencing all types of deafness in my constituency.  It’s been great to take part and support Deaf Awareness Week.”

Now in its eleventh year, Deaf Awareness Week is a week-long campaign between 19th and 25th May and is co-ordinated by the UK Council on Deafness (UKCoD).  Hundreds of deaf charities and organisations across the UK will participate in a series of national and local events during the week.

Further information:

  • For more information on Deaf, disability awareness and BSL training, please contact Julie at HearFirst on 01706 872 816 or visit
  • Deaf Awareness Week started back in 1981 when at that time the British Deaf Association (BDA) established the week to spread more awareness about communication with deaf people and to celebrate deafness as something worthy of a celebration.
  • In 2002, the BDA changed their awareness campaign to national sign language week and it was agreed that the UK Council on Deafness would coordinate Deaf Awareness Week thereon from 2003.
  • HearFirst was developed by Julie Ryder, 43 who lost her hearing when she was in her late 20s.
  • HearFirst were winners of Best Training and Coaching Business 2013 in the EVA Awards, highly commended in Valley at Work Awards 2013, finalists in the EVA Awards 2012, finalist for Digital Entrepreneur Awards 2012. Julie was also the regional winner of the Sound Barrier Star Awards 2009, regional winner Barclays Trading Places Awards 2008 and runner up in the Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year 2007. In 2004, her business was featured as a case study on the British Chamber of Commerce Report on Female Entrepreneurs. 
  • HearFirst is a member of UK Council of Deafness (UKCoD).  UKCoD is the umbrella body for voluntary organisations working with deaf people in the UK. Their mission is to assist organisations and the sector as a whole to maximise the positive impact they have for deaf people. For more information visit the website at

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