Sign of the times

19 June 2017

Tom Lichy lives in South Kenton with his partner and two children and all the household are deaf. Since he moved to Brent he’s noticed improvements for deaf residents that have made his life much easier 

In the past Tom remembers nightmarish visits to the doctor; struggling to lip read or get his message across on pen and paper. Catching the bus was a challenge as the driver couldn’t understand where Tom wanted to go.

Thankfully, visits to the doctors are now stress free as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters are now provided. Displays at bus stands, oyster cards and smart phones have made using public transport much easier.

“BSL is the main language of our household. We use English for reading and writing. I often say without BSL we would be depressed or suicidal without a language of our own and without English we would be bored without a language for engaging with hearing people,” said Tom.

“There was a real attitude, especially among professionals working with deaf people, that BSL wasn’t a real language but thankfully that is dying away now.”

Tom is a member of the Harrow and Brent United Deaf Club which not only supports deaf residents but aims to bring together the whole community. President Asif Iqbal founded the group in 2009 in a bid to bring the deaf residents in from the cold as many deaf people can feel left out and isolated in their community.

History was made when one of Brent’s MPs asked the first question using sign language in the House of Commons earlier this year. “I was almost crying to see our language finally used in Parliament. I hope that this will become another step forward for BSL. It’s our life, our culture, our heritage, and our gift to future generations.” added Tom.

To find out more about the Harrow and Brent United Deaf Club, visit www.hudc.org.uk.