Disability History Month: My Story - Nash Dickinson

Television Production graduate Nash Dickinson was born profoundly deaf. Here Nash shares his story about his disability and life at university.

Beds SU

By Beds SU

Monday, 22 November 2021

My name is Nash Dickinson, and I was born profoundly deaf which means that I have no efficient hearing, however, I had bilateral (both sides) cochlear implants when I was 4 years old which provide me with access to sounds and speech and am grateful that this outcome gives me the opportunity to hear everyday sounds and to also speak clearly.

Being deaf isn't instantly obvious to people that don’t know me - it’s not a physical disability there for everyone to see.

Cochlear implants are not a cure for deafness - they provide me with an opportunity to be involved in the hearing world but every step of the way has meant I’ve had to work hard to learn to listen, to then open up a way forwards for me to work hard to achieve. Science is just great isn’t it? Without my implants I feel isolated, this medical intervention has provided so much joy to so many deaf people.

Though there are everyday noises that my brain cannot block out - speech and sounds all come through the implants together but are not ‘separated’ into any form of background as they are for hearing people - their brains do this for them. It can bring about a few difficulties. Sometimes it can be hard for me to hear someone clearly in a loud or busy environment or if my cochlear implant runs out when I am out it can make me vulnerable as I am then unable to hear danger and danger can be as simple as a runner coming towards me asking me to move, but have I heard him? People may get impatient and not realise I have cochlear implants or that they could have run out.

A few ways people can support me and others with hidden disabilities

It’s always nice for people to have patience and realise that I may need something repeated or to not be afraid to ask me what they can do that would help me - it could be something like, let me see your face when you’re talking because if I can also read your lips this is another tool which helps me understand what you’re saying, or you don’t need to talk slowly to me or in stunted speech, but if there’s background noise, I may need some extra time to process what you’ve said. I guess no one really knows who has a hidden disability. I’m quite open about mine and I’ll take whatever help is offered or help I find out about but not everyone wants their disability known or they don’t have the resources to ask for or find help they need. 

I think encouragement and checking in on someone and just talking to them about hurdles they’ll come across and how they can be jumped would give a lot of comfort.

Forums specifically aimed at all disabilities would be helpful - you can read and reply and post in but also glean information and incentives from others, as well as offer some really good advice or information - also maybe make lifelong friendships. 

Why I believe learning to sign is important

I feel guilty I don’t know BSL but it is something I plan to learn and I do feel very strongly that BSL should be within the national curriculum and taught as standard to every school age child. Not every deaf person wants to or may not be able to have useful hearing with hearing aids or cochlear implants and we should respect this and have a universal language at everyone’s fingertips to tap into should the need arise. It’s a language and one we should all learn.  

My journey through University

My journey spanning three years at the University of Bedfordshire has been brilliant - I’ve had huge support from various teams, they checked in with me regularly to ask if everything was going well or if anything was needed to access my studies - even if more time or any support was needed for assignments or extra time in exams. 

The support was immense and they were knowledgeable and encouraging - if every disabled person could have the support I’ve had, this would be a major achievement - be there for students and know their needs.

Talking to them and building a relationship with them, sometimes just simplifying someone’s needs and talking them through is enough to get the determination to succeed.

Where to go for more assistance

If you would like to speak to someone with regards to gaining additional support during university there are a number of teams on hand:

Beds SU Advice team via - help@beds.ac.uk

The University Student Support team