Hi, I’m Darren Emson, a Learning Facilitator at Warrington & Vale Royal College within the Additional Learning Support Team. I work with students with varying additional needs across college in various departments and curriculums, supporting them in the classroom and in developing social skills.
I have a disability called Total Onset Deafness. This was caused by necessary medication treatment, as in 2002 I was involved in a car accident which left me seriously injured and in a coma. When I woke from the coma I was profoundly deaf due to the lifesaving medication and treatment I received. I spent the next three years lip reading and, following reconstructive surgery and learning to walk again, I was finally fitted with a cochlear implant in my left ear in 2005.
Prior to the accident I was a welder. After the accident I had to rebuild my life and found a new direction and purpose. I enrolled as a student at Doncaster Deaf Trusts College for the Deaf and then progressed to working as a Pathway Learning Mentor and also as a Residential Support Worker, working with Deaf learners and pupils with additional needs within the college. I also worked at the partner deaf school and foster home with vulnerable children. I worked at the Doncaster Deaf Trusts College and deaf school for 11 years, and afterwards applied for my current post at Warrington & Vale Royal College.
It didn’t enter my mind that my disability would be a disadvantage when I applied for the job. I think it’s a plus in my role, as I have a level of understanding and am aware of different communication strategies. My disability is a challenge, but every experience is a bonus.
I ask my colleagues and learners to speak clearly and face to face, and I think it encourages a greater level of patience and understanding, as I sometimes need people to repeat or rephrase what they have said. I incorporate sign language into lessons, which raises awareness, and learners and staff find it interesting and are always keen to learn new words and phrases. Both staff and students are very understanding of my disability and I use my experience, both personally and professionally, at every opportunity when supporting learners in the Health and Social Care department.
Meetings with large groups of people can be difficult, as it is easier for me to focus on one voice at a time, but I have a supportive line manager and colleagues, who I can rely on to ensure I haven’t missed anything.
I am comfortable about talking about my disability and sharing it with my colleagues. I know some people are reluctant to declare a disability or talk about it, but I think people should be encouraged to be more open, to raise awareness and increase understanding.