What a difference 40 years makes in the life of a deaf physio

Born profoundly deaf and relying heavily on lip-reading. Fran Milne reflects on how attitudes and technology have improved her working life since she qualified in 1983

Fran Milne is a community physiotherapist based in Newton Stewart, NHS Dumfries and Galloway
Fran Milne community physiotherapist based in Newton Stewart, NHS Dumfries and Galloway

In the early days, there was still a stigma around any disability, meaning that I tried to hide my deafness and go the extra mile to appear ‘normal’. This was also in the days before mobile phones/emails. Not being able to hear on the phone this meant a lot of leg work to talk to someone face-to-face. I was able to lip-read on a one-to-one basis, but team meetings and groups were a struggle, not knowing who was speaking or when. 

Roll on 40 years and what a difference, even from four years ago! The onset of Covid-19 brought additional challenges – people had to wear masks meaning that I couldn’t lip-read, and there was increasing reliance on video or phone technology.  My concentration fatigue levels were raised to the max! However, managers, colleagues and even patients are much more accommodating these days, giving me the confidence to express my needs. Access to Work funded assistive hearing equipment, and I now have support for phone calls. Nowadays, captions are available on MS Teams – and I never thought I would see the day when I would prefer taking part in a large group session or meeting online rather than face-to-face.

Managers, colleagues and even patients are much more accommodating these days giving me the confidence to express my needs

Although there is still some way to go in raising deaf awareness, the Disability Discrimination Act and Equality Act have gone some way in improving our lives. I would encourage any deaf physio to express their needs with a confidence that I never had in my early career – people are generally more understanding than you think.

If you would like to increase your deaf awareness, read my two blogs in the highlights section below.

I am also happy for anyone to get in touch. 

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