Deaf and confident at GCHQ
This blog is part of GCHQ's Deaf Awareness Week celebrations, told in Richard's own words as he reflects on his experiences of being the Chair of the Hearing Impaired Network in GCHQ.
Increasingly, GCHQ is recognising the benefits a diverse workforce can offer and how it can help us do a better job. As the co-chair of the GCHQ Hearing Impaired (HI) committee, I lead the team to raise deaf awareness throughout the organisation, identify technology that would benefit the wider HI community, and offer support to those members who require it.
Throughout my time here, I benefited hugely from mentors who gave their time to provide coaching and guidance, which alongside unlimited patience and support from my colleagues provided an office environment in which I could develop my skills confidently. Feeling valued, respected and listened to has meant my deafness has not curtailed my career. In fact, I have been fortunate enough to have had interesting and varied roles across the department, including overseas, and gain promotions.
Effective communication requires interaction by all participants to make it work, but lip-reading especially so. It is an ever changing alchemy of faces, surroundings, distractions and interest levels. But even before you face that challenge, you first need to admit you are deaf, and ask for the help you need. It takes confidence to show this vulnerability and initially I lacked that confidence, concerned that I would not be accepted as an equally able colleague.
It took me several years, one or two setbacks, and much hard work to become disability confident enough to accept that my deafness is not something I should feel the need to apologise for, and to take responsibility for asking for help when I needed it.
I feel privileged that my role in the Hearing Impaired Network leads to members sharing their experiences with me, not least because I continually learn from them too. GCHQ is truly a remarkable organisation. It provides me with varied and interesting challenges; learning tailored to my needs to help me develop as an individual; but most importantly - the opportunity to protect the UK and its citizens.