Deafblind is no obstacle to having a job done well
Finding a job can be difficult for any young person, but if you are deafblind, the options become more limited.
So when Leona Glennie found North East Sensory Services (Ness), she was delighted to find a group of people who would finally say yes to her career aspirations.
Born profoundly deaf, Leona Glennie’s parents and teachers noticed that she was having balance problems and her eyesight was deteriorating before she was 10 years old.
At 12, Leona was told that she had Usher Syndrome, an extremely rare condition that could lead to a lifetime in the dark.
A brave and determined young girl, Leona had coped well without hearing, but the thought of losing her sight as well was terrifying.
She said: “I refused to accept it. I was at the School for the Deaf and had great friends, but was not willing to accept that I would lose my sight as well.”
Usher Syndrome is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision.
Alongside balance issues, a major symptom is night blindness and loss of peripheral vision as the deterioration of sight continues.
However, these challenges did not stop Leona from attending St Machar Academy and achieving her Standard Grade exams alongside her fully sighted and hearing peers, and then progressing on to college in Greenock to follow her dream of working in website development.
“I loved my course, and made great friends – the support at James Watt College at Greenock was fantastic and I left qualified to work in website development and design,” she said.
However, finding employment proved to be more challenging.
“People instantly think that I cannot work on websites as I am deaf and partially sighted, but it isn’t true.” she said.
“From when I was a child, people have told me, no, you can’t do that. But I have proven everyone wrong and in my career I am determined to do the same.”
After working in a supermarket café, Leona felt disillusioned and frustrated – until she discovered Ness.
It provides an employment service which helps people with hearing or vision impairment find employment and supports those in employment with additional technology, which may be required.
“Ness was recommended to me and I became a volunteer. I was delighted that it recognised my abilities and my desire to work in the IT sector.
“Working at Ness is great fun – I feel supported – most staff members use sign language and the building with its rails and special flooring makes it easier to get around with limited vision.
“I have support with magnification aids to make my work fully accessible. I manage databases and help with training courses. I also support the sign languages classes, which is good fun and so worthwhile.”
For Leona, it is important that she lives the same life as any other 25-year-old, with a career, a social life – and she likes to challenge herself too.
Leona, who has done a skydive in aid of Ness and last year climbed Kilimanjaro, said: “I want to prove that I can do as much as anyone else.
“We raised over £18,000 during the Kilimanjaro trek which was particularly difficult because a lot of the walk is done at night and I have no vision at all at night.”
Leona feels she is lucky to have discovered Ness, and said she would encourage other people facing the same challenges as her to contact the charity.
She said: “I have a career, great friends and I have done some life-changing challenges. I get frustrated when people discriminate against deafblind people, and I hope I prove that if you are determined, and get the right support, you can achieve much more than people think.”