Man supporting deaf community in Suffolk on his journey and Strictly winner Rose

Chairman of the Ipswich Deaf Children's Society, Richard Platt, with two of his children ,Ashley and

Chairman of the Ipswich Deaf Children's Society, Richard Platt, with two of his children, Ashley and Rosy, who are thrilled with Rose and Giovanni's Strictly win. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A profoundly deaf man from Felixstowe has told of the importance of supporting deaf people and their families - and described the huge impact of Rose Ayling-Ellis' Strictly Come Dancing win.  

Richard Platt has been chair of the Ipswich Deaf Children’s Society (IDCS) for the past four-and-a-half years, and is passionate about breaking down barriers deaf people face in their every day lives. 

“Thirty years ago, I’d never have believed I could be running a charity to help deaf children and their families,” says Richard proudly. 

Richard was born with 100% deafness, and three of his five children have hearing loss to some degree. But growing up, he was the only profoundly deaf person in his immediate family.   

Richard says he is proud to be a Deaf man.

Richard says he is proud to be a deaf man. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“My parents had no idea on how to raise a deaf child as there wasn’t enough support for them and I remember thinking how will I manage in this world full of hearing people?” 

Indeed, Richard has grappled with hurdles that would never occur to many hearing people.   

He says: “As a young child, my parents used to wake me up at 6 o’clock every morning, and I would have a lesson before school. I learned one word every day. They would take my hand and hold it to their mouths, so I could feel the movement of their lips. That was how I learned to speak, one word at a time. I learned thousands of words that way. I hated it! But now, I am ever so grateful they did that for me, because thanks to them, I can use my voice.”  

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Richard, however, had to contend with others being oblivious to his deafness into adulthood.   

“Many years ago, I was working for a stationery company in London. One day, I got up and went to the bathroom. When I came back, the entire place was empty, and this was a large company of about two thousand staff, I thought there must have been a meeting I’d forgotten about, so I went to the meeting room, but nobody was there. In the end, I sat back down at my desk and carried on working.   

“The next thing I knew, the double doors burst open, and two heavily equipped firefighters wearing masks and oxygen tanks came rushing towards me. They grabbed me, and went sprinting out of the room and didn’t stop until we were out of the building.”   

A fire had started in the warehouse which was the basement of the building. The warehouse being full of paper, it was not long before the building was engulfed in flames.   

In the scramble to get out, it had occurred to nobody that Richard would not be able to hear the fire alarm blaring.   

“It was really scary,” he nods. “I could have died that day.”   

It is clear that these early experiences have fuelled Richard’s determination to overcome any obstacles that stand in his way, and make life easier and safer for the next generation of deaf people.    

Rosy and Ashley are the youngest of Richard's five children, and love coming to the IDCS with their dad.

Rosy and Ashley are the youngest of Richard's five children, and love coming to the IDCS with their dad. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“I go into schools and speak about being deaf and to teach them Deaf Awareness to make their school more accessible.   

“I also teach Deaf Awareness to lifeguards at swimming pools. So many deaf children never learn to swim, because they’d have to take their hearing aids out. It’s a big problem that we’re working to resolve.”  

His experiences have also reinforced the importance of a supportive family.   

He said: “At the IDCS, along with a team of hardworking committee members, we support not just the deaf child but also the whole family, and that is what makes us different to other charities,” he explains. “We make sure everyone around the deaf child is supported, and that everyone can give support.”   

This is an aspect of Richard’s role which he takes incredibly seriously, for he also believes in giving support and encouragement to the hearing parents of deaf children.   

“A baby will be given a hearing test a few days after they are born, and it is then that many parents will learn that they have a deaf child. That can be really scary. They think, how can I support my deaf child? I don’t know anybody who is deaf.

" This is where IDCS steps in by providing guidance, educational advice with EHCP, financial support, events with a sign language interpreter for the Deaf child and their families to participate in.” 

This is also why it is so important to have public figures embracing their deafness and being successful in their endeavours, such as this year’s Strictly Come Dancing winner, Rose Ayling-Ellis, the 27-year-old deaf actress best known for her role on EastEnders. Richard and his children have thoroughly enjoyed watching her dance victory on the show this year.  

Ashley and Rosy Platt are thrilled with Rose and Giovanni's Strictly win. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brow

Ashley and Rosy have loved watching Strictly's Rose dance to victory with Giovanni. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“I’ve loved everything about seeing Rose on Strictly – the way they turned off the music while dancing, that we could see her interpreter onscreen, that Rose signed while she talked, and the way you could clearly see her lip-reading.    

“All of it is so important, even small things like the way Rose’s eyes flickered away from Claudia when she was speaking. When I was watching the show with my children, my daughter turned to me and said, 'Dad, look at her eyes moving, she’s looking at the interpreter!'"

Richard himself provides this positive representation for the young people at his charity.   

“Parents will come up to me, and say, thank you for being a role model for their children. I am showing them that disability doesn’t have to be a barrier and that deaf people can do anything they want – just look at who won a dancing competition live on the BBC!”  

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