Welcome to The Hear Me Out [CC] Podcast, an audio show (with transcripts included) where we listen to stories from fascinating individuals in and around the d/Deaf community and from your host, yours truly, Ahmed Khalifa.
In episode 19, I interview David Edginton who is a Deaf Personal Trainer and the co-founder of The Deaf Gym.
We discuss everything from his own personal challenges of being a PT to the issues on how d/Deaf people are restricted from the general gyms due to communication barriers and shares advice that is suitable for the general gyms and d/Deaf people alike.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
- The Deaf Gym website
- The Deaf Gym on Facebook
- More than NINE out of 10 Brits don’t know more than two words of British Sign Language
- Deaf People Mental Health statistics
Ahmed: In this episode of the Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing David Edginton, who is the co-founder of The Deaf Gym and also a personal trainer as well.
And I thought it was going to be very interesting to chat to him, this time via email because he is severely-profoundly deaf, to understand more about him, his upbringing, being a Deaf personal trainer (or PT), the journey he took towards starting his own business and having a gym catering for d/Deaf people.
It’s not something that a lot of people think about. You can see in any other gym existing for women, wheelchair users, etc. But people don’t think about a deaf gym and a d/Deaf personal trainer.
And also, people don’t think that a hearing person can benefit from having a d/Deaf PT as well.
I just thought of starting off the whole conversation (via email), by asking his background, his Deaf journey, his upbringing and the challenges that he faced along the way.
And this is what he said…
David: I am severely/profoundly deaf. I have absolutely no hearing in one ear and severe in the other. I was born deaf. It is sensory neural deafness and I wear one digital hearing aid in my good ear. The hearing aid picks up all the background noise and speech too, but it’s OK.
I regard myself as bilingual as I am equally comfortable to converse in English and British Sign language.
But the main challenge is the daily communication barrier that I face. The hardest part when they found out that I can speak well and they naturally to speak fast because they think I can hear better with my hearing aid which isn’t not.
Obviously they have no basic understanding in Deafness.
Naturally over the time I got used to this everyday daily basic. Speak to people normally and I have to adapt to match people’s mood and attitude. This is where I got good at adapting with people and can interact with them well but it depending on their “communication attitude”.
Like if they are being rude or uncooperative because I am being forced to listen and I gave my full attention to this person. They simply can’t do it to find a way to communicate with us so I adapt in my own way as well.
Ahmed: This is something that we all face as a d/Deaf person, the barriers, and people just assume that because you have a hearing aids, you can talk normally. And because you can speak well AND you’re deaf, you can talk normally.
But that’s definitely not true and this is another example that it does happen to everyone.
That’s the whole point of doing this, is to make people aware that it’s not all that simple. If someone is wearing a hearing aid, it doesn’t mean that you can act “normal”.
It’s true that in a general everyday life, communication is a barrier, so most people would assume that it’s difficult to be a personal trainer if you can’t communicate.
So I asked David about that, is it difficult for him to be a d/Deaf PT and also learn more about how his journey towards becoming a personal trainer and starting your own gym? And what were the challenges that you faced along the way?
David: Since when I was a child I was diagnosed LPD – language processing disorder and behaviour problem (mainly temper issue) that I find it to express myself and it’s extremely difficult because of LPD.
My parents put me in six different schools altogether trying to get me the best education for me. From the last two school that I went to Deaf school, first one was in Mary Hare school in Newbury.
Second one was St John, Boston Spa in Wetherby. That is when I first discovered in ‘Deaf world’ and sign language as well. My learning skill and communication skill improved massively.
Fast forward to college. I studied art and photography but shortly after I realised my passion wasn’t there. Al few months of no study or a job. and saw a leisure centre and took a little tour in gym and I signed up to be a gym membership
I haven’t got a clue what to do like how many weight I should be doing, how many rep and set I should be doing. I watched people to see how they do it and what technique and form they used.
Eventually I got good at it and my physique improved. this made me realised Deaf people would be struggling with this and not knowing what to do or how to improve their fitness and health. That’s how I found my passion.
So I asked a personal trainer “How do i become a personal trainer? And I am Deaf by the way”.
But what he said to me something I never will forget “Oh you can’t be a personal trainer because you can’t hear”.
At that point where I realised that’s it I’m going to prove the world wrong that I can be a personal trainer because of poor accessibility.
I went back to college for the last time to study level 2 and level 3 personal trainer. It was incredibly hard course despite to my LPD but I was the top student and passed my course!
I was over the moon that I became a qualified personal trainer. I started to look for gym job but found that all interview failed because of their doubt in me thinking I couldn’t be able to communicate or scared clients away affecting their business!
It’s been ongoing for 4 to 5 years to get that gym job! Until in 2017 I finally got offered to work in gym job in Xercise4Less in Bradford.
About a year working in there absorbing all experience that I have learnt and I felt ready to start to run my own company, The Deaf Gym.
Ahmed: This is a classic one. It’s something that I hear all the time: “You can be [this] because you can’t hear/you can’t do that job. It’s impossible”.
It’s not just a classic response but also quite ignorant.
But I love the fact that you proved him wrong and it spurred him on. That really pushed him and he was like “I’m going to so prove you wrong and you’re going to eat your word”.
And I like that. I like that a lot.
So I then asked David in his experience, have he seen or heard about Deaf people working out at the gym consistently? If not, why not?
And I also asked about how running a business is definitely challenging, but it can be rewarding. What was the reaction like within the Deaf community when they heard about The Deaf Gym?
David: I have seen a few Deaf serious gym goers but not really enough Deaf community aren’t getting regular exercise because of communication barriers facing in fitness industry.
And also, a Sign Health statistic reports have shown that Deaf people have a higher percentage of mental and health problems compared to hearing people due from a lack of poor treatment in NHS/GP and lack of accessibility especially in the fitness industry.
So currently I’m developing e-learning gym sign language course to promote awareness to all fitness industry to why Deaf awareness and Sign language can ATTRACT more Deaf, nonverbal, down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, trauma, brain disorders and speech disorders clients in your gym.
Particularly for those whose attention spans may be very short or language very limited.
It’s an extra communication tool which is sign language can help them massively.
The reaction I’m getting from Deaf community when they heard about Deaf Gym is like a big phew feeling like “Finally!” and asking us so many questions such as “how do i lose fat belly?”
Anything like that is a simple fitness and health related questions because they missed out all the information out there.
Also, there is around 20-25 Deaf PT in the UK! Comparing to thousands and thousands of hearing PT. That’s a big gap!
So of course, it’s a very rewarding and challenging to run this business! 🙂
Ahmed: 20-25 Deaf PT? That’s nothing and there’s nothing to say that we shouldn’t have more available. Of course we should have more to cater to more people.
The gyms will benefit if they are worried about losing clients. Hopefully this will get the message out there that, more people will hear about it, more gym companies will consider that option. Maybe this podcast will give them that inspiration as well.
So that is something I’m hoping this podcast will do, which is to tell people that we need more d/Deaf PT and they need to know that d/Deaf people have issues when it comes to accessing information into improving their health.
Yes we can see and read online, but don’t forget, not all d/Deaf people can understand the English written word if their first language is sign language. So when you have sign language interpretations, that makes it a lot easier as well.
I asked David does that mean you don’t or can’t be a PT for the hearing customers? How do you or how can you make that work so that they can get the most out of your expertise?
And I also asked him whether it’s beneficial to have deaf-only gym and anything we can do about those hearing gyms out there on how can they become more deaf-friendly as well?
David: I can train with hearing clients but it was a bit difficult because they don’t slow their speech down for me because they think I can hear better. Or feeling uncomfortable because I am deaf.
Most people think being a deaf personal trainer is inability to hear – I do not need to hear it. I have an ability to see it and visualise the changes their body can make and work with their ability.
What I’m saying is that as myself deaf personal trainer is big advantages is that I have an eye sight that allowing me to have a wide peripheral vision and allowing to see a finer detail on human body understand how the body works for each individual. So, give us a chance to work and train with you. You will be surprised what we can do!
Most gyms aren’t adapted to minority groups which you’re very right about that. So I believe it will very beneficial to d/Deaf people in gym but the problem is Deaf community is very well spread apart and I can’t expect them to travel all the way to get in gym and workout.
But I’m currently trying to get a gym place to make it more inclusive to everyone where hearing and deaf people can interact, communicate and workout together. So that could work!
So, I’m hoping to be the first Deaf fitness industry in UK. We will see!
I recommend for any fitness professional people to learn “gym sign language” online e-learning course where personal trainers, gym owners, fitness instructor, yoga etc can access course in their own pace!
So, this will revolutionise to all fitness industry to attract millions of deaf, non-verbal, Downs Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, trauma, brain disorders and speech disorder people.
Ahmed: Let’s hope more d/Deaf people will be encouraged to do a personal training course. I get the feeling that it’s in-demand. And if you’re going to be amongst the first Deaf fitness instructor, then I’m all for it 🙂
And below, you can see a video of David demonstrating 15 basic gym sign languages:
Ahmed: So to round it up with some quick-fire questions, what’s the worst thing people have said to you about your Deaf identity?
Worst thing people have said to me is that “You don’t look Deaf”.
You don’t need to ever tell a deaf person, “you don’t look deaf!” because really, how could you look deaf?
Carry a grammaphone around?
Have ears of some type of better that looks differently or have some kind of tattoo on my forehead?
I think not.
Ahmed: What’s the worst thing about being Deaf?
David: Worst thing would be my hearing aid that aren’t being helpful as Im not hearing much as I used to hear back then!
It doesn’t matter what is my actual level of hearing is with my hearing aid; I still don’t ever have quite the ability to judge this input in the same way hearing people can.
Loudness is one of the more obvious examples; hearing aids in particular tend to just amplify everything to the same extent, so although I might be able to tell if a room is frat-party-noisy or library-quiet, I don’t really have anything more subtle to work with. No in-between.
This, then, is the difference between a hearing person listening to music in their car (with their passengers humming along happily), and a deaf person listening to music in their car (with their passengers wearing protective earmuffs and they just can’t hear the music well enough).
It isn’t only loudness though; there are other things that get I missed. Electronic hearing tends to gloss over small nuances like tone of voice and richness of sound.
Ahmed: I do sympathise with that a lot. Hearing aids for me just amplifies everything and it is better than before but some people like it. For me personally, I don’t find it very useful but it is just there to provide support.
So I asked David what’s the best thing about being Deaf?
David: We can turn our hearing off.
We don’t have to listen to scary noises at night. We don’t have to wear earplugs to house parties, and know we’ll still have earache the next day.
We don’t have to pay attention to anything that bores us, just by dint of hearing it. We don’t have to endure train or bus journeys with information about every single stop being piped into our brains.
We just switch off. Which, amazingly, solves all those other things too. Or, at least, means they completely cease to matter. Who’d have thought it!?
What advice do you have for hearing people when they are around d/Deaf people?
David: Always be yourself. Just ask us for anything as we want to be inclusive as much we do.
We don’t mind you tapping on their shoulder to get their attention (If we didn’t hear you, not rude or ignoring you) Or give us a wave to get us attention as well.
We like to communicate with anyone! You may learn something new like sign language or share a new workout too!
Ahmed: What advice do you have for anyone who is listening that wants a) to go to the gym, but is only able to have a hearing PT, and b) any Deaf person who wants to be a PT?
David: My best advice for you to ask yourself. Are you CEO? – Communicative, Expressive and Observant.
If you are, you will be fine but making sure you must demonstrate workout clearly and explain in a simple term – Don’t waffle too long to make it sound scientifically clever.
If you want to be a Deaf personal trainer, there are three things that I think you should have:
- Strong passion in gym & sport.
- Clear communicator with a good sign language skill.
- Great attitude and confidence is very important skill for that.
If you fit 1,2,3 and you will be on the way to be one of PT.
Ahmed: Last question, where is the best place that people can reach or connect with you online?
Best way people to contact us on Facebook page or email me at info(at)thedeafgym.co.uk or via SignVideo Business Directory.
Thank you for reading the transcript and I hope you find this useful. Make sure you leave a review on whatever podcast platform that you use.