Freelance writer and researcher and broadcaster
I have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss. Further investigation led to a diagnosis of audiosclerosis. This means the inner ear bone is stuck fast and does not vibrate. Through the process of diagnosis and acquisition of hearing aids I have learnt about the world of audiology, both its science and art. The hearing sense requires more in terms of ‘brainpower’ than sight. When man was living in the cave, the predators would come at night and sharp hearing was paramount in detecting them. Each person has a set number of ear hairs that facilitate hearing and once damaged the brain compensates in all sorts of ways. It is possible that I have been unconsciously lip-reading for many years. The specialists could not accurately tell when the problem started, possibly in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Any operation to substitute an inner ear piece of bone would not be effective due to nerve damage. Hearing aids followed and the rest is an ongoing revelation, if not quite history.My hearing loss is by no means a curtailment of ambitions in the aural arena and gives me an enhanced understanding of people with disability generally and hearing loss in particular. My passion is the radio and all things audio and I am developing a freelance practice in research, writing and broadcasting.
What makes a good leader?
There are many leaders I admire drawn from the worlds of public affairs, the law, education and the arts. A particularly impressive person I met recently is the Headmaster of St Paul's School in London, Martin Stephen - he fought his way back from a severe stroke a number of years ago. He comments on education in the media and also writes brilliant historical novels. He shares with me the overcoming of a childhood stammer which he describes as a black raven which comes to perch on your shoulder from time to time. An inspiring man.
Is leadership different for disabled people?
An impairment should instill in a leader empathy, understanding and sensitivity towards those he or she leads. It can be about showing vulnerability without losing strength or what the Chinese call 'face'.
Do you think there are barriers to leadership for disabled people that non disabled don't face?
Mainly in attitudes. During the 1990s there was a phrase developed by the disability movement, then campaigning against the backdrop of the Disability Discrimination Act, that people were disabled by other people's attitudes. Awareness is a lot better, but attitudes are improving through education.