Deafness no barrier for Pip

PUBLISHED: 14:27 03 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:25 04 May 2010

PERU S gruelling Inca Trail is tough enough for most who attempt this four-day jungle hike. But for 26-year-old Pip Johns the mountainous trek presents even greater challenges. Pip was born profoundly deaf, and this summer she will join two friends to mak

PERU'S gruelling Inca Trail is tough enough for most who attempt this four-day jungle hike. But for 26-year-old Pip Johns the mountainous trek presents even greater challenges.

Pip was born profoundly deaf, and this summer she will join two friends to make the journey to raise money for deaf children.

LESLEY INNES decided to find out more about Pip's plans to make the 45 kilometre trek and her work with deaf youngsters.

PIP Johns was born profoundly deaf, but it has never stopped her leading a normal life.

In fact, she is prepared to take on challenges that many hearing people would not even contemplate.

As the country marks Deaf Awareness Week next week, Pip is making plans to head off to Peru with two friends to hike the gruelling Inca trail.

The trail is a mountainous jungle hike leading to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu. The 45-kilometre (28-mile) trek is covered in four days and reaches altitudes of 4,200 metres (12,600ft).

Pip's initial concern about the challenge was how she would communicate, especially at night.

"It's very hard to lip-read in the dark," said Pip, from Bancroft Lane, Soham. "I rely on lip-reading and the hearing I have a great deal, so I was at first worried about how I was going to manage when we are camping.

"I will also be taking a torch to see people's faces. Apart from that I don't see the challenge posing any extra problems.

"I am only deaf. I don't want to be treated any differently to anyone else. As long as people are aware of how to communicate with a deaf person there shouldn't be any problems."

Pip's travelling companions and work colleagues, Sara Brierton, 42, from Histon and Gaynor Curry, 40, from Cambridge also have sign language skills and will help out and the National Deaf Children's Society, which will benefit from charity cash raised from the trek, is providing a sign language interpreter for the journey in August.

Pip, 26, is a deaf support worker, travelling all over Cambridgeshire working with deaf youngsters, from babies to teenagers, and their families.

Her job involves working with families who have a newly-diagnosed deaf child, teaching sign language to families and visiting children in primary and secondary schools and sixth forms on a one-to-one basis.

She learnt sign language when she was 13 and uses it a lot in her work.

"The idea is that I'm a deaf role model to them, as many have never met a deaf person before," she said.

"I also work with staff in schools teaching or polishing up the sign language skills and we run three family support groups once a month where parents and their deaf toddlers can meet up to talk and play."

Pip also helps run the Cambridgeshire Deaf Youth Group which organises activities each month for deaf teenagers. She and her work colleagues decided to accept the Inca Trail challenge not only to raise money for the National Deaf Children's Society, but also to raise awareness for a cause close to their hearts.

They know how valuable the charity is in providing support, information and advice.

Pip believes there is a lack of awareness of deafness and when people are confronted with a deaf person they are embarrassed because they don't know how to communicate.

"There is the attitude 'but you are deaf...how can you do that?'" she said. "People seem to think that deafness is a big barrier to life and that we can't do a lot of things. This is simply not true, we can!

"I have never let my deafness stop me in doing anything I want to do in life. Sometimes it is tough but we cope with it using different strategies. For example when I went to university I had sign language interpreters and note takers. When I went travelling we used pen and paper to communicate with fellow travellers if communication was difficult.

"As long as people are upfront, honest about their deafness and the public are aware of the things they can do to help make communication easier there are less problems."

Pip, Sara and Gaynor need to raise £2,750 each for their trip - a total of £8,250 - and have already raised £5,500 with a range of activities including a car boot sale, Boogie Nite and quiz.

Anyone wanting more information or to sponsor Pip's trek along the Inca Trail can contact her via her website at www.justgiving.com/pipjohns.

National Deaf Children's Society

THE National Deaf Children's Society is the only UK charity solely dedicated to the support of all deaf children, their families and professionals working with them.

# There are 35,000 deaf children in the UK and two more are born every day

# Ninety per cent of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

# In the UK, there are almost nine million deaf or hard of hearing people.

# There are an estimated 50,000 British sign language users.

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