Being grateful to those who took me under their wing has always been a given, not just because I was helped and nurtured along a very difficult road but those special people never stopped believing in me when I found it so hard to believe in myself.
Today I can also thank those who have wronged me along my journey, I have learnt so much from the bullying and cruelty I endured throughout my senior school education (14-17yrs old). I could have quite easily given up but sheer determination and the strongest of support systems have seen me through. My path was never going to be straight forward living with a progressive condition like Usher Syndrome but it definitely could have been made significantly easier!
From being bullied by deaf kids who were quick to tell me I was a poor excuse of a deaf person because I’m oral and couldn’t sign, to teachers of the deaf telling me how I should deal with my blindness/deafblindness, apparently knowing more about me than I did myself, telling me I could see well enough to not need a guide dog - the lack of care and understanding led me to a nervous breakdown. Not sure what happened to inclusion and every child matters there!
Then there was Occupational Therapists who visited my home as a direct result of my mandatory “Deafblind Assessment” which, I should add took my Local Authority / Social Services 7 years to provide. I remember that day like yesterday when on arrival and after establishing who I was one of the OT’s first observations was “Molly, you aren’t in a wheelchair!” I think my Mum was close to exploding and for me no surprise after the unbelievable ignorance I had lived with over those difficult years. All I can say about this very unacceptable experience is that that OT was never seen again and after lots of argument and some support from Sense an independent OT was assigned to visit me and eventually some adjustments were made to my home in accordance with my “Deafblind Assessment”. When I think back to this, with the knowledge I now have on assistive technology a huge amount of money could have been saved! Perhaps there is a message right there!
Then there was Student Finance and the painful inaccessible way of contacting them - I was by now thinking, why is it so many people, rules and regulations want to make my life even more difficult than it already is?
I shouldn’t forget my brief time at University. In my mind back then I believed that if I got myself a profession Usher Syndrome or not I’d be ok. I wanted to have a part in educating future generations, I would have empathy with the kids with special needs, none would experience the horror show I did. Sadly the university did nothing to make my Primary Education course accessible. The intranet was inaccessible and the promised reading material did not come to light at the beginning of the course, as a result I had to rely on course mates and play catch up. One lecturer actually suggested printing out accessible notes was wasting paper, she should be applauded for her thoughtful attitude! The support staff and lecturers alike enjoyed petting my guide dog but when it came to the course nothing was in order. Virtually every lecture that phrase popped up “Every child matters” and “inclusion”. My concern and anxiety led me to complain, the response “How do you even think you could be a school teacher?” Yes, why not quash my self belief and confidence. For me “the writing was on the wall”. I could not cope with a three year course surrounded by such ignorance and by now I was exhausted having to continuously fight my corner.
I was very upset to have to withdraw from university but I realised then that it wasn’t me but them, a rigid system, a lack of understanding, ignorance - all of those things but I also knew that my dreams of teaching were gone but that I would definitely do something to bring positive change.
My local supermarket had turned me away for a part time position at check out having seen a Sense television advert one Christmas, sadly the assumption that deaf blind means hear nothing and see nothing and nothing in between. No thought that technology gives me sound and zero thought or knowledge that a very small percentage of blind people see nothing at all and something I find really bizarre is why would I apply to do something I couldn’t do?
I am severely deaf and registered blind, very little useful vision but I am very capable, technology really is my saviour, and whilst my self belief was low I was interviewed for a part time position with technology giants Apple and guess what?
They saw beyond my disability, they saw “Molly” they saw my unique capabilities, they listened and wanted to not just utilise my specialism in accessibility but wanted to learn from me and I got some amazing training in the world of digital, in accessibility and from there I could see my way forward.
Finally I got my chance, part of a diverse team and there I was able to develop my interest and improve my knowledge in the world of accessibility. Toying with the many devices on offer and sharing my skills with the worlds of Usher Syndrome, deafblindness, blindness, deafness, the ageing and eventually I realised I was helping / teaching others how to access the world using digital technology applying my know how as a deafblind person. It gave me back my confidence and self belief. I found myself the “accessibility guru” in my store, the “Go to” for the many customers needing to be set up specifically with accessibility in mind. I was a very valued member of staff.
That stepping stone proved invaluable to me as I moved in to the world of self employment with messages of accessibility, inclusion and usability.
For those painful years of senior school education, the difficult years growing up, the rejection, the ignorance, the lack of care and understanding, the bullying and unacceptable nastiness, even discrimination finally I am doing what I set out to do, to educate, to make a difference, to be heard and to advocate for those going through what I went through.
I am not a teacher, I did not get my degree but today I educate in my own way.
I learnt a great deal about myself in 2018, about my capabilities, my passion for positive change in digital, in accessibility, inclusion. I met with and worked with some of the very best in these fields who have taught me so much and given me the desire to do more and be more influential this coming year.
For 2019 I’m feeling mentally and physically in a good place with lots of exciting projects to work on and so once again thank you to those who have stood and continue to stand by me, helped me and watched me grow but also to those who made my life harder than it need be, those who wrote me off and made my life a misery you gave me a strength I never knew I had, you made me determined and resilient and this really is just the beginning:
Molly Watt is included in the Disability Power 100 list 2018
Molly, from Maidenhead, Berkshire known for being a keynote speaker, an Accessibility and usability consultant, author/ illustrator of two anti-anti-bullying children’s books, an ambassador for GN Hearing as well as trustee of The Molly Watt Trust, was announced as one of the most influential people with a disability in the UK at a reception at the South Bank Centre on (Wednesday 17 October).
The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List is an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. More than 700 nominations were received for the 100 places. The Disability Power 100 List is compiled by an independent judging panel, chaired by Kate Nash OBE. Kate is the world's leading authority in 'Networkology' - the science behind the growth of workplace networks and resource groups. In 2007 she was awarded an OBE for services to disabled people. In 2013 she was appointed Ambassador to Disability Rights UK.
Molly, director of Molly Watt Ltd runs a company and charity both driving technology evangelism. Registered deafblind due to a genetic condition called Usher syndrome she uses her passion and experiences to specialise in Accessibility and Usability in the world of design. Her goals include changing the perspective of those designing products/ a service to create more inclusive environments.
The Molly Watt Trust is a family run charity that funds technology to enhance the lives of those living with Usher syndrome. Molly has traveled the world talking of her experiences as a Deafblind person, raising awareness of Usher syndrome, motivating others and kick starting fundraisers.
Molly, said: “It’s not about how disabled you are but how enabled you can be with the right tools and support - I believe anybody can be successful and has the right to be a valuable part of society.”
Nick Bell, Interim Chief Executive of Shaw Trust - a charity helping to transform the lives of young people and adults across the UK and internationally, said:
“Congratulations to Molly . The judges were beyond impressed by the standard of nominations but selected the most influential people who are proving that disability or impairment is not a barrier to success. One of our aims for the Disability Power 100 list is to demonstrate to young people that they can achieve their ambitions. At Shaw Trust we work with government, local authorities and employers to support people overcome barriers which hold them back from achieving their potential.”
The full Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List can be found on www.disabilitypower100.com.
- END –