Sunday 31st July 2016, 8.50am
BBC London Radio: Inspirit Interview with Asif Iqbal MBE by Jumoke Fashola. (Please note that the interview was on the last slot of the 3hours programme so you need to go directly to the time: 02.51:15)
Below is the transcript of the interview:
Jumoke: Welcome back! I’m Jumoke Fashola, this is BBC Radio London
I am delighted to welcome my next guest. My next guest had been nominated for the national diversity award for his work helping people who are deaf/ hard of hearing. Asif Iqbal MBE is profoundly deaf since birth and since the age of 15yrs, he dedicated himself to community services. Unusual on the radio, we will be hearing more from him, via his interpreter Linda Linnett. Just to clarify that his interpreter is female and Asif is male. (Jumoke laughed).
So it will be Linda’s voice you will hear.
Jumoke: Good morning Asif.
Asif (via interpreter): Good morning
Jumoke: Firstly, let’s start with this, how challenging has your path been getting to the level that you’re at now where so many amazing things are happening for you?
Asif: Thank you. I was profoundly Deaf from very young age and went to deaf schools, deaf college (Derby) and Deaf Studies & Education degree at University of Central Lancashire (Preston), it was through the experiences that I saw many barriers and attitudes toward deaf people as ‘can’t achieve/ can’t do’, I have had positive support from my family and colleagues throughout my school – University life but it was the stereotype of deaf people from different communities bothers me.
It wasn’t until I decided to visit Gallaudet University, famous for being the only Deaf university in the world, I wanted to see what is special about the university and applied for a summer program for 3 months. My world changed immediately on arrival as I met Deaf people who achieved in working at senior positions ranging from Deaf Lawyers to Deaf President of University. I have never felt so empowered by what I saw, everyone with ‘positive can do’ attitudes and the key messages throughout the University and across USA at that time with American Disability Act 1990 was that Deaf people can do anything except hear.
I came back to UK, so fired up with passion to make a difference and wanted to share my positive experiences with others. I aimed higher and wanted to work within the Government so influencing from the top down. I realised at that point that there were lack of positive deaf role models working at senior position especially within the Government departments. Despite the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, there were constant barriers in applying for jobs and no positive opportunity for deaf/ disabled people to apply – most often deaf/ disabled people face twice or treble discrimination compared to hearing people.
As a pro-active person, I decided to share my experiences by getting involved with local and national deaf and diversity organisations, influencing for better changes. I always grab opportunities to progress in my career and was shocked when one of my application for Public Appointment (with Govt) was accepted and I progressed with different Departments (Disability Employment Advisory Committee for DWP and Disabled Person Transport Advisory Committee for Dept of Transport) and British Council which I enjoyed very much and learnt so much.
Here, I had to challenge people’s stereotype of Deaf Asian person and throughout my voluntary, community and professional work, I was able to show that I can do it and if I can, then you can do it too!
Jumoke: How shocked were you being nominated for a National Diversity Award and now you’ve been shortlisted have the nerves started kicking in?
Asif: When we went to British Deaf Association Congress 125th Anniversary celebration at Torquay for 4 days then returned back home afterwards. I checked my emails and there it was – I couldn’t believe it when the email stated that I was shortlisted for the national diversity award as ‘Positive role model for race, faith and religions’. When checking onto their website of all nominations, I have to say that I was impressed to see many competing strong nominees and they are also inspiration to others too.
Jumoke: How important has your faith been to you with your work?
Asif: My faith in humanity (human beings) and equality has always been very important to me. I learnt so much about each faith group and the common goal was to increase humanity and peace. It was also crucial to ensure equality for all.
My passions for Equality & Diversity and mixing with diverse communities enabled me to become more open minded and embrace people we meet. And to educate people about the challenges deaf people faces.
For example, at Harrow United Deaf Club where I first set up in 2009, I was the main driver in bringing diversity of committees together with support of our committee members, Ambassadors and Deputy of Lieutenant as our HUDC patrons. Here we worked together and achieved a programme that promote community cohesion, bring deaf and hearing people together e.g organising events to celebrate the follow themes and organising speakers for:
- Celebrating cultural/ religion events to mark the occasions i.e Eid, Diwali celebration, Jewish (New year/ Passover), Easter; Chinese New Year
- Fight for your Right including Gay, Lesbian and Transsexual Awareness and in parallel, BSL rights.
- International Women day
- Older People – accessing to local services for older people
- Inspirational Youth event where UK young deaf people shared their experiences across the world.
- Human Rights
- Police – How to keep safe
- Deaf Awareness Day bring over 40 organisation include local and national i.e. council , police, health, cinema, arts, etc
- International festival for Her Majesty the Queen 90th Birthday include diversity speakers include black history month, Jesus, Muslim, Indian, LGBT and diversity dancers include Bollywood, Tamil dancers, Afro Caribbean, Flamenco and Irish/Scottish dancers.
Jumoke: What is the one thing you wish hearing people needs to know about deaf people?
Asif: Positive attitudes, being deaf aware and open to learning sign language, being open to working in partnership and interacting with communities irrespective of faith and religion.
Jumoke: Thank you for coming Asif!