Zanna Messenger – Jones: I’ve often felt like I didn’t belong in either the hearing or deaf world
Do you ever imagine the world without a sound? Without your favourite music, without the melody of chirping birds, without the voices of your loved ones? How would you cope with living in complete silence?
Since early childhood, Zanna Messenger – Jones has been dealing with profound deafness which was led by chemotherapy to treat SCID (Severe combined immunodeficiency) since she was 15 months old.
Growing up wasn’t the easiest for Jones as she felt isolated and removed from her hearing peers. “I didn’t know anyone else who was deaf, and I found it hard to make friends because children and teenagers aren’t the most patience, aware or even kind at the best of times,” she says.
In her adolescence, Jones didn’t want to be seen as different and asking people to repeat themselves was a thing which required a lot of confidence, which she lacked. “I’ve come a long way now, but I used to be very anxious and my isolation as a result of my deafness really impacted my mental health and this is something that isn’t talked about enough,”
“I deserve this as much as anyone else, I deserve to have friends the same way that other people do, I deserve access to education and I deserve to reach my full potential,” says Jones.
“I’ve often felt like I didn’t belong in either the hearing or the deaf worlds but I’m getting a lot closer now to find my place between the two.” Jones points out that deaf people face a lot of difficulties in day to day life; booking an appointment with a doctor, contacting the bank or making reservations in a restaurant is nearly impossible as mostly everything is done through the phone.
“I see myself as a very independent person but sometimes my ears won’t let me be.” According to the London Assembly, deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from depression as hearing people and there are over 80,000 people with profound or severe deafness in London.
Jones explains that access to mental health services is restricted for people with hearing loss as most therapy is talking and not every deaf person communicates orally. “Even if they do it would still be significantly harder to access the service than for the average hearing person.”
Jones recently graduated from the University of Arts London completing BA Fashion: Fashion Design with Knitwear. Being a disabled student, she required support from a university such as notetakers for her lectures, tutorials or seminars. Even though UAL provided with such, last-minute changes in timetable meant no access to the support needed.
In 2015, Jones started a legal action against the Government over its failure to consult disabled students on proposed restrictions to Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
“There is such a rich deaf culture which isn’t embraced enough or seen as anything concrete by hearing people,” says Jones. “The more people understand deafness the more deaf people can feel at home in the hearing world, the more questions hearing people ask, the more the barriers in communication can be broken down and we can start to heal the isolation that many deaf people face.”
Her final collection “Growing Up” explores her personal experience growing up deaf in a predominantly hearing world. It is the first project she’s done which was based on her disability, and she continues to embrace it not only by accepting in culturally, but within herself.
“I no longer apologise for being a ‘burden’ and I’ve learnt to find the humour in it. If I wasn’t deaf, I think my personality would be very different.”
Check out Jones' final collection "Growing Up":