Hi, I’m Jenny (she/her), Evidence and Engagement Officer at Westcountry Rivers Trust and a member of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Team.
I’ve always had a strong connection to nature and the outdoors and particularly loved animals when I was growing up, so I always knew I wanted to work in the environmental conservation sector in some way.
I felt really lucky growing up near the Malvern Hills with lots of green spaces where we used to walk regularly as a family. We had a stream running along the bottom of our garden and I remember spending hours splashing along it in my wellies, finding crayfish and fish – I was a bit of a grub! Holidays were also very outdoorsy, spent camping in Devon and Cornwall and I always loved the beach and the sea. The coastal location of Plymouth University was a really strong deciding factor in choosing to go to university there!
I strongly believe that nature and the outdoors is for everyone, although that doesn’t mean that everyone experiences nature in the same way.
I have the invisible disability of moderate/severe hearing loss. I sometimes wear one hearing aid, but I mostly rely on lipreading for conversations, captions and subtitles for TV and online meetings, and I have recently enrolled on an online British Sign Language (BSL) course.
Although my world might sound a lot quieter than most people, I still find it calming and peaceful to be away from the city where I now live, away from the background noise of traffic and general city life. I also get ‘listening fatigue’ from concentrating to lipread and hear during conversations, so being out in nature also gives me a break from that and time to recharge.
I can’t usually hear nature sounds that most people take for granted, such as birds (except the really loud ones like seagulls and wood pigeons!). I love seeing the swifts arrive each spring, we get a lot around the area where I live, and being unable to hear their screaming calls doesn’t lessen my enjoyment.
I previously spent many years working as a bat surveyor which might seem strange for someone with hearing loss; I actually find it easier to hear bats with a bat detector (which alters the frequency of the bat calls to be compatible with human hearing) than I do birds, and many bat detectors now also have a visual display of the bats’ echolocation in addition to the audible bat calls, which helps with species identification.
I never felt that my hearing loss held me back from anything in terms of my career or social life. I enjoy lots of different outdoor activities, including walking/hiking, cycling and rock climbing. I love music too and one of my favourite (pre-pandemic!) things to do is going to see live music at gigs and festivals.
I really enjoy working for Westcountry Rivers Trust who have been incredibly supportive, particularly through the pandemic with the move to online meetings and working from home.
I am really fortunate that the move to online working was easy for me as our online conference platform has built-in auto-captions, but not all people with hearing loss have been so lucky, and many online platforms do not offer this as standard so this has left many people isolated.
The technology is already available so I hope that as awareness of this issue increases, accessibility will increase, and that both the online and the natural world will be accessible and inclusive for everyone.