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Social work graduate aims to challenge inequalities for Deaf people


Frankie McLean (28), from Kilmarnock, has overcome immense challenges in his journey, graduating with a BA (Hons) Social Work from Robert Gordon University at 10.30am on Friday 4 December. 

Despite being profoundly Deaf, Frankie has led an inspirational and successful life. He attended mainstream schooling and subsequently went to Strathclyde University at the tender age of 17, graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Immunology and Pharmacology. Although he enjoyed the course Frankie realised that it wasn't the career for him as he wanted to work with people. 

Following a stint as a lifelong learning development officer for a charity, Frankie became an Information, Advice and Guidance Worker for Deaf Action, attached to their social work team. He said, "I enjoyed the social work aspect and was soon entrusted with increasingly complex work and cases. I was drawn into social work, and Deaf Action encouraged me to take up the professional social work qualification in order to advance my career and skills." 

This led to Frankie taking up a place as a distance learning student with Robert Gordon University's School of Applied Social Studies, which enabled him to combine working with his studies. In order to complete the course, Frankie required the services of a sign language interpreter. As there is an acute lack of these in the North-east, the University called upon interpreters from the Central Belt. "The School of Applied Social Studies didn't shirk from this challenge, and obvious large financial commitment, and this commitment to equality of opportunity is something I am very grateful for," Frankie continued. "Luck also had it that the School had a lecturer on staff, Sheila Slesser, who had worked as a social worker with deaf people for many years and who could sign. She became my personal tutor and has taught me a great deal. 

"The coursework was challenging, and I vividly recall the Sundays before assignment deadlines. They were usually stressful days spent in front of my laptop trying to finish the assignment. An ironic memory I have is of completing the assignment for the ‘Social Work with People with Substance Problems' module, and grabbing a cigarette soon afterwards, despite being a non-smoker!" 

Frankie went on to thank his partner Amy, his friends and colleagues for their unstinting support. 

He is now working as a fully registered and qualified social worker for Deaf Action. "As a Deaf person, I've come across discrimination in many forms, and still do to this day. My experience at Robert Gordon University has been very positive, however, and their attitude is one that other universities and organisations should aspire to.

"I am relishing the challenges my new job brings. My life and successes so far have been unusual for a deaf person, sadly, and I have a personal commitment to challenging the inequalities that unbelievably still exist for deaf people. A deaf person should be able to achieve things and become a proper and full citizen, able to contribute a great deal to society. Part of my job is trying to make this happen."