Starting a Business Empowering the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

by Zainab Alkebsi
Brian Kelly is a 29-year old Cuer and cochlear implant user; he currently lives in Southern California.

OnCue: How did you begin using Cued Speech?

BK: My parents first discovered Cued Speech when they attended a Cued Speech workshop at the AG Bell convention in 1996. They decided that Cued Speech would best enable me to make progress with my spoken language skills. After 16 years of being exposed to Cued Speech, I am able to make sense of the pattern [of spoken] English language when people [communicate to one another].

These benefits are the reasons why I love Cued Speech so much. It has made a big difference in my ability to communicate with hearing people or any other spoken language users. I am so grateful [to] Dr. Orin Cornett for taking the leap of faith [by] creating the Cued Speech system. Thank you, Dr. Cornett!

OC: As I understand it, you just started an up-and-coming business. Can you tell me about your business, vision, and goals?

BK: My vision is [to empower] individuals with hearing loss to enjoy an excellent quality of life. My business has 3 different ventures to achieve that vision. I am here to help people with hearing loss to…

1) Hear crystal clear sound – I am currently working with my colleague at House Research Institute in Los Angeles to create, design, and test various signal processing algorithms for cochlear implants. One of our biggest advantages that sets us apart from others is we are both cochlear implant users. We can design and experiment on our own cochlear implants to see which produces the best results before we test with other cochlear implant users.

2) Communicate well – In my experience, I have found that Cued Speech is the best communication mode to achieve the most basic foundation for communicating well in spoken language. This is the reason why I have been putting my time and energy to teach Cued Speech and spread the word about Cued Speech. I achieved the first step by attending the Cuers for Literacy, Education, and Advocacy Retreat (CLEAR) last year in Maryland and recently becoming a certified Instructor of Cued Speech. I am currently in the process of setting up an NCSA-affiliated organization based here in southern California called “Southern California Cued Speech Association” (SCCSA). I have been creating a series of YouTube videos to help other[s] improve their cueing receptive skills. I am currently working on creating a web-based home study course on Cued Speech so people can learn how to cue at their own pace from anywhere in the world. I am also planning to set up Cued Speech workshops and fun cueing events around here in Southern California in the near future. Finally, I was recently elected to be on the National Cued Speech Association (NCSA) Board of Directors as a Director of Marketing/Public Relations. I am doing all I can do to make NCSA a successful and well-respected organization. The reason why I am on the NCSA Board is lack of awareness. We at NCSA are committed to work with other national organizations to make Cued Speech known and available for other people to learn.

3) Transform their lives – I am planning to offer my therapy and coaching services starting this fall. I am also planning to host workshops to teach [others] how to use mind tools to apply to themselves and their own lives in the near future.

OC: Do you have any advice for other deaf Cuers?

BK: Your deafness makes you unique and different from others. Don’t let other people or external influence pull you down with their preconceived notions, their deep-seated fears and “negative” programming. Dare to be bold and different! Be proud of it!

My journey has been a huge roller coaster. In the end, I am very happy where I am right now. I am doing the work that I love while enjoying all of the perks of living on the coast of Southern California!

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