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Imagine growing up unable to understand the people around you, and having no way of communicating except through gestures.

This was the world Philip Bridge faced as a child after being born with a genetic disorder called Waardenburg syndrome, which left him profoundly Deaf.

“My family didn’t know sign language, so they’d be talking to each other and I couldn’t join in,” Philip says. “Mum did her best to talk to me, but it was hard for us to understand each other. I wanted to get involved but felt left out.

“I ended up playing on my own a lot – I was frustrated, and really struggled. I went to a mainstream school where making friends for me was difficult, so I’d just play football with the kid next door.”

Philip, now 42, was 16 when he started to learn British Sign Language, which is when he began to blossom.

“I was learning sign language at Bolton College when a friend recommended that I join the Bolton Deaf Society (BDS),” he says. “It was quite a shock for me at first, as I hadn’t had much connection with the Deaf community before, but it was fantastic to suddenly make friends. We’d go out as a group to pubs and other Deaf clubs and feel safer together.”

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