Starting a blog and business comes with its own set of challenges, but Ryien Blackwood, one of the creators of For the Deaf Girl, an online blog and business, was able to overcome them. She created not just a business, but a community of people with the intention of representing and connecting with deaf and hard-of-hearing women.

Blackwood was born hard of hearing, but initially, there were no accommodations available for her situation.

“Growing up, I was told I wasn’t deaf enough for ASL, accommodations or hearing aids,” Blackwood said.

Still, her hearing continued to worsen despite many surgeries and treatments, and eventually, she became deaf in her right ear and hard of hearing in her left, according to her biography on the For the Deaf Girl website.

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After coming to Liberty University, Blackwood joined the American Sign Language Club and established herself in the Deaf community. There, she connected with other deaf and hard-of-hearing women and became determined to make sure that women with other types of hearing loss were represented and included.

For the Deaf Girl was created in September 2022 during Deaf Awareness Month and has continued to flourish since then. It offers many free resources for deaf students, such as mentoring and social events. The community also uses its platform to encourage opportunities for educating others on how to make more inclusive and accessible spaces.

“We also love to promote and celebrate the beautiful language and culture the Deaf community brings to the table,” Blackwood said. “And we want everyone to include everyone in the conversation.”

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Officially, the For the Deaf Girl brand name uses a lowercase “d” because medically the term deaf is lowercase; however, the social media platform also uses the uppercase “D” as a cultural identifier, according to Blackwood.

“We utilize the term ‘d/Deaf’ with both the lowercase ‘d’ and the uppercase ‘D’ as a way to show respect to those who do and do not identify with the culturally Deaf community,” Blackwood said.

Some of the free social events that they put on for deaf and hard-of-hearing women in the Lynchburg area include vision board nights, movie nights, flower-arranging events and even nights to decorate their assisted listening devices.

Along with being a blog, For the Deaf Girl also sells merchandise on its website. It is planning on releasing a new sticker collection this spring to join the apparel that is already available, including T-shirts, long sleeves and pullovers, all emblazoned with the business’s disco ball logo. Going against the stereotype that hearing aids and hearing loss are only associated with age, the creators of For the Deaf Girl wanted to choose a symbol that could relate to any age.

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“We wanted to inspire and speak to the young girl in every woman,” Blackwood said. “We chose pink because of the youthful, optimistic and feminine association it has.”

For the disco ball itself, Blackwood explained that for them, it’s a symbol of the varied and beautiful experiences of deaf women because disco balls are made from thousands of small mirrors, reflecting the light and color around them and illuminating the room they’re in. This is what the creators of For the Deaf Girl want their community to be like.

“Through storytelling, we are piecing together a collective experience and providing opportunities for women to feel seen and understood,” Blackwood said.

One of the ways that For the Deaf Girl is working to make women feel seen and understood is through its blog. Through highlighting the lives of women with hearing loss, For the Deaf Girl aims to normalize diverse experiences with deafness and hearing loss because not everyone goes through the same experience.

“We see deafness as a beautiful spectrum,” Blackwood said. “And there is no right or wrong way to be deaf or hard of hearing.”

Santos is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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