When 23-year-old Rikki Poynter, American writer  and vlogger of the deaf side of things, created her first clip – she had no idea it would lead to a four-year journey, over 20,000 views and media coverage from the likes of BBC and ABC News. Not only that, she has amassed over 4,000 subscribers. Here she opens up to BDN


Growing up…

I don’t come from a Deaf family. The only other person who is deaf is the person who gave birth to me. Everybody else, as far as I know, is very hearing.

I was raised to be like a hearing person for the majority of my life, so I didn’t pay much attention to my deafness until after high school and getting into Tumblr.

School was rough a lot of the time. I had trouble in English class when we would have to read books out loud. I had teachers who would explain things behind us, while having all the material on the front. 

When I would ask for help when we were all working quietly, I would be told something along the lines of, “I already explained this. You should’ve paid attention. Look in the book”.  

We had to watch videos and take notes on the facts we heard. Of course, the videos weren’t closed captioned so I wouldn’t be able to write a lot.  

At one point, one of my teachers publicly humiliated me by reading what I had written out loud. There were a lot of incomplete sentences. He read those out loud and the other students would laugh. I didn’t think much about it then and just laughed along with them. I was too shy to stand up for myself, but now it makes me wish I had.

The best thing about my deafness…

The people that I’ve met. I’ve met so many awesome Deaf/HOH people that have become my friends.

The biggest reaction I received to a story was…

“Shit Hearing People Say” had the biggest reaction and caused the most controversy. It was the one video I didn’t expect to get so popular, but it attracted almost 300,000 views. 

A lot of hearing people got mad about it, but guess what? It’s not us saying that stuff – it’s them! What does that tell you? It got even more positive reactions!

The biggest misconception about Deaf/HOH people…

The phrase “deaf and dumb” is the thing I always think about. Hearing, or lack thereof, has absolutely nothing to do with your intelligence.

Some of the media attention I’ve received…

When I uploaded the first Deaf Awareness video, the Huffington Post Good News wrote an article about me. I’ve been on a few other news websites, like Mic and Upworthy. Then in January, Tyler Oakley made a video and mentioned me – I ended up getting on BBC twice and ABC News in one week. I’ve also ended up on French and Mexican websites!

Shows like Switched At Birth have changed people’s perception of deafness…

Yes and no. The good thing is that a lot of people have become more interested in Deaf culture. They want to learn how to sign so they can better communicate with Deaf/HOH people – which is awesome. 

Perhaps they also realise that, ‘hey, Deaf/HOH are human beings like everybody else and not a contagious disease’. 

The bad side is that the show has also gotten some people to turn Deaf/HOH into some sort of fetish. I’ve seen girls on Tumblr call (show lead) Emmett the perfect guy and say they want a Deaf boyfriend because he will (apparently) be like Emmett. 

Emmett is a fictional character and definitely not a perfect one! He cheated on his girlfriend, for crying out loud! I’ve also seen the same kind of people write about how they want a Deaf significant other so they can “help them through life” and “ make sure they feel loved”. 

It may not be meant as an insult (well, maybe it is) but it is a false idealism. The way people who have used “deaf and dumb” and have denied us proper jobs and access to education. 

There have also been posts from hearing people who think it’s “cute” to see another hearing person with a deaf person, like it’s something that shouldn’t ordinarily happen.

I never predicted this level of reaction when I made my first video in 2010…

I was hoping that it would open some doors for me, career-wise, as it wasn’t happening where I live. I like doing YouTube videos a lot and talking about things, so I still am always hoping YouTube will help open new doors for me and, so far, it’s working now.

Sign language is…

Life to the Deaf community. It’s something that brings Deaf/HOH together and be able to communicate and not feel entirely left out in a world where the majority is hearing and use oral communication.

If other young deaf people feel frustrated they should….

Let it out. Built up frustration is never a good thing. And use it to kick some butt. The audism part of hearing society don’t believe we can do much, so we’re going to go show that we can and do.

Authorities can do more to increase access and inclusion for Deaf/HOH people by….

Listening to us. We’ve been telling police and the medical profession what they need to do, they just don’t listen. Even when videos are made and shared, the situation remains very much the same. 

My message to other Deaf/HOH young people who struggle with fitting in…

You’re not alone. We all just have to stick together and keep on fighting.


Hollywood, Stop Hiring Hearing Actors For Deaf Roles!

Being Deaf or Hard Of Hearing and Socializing.

Shit Hearing People Say (Things You Don’t Say to Deaf & Hard of Hearing)

I Can’t Hear You Challenge/Tag: Deaf Awareness Edition

YouTubers, You Need to Closed Caption Your Videos! | closed captioned