Jean West (above left) set up Hair Spirit with her friend and co-worker Sarah Esterson (above right) in 2011 to offer work experience and vocational training to deaf people in the hair styling industry. The pair received a £905 grant from our Marit and Hans Rausing Fund to host display and training events to bring deaf and hearing hair professionals together. “There are few role models for deaf people working in the industry,” says Jean, who contracted meningitis when she was two that resulted in her loss of hearing. “Accessing vocational and educational opportunities can be very difficult,” she says. “I’ve been for job interviews where all the interviewer wanted to talk about was my deafness. I wanted to talk about my skills. It was a waste of my time, to be honest. They weren’t concentrating on what I could do, rather what the problems might be.” The grant enabled Hair Spirit to run a hugely successful event in Brighton, where stylists, models, make-up artists and others all volunteered to work together to showcase what is possible when deaf and hearing people work together to break down barriers.