Caroline Carswell, founder of Sound Advice, is verbal with bilateral cochlear implants and does not know sign language. Among the first born-deaf children in Ireland to be mainstream-educated in the 1970s/80s, she matriculated for Trinity College Dublin (with no access office), and achieved an honors arts degree plus two post-graduate diplomas.
Caroline worked in Canada, the US, UK, Argentina and Ireland and after 15 years in digital publishing, corporate banking software sales/marketing and journalism, established the Sound Advice project (then called Irish Deaf Kids) in 2007.
A role model and advisor to public, private and semi-state entities in Ireland, and as an international mentor, Caroline works through Sound Advice to present hearing and ability in the technology, health, education and employment spaces.
Sound Advice’s Impact
Sound Advice’s influencing (2007-14) profiled Ireland’s historic lack of hearing, speech & education services, helping catalyse:
- Ireland’s National Audiology Review (2011);
- Education Policy (2012) for mainstreaming children who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- HSE-funded bilateral cochlear implants (2013) for eligible children aged under 18.
The Life Story
Caroline was confirmed as being deaf in Dublin, Ireland at 16 months old. After her diagnosis, her parents made their informed choices for her verbal, mainstream education, with information from the US and the UK.
One of Caroline’s earliest memories is of having a hearing test at Cabra in Dublin. Every time she heard a sound, she had to put a figurine into a wooden boat. Caroline’s assessments showed a mainstream education was viable. This meant she wouldn’t have to travel to and from Cabra daily, and knew the neighbours and children near home.
Caroline’s parents enrolled her in a local mainstream primary school in Dublin, attended by 3 deaf pupils in their own age-appropriate classes with hearing peers. All went to the same speech teacher in Harcourt Street. Caroline finished primary school with one hour’s speech class every weekday and a one-hour visiting teacher session per week. The daily speech classes ceased at age 11, when Caroline found behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids boosted her residual hearing. At the local co-educational secondary school, her weekly teaching supports were two hours’ extra maths, and a one-hour visiting teacher session. Extra-curricular team activities as a teen included hockey, badminton and swimming, plus weekend and school holiday retail work at a wholefoods store. Caroline took the Leaving Certificate on the same basis as her peers, with a view to reading History at Trinity College, Dublin, or taking a degree in the UK.
Trinity College (then) had no support for deaf students, but Caroline felt she would manage with self-motivation and help from fellow students. While at university, she got involved with the student newspaper and the mountain club, and worked as a paid administrator in the Students’ Union. For the summer vacations, she sought bank loans to work and travel in North America, where the equal opportunities and hearing awareness amazed her. After graduating from Trinity College, Caroline took a publishing postgraduate course at Oxford Brookes University (again, no tuition support).
The publishing course led to a job at Oxford University Press producing journals on CD, online and in print, in one process. At the time, the Internet barely had 300 pages – compared with billions nowadays – and Caroline knew this was where her career lay. On her return to Ireland, she took an IT conversion course and worked for some years in corporate banking software marketing, before following a calling into entrepreneurship and change management.
Caroline enjoys hillwalking and challenges, plotting travel itineraries, international friendships, reading biographies and seeing life’s ironies. She has taught English to Spanish-speaking street children at a refuge in Argentina (2006) and joined a Red Cross humanitarian trip to three orphanages in the former Soviet state of Georgia (2006). In 2011, Caroline – Sound Advice founder, CEO and native lip-reader – received her first cochlear implant (the second in 2016), and can be contacted at hello<at>sound-advice<dot>ie, or via Skype (caroline.carswell), Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.