Meet David Kent, one of our Board Trustees, who guides and supports our work towards a more inclusive and connected Aotearoa.
Kia ora David! Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did your journey with Able begin?
I was born and grew up in Timaru. I went to Timaru Boys High, and left in 1965 to join what was known at the time as ‘The Stock and Station industry’, providing services to the rural and farming community in Timaru. In 1972 I was transferred to Christchurch.
From the age of 18 I gradually lost hearing in both ears, and by the age of 24 I had lost almost all hearing in both ears and relied on lip reading. I was fortunate to have amazing support from the company, and remained employed by them, and the subsequent mergers, right through until my retirement in 2014. In 1998 I received my first Cochlear Implant which restored hearing to one ear and this opened up new opportunities for me. Over time, I moved into the Rural Finance and Banking arm of the company, and was a banking manager for the last decade of my career, covering part of North Canterbury and the West Coast.
From the time I started losing hearing I was not able to hear radio, TV, or music in any form. The first excitement in this area for me was the introduction of the Teletext service. It felt like something marvelous, and I would rush to turn this on every day to find out what the news etc. was! The demise of this service led to captions, and in time, to Able.
I joined the Able board in 2017. Prior to my appointment, I had been a part of what was then known as the Captioning Working Group, an offset part of the NFDHH, for around 5 years. In this role I had many meetings and sessions with Able, and the CE Wendy in particular. Outside of Able, I have been on the Board of the Southern Hearing Charitable Trust which manages the cochlear implant program for the lower North Island and South Island since 2003, chairing this since 2005. I have been on the Council for the National Foundation for Deaf and hard of hearing (NFDHH) since 2012, and Chair of this since 2020.
Why do you think Able is important, and how would you describe its impact?
There are more than 880,000 people in NZ with some form of hearing impairment, and for many of those the ability to "hear" TV etc is almost impossible. While I now have relatively good hearing and can participate well in almost all situations, I struggle to follow TV without captions. Whilst in some situations, I can manage with the combination of lip reading and sound, I find it almost impossible to follow movies or programs without captions. For many many people captions are essential - without them life becomes so much more difficult, contributing to a feeling of isolation from people, and from the world. In simple terms, captions are essential, and the impact is huge. And this is only around those in the hearing sector - there are many more users of captions who are regular users.
What have the highlights been during your time on the board?
Without any doubt the increased level of funding from New Zealand on Air last year - just brilliant and so valuable! I am hugely privileged to be part of the Able Board - there is immense satisfaction in being part of this Board and to have the opportunity to support an incredible team.
Applications to join David on the Able Board are open. Click here to learn more.