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Born profoundly deaf, this Co Down man has been a child TV star, helped rebuild Haiti after an earthquake, travelled the world and runs his own business

As if being born profoundly deaf was not challenging enough, Co Down businessman Richard Beattie was also denied a ‘voice’ until the age of six. Instead of learning sign language, his parents were advised by medical professionals not to teach him in case it would prevent him attempting to vocalise as a young child.

The well-intentioned advice threw the Holywood man into a world of silence where he could not communicate his needs and love to those closest to him.

Today, as a successful businessman who has travelled the world for charity projects, he makes a heartfelt plea to parents of deaf children to start teaching them to sign when they are still babies.

The owner of The Coffee Yard in Holywood, Richard has packed more into his 32 years than most of us will in a lifetime.

But he still feels cheated out of his early years.

An unassuming, but nonetheless inspiring, role model for deaf children, he talks candidly about the challenges of growing up deaf in a hearing world.

Richard also pays tribute to his parents for encouraging him to fulfil his dreams.

A trained plumber, one of his many overseas trips was as a volunteer in Haiti with local charity, The Haven Project, immediately after the country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

The quake was the most shattering natural disaster ever experienced in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, leaving it with the greatest humanitarian need in its history.

Northern Ireland people are continuing their efforts to help rebuild Haiti through Haven, and Richard wants to continue his support by helping raise awareness of a new £20,000 fundraiser being held this month by the charity.

He alone raised £7,000 back in 2010 towards the efforts to rebuild communities where around 1.5 million people were left homeless.

It is only recently that he decided to finally settle down, buying a home in Ballyhackamore and taking over the running of the family coffee shop from his parents.

Richard’s parents Nicki and Jim are well-known local business people in Holywood. He has two brothers, Christopher (37) and Stephen (35).

He is passionate about deaf children learning to communicate.

Richard communicates now with signing as his first language, but has some speech which hearing people might struggle to understand.

It was only when his mum Nicki decided to go against medical advice to teach herself and her son to sign, that the world finally opened up for Richard.