Thursday, 8 March 2018

Deaf Girly and International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. And this year's theme is #PressforProgress.

Now, I am going to be honest with you, this is the first year I've ever really got my head around International Women's Day and a lot of that has to do with the company I've been contracting for. It's an amazing global company with some incredible women in senior positions who are all committed to inspiring, supporting and uplifting future generations of women to go after what they want.

I've had the honour of interviewing some of these women. They've shared some amazing stories about how they've faced real discrimination because of their gender. They've shared success stories of when someone has stood up for them, believed in them and fought for their career progression.

So why has it taken until 2018 for me to really take notice of International Women's Day?

Believe me, I have asked myself that question a lot this week. And I think the answer is, that I've been very lucky in my career and I think that I can honestly say that I don't think I've been discriminated against because of my gender. My deafness however, is another matter.

I have deafinitely been discriminated against because of my deafness. I've written about it here in fact.

A screen capture of Deaf Girly's blog about employment

And for the last 15 years of my career, this has been the issue I've been focused on. Pushing as hard as I could to prove myself in the workplace. Trying to find new ways of coping in meetings, phone calls, open plan offices. Dressing up my CV to showcase my work. 

Waiting until 2nd interviews before declaring my deafness. Practising those sentences in the mirror before I started a new job. Sentences like, 'I am deaf. I struggle to use the phone so prefer email.' and then forcing myself to stop at that rather than launch into a justifying diatribe about how I could still do just as good a job and forcing myself to project an air of confidence that I could, even if inside I was feeling a little shaky.

Hearing all these women's stories, reading about International Women's Day, if you replace 'woman' with 'deafness' a lot of the stories are interchangeable. 

Now I'm going to state the obvious here, but I think the more we say this, the more chance we have of progress:

Discrimination is wrong on any level. Be it gender. Disability. Race. Anything. We cannot allow it to continue.

But how, if you're a little cog can you stop it? Well you can't always. While I wrote about my employment issue, about being told that my deafness meant a company recalled their offer of interview, I didn't take it any further than sending the company a very strongly worded email. 

I didn't name and shame them. I didn't sue them. I did however go to the toilets and have a little cry. But I hope that my strongly worded email had some impact on that ignorant CEO. I hope she realised I could have sued her ass. And I hope she treats any person she encounters with a disability with more respect than she did me. And I hope she felt a tiny bit guilty for not supporting another woman in her career. 

And that to me is how we can make changes. We can support each other. Whether we are men or women. It shouldn't matter. We shouldn't feel threatened by younger people climbing the career ladder behind us, we should support them. We shouldn't dismiss people with disabilities as not being any less capable, we should support them.


And we should do it 365 days a year. Not just on one day.

International Women's Day should spark conversations, pledges and change across all areas of discrimination. It should raise awareness of the different fights women have around the world for equality and to be heard. And it should make us reflect not only on a personal level but also look at the bigger picture.

I'm DG. I am deaf and I am a woman. Neither of these things should lead me to be discriminated against.

Lets #PressforProgress peeps


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Deaf Girly wants choices

The other night, I tweeted the following words:

"As a deaf person, it seems the one thing I'm fighting for more and more is choices. Options of which night to go to the cinema or theatre, a choice of what TV channel to watch, which TED talk to listen to, YouTube video to watch. We have less choice in life."

Ok, maybe not the most succinct or eloquent tweet in the world, but I meant every single word of it. And I believe every word is true.

Deaf people have fewer choices available to them. On all levels of their life. Social. Personal. Professional. Educational. Medical. Physical. The list goes on. If you look at it plainly, we have less choice.

But how does this impact me? And what can be done about it? My Twitter timeline is filled with inspirational deaf (and hearing) people – @DeafieBlogger, @HearingLossHour, @HearingDogs, @Stagetext (The list goes on... and on... and on...) – doing to inspirational things to try and create positive changes for those with hearing loss and give us more choices. 

I'm proud of the changes I've made – from vibrating pagers in NHS walk-in centres to raising awareness when I campaigned for subtitled Star Wars on my honeymoon. But sometimes I feel like when we get that little change, the people in charge of the change sit down, pat themselves happily on the back and say, "We've done our bit," and forget about the fact that we need more change. Like when you donate £5 to charity and then ignore all other charity calls to action for the next month or so...

But we are not a charity. We are people who need choices. And what I want to understand is why aren't we getting them?

Social choices for Deaf Girly

Ok, so I'm talking about cinema, theatre, talks, nightclubs, bars, experiences, museums... We are restricted to single nights in a month, Tuesday afternoons at best or nothing at all at worst, to make these things accessible to us.

Why? Is it money? Is it demand in that area? I know that the amazing company Stagetext fights hard to do as much as it can to provide captioned theatre, and that it costs an enormous amount of money... 

But what about cinema? Two petitions here and here recently both set out to help give deaf people choices when it came to cinema – and between them they have almost 30,000 signatures. If you haven't signed them, then do. But what I want to know with the cinema is what is stopping them putting more shows on with subtitles? What are they afraid of? 

When FJM and I attended our honeymoon screening of Star Wars at Vue back in December, the cinema was full. Absolutely packed full. And I know for a fact that it wasn't packed full exclusively of deaf people. As far as I can tell, most hearing people don't object to subtitles on the screen... and if they do, guess what? They have a choice. Even if every cinema gave us at one subtitled showing a night, that would still give hearing people a whole lotta choice. We currently have none.

Professional choices for Deaf Girly

I've spoken before about how terrifying unemployment is to me, because I know that I lose out on jobs because of my deafness – as documented in this blog here. I can't read this blog back without getting emotional. And I walk past the office responsible most days and it makes me want to scream. But how do we get more choice professionally?

I currently work in a global company that uses Skype for Business for all its calls. My company is being amazing. They have switched to video calls to allow me to lipread. But Skype for Business won't include the speech to text service it has called Skype Translate on its business app. So while you can activate it on your personal Skype account, you cannot on a professional level. 

I'm 37 years old. I want to hold my own in meetings. Contribute. Add value. I know there are other services available to help make video calls accessible. But what I want to know is why won't Microsoft give us that choice? And they've yet to tell me. What they did tell me was that I could add my request to their feedback forum and if it got enough votes they may consider implementing it. Nice huh? You can vote for it here.

But what else can we do to change the fact that Action on Hearing Loss reports that 70% of deaf people in the UK feel that their deafness prevents them succeeding in the workplace?

Personal choices for Deaf Girly

This is one of the areas where I have seen the most change in the last 10 years of so. Thanks to Twitter, it's now much easier for me to access services that were previously phone only. Such as utilities companies, mobile phone companies, insurance companies. More recently, my GP surgery joined the 21st century and now allows you to make appointments online. The app NGT Lite, gives you a basic TypeTalk phone service. HMRC will give you one-to-one, face-to-face meetings with advisors so you can get the same support that people get when they phone.  I can book restaurants online or from an app on my phone. The personal 'life admin' choices are greater than ever before. But they're not perfect. More choice please! 

Give deaf people the same choices as hearing people

So what is this blog really about? It's about keeping the conversation going. It's about getting it out there to hearing people. To companies. To schools. To universities. To cinemas. To theatres. To anyone who can help make changes and give us choices. And if it's a money thing, to let us know. Be transparent as to why, as a deaf person, we can't have the same choice. And then let us help make that choice possible.

So like, share, retweet, blog, ask, campaign and get out there and see if we can get more choice.

Well that's what I'm going to do anyway. 

Happy Humpday peeps