Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Navigating the emotions of deaf motherhood

Today our little family - me, FJM and FFB were meant to be going to the cinema to see a subtitled screaming of Frozen 2.

As you can imagine FJM was not exactly excited about it but one of the many things I love about that man is his complete support when it comes to my deafness and, if something is subtitled, knowing how rare it is, he will always come with me.

I was really looking forward to today's little New Year's Day outing. FFB loves the cinema. The last time I took him, he was captivated by the moving pictures and lights.

We had popcorn, we had hot chocolate, I was excited. I don't take any visit to the cinema for granted.

So imagine my disappointment when the movie started but there were no subtitles.

That sinking feeling. The humiliation of having to walk out of the cinema.

Now, this blog is not about criticising the cinema in question. It was a technical mishap that they could do nothing about. They were lovely about it and I got a full refund, but as I sat in the back of the car beside a very sad FFB, (he was possibly crying because he was hungry) I couldn’t help but join him and let the fat salty tears run down my cheeks.

It wasn't really the disappointment of not being able to see Frozen 2. It was more the realisation and slap in the face of how restricting being deaf is at times. And how, in this case, it had affected not just me, but my family.

And as I sat there feeling more than a little sorry for myself, it began to dawn on me that as FFB gets older, there's going to be so much he will miss out on potentially because of me.

Things like children's theatre. Sure I will always take him and hope he enjoys it, but I won't be able to follow it or talk about it with him afterwards and give him all the benefits an experience like that should offer.

And what about the cinema? If FFB was of cinema going age right now, what would I do? Go along to screenings without subtitles and pretend? Send him and FJM and stay home? Or wait for the random subtitled screenings that come along and force FFB to wait, too.

When I imagined motherhood, I was realistic about many of the challenges I might face. About not being able to hear FFB without my hearing aids, about how I would need to adapt to that. And honestly, I think I am doing pretty well. But what I hadn't accounted for was what he might miss out on because of me...

And this is what I am just discovering. He's got a new playmat, it plays musical songs, I have no idea what they are or what is being sung. I cannot interact with him about this.

He has a xylophone... it's too high for me to hear so in order to play it with him, I have had to make FJM sing the notes an octave or two lower and memorise this pitch so that I am hit the notes and sing with him. But even then I have no idea if I am getting it right.

This month, I am taking him to baby swimming because I want him to grow up confident in the water but I cannot wear my hearing aids for this and I can only hope I will be able to follow what is going on and ensure he gets the best possible experience.

I guess I am just having a new year, new mum wobble made worse by today not working out.

I don't want FFB miss out.

Which, when I've finished eating my feelings in the form of the Butterkisk popcorn I bought especially for the cinema, is why I am even more determined to win the fight in educating cinemas on the importance of subtitling more films. I am even more determined to ask for accessible adjustments wherever I go. Because it's not just about me anymore and whether I am able to enjoy something. It's about my son. And being a good mother to him. And giving me the same opportunities that children with hearing mums have.

First step, to learn all the songs for the local baby music class we're going along to. I am going to email the teacher and ask her for them so that FFB sees me singing along and can follow it too.

And everything else?  I guess it'll be a massive learning curve... which will run concurrently to the normal parenting one.

Happy New Year peeps!

Here’s to an accessibility progressive 2020.


Friday, 20 December 2019

Success for Subtitled Cinema

Today is a very thankful Friday. Why? Because I am able to report on an amazing development in our quest for subtitled cinema.

It's a local one... but it gives me hope that change will eventually come.

So let's start at the beginning shall we?

As you know, I've been helping Deafie Blogger with her fantastic subtitled cinema campaign for a while now.  We've had some progress, which you can read about here. My subtitled cinema tweet went viral which you can read about here. And I even went on Sky News to talk about it, which you can watch here.

If you look very carefully at my appearance on Sky News, you might have noticed that I was in fact, 8 months pregnant. And that means that recently I've had my hands full with the arrival of FFB. He is now three months old and absolutely marvellous.

Anyway, with motherhood now a major feature of my life, I thought that my cinema-going days were behind me for a time so I began to stop tracking what subtitled films were showing in my area.

Since having FFB, I've become part of a wonderful group of women thanks to my NCT classes and we meet up regularly. And when one of them suggested we go to parent and baby movie screamings, my heart sank a little bit as I know that they wouldn't be subtitled. I checked out the website, and they weren't.

So I dropped the cinema an email and asked them whether they would consider subtitling the parent and baby showings because after all, the subtitles might be helpful for the tired hearing parents in the noisy cinema, too.

And guess what? They came straight back to me and said, yes this was something they had considered in the past and that they would put out a survey and if it was largely positive, then they would consider a trial period.

Well guess what? When asked, 90% of people came back in favour of subtitled parent and baby screeenings.


And so, the cinema decided to trial subtitled parent and baby screenings for the whole of December and January. One film a week! Which, when it's only a one-screen cinema is pretty bloody brilliant eh?

And on Wednesday, I went to my first ever subtitled screening with a three month old baby in tow. I went to see Last Christmas and I loved it. It was feel good and Christmassy and I liked the plot twist but mostly I loved that I was doing something that hearing people take for granted. Going to the cinema.

FFB's review of Last Christmas however was mixed. He slept through the first half, ate a bit and then stared at the very pregnant lady behind us for the last bit. But at no point did he scream, which was very reassuring. And the best bit for me is that because I cannot really hear babies crying, the cinema was brilliantly quiet for me regardless of what mayhem was going on around me.

At the end of the film we were handed feedback sheets where you could let the cinema know what you thought of the subtitles and I really hope that most people gave positive feedback. I asked at the box office on the way out and the lovely person there said that largely people said yes they liked them and the people that had said no said they would tolerate them if they knew there was a deaf person in the audience.

Which I will take as a win.

And while this is a very small local win - and only really useful to you if you are a deaf mama in West London, what I find incredibly bolstering is that a cinema was willing to listen and try something. They didn't just say, 'Oh no, we cannot do that as hearing people will complain.' They were open to trying subtitles.

I really hope the trial continues after January but in case if doesn't  I plan to go to as many of the films as possible. I plan to get a small taste of what it's like to be a regular cinema goer. And I plan to make memories with FFB of going to the cinema with him, in case it's something I never really get to do again.

And what was this amazing cinema called?

Watermans Art Centre in Brentford. Despite not being a huge cinema, they also do regular subtitled showings that aren't filled with screaming babies. And they have lots of other great things going on, too.

Go and show them some love on Twitter. Go and let them know that they are wonderful for being willing to give subtitled cinema a go where it's not usually done. Go use their example as a shining beacon of hope of a cinema who asks hearing people if they mind subtitles and finds that 90% have no issue with them.

And then keep telling the big cinemas this information. Keeping telling them that one hearing person complaining has the potential to ruin cinema for an entire country of deaf people. The potential to ruin date nights, social trips with friends and in my case the chance to spend time with the women who really understand what my life is like right now. The women who support me at 3am when FFB thinks it's time to play or when I just need a hug in the middle of the cafe when he's projectiled down me and is screaming the place down.

Watermans gave me the chance to spend time with those women and watch a movie. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Happy Friday peeps and keep the Subtitled Cinema campaign going wherever you are.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Deaf Girly and the things that go beep

Things that go beep fascinate me.

Mainly because I’ve never heard beeps. Not even when I was younger and less deaf.

When I found out I was deaf at 10, beeps and birds singing were two sounds I discovered existed but couldn’t hear. Even with hearing aids - not that I ever wore them back then. After all, 1990s hearing aids were definitely not on my list of favourite things.

Anyway so yes, things go beep. Who knew? Which is why I ask often ask the marvellous hearing and indeed hard of hearing or D/deaf peeps Twitter what goes beep so I can add to my list of things I didn’t know about.

 I’ve discovered hair straighteners go beep when they reach optimum temperature, tube barrier card touch points beep when you place your Oyster card on them, dishwashers and washing machines beep when they finish the wash, cars beep if you get out of them and leave your headlights on, and fire alarms beep when they have a low battery.

Yesterday, my ma came to stay. As I was in the kitchen making tea, she came in to tell me that something was beeping in my flat. And she thought it was a fire alarm sounding that it had low batteries.

I, of course, could not hear it, and my mum, who is also quite deaf, was having a hard time working out which of the three alarms - one smoke, two carbon monoxide - in the flat was the repeat-beep offender.

She stood in the hall and listened as hard as she could before giving up and going to find our lovely neighbour who hearing. Together we all stood in the hall, staring in turn at the three different boxes, with me keeping the other two company as I really had no clue there even was a beep, while every 60 seconds, they struggled to work out where it was coming from.

Eventually they both decided it was the smoke alarm. So off to Sainsbury’s my mum went to buy a new battery, and then we changed it. Hurrah we thought, that’s the end of that until my mum gave a a frustrated scream. The beep was still there.

We searched high and low. I searched the biscuit cupboard and it was basically dinner time by then and I was hungry. We were all stumped.

Until I suddenly remembered that in a box on the shelf by the door was a Nest Smoke Alarm that I’d bought for our old flat and hoped would be a great help to the girl who didn’t hear beeps should the building catch fire. It talks to you instead and also sends you text messages to let you know the building is on fire.

Except if never really worked brilliantly and in the new flat, I’d shoved it in a box and forgotten about it. And there it was, beeping forlornly (allegedly), letting me know it needed new batteries.

Highly embarrassed, my ma and I  thanked my lovely neighbour and she headed back to her flat. And we then pulled all 8(!) of the AA batteries out of the Nest alarm. It stopped beeping. Hurrah!

But it got me thinking about all the things that go beep that I cannot hear and wondering whether companies couldn’t just create a range of beep frequencies to choose from so that there was at least a small chance of trying to hear it.

If I could change the frequency of things that go beep in my flat, I would give them all a low beep, like a sad clown car. Or if I could make them say ‘beep beep’ like FJM does when he’s home and something like the microwave goes off when I’m cooking. Wouldn’t that be aces?

It also got me wondering, if my ma hadn’t been staying, how long the beeping would have gone on for. And when I lived alone for three years, how many things went beep in my flat without me knowing about them.

In the meantime I’m refreshing my usual question of ‘what goes beep?’ as I really am fascinated to know. Head to Twitter and @ me your answers please.

Have a lovely weekend peeps DG x

Navigating the emotions of deaf motherhood

Today our little family - me, FJM and FFB were meant to be going to the cinema to see a subtitled screaming of Frozen 2 . As you can imagi...