Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Deaf Girly's Deaf Awareness Week wishes

It's Deaf Awareness Week this week - it officially started yesterday but it was a Bank Holiday and I was having a largely tech-free day of wandering around London getting some fresh air.

But here I am today, raring to go.

This year is a little different for me. This year, I've made the decision to collaborate with a brilliant company on something very important - so look out for this content on my Twitter feed throughout coming days.

So there won't be much extra activity on here... but what I will leave you with is my list of Deaf Awareness Week wishes... if I really could have anything!

1 More subtitles... everywhere

It's no secret that Deafie Blogger and I have been working hard behind the scenes to try and get more subtitles at the cinema at better times and more movies - especially new releases. The steps to achieving this are small right now but we hope when the time comes, with the full support of the D/deaf and Hearing community, we'll be able to show that there is a demand for subtitled cinema and that hearing people are willing to attend them, too. We will keep you posted and when we yell 'CHAAAAARGE!' please promise you will, right into your local cinema to show it and us support. And please sign Deafie Blogger's petition if you haven't already.

It's not just the cinema though - I wish for subtitles across all streaming services such as NOWTV and ITV player. I wish for the ability to autocaption videos on Instagram and Twitter, without having to run them through an app first... although I am still mightily impressed by this latest development.

I wish for everyone who needs subtitles to be able to have them - at museums, doctors' surgeries, appointments, conferences, the theatre, talks, in education.

2 More accessibility everywhere

Plain and simple. I wish the world was more accessible for D/deaf people. I want the people in charge of health care, travel, employment, education, all public services - the list goes on - to take some time to look at how they can make all of this easier to access for us. 

Sure most of us have learnt ways to hack the systems - I have FJM who is my ears even from 4,000 miles away, I have apps, I have customer services people on Twitter who I can reach out to, but it still doesn't change the fact that I am currently overpaying on my flat's contents insurance because the only way to negotiate it was on the phone and I couldn't do that and, at that exact moment in time, I didn't have the energy to 'hack the system' and find a way to do it. After all, hearing people don't have to do that. Why should I?

3 More awareness everywhere

A lot of the time I find my life is made difficult not because people are mean but because they simply don't know what the right thing to do is. Many people have never met someone with a hearing loss before and as no one size fits all with deafness, even if they had, chances are what helped that person might not always help me. I have always made it my policy to be as open as possible to helping people understand not just the generic ways of how to make life easier for D/deaf people but also to help them understand the quirks of my own hearing loss and how that means, they cannot group us together under one big label. We are all different.

My wish is that we continue to raise that awareness for people who are less comfortable or able to state their needs, which is why I'm going to be sharing all the deaf awareness tips I find this week on my social channels. There are some brilliant campaigns going on - so don't forget to have a google and check them out.

4 More employment opportunities everywhere

As a deaf person, I can count on one hand the number of times I've missed out on a job because of my deafness. But all three times, weirdly, the people chose to tell me straight out that it was because I was deaf. These jobs were not jobs where hearing was compulsory. But these people had made up their minds - a hearing person would be more efficient. I was out of the running.

The last time this happened, for a crappy little job, at a crappy little company, I took the time to write them a letter explaining why 'THAT WAS NOT ACCEPTABLE' and while I never got a reply, I hope that realising how close they came to a call from my lawyer, has made them approach who they employ slightly differently. In all honesty, probably not.

Right now, I am in an amazing job with the most insanely supportive boss. I have video calls with people from all over the world. I have had colleagues drive to Walmart in the hour before our scheduled call to buy a web cam because their laptop one is playing up. I can honestly say that this company I work for now sees my talent first.

And that's what I wish for everyone. I have no idea how we get there but these are wishes right? And sometimes wishes do come true.

5 More support everywhere

I am pretty lucky that on a personal level and indeed through Twitter and Instagram, I have an amazingly supportive network of people. People who, in the 11 years since I started blogging have been there through some insanely challenging times, picked me up off the floor, carried me for a bit when I've not felt like carrying myself.

Deafness can be incredibly isolating. It can be scary, frustrating, it can affect your mental health. 

I wish that there is more support for anyone who needs it, however they need it. I appreciate it won't be easy, but I will do whatever I can to help. Because, as my friend and campaigner Deafie Blogger says, 'Deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support.' and she's right!

Happy Deaf Awareness Week peeps. And if I bump into a genie in a lamp, I'll tell him these five wishes. But in the meantime, please know, that I personally will be doing all I can to make them come true.


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Deaf Girly's five New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year peeps.

Wow, 2019! That means I am now in the 11th year of blogging here on DeafinitelyGirly.com.

When I started out, it was a bit of a therapy for me. It was a place I could have a rant about things, and when I look back, it's amazing to see how much of what I was ranting about has now changed.

The subtitles on BBC iPlayer are mostly flawless now. Back when I started ranting about iPlayer, they were practically non existent.

I no longer have to make horrifically stressful calls to utility companies or phone providers as much of it can either be sorted via live online chat, Twitter or if absolutely necessary, the NGT app on my phone.

But while all these things are marvelous, now is not the time to be complacent and I'm going into  2019 with a renewed vigour for change. It's not that I haven't been campaigning for it. More just not writing about it on here.

So in no particular order, here are my five missions for 2019 and beyond:

1. Continue the Subtitled Cinema campaign with Deafie Blogger

Last year, Deafie Blogger invited me to join forces with her and Michelle Hedley to try and get more open captioned showings of films in cinemas around the UK. Deafie Blogger had already set up a hugely successful petition by this point - sign if here - and it's already had more than 11,000 signatures.

Her determination saw us have two meetings with the UK Cinema Association, including one with representatives from the big UK cinema chains. And we are hoping that now the conversation channels are open, that we will find some way of increasing the open caption availability at UK cinemas - at more reasonable times. 

And if we manage that, then what we need is your support. To go to as many as possible. To tweet about them, share awareness and get D/deaf people back into the UK cinemas. Currently, that's not that possible seeing as there are only a small number of subtitled films and these are quite often not at 'work-friendly' times.

2. Look into getting new hearing aids

Now, don't get me wrong, I love my hearing aids, but they are now quite old. I've had them for more than six years and in modern technology terms that's quite a long time. The last time I got hearing aids, my life changed dramatically. I got promoted at work - twice - and this gave me the confidence to eventually quit my job and write a book. Which then gave me the confidence to go back and do something on my terms, which turned into an even better opportunity, which then meant when a fantastically mind-blowing challenging role came up, I thought 'Yep, I'm going after that!' and I got it. 

These hearing aids have enhanced my world in a way I never thought was possible. After spending my entire twenties not wearing hearing aids, my thirties were a revelation. But let's be clear... putting on hearing aids is not like putting on glasses. They don't make the world perfect. But they make it a lot more understandable. And if there's new hearing aids out there that could do even more, then I want to try them.

3. Sort out my book

Four years ago, I wrote a book. And then, as new job opportunities came along, I put it to one side to focus on building my career. It's still there at the side, but this is the year I am going to do what needs to be done to sort it out. You see, I've had some amazing advice on it. And it's advice I agree about. I just need to make time to prioritise sitting down and starting the edits, the rewrites, the plot changes and structure - NOT MUCH THEN - and perhaps my deaf romantic fiction character will make it beyond my laptop screen. The good news is, that no one has said my writing is crap. Just that the structure needs work. So that's something!

4. Catch up with new technology

Just as I want to see what new technology is out there in terms of hearing aids, I also think I am due for a refresher on what amazing technology is out there in general for D/deaf people. From apps for my phone to things around the home, I'm going on a mission to get up-to-date on deaf tech and make my life easier. Please let me know what you recommend via Twitter or email.

5. Blog more

Yep, 2019 is the year that I am going to reconnect with DeafinitelyGirly.com. Not the daily blogs I did when I first started out 11 years ago, but perhaps four a month to keep you up to date on the things I am passionate about. In the last two years, while I was off getting married and living abroad, I've kind of lost the time to write about what's going on in the world of Deaf Girly, which is a shame, because so much of it was new challenges and discoveries for me as a deaf person. So there will be a retrospective series, while I bring you up to date. And it'll give me a chance to tell you about the time I...

Happy New Year peeps


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Subtitled Cinema: Daydreaming of a better deaf world

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow myself the chance to daydream about all the things on my deaf wishlist coming true...

It's a bit like when you daydream about what you'd do if you won the lottery, only better but sadly less likely.

Top of my list is getting accessible cinema for all D/deaf people. That means something that ticks boxes for as many deaf people as possible. Not just the boxes of 'reasonable adjustments'.

So yesterday, I sat there daydreaming about what it would be like to be able to go and see any movie I liked, whenever I liked. I imagined impulsive evenings with friends, last minute dates with FJM, being up-to-date on the office chit chat when they talked about the latest film or awards nominations. I imagined all the snacks I would buy - coz let's face it, for me, it's all about the snacks.

And then, I remembered that it was Monday evening, the day before Tuesday, which is, in Vue's own words, 'One of the preferred days for deaf people to go to the cinema' so there might be movie on that following evening that London Aunt and I could spontaneously go to as we already had a date in the diary.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that the chosen subtitled movie at Vue Westfield White City was First Man - the movie about Neil Armstrong and his journey to the Moon. As a massive space geek - I am one of those people with the ISS app who stands outside hopefully in orange-skied London trying to spot it whizzing over - I was SO excited! It was on at 20:45 too, which would give us enough time to grab a drink and bite to eat first.

I texted London Aunt excitedly and then hit 'book tickets'. And guess what?There were no tickets available. Why? Well, that Vue only puts its subtitled showings on in the smallest 40-person cinemas... so naturally, when it's a film's opening week, these are going to sell out.

As one of my Twitter peeps said, half the seats were probably booked by hearing peeps who didn't notice the 'ST' by the listing and would probably wonder what the heck was going on when they realised they were at a read-along screening. I really hope that those people don't walk out.

What's more, there are 99 non subtitled showings of First Man at Vue Westfield White City this week... that's 99 that hearing poeple can go to. In the bigger screens.

The sad thing is that this Vue is renowned for only putting on one subtitled showing of each movie it has. So that was my chance to see First Man... and because it's sold out, my chance has gone.

When I tweeted about this last night, the support was incredible. Not just from my fellow D/deaf peeps, who totally get my frustration, but from hearing peeps, too:

Hearing peeps who would like subtitles because they can't hear mumbling actors (Do actors mumble? I can't hear even the ones who don't!).

Hearing peeps who have hard-of-hearing friends and would like to go to the cinema with them.

Hearing peeps who don't mind either way if every single film at the cinema was subtitled.

Hearing peeps who have partners whose first languages are not English and could do with subtitles to help them understand.

Hearing peeps who didn't even know that subtitled cinema existed because guess what? Cinema's hide it away like it's some dirty secret.

Hearing peeps who hear our cause and support it wholeheartedly.

Deafie Blogger and I had a great meeting with the UK Cinema Association during which they promised to open up the conversations between us and the cinema chains who insist that there is no market, that subtitled showings are not financially viable, that deaf people prefer going to the cinema on Sunday and Tuesdays, which is why there are only showings then, who insist that there's nothing wrong with putting the only subtitled showings on in the middle of the day during the working week.

And I welcome those conversations. Because right now, we have no choice, and it feels a bit like we have no voice. We are stating our case to people who are already converted and then it's falling on the deaf ears of those who really need to listen - except guess what? They're not deaf.

If you want to know what it's like to be deaf - at least my deaf - then remove choice from your life. Remove choice. Remove security. Remove access. And then spend every day fighting to get that choice back.

Remove it all and that's what it's like.

Sure, there are ways around it. And sure it's not the worst thing that can happen to someone. But it's happening. And it's exhausting.

I am exhausted of trying to explain why I am fighting for simple choices and changes that would enhance not just my deaf life but everyone else's, too.

UK cinemas please listen to us. Stop hiding subtitled screenings away like they're some dirty secret. Like you're ashamed. And support a community of people who really need you.

And if you'd like to help, then please sign Deafie Blogger's petition, here.

Big thanks and Happy Tuesday peeps


Deaf Girly's Deaf Awareness Week wishes

It's Deaf Awareness Week this week - it officially started yesterday but it was a Bank Holiday and I was having a largely tech-free day ...