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


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Deaf Girly and Naomi Broady

There's no getting away from the fact that I am a massive tennis fan... FJM really helped me fall in love with tennis because he explained what the commentators were saying and so instead of just watching the tennis on TV with no real idea what was going on, he gave me an insight into the actual game.

It was amazing. I went from having no interest in tennis, because I had no clue or insight into the sport on to spending a large chunk of my salary on tennis tickets for Queens, Eastbourne, Rotterdam and Wimbledon every year!

But last night my deaf and my tennis worlds collided when British women's number 3 Naomi Broady tweeted that she only just discovered that it was duct tape not duck tape.

Now, I've had my fair share of mishearings, mispronouncings, wanting-to-crawl-into-a-cave-and-hide-for-all-of-eternity moments thanks to the English language and my deafness, but I was pretty sure that Naomi should be spared feeling the same over this one – and so I tweeted her back...

Because there is a Duck tape. And she replied...

And then we got one of my favourite people Paul Belmonte, sign language interpreter extraordinare in on the conversation and hilarity ensued.

It reminded me of the Kelloggs Coco Pops advert I used to watch – post awareness of my deafness –  as a child where the voice over said, 'Kelloggs Coco Pops are so chocolatey, they even turn the milk round.'

I was completely positive that was what the voice over was saying as in the advert the milk was moving... with hindsight, the word I was probably looking for was 'brown' but hey ho.

But my entire daily life is filled with these occasions. After all, when you look at my 'word list' hearing test results, I have no clarity between consonants and very little with the vowel sounds so it's all complete contextual guess work.

I hear words in the context of the conversation and then pick the beginning, middle and end sounds that best match the lip pattern and the vowel sounds. But it's not always right... as my shocking word test results reveal.

But what I realised last night is, that I am OK with that. I am OK with the hilarity that follows when I make some massive faux pas – all examples of which have currently left my brain – and I am proud that I have a skill that not many people have. 

Guessing what people are saying through lip patterns, the small amount of sound I hear and their body language gives me a unique insight into situations. Even on the TV, I find myself guessing the script before its said, and in real life, I have a really annoying habit of finishing people's sentences... with perfectly plausible endings but rarely the one they were going for. 

Must. Stop. That.

I sat there last night pondering about my deafness and how I just want choices as a deaf person while compiling my latest wish list, campaigns list and blog list and in that list of wishes, there was no wish to be hearing...

It's not about that. I am deaf. I am girly. I finish other people's sentences and can't hear consonants. But I can lipread in mirrors, upside down (don't ask) and across crowded rooms at parties.

I have a self taught vocabulary, which means I am learning all the time things like the Ls in tortilla, Versailles and Marseille are silent or the way certain words are said.

I am learning all the time.

And what could be better than that?

Happy Tuesday peeps!