Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Deaf Girly and subitled Mamma Mia: Here we go again

Regular readers and my followers on Twitter will know that recently I've been talking a lot about the lack of subtitled showings available at UK cinemas.

And I am not alone in my rage or my quest to change this. But we are hitting brick walls.

Anyway, last night, I finally got to watch Mamma Mia 2 with subtitles at the cinema – Vue only provide subtitled movies on Tuesday and Sunday because apparently according to Vue, 'Our research showed deaf people prefer those days', which to me translates as

'The other days are important moneymakers for our hearing customers so we don't want to jeopardise this by showing films with subtitles.'

Of course, I might be wrong – but I have no way of confirming this, because Vue won't speak to us or offer any transparency on the issues around subtitles. And you see, for me most conflicts occur because of a miscommunication between two parties. So far our conflict is that Vue won't communicate with us at all.

But where was I?

Ah yes, dosed up to the eyeballs on Lemsip due to a sore throat bug I've had since Saturday and because I couldn't miss this only subtitled showing of this movie local to me, I headed to the cinema to watch Mamma Mia. I've learnt the hard way not to buy snacks at the cinema anymore – the number of times I have had to dump open nachos or popcorn because the subtitles have failed – so I had a bag of home snacks and rather reluctant (because Mamma Mia really isn't his thing) but super supportive FJM in tow.

He laughed at my excitement as we took our seats and we scoffed our Maltesers before the trailers had finished. Then, as the opening credits rolled, he squeezed my hand – an amazing acknowledgement of how special cinema trips are for the both of us.

And then, the subtitles didn't work.

At first I wondered whether it was simply that they weren't going to subtitle the singing but then the speaking happened and still no subtitles. And so calmly and quietly, I put down my chocolate-covered raisins and walked out of the cinema to find someone to ask what the fresh merry hell was going on.

I quickly found a manager who in all fairness dropped everything to sort the issue out. While I was there, a girl in her early twenties who was also wearing hearing aids, came out of the cinema and asked the same question as me.

'This happens all the time!' I said to her.

'Does it?' she asked, 'I hardly ever go to the cinema as there are so few subtitled shows!'

And we stood there rolling our eyes at the whole stupidity of the situation.

Eventually the guy came back and said he'd sorted it, but the lovely girl I was with hadn't followed. He didn't clock this, so I let her know and we walked back to the cinema.

'I am so glad you were with me,' she said as we waved goodbye to head up separate aisles. 'I would have been so nervous to do that on my own.'

'It was my pleasure' was my reply and I meant it.

But as I sat down I realised that while now, I will boldly assert my right to things when they are not right and ask for things and vocalise my needs, 15 years ago I would have also been nervous.

I wanted to give that girl a massive hug and tell her that she should never be nervous and that I will ALWAYS fight for her, me and any other deaf person who needs fighting for.

As I sat back down and the movie re-started with subtitles, I grinned at FJM as he mouthed 'I am so proud of you!' at me.

And I was proud of me, too.

But I am not there yet. Together with Deafie Blogger and a few other amazing people, we are trying to get to the bottom of the whole subtitled cinema conundrum. While we have theories about the lack of subtitles, we want to hear from the cinemas themselves and get transparent truthful answers about why they think it's OK to tick the accessibility boxes in pencil rather than with a flourish of pink Sharpie pen.

Why by showing one or two crappy movies a week at completely inappropriate times of day – Deaf people have jobs, you know – they feel they are doing enough for us.

I just want to understand.

When the world is made accessible to me as a deaf person, it gives it a third dimension. It gives it colour, vibrancy, and makes it such a nicer place to be.

Yesterday, walking out of the cinema with FJM, so full from all the snacks, eyes puffy from all the emotion – MAMMA MIA 2 IS THE MOST AMAZING MOVIE – I was walking on a cloud of happiness.

I'd had a date night with my husband at the cinema. It was wonderful. It was different to just watching Netflix at home. It means that I can now talk to my colleagues and friends about how brilliant Mamma Mia 2 is. It's helped me feel more included and happier.

That's what subtitled cinema gives me. Not just access to the latest movies, but a third dimension to my life.

And if that's not worth fighting for, I don't know what is.

Want to help us fight? Sign Deafie Blogger's petition here and tweet your hopes, wishes and frustration about subtitled cinema using the hashtag #subtitled cinema.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Deaf Girly: Finding the good in my deafness

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I'm pretty comfortable with my deafness in the workplace these days.

I've got a job I love, where I am fully supported by amazing colleagues and my manager. I am pretty comfortable about talking about my deafness, too. Demystifying it. Putting it out there. Challenging people to think about what it's like for me. And I've had amazingly positive responses.

All these things are incredible. 


One of the toughest things is that I cannot overcome the exhaustion. And the frustration of how much better I think I could be if I wasn't deaf.

So let's start with the exhaustion. It's hard to explain this kind of tiredness. After listening on a call for one hour and trying to lipread, I feel like someone has dunked my brain in treacle, put it on a spin cycle and then demanded it run 100 metres in a straight line. My arms are like lead weights. My eyes hurt. Speaking feels like I've had a tongue transplant. Tears are so dangerously close to the surface of my eyes that they could sprout at any second.

I cannot work out how to stop this tiredness. The exhaustion of my brain trying to piece together the few sounds I can hear and make intelligible sentences. My brain is fit. But even this is sometimes a marathon too far.

The thing is also, I want to be on these calls. They are fascinating, full of good chat, information, insight and I know that I can often add value to them. If I can just get through the exhaustion.

And then there's the frustration.

I know the cause of my exhaustion is my deafness. Ands this makes me so frustrated. Except logically, the cause of the exhaustion isn't my deafness. It's the listening.

The other day, I had to turn my camera off and mute the speaker to have a little cry not because I was upset, but because I was frustrated and cross. 

This job is so utterly perfect for me. It's an amazing balance of pure geekery and creativity. It uses all my core skills yet pushes me out of my comfort zone. I am learning every day. I mean, jobs like these don't come along very often, do they?

But just sometimes, I allow myself to sit and think about how much better I could be if I wasn't deaf...

And then I berate myself for thinking like this because this is exactly the discrimination I have spent a lot of my working life fighting. And if I'm thinking it myself, how am I meant to stop other people thinking it?

So last night I sat down and wrote down all the things that make me great at my job. Instead of thinking about the floundering conference calls or the exhaustion, I focussed on the amazing relationships I have built around the world, of the creative work out there that I've been part of, of the ideas I have that change how we do things.

The list was good. It far outweighed the 'You're deaf' list. And actually if I am honest, a lot of my strengths can somehow be related back to my deafness. 

For example, I am a massive self-teaching geek. Why? Because I never really heard at school. If I wanted to learn something, I had to sit down and teach myself. So now, when it comes to learning new things, I think I have strong advantage. My teacher is there, ready and waiting – in the part of my brain that doesn't get exhausted.

And I guess that's what I am thankful for. Deafness can be challenging, emotionally exhausting and downright frustrating at times, but it truly has made me me.

If I wasn't deaf, would I be so bloody determined to get where I want to go? Would I be so observant of body language and be able to read conversations as they are happening and spot the people who are unhappy or have feedback they can't express on projects? Would I take everything for granted?

I honestly don't know.

When I think back to the me, before I knew I was deaf, I was a different character. Before I went really deaf, I definitely didn't try as hard at things. I did indeed take success for granted.

So yeah, on this Thankful Friday, I am thankful for the fact that there are some amazingly good things about my deafness. And if you think about them long enough, they will always outweigh the bad.

Happy Friday peeps


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Celebrating the 4th of July

Apart from my own wedding back in December, one of the best weddings I have ever been to happened 20 years ago today, in London.

It was the summer I finished my A-levels. I was 17 and had travelled down to London a few days earlier to hang out with London Aunt and London Uncle. It was amazing weather like this, too. I remember because I had this stripy skater dress that I wore with my DC trainers and thought I was so cool.

I wasn't.

I was incredibly honoured to play the flute at that wedding - during the signing of the register. It was one of the last times I played my flute in public. Apart from my recital performance exam. Even then, I'd modified some of the notes to ensure I didn't miss them and sound like I was blowing into thin air.

I wore this amazing maxi dress from East. Pink silk with a floral print. I still have that dress and thanks to the 90s fashion revival occurring right now, it may well get another outing this summer!

That day taught me a lot about relationships and also weddings. It taught me that you can be best friends with the person you marry, that you don't have to invite a long list of extended family to watch you say I do, but that your friends will willingly cross continents to see you.

It taught me that it's incredibly hard to keep a straight face when one of the guests decides their wedding present is to sing a song, in a restaurant, after lunch, in front of everyone. And it also taught me that I really don't like cigars.

And so, every year on this day, I raise a glass to two of my favourite people and their amazing wedding.

Twenty years... feels like yesterday.

Deaf Girly and subitled Mamma Mia: Here we go again

Regular readers and my followers on Twitter will know that recently I've been talking a lot about the lack of subtitled showings availab...