Thursday, 17 May 2018

5 Deaf Girly Life Hacks for Deaf Awareness Week

Deafness throws many things at me but one of the most noticable things is the ability to make me feel ALL the emotions possible in the space of about a minute.

Happy, Sad, Frustrated, Angry, Embarrassed, Shy, Empowered, Upset, Hysterical, Exhausted, Inspired, Creative

But how do I deal with them all? Aside from medicating with copious amounts of chocolate?

Here are my deaf life hacks:

1. Streamline your shopping 
I am not a massive fan of trying to interact in shops. There was the time I replied no to the 'Would you like a bag' question four times only to discover the shop assistant had been asking me to 'Enter my pin'. It was not a fun experience.

So now, when I go shopping, I use contactless, I take my own bags, and I use the self-service checkouts whenever possible. For things like shoes, where you have to try on things while looking at your feet, often with a hovering shop assistant, I buy them online.

2. Streamline your correspondence
I never, ever, ever, ever answer my phone. FACT. Every single place I am registered at - from banking to healthcare to education to work - has my email address. Also, I have voicemail so if it really is important - like the time I won a competition and they rang to let me know - they can tell me there. 

And did you know, that you can text voicemail files to other people so they can listen. Something I do when on the rare occasion I actually get one. FJM is an excellent secretary! *beams

3. Streamline your life admin
I am a bit of a tech geek, but it's mainly because technology makes my life so much easier as a deaf person. I have all the various table booking apps for restaurants, not just in London but wherever I am in the world. I have Uber for taxis. 

I have online booking set up for GP surgery, my bank manager has me on his email contact list, my hairdresser - well haha, actually I once tried to call him using the NGT Lite typetalk app and he hung up. He doesn't really do alternative technology. And so FJM calls him for me! But gradually, over the years, fewer and fewer things need me to use the phone, or hear. It's awesome. And the NGT Lite typetalk app - it really is very useful. If you haven't tried it already, do.

4. Streamline your social life
No, I don't mean cancel your plans and cut people out of your life. But consider what really makes you happy. I spent a lot of my twenties in clubs not hearing anyone and having a largely terrible time. There were amazing nights out in among those moments, but a lot of the time I found it really tough. Until I sat down and worked out what made those nights amazing and started to focus on that. For me, that's smaller groups, quieter restaurants and bars, one-to-one dinners, captioned theatre or movies. 

Also, I accepted that being deaf is bloody tiring. Proper lie-down-on-the-floor tiring. And so I started to edit the amount of socialising I did in order to make time to get my energy levels back up. And there's nowt wrong with that. I learnt to let go of FOMO and focussed on things that made me happy, rather than the things I thought I should be doing.

5. Streamline your sound
Earlier this week, I tweeted about the fact that I can hear next door's Nutribullet but I can't hear a fire engine that is about to run me over. So many of you came back with 'I knowwwww....' and your own tales of what makes your hearing random or unique. 

One of the best things I've learnt to do is say, 'I am having a quiet day' and taking my hearing aids out. Sometimes it's nice to slip back into that 2D world where everything is just muted and well, quiet. Other days, I whack on my hearing aids and crank up the volume and go out there and explore my 3D world in all its glory. 

And then, there's the different settings on my aids - the sound recover for cats meowing in low voices, the T-loop for focussed sound on one thing without background noise, the music setting with sound recover off in order to safeguard the pitch of the instruments I can hear. Of course, I will never hear sirens or birds singing but it's my world. And I love it. But for me, the empowering thing is choosing when I have each world. 

What life hacks have you discovered to make your deaf life easier?

DG
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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Deaf Girly and education

It's Day Three of Deaf Awareness week. Gosh that's going fast isn't it?

I couldn't talk about all things deafness without covering education - but I warn you that this isn't the most positive subject for me. It's not something I find it easy to write about in my usual jovial manner. However, it turns out it's rather topical at the moment because apparently one third of councils in England are cutting a total of £4 million from their budgets for deaf children’s education.

That's £4,000,000


You can read more about what the NDCS have to say about this here but I have to say this genuinely terrifies me.

I can chart my hearing getting worse solely through how difficult I began to find school. In nursery before anyone knew I was deaf, I was always being told off for not knowing the words to the songs, because at that age I had not yet learnt to lipread, and the only way you learnt the songs was by hearing what the teacher was singing. But compared to now, my hearing probably wasn't that bad.

The primary years...

At primary school, I was always in trouble for not listening. Except I honestly thought I was listening. I honestly didn't know that you were meant to hear everything. I didn't really know any different.

From the age of seven I played the violin. As I progressed up the higher registers, I genuinely didn't realise you were meant to be able to hear it still. I thought it was guess work.

At seven years old, I remember that I could still take notes from a TV programme... something one of my teachers was very fond of making us do. But by 10, I was struggling with this. And at that same time, my rents got a TV at home and noticed me struggling to follow that, too. And then I was told I was deaf.

I remember getting these massive NHS hearing aids. I was at a private school at the time and so there was no additional support. And actually, even if there had have been, I am not sure I would have allowed it to be given. I was pretty cross about being told I was deaf. It was my world as I had always known it. And so my hearing aids sat in my school bag and I continued to muddle through.

Deafness is an invisible disability. For my teachers, they soon forgot that I was deaf and went back to teaching me how they always had. Deaf children in mainstream schools must not be forgotten.

Once I knew I was deaf, things I'd always struggled with suddenly had an explanation. French listening for example - I discovered that the hard part wasn't meant to be the listening. Dictation it turned out wasn't a creative writing exercise... and sport... wow, there was a whistle I was meant to hear!

The secondary years...

Once I went to a local secondary school, assistance was offered. I had a council lady come in and 'statement' me. I was horrid to her. But on reflection, I honestly don't think she was a very nice person either. But she did fight to get me support and I had a radio aid for lessons, which gave me zero clarity and massive headache.

Hearing aids back then didn't give me anything like what my current ones give me today. My world became louder and more uncomfortable. I got no more clarity of speech and no 3D hearing. Unsurprisingly, I rarely wore them.

Getting deafer...

During the summer of my GCSEs, my teachers, my rents and I all noticed that my hearing had taken a bit of a nose dive. I noticed because remarkably, one of the ways I used to revise, from year 7 to 9, was by recording all my notes on cassette tape and listening to them as I went to sleep at night. It was a brilliant revision plan and I was mostly in the top 5 for all subjects.

In Year 10, this plan began to fail. I got 3 out of 23 for a physics test and was so upset by this I cried until I threw up in the science lap sink - I was not used to failing. But not only was I not hearing my own revision notes on tape, I was no longer hearing in class.

School for me began to feel like a free fall of insecurity. I stopped knowing what was going on. I stopped being 'clever' and started to struggle. Worse still, I also started to get very short sighted and in the weeks it took me to notice this, I had no way of seeing the board or lipreading either!

Gosh, school was fun.

Getting the support I needed...

After my GCSEs, which were OK but not brilliant results, my rents pushed hard to get me more support from the local authorities and along came my wonderful note taker. She was a retired secretary and she basically ended up with a stroppy tired teenager and a LOT of A-levels as my school insisted that you took four.

She was amazing. She took wonderful notes. She kept me in the loop when I fell asleep and tried to get me through that first intensive term of Year 12. But I was struggling.

In the end, it was decided, because helpfully I was a year ahead of myself at school and only 15 when I started A-levels (I did warn you I was a super geek), that instead of doing four A-levels in two years that I would do three A-levels in two and one extra A-level in a year. And so that is what I did.

No time would be lost and I would still go to uni at the right age so I could hastily pursue my dream career. That was all I wanted to do. Head to London and write.

But really, my A-levels were not about learning stuff, they were about me learning how to teach myself stuff. I would sit in the lessons struggling to hear and then go home and have to read and learn all the notes my note taker took.

But without the class discussion or context to back it up.

It was hideous.


...but doing badly anyway

My results at the end of the first two years were neatly alphabetical:

CDE

I think I actually stopped breathing when I opened my envelope. Devastation didn't really cover it.

And then in my third year, I retook the D and sat another and turned them into CCCE... turns out the E for RE was as good as it was ever going to get.

School made me feel like the biggest failure. And I had support. I had a note taker and permission to fall asleep in class - something I regularly did.

Why support for deaf children is important

I do not even want to imagine what it would have been like without any support. Or if I had gone deafer at a younger age. I cannot imagine what it will be like for future generations of children who do not get the support they need - whatever that support is.

As I write this today, I am doing a job I love in a big global company. I have ticked some pretty big career boxes, accomplished some things I am incredibly proud of and fought plenty of deaf battles along the way.

Deaf children are not stupid. Deaf children - whatever level of deafness they have from the very mild to the profound - deserve the same opportunities as their hearing peers in education. They deserve access to the same resources, the same standard of teaching and the funding to ensure they have the technology to support them in their studies. No deaf child should be allowed to fall through the gap. No deaf child should have to sit in a classroom with no idea what is going on, feeling a lump in their throat as they realise they are lost. I used to regularly feel like this and when I watched The Silent Child with the final school scenes of complete isolation in a school environment, my heart broke.


Support however you can...

I understand that cuts need to be made and pots of money are not unlimited but the idea that my education could have been even more challenging...the idea that without the support I had, I would not be doing this job that I love, makes me feel physically sick. What's more, according to this Guardian report, there are only 45,000 deaf children in the UK. Why is it not possible to provide support for them?

So this Deaf Awareness Week, look out for articles relating to cuts to deaf children's education, get involved in the discussion, find out how you can help fight for their futures. I'm going to.

Happy Wednesday peeps

DG

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Deaf Girly's deafness dos and don'ts

It's the second day of Deaf Awareness Week and today I'm making it all about me. Here are the 10 dos and don'ts about my deafness. The things that will make me happy, sad and mad!!


  1. DO remember that deafness doesn't define me
    It's part of who I am but it's not all I want to be remembered or known for... It's a fine balance between understanding my needs and assuming those are my only needs. It's hard to get it right. Even I don't get it right all of the time. However, that said, I'm pretty sure that 80% of my Tweets are food related and not deafness related. I don't make my life all about my deafness - EXCEPT DURING DEAF AWARENESS WEEK - and don't expect anyone else to either.
  2. DON'T give me sympathy
    Believe me, being deaf isn't the worst thing to have happened to me. In some ways, it's one of the best things. So no head tilt, sad sigh or hand holding necessary. Unless I've just got off a compulsory phone call with the HSBC credit card fraud squad, in which case bring all of the above... and a large bottle of gin.
  3. DO speak clearly and ensure I can read your lips
    That means things like ensuring you don't have your back to the light - otherwise all I can see is a fuzz of you surrounded by a halo. Great if I was painting you as a religious idol, but not great if you want me to actually follow what you're saying.
  4. DON'T say "It doesn't matter" if I don't hear you the first time 
    Actually don't say "It doesn't matter" even after the 50th time. It always matters. When I am struggling with something, I ask people to spell it, to give me the synonym. I never tell them it doesn't matter. Because it always does.
  5. DO ask questionsSeriously, ask away. Ask me about my deafness. Ask me about the life hacks I have. Ask me what snacks I ate before midday - although maybe don't ask me how many snacks I ate before midday. Oh OK, it was three Milkyway bars and a Twix... but in my defense, I had a small breakfast.
  6. DON'T shout
    I cannot stress this one enough. Ever listened to heavy metal? My Pa used to like a band called Napalm Death - and their lyrics were once likened to someone throwing up blood. When you yell, it distorts the sound. It doesn't make it easier for me to hear. And who wants to sound like they are throwing up blood, eh?
  7. DO remember what you've learnt about making things easier for a deaf person
    You know when you go home and your ma gets all your favourite food in? Or you hit the road with your bestie and she's made a playlist of all your favourite songs? When you remember the things that make it easier for me to hear in the world, that's the warm and fuzzy feeling I get. Things like going out for dinner and your friend having your back when the specials are recounted at top speed by a heavily accented waiter and your friend simply says, 'Aaah you love beetroot and goats cheese - that's the starter for you!' while ignoring the lobster because 'Shellfish are friends not food,' instead of recounting the specials in front of the waiter without giving them any context and freaking them out.
  8. DON'T assume because you know about my deafness, you understand all deafness
    You really don't. Some things will be applicable to other people and some things won't. I've said it many, many times, there really is no-one-size-fits-all for deafness.Sorry. We don't make this easy for you. But then, it's not exactly easy for us either.
  9. DO get involved
    There are amazing charities that support deaf people in all areas of their lives and you don't need to be deaf to support them. You could sponsor, foster or volunteer for Hearing Dogs, run races to support Action on Hearing Loss, sign petitions to get better access for deaf people to things like cinema, and find out more about what incredible charities such as Sign Health do. All these charities and more have a wealth of information that will help you understand a little bit more about what sort of support deaf people need. Why not learn a bit more about BSL and how it works as a language?
  10. DON'T confine deaf awareness to one week of the year
    It's not a novelty. It's a reality. For 466 million people worldwide... according to the World Health Organisation. That's a lot eh? Let's keep the conversations, ideas, innovation, acceptance, and changes happening 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year. 
Happy Deaf Awareness Week peeps

DG
x



Monday, 14 May 2018

Deaf Girly's Deaf Awareness Week

This week I am celebrating Deaf Awareness Week 4,500 miles away from London in a country so hot that I had to take out my hearing aids yesterday as I could feel the heat of the casing behind my ears. It's 44 degrees centigrade, people!

Anyway, Deaf Awareness Week is a brilliant time to find out new things about hearing loss and deafness, and I truly believe that there's something new for even people who having a hearing loss to learn.

That's the thing about deafness. No one size fits all. It's not like being short sighted, where you can put on a pair of glasses - prescription permitting - and it's all perfect again. It's not like a sickness we can all relate too, or a hip that aches in winter. All those things are easy to imagine or at least explain.

Deafness for me is so different to that. In my experience of meeting people with hearing loss, it seems that we are all unique. I can hear next door's Nutribullet, but I cannot hear someone in the same room as me unless I am about to read their lips. Fab Friend makes phone calls like a boss, but when she takes out her hearing aids, all hell could break loose and she would most likely sleep through it all.

My ma can hear birds singing, but ask her to watch a comedy show with canned laughter and she goes nuts as the laughter is all she can hear.

It's like we all get our own unique ways of hearing things, which is kinda cool if you think about it. But the only way we can get hearing people to understand is if we tell them.

However, it's not always easy to find the right words.

I remember my eureka moment in finding the words to explain my deafness. I was on a school trip to Lourdes in the south of France and we were attending a mass said in about five different languages. I was stood there in a sea of other students holding my candle when I realised that I couldn't tell my own language apart from the French, Spanish, German and Italian words. I genuinely had no idea which was my language. And that's how I started to explain my deafness.

'Without lipreading, I have no clarity of speech.'

Indeed, you could be speaking Guarani and I would have no clue unless I could see your face.

And then I did my post graduate course, which was four times more intensive that my degree in terms of lectures and listening. Around that same time, First Ever Friend came to visit and she came out with me and my friends from uni. Her first language was English but then she moved to Switzerland at eight and forgot her English. By the end of our evening, she was absolutely exhausted.
'It's so tiring listening in English' she told me.

And there was my second sentence:

'Listening is exhausting.'

As a deaf person I would rather do a 20km bike ride that listen for 20 minutes. It's the kind of exhaustion that makes you want to lie down on the floor and cry. And there have been real occasions when I have done just that.

Having these sentences are incredibly valuable to me. But I'm willing to bet that Fab Friend or my Ma wouldn't put these sentences at the top of their 'explaining their deafness' lists.

And that brings to me what I would like to celebrate on the first day of Deaf Awareness Week 2018. Our differences. Our differences not to hearing people but among each other. We are all brilliantly different and each have our own way of 'hearing' the world around us.

I don't hear sirens but I know one is coming because FJM usually starts shouting. That to me is still hearing. Just in a different way.

Yes, there are lots of things you can do that are beneficial to ALL many deaf people and yes, it's important that everyone is aware of that. But if you know a deaf person, take the time to find out a bit more about their own unique deafness. Find out the things you can do that can make their life easier. And learn something new this Deaf Awareness Week.

Happy Monday peeps.

DG



Friday, 27 April 2018

Deaf Girly's 522nd Thankful Friday

Bringing my 10th birthday week to a close, it seems apt to write a Thankful Friday post. Back in the early days, I used to do one of these every week, but nowadays they're reserved for special occasions.

And this Thankful Friday is really about the fact that FJM is unexpectedly back in the country. For one week. ONE WHOLE WEEK! *beams

It's very nice to be in the same country as the person you are married to.

Also this weekend, I get to see many of my favourite people including Onion Soup Mate and Mr and Mrs B! Brilliant eh?

This week I've been thinking a lot about my little blog and had so much fun reading through the archives. There are lots of things that I've forgotten about and it's like an amazing 10-year diary, which is interesting because I am rubbish at keeping diaries in real life. I wrote poetry instead during my teenage years and all I can say is thank goodness the internet was so primitive back then or some of it might have ended up by being read by someone other than me.

But with DeafinitelyGirly, I am proud of it all. I am proud that I found the words to illustrate how I felt about being deaf, about being in London and choosing a career where I often felt out of my depth with my disability. About housebuying, owning and selling and all the stresses it caused. About finding the hacks that make life work for me in a hearing-centric world.

It's been a place where I can have massive wobbles, pay tribute to the amazing people who have helped me along the way and just document the weird and wonderful life that I live.

On this Thankful Friday I always want to thank you. For hitting on my blog – although digi speak has moved on and no one really talks about blog hits anymore – for your kind comments, your follows and re-tweets on Twitter... the latter of which has just about helped me justify my amazing intake of junk food over the years.

Have a very lovely Friday peeps and here's to the next 10 years of DeafinitelyGirly. And can someone please tell me to pull my finger out and get back to writing books please because from the last 10 years that it still number 1 on my wish list... seeing Deafinitely Girly in print. On a shelf. So I guess I'd better get writing eh?

DG
x


Monday, 23 April 2018

Deafinitely Girly turns 10!

On this day, 10 years ago, I published my very first blog on DeafinitelyGirly.com. I'd never blogged before but after someone challenged me to write my ideal column, Deaf Girly was born. I am so glad she was.

Deaf Girly helped me navigate my way through some incredibly challenging personal and professional times in my twenties. She was my voice when I just wanted to – and often was – crying in a cupboard at work, and she allowed me to say things out loud on Twitter and in print that I didn't have the words for in real life.

So in celebrating my birthday, let's look back at my – in no particular order – top 10 moments on the blog. Click through (I've linked the blogs in the headings) and have a read at these nostalgic ramblings:

1. The one where I blogged for the first time

I can still remembering hitting publish on that blog. How excited I was. And I remember being even more excited when I had 10 hits on the website. I encouraged all my friends and family to read it, establishing the DeafinitelyGirly mailing list, which still exists to this day, and the excitement of creating content was the thing that got me out of bed in the morning.

2. The one where I won a Superdrug competition

Back in the summer of 2009 (not as catchy as the Bryan Adams' version let's be honest), I became a Superdrug Summer Insider alongside the wonderful Phoebe of North of London blog and Hollie. It was a fabulous summer of blogging, beauty products and benefits, including an all-expenses paid trip to Barcelona, which was my price for being the Ultimate Summer Insider. It was the first time I realised the power of social media as a way to be Deaf Girly. I made YouTube videos and tweeted my little heart out. It was an amazing experience.

3. The one where I gave all my friends 'Blog names'

Fab Friend, Mr B and Mrs B (although to be fair I think I leveraged this from them), SuperCathyFragileMystic, First Ever Friend, NikNak, Shakira Shakira, GBman, Singing Swede, London Aunt and London Cousins One and Two, Mustard Boy, Onion Soup Mate, The Rents, and of course the wonderful FJM - being an anonymous blogger meant thinking up new names for a lot of my friends and family. The only person who got to keep her name was Gma. It worked. She was my Gma. She was a big supporter of my blog. It was through Twitter that she had an amazing final year of her life. Thank you BT for making that possible for her. Blog names just work. Sometimes they don't and it's back to the drawing board. For example, GB-man started out life as Beeb-boy.  

4. The one where I got hearing aids

Honestly, I cannot read this blog without tearing up. Getting hearing aids – and actually persevering in wearing them – was the most challenging but most rewarding thing I have ever done. They are amazing. They make my world 3D. Since I got them, my career has taken new, exciting paths. I'm braver, more confident, more me. I am so privileged to have amazing hearing aids available to me on the NHS. Hearing aids and the NHS. Two life changing things. Let's never forget that.

5. The one where I bought a flat and did some quite horrendous DIY

Regular readers know that the buying, owning and selling of my flat is something that made me sad and happy, and also a bit mad in equal proportions. But when I had my flat, I threw myself into the joys of flat ownership with gusto. I pulled up floorboards, I painted and I used No More Nails to fix pretty much everything. It didn't always work... see here. It was during my home ownership days that I discovered the power of customer service on Twitter. I sorted out British Gas and O2 Broadband issues over Twitter, I booked plumbers, I ordered furniture. Twitter was a deaf girly's life saver.

6. The one where I quit my job to become an au pair and write a book

Remember back in 2013, I decided to rent out my flat and become a live-in au pair and write my book? Can't believe it's now five years since I made that decision to kick open a different door and see what was behind it. Best decision I ever made. I wrote the book. I mapped out two more. And then all of a sudden, there were new opportunities for work, like this one. And many more that followed. There were the lows of losing out on jobs – here – and the terrible stats surrounding deaf people and employment. But then there were also the highs of getting an amazing job at a global company and finding my feet and confidence there...

7. The one where I became an 'accuracy reader'

There's something pretty ace about being approached by an amazing up-and-coming and now established writer to accuracy read his books which feature a deaf heroine. I was honoured to meet Will Dean's character of Tuva in Dark Pines – his debut book – and Red Snow, out in 2019. And when I discovered that Dark Pines had been optioned by Lionsgate for TV, it gave me a new ambition. I want to be Tuva on the screen. I understand Tuva's deafness as if it were my own. I want to tell her story. Watch this space on that slightly insane ambition peeps! 

8. The one where I started my amazing hearing dog journey

The Hearing Dog journey for me is an incredible emotional one as due to location changes, I have currently have to put this on hold, but what an amazing year I had during my application process. I got to meet so many amazing people - from Anne and her hearing dog Tegan to Nicholas Orpin, a community fundraiser for Hearing Dogs. I also got to go on the Great British Dog Walk, which is happening again this year peeps, so get involved here

9. The one where I met FJM

This is the first blog I wrote about FJM for Scope's End the Awkward campaign. His blog name appeared one day and that was that. And he's featured in many many blogs over the last four years as he's a fantastic pair of ears amongst other things and I am incredibly happy that he cycled into my life that sunny weekend at SuperCathyFragileMystic's. Being with FJM has made me braver than I've ever been before. I've flown long haul by myself – even though I hate flying – been trekking in Oman, walked miles in the Swiss Alps and thrown myself headfirst down a very steep ski slope in gale force winds. Here's to many more adventures with you @FJM, I love you very much. 

10. The one where I married FJM and guests included those who only knew me as Deaf Girly

Reader, I married him. And what a wonderful day it was. My blog was a wonderful platform for talking about the challenges of deaf wedding planning and our honeymoon was the perfect excuse to campaign for a date-nite subtitled showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The wedding was attended by Mr and Mrs B, who I never have met if it wasn't for Deaf Girly and my best woman – Jenny M – presented me with a printed copy of her speech so I could read along. It was a a perfect, perfect day.


Really though, there are so much more than this to @DeafGirly's 10 years of blogging. The time I successfully campaigned for vibrating pagers in NHS Walk-In centres, or all the amazing reviews of theatre that I've been able to do thanks to Stagetext. The massive wobbles I've had when I've doubted my value as a person as a result of my deafness. The times I've picked myself up and just got on with it. And the times where you amazing people have done the picking up instead.

I just wanted to say thank you. For reading, commenting, sharing, engaging, laughing and crying with me on this journey. Here's to the next 10 years eh? Although am I now entering the tween years of Deaf Girly? Heaven help us all.

Happy Monday peeps.

Love Deaf Girly

Aged 10 


Friday, 6 April 2018

Deaf Girly and the deaf heroine in Dark Pines

So today is a very thankful Friday.

Today I learnt from The Bookseller that Lionsgate – think Mad Men, Orange is the New Black – has optioned television rights for Will Dean's fabulous first book Dark Pines.

Tuva Moodyson should soon (taps foot impatiently) be on a TV screen near you. A deaf main character. Who doesn't sign but speaks. Who struggles to fight the stereotypes of what hearing people think all deaf people are like.

My heart is doing little giddy cartwheels.

Why? Because although Tuva and I are very different, we are also very similar. We both have pretty big hearing losses. We both need our hearing aids like most people need air. We can both be pretty socially awkward and take a while to get to know. We both know what it's like to feel completely isolated – even in a place full of people. And we both have faced the judgement of people who think we're not that deaf.

Growing up, I lost count of the number of people – my university disability support officer included – who said the soul destroying words, 'You're not really deaf' to me.

Just because I could speak. Just because I could get by in conversations – flying by the seat of my pants and with a lot of guess work I might add.

Some people meant it as a compliment – as if being deaf is a bad thing, which in case you're wondering it isn't – while some people (that uni support officer) meant 'I'm not going to help you as I think you're attention-seeking fake.' And she didn't help me. For two years. And then I helped myself. And paid a friend to take my notes and my marks went from passes to firsts.

But that's a totally different story.

Back to Dark Pines. Before this amazing book came out, Will approached me on Twitter and asked me if I would do an accuracy read for the character of Tuva. And of course I jumped at the chance. Apart from my own book, which is currently on ice while I work out how to make it better, there are very few books with deaf main characters. And even fewer that have actually been published.

And what a character Tuva is. She takes a while to get to know... and you're never going to be her best friend by the way, which I love. So many books give you so much of the main character you feel like you know them inside out. With Tuva that is not the case. And that's so true to her character. Will just seems to get it.

I was able to advise Will on things like lipreading, hearing in the dark – you can't – and other things that tugged at my hearing heartstrings and when I re-read Dark Pines on its release, gosh, it was so nice to catch up with Tuva.

I was lucky enough recently to meet Tuva again while doing an accuracy read of Will's second book Red Snow. I'm giving nothing away except that it's brilliant. Brilliant.

When I heard that Dark Pines had been optioned, my immediate thought was that I really hope the production company cast a deaf, aural, hearing aid wearer as the character of Tuva. I hope that they don't cast a hearing person who has to pretend to be deaf. I want the acting to be about the storyline and Tuva's personality not her deafness.

And I absolutely didn't* email Will to find out how I could audition for the role of Tuva.

But I guess what I am thankful for is that slowly but surely, all types of deafness are being shown in media. From the brilliantly wonderful, Oscar-winning short film The Silent Child to Will's book. Gradually, that one-size-fits-all approach to portraying deafness is being dwarfed by bigger, better things. And I am so thankful for that.

Happy Friday peeps

DG

*I absolutely did and Lionsgate peeps, if you're reading this, I absolutely want to put myself forward when you come to start casting Tuva by the way.



Monday, 2 April 2018

Deaf Girly and captioned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Last week something very exciting happened. Eighteen months after buying the tickets for me and FJM, we finally got to head to the Palace Theatre to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Stagetext captions... and it was AMAZING.

I've written a lot about the importance of captions and how about before I knew I was deaf and even once I knew I was deaf, I simply assumed I wasn't intellectual enough to enjoy theatre as I yawned my way through a year 10 Shakespeare trip or woke myself up sleep talking during The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I found attending the theatre arduous, horrific, embarrassing and time wasting. I came out angry with myself for being so rubbish at something. When really I should have been giving my deaf. teenage self a break.

But then Stagetext came along and did that for me. Hurrah.

However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about the matinee and evening performance set up of Harry Potter. I was terrified I'd find the whole thing too exhausting and wouldn't follow it. I actually warned FJM that this might be the case, and he was very lovely about it.

But the reality was totally different.

Sure at the start when the conversation started quickly and I found my eyes darting between the caption boxes and the stage, I was worried it still wouldn't work. But quickly my brain got used to the set up and before I knew it I had forgotten that I was reading along and was utterly immersed.

Of course, it helps that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is very very good. Very good. There's lots going on visually, the characters are familiar and the plot is full of references a Harry Potter fan can gleefully pick up on. But as the final curtain fell, I was still amazed I'd managed it. Effortlessly. And I'd enjoyed it.

For many years, before technology gave me reliable subtitles for movies and theatre, books were my preferred form of entertainment. When I read books, I didn't miss anything. I started on an equal footing with hearing people. I got all the secrets. I never get secrets in real life. I never hear whispers or overhear information. Books made my world 3D. 

JK Rowling has always given me 3D Harry Potter, through the books, the subtitled DVDs and occasional convenient showings of the subtitled films at the cinema, and the play was no different. 

If you've not been to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet with Stagetext captions then I would implore you to go. The ticket booking process is easy, the box office incredible helpful and the whole day is amazing. What's more, if you buy a bottle of water at the bar, you get your programme half price, which seemed like a good deal.

That night, I stepped out of the theatre feeling inspired. Not just by JK Rowling's brilliant play but by the fact that I had finally stamped out that teenage insecurity of not being intellectual enough to attend the theatre once and for all.

Happy Easter peeps

DG
x

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.

SUPPORT.

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

DG
x

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

DG
x



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!


DG
x

Friday, 5 January 2018

Deaf Girly and the iPhone

I'm pretty happy with how I've hacked my life to make it work for me as a deaf person. In the absence of a hearing dog, I've rigged up an iPad baby alarm for the front door bell. I book meals out over apps on my phone, my GP surgery finally has a non-urgent online appointment system and I can text, FaceTime and picture message just about everyone I know. My life feels accessible.

And then all of a sudden it doesn't.

Storm Eleanor – who rocked up this week – threw me that curve ball. Or rather catapulted it in the form of my beloved iPhone 6 with a tremendously strong gust of wind that blew over the old man walking towards me and also blew off his coat.

Storm Eleanor took out an old man and my iPhone. And while the old man assured me he was OK, my iPhone was not. The screen had shattered. UNDERNEATH the glass screen protector I'd diligently put on it and in spite of the full-coverage silicon case.

It is the first time I've ever broken my iPhone screen, ever and I had one of the first iPhones, ever. So it's not bad going in 10 years of iPhone owning. But it was absolutely gutting nevertheless.

I logged straight into Apple and booked an appointment for my local Apple store for the following day to have the screen replaced. Not just a general appointment. I specifically said that the screen needed replacing.

I arrived at 5.30 and they informed me that I would need to leave the phone with them overnight because I'd booked a later appointment and that it would cost £149... WHAT?!

And as someone who uses their phone for ALL forms of communication, information, diaries etc, leaving my phone overnight was not an option. And how is a new screen worth that much?! *weeps

'You should have been told this when you made the appointment,' the guy behind the Genius Bar told me.

'I booked it online,' I replied.

'Ah, yes, you don't get told that when you book online. Only over the phone,' came his answer.

Boom. Just like that a big slap in the face. A big, change of afternoon/evening plans, walk to the Apple Store, time out from our busy lives for no reason slap in the face. Something that wouldn't have happened if I'd just been able to use the phone.

And so we left, with a broken phone and no option of an appointment for a week...

'It's a a busy time for us.'

Uh-huh well stop giving appointments out for things you cannot solve then.

To be fair, when I first started blogging, this kind of thing happened on a daily basis. It was why I started blogging. It was a way for me to vent my anger, frustration and sadness at the fight I had just to live a normal life.

It is a lot easier now. It's not perfect sure. There are no regular subtitles at the cinema, it would be great if more theatre was captioned, if HMRC was able to get to grips with the NGT Lite app and not hang up whenever I call them through it, I would LOVE to listen to the Archers with a read along script, Podcasts – ah I wish they were accessible – and... well actually the list is still pretty exhaustive.

But it's one hundred times better than it used to be.

Which is why I decided to blog today on this Thankful Friday. I'm thankful that technology is making my life easier, when it's not being blown out of my hand and shattering on the pavement.

I am also thankful for the wonder that is FJM who suggested we use some of our John Lewis vouchers we've been saving, alongside some I'd been saving on my own, and replace my iPhone, seeing as it was on its last 2-hour battery life legs anyway.

I love that boy.

Happy Weekend Peeps. We did the first week of January. And it was OK.

DG
xx




Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Deaf Girly got married



Happy New Year peeps! It's 2018... I remember being excited about it being the year 2000... how on earth did it get to here so quickly?

Anyway, as most of you already know, the end of 2017 was pretty special because FJM and I got married. On 17.12.17... a nice tidy date if you like that sort of thing.

I blogged a little bit in the run up to the wedding about how I got around the need for phone calls and things – little hacks for deaf wedding planning and I am pleased to report that the day was incredibly deaf friendly, too.

Hurrah!

We had a pre-wedding night-before party, which meant that I got to catch up with loads of people in the relative quiet of London Aunt's house, and an order of service that had all of the words to everything in - except our vows but let's be honest, most of us have heard wedding vows enough times to know them off by heart. Half of the order of services were also printed in navy blue because on the night before the wedding – long after the shops were closed – our printer ran out of black ink and that was my solution!

After the ceremony, we had a small family meal at a local restaurant in a private room, which meant I could talk to more people and hear them, while enjoying an excellent Christmas lunch with crackers and Christmas pudding and fizz.

At the evening party, we had an awesome DJ who played such good music that everyone forgot about talking and just hit the dance floor for a few hours, and I had the best Best Woman who when she came to give her speech, handed me and my Ma a typed version so we could read along if we needed to.

It was quite the perfect day. A day where we remembered those who couldn't be there and had an amazing party with those who could.

There were party bags filled with personalised M&Ms, Love Hearts and Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, there was the most incredible sponge cake with buttercream and the flowers were eye-poppingly gorgeous hydrangeas that I am hoping I will successfully be able to dry and keep forever.

It was a day I will never forget. And just thinking about it, which I do on a daily basis, makes me grin like a loon. I'm excited for 2018... it's currently a year of many unknowns, but that's OK. It's a year that I start as a Mrs... so Bring It On. Happy New Year peeps.

DG & FJM xx