Friday 28 September 2012

Deaf Girly's accessible NHS update


This is the first thankful Friday blog for a while, but it turns out I have a lot to be thankful for.

Firstly, there's news from the NHS accessibility campaign.

Parsons Green Walk-In Centre is going to be trialling two vibrating pagers that will notify people when their names are called! Whoop! It'll be like the food court at Westfield, except better because this is life-changing healthcare, not a bowl of noodles.

I never dared imagine when I started this, that I would get a result like this, but if the pager system is a success – please all get sick (not really) and go to Parsons Green to test it – then it should be rolled out in other walk-in centres, and if it works there, then what's to say it won't become standard practice in other areas of the NHS.

*dances around the room*

But that is not all. There will also be some more deaf (haha, ahem… I accidentally typed dead) awareness training and they've asked me for tips. 

Things that I think would help, make the whole experience better.

Now of course, I'm going to email back with my list. But I'd love to have your feedback on there, too.

I mean, here's your chance, OK only in London for now, to change what people are told about the needs of Deaf, deaf and hard-of-hearing people. And I'm pretty sure word gets around so even if you don't live in London, please let me know if you'd like me to include a tip.

It can be big things such as 'If someone says pardon more than twice, consider changing the way, tone, volume, etc of what you saying.'

To the little things like 'Don't look at the computer screen when talking' or that reception desks in front of windows make lipreading harder.

I need to know. I want to make a difference but it could be a much bigger difference with your help.

I'm going to ask older people too, plus those who've lost their hearing later in life, who don't necessarily have the automatic built-in coping mechanisms that I found I started to put in place probably from the moment I was born. So if you know any of these people, can you ask them what they'd like?

On this thankful Friday, I'm thankful for your feedback, guys. It's enlightening, encouraging and even the negative stuff helps because it can be easy to go after a goal but miss something really important.

I look forward to hearing (ha!) from you peeps. Have a fab weekend.

DG x

Monday 24 September 2012

My first ever friend – before deafness

Ahhhhh, what an amazing weekend I had in Switzerland with First Ever Friend!

We went walking in the Alps, with the Eiger and crystal clear blue skies and sunshine as our backdrop. We ate cheese for every meal and drank tea by the gallon. We chatted until our faces hurt and ate breakfast on a brilliant train journey. We cooked, we danced to stupids songs that we both love and caught up on all the gossip we've missed since we last saw each other in February.

First Ever Friend really was my first ever friend you know. What's even more incredible is that she knew me before anyone knew I was deaf so she's one of the few people who just know me simply as who I was before.

I met First Ever Friend in the playground, aged 4. We were both hiding from the class bully, Lucy Jones, who at that age was already an unbelievable nasty piece of work.

From that moment, I wanted to be just like First Ever Friend. She was tall, with long legs and had the straightest thickest dark hair. I was short, with legs like tree trunks and had fine wispy white blonde hair... 

She also had the ability to be perfectly turned out all day every day, whereas I looked like Pigpen from the Snoopy cartoons often within 10 minutes of arriving at school.

Not much has changed since then. Obviously we're 28 years older and a bit taller, but she still has the longest legs ever and the straightest shiniest hair, and is always always neat! Always!

She's also a dab hand in the kitchen and has been my partner in crime – some worse than others – since as long as I can remember.

When we stopped living in the same country, we started writing. And even after a three-year break, at 15 when we met up again it was like we'd never been out of touch.

Right now, she's got a horrid thesis to write as part of her job. I wish I could do more to help her. I wish we lived in the same place so we could study together over tea and ginger nuts and reward ourselves with walks and chats and dancing around her flat like utter nutters.

But instead I'm going to be her cheerleader from afar.

First Ever Friend, you're gonna blitz this blasted thesis. And I know you'll be reading this, which means there's just one thing left to say that should hopefully make you burst out laughing...


DG x

Friday 14 September 2012

Thankful Friday

Today is Thankful Friday and I've got quite a list week and here it is:

  • I'm thankful that I got to see Caitlin Moran yesterday and that she was wonderfully entertaining and actually quite easy to lipread. It was only during the hysterical laughing moments that I had no clue what was going on.
  • I'm thankful that the wedding last weekend was a complete success, that I got to see two of my favourite people get married, in bright sunny September weather.
  • I'm thankful that the NHS campaign is going well. I've been getting amazing feedback, advice and encouragement and I'm hopeful that change will happen on top of the changes that have already happened.
  • I'm thankful to MET man who drank cider with me last night aware that it's like a truth drug and sat there unflinchingly as I rambled on and on and on and on...
  • I'm thankful that when I accidentally said I was getting married, so many of you came forward and offered to be a part of my big day. As yet, no groom has come forward, but it's early days, yah?
And lastly I'm thankful about the fact that for the first time in ages, feels alive again – it feels blogged on, read and enjoyed. It has purpose and pinkness, although it could probably do with a bit of a redesign*.

Have a wonderful weekend peeps.

I'm off for a beer with Fab Friend and Flo. Can't think of anything I'd rather do.


*all offers considered

Thursday 13 September 2012

The deaf/NHS campaign continues...

OK, so this week I've had some great reader feedback regarding my NHS campaign to make things more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Firstly from The Interpreter, who just so happens to interpret BSL.

In one of my last updates I reported back how someone had suggested that BSL be taught to medical professionals as part of their degree course.

The Interpreter quite rightly pointed out the following potential flaws to this plan:

'I'm slightly concerned at the mention of doctors learning BSL.' he wrote. 'I think there may be a danger a clinician could think, "I've got my level 1, I won't bother to book an interpreter."  It would be so easy for a Deaf person to disclose a symptom and for the doctor to miss it, or for him to think he's explained something clearly, but it hasn't been understood. Really dangerous, actually.'

And of course in many respects he's right. It could be potentially life threatening to have a GP or indeed any kind of doctor trying to replace the role of the BSL interpreter. But I guess I wasn't assuming that would happen. I kind of saw doctors and nurses having BSL as a back-up plan, for when interpreters weren't available to avoid a complete communication breakdown, or during stays in hospital when perhaps in the middle of the night, or even just as a reassurance to a deaf person that the doctor was deaf aware, in addition to having an interpreter there, .

I also think though that The Interpreter has flagged up something else I have discovered on my campaign journey – that a lot of hearing people don't think interpreters are necessary. In fact, just the other week someone asked me whether I thought they were still relevant in medical situations or whether they could be phased out.


So perhaps what we really need is to ensure right from the start, all learner doctors are made as deaf aware as possible and taught about the importance of interpreters. If they are taught that, alongside basic BSL then hopefully they would never assume they could negate the need for an interpreter.

Which brings me on to my next bit of feedback, from the Learner Doctor. She's studying in Liverpool at the moment and just going into her 2nd year of medicine.

Turns out, this year, she has a deaf awareness module. Apparently, Liverpool is very aware that the services provided for deaf people are not adequate enough and so it feels that doctors should be educated while at med school to help improve it. As part of the module, there's a three-hour workshop on deaf awareness and how to communicate with deaf patients, plus seminars on deafness. I'm quite looking forward to hearing about how she found the module and whether she learnt anything new.

And I guess really that's my closing point, whether the training people get teaches them anything new.

What we have to ensure is that deaf awareness training comes with the input of deaf people. If I asked a hearing person to write down everything they knew about deaf awareness, it would look very different to a deaf person's list.

I hope that Liverpool Uni's module has input from deaf people and isn't just some clichéd checklist about looking at people when you talk, speaking clearly etc, because while all of this is important, there's actually loads of other things that can really make a difference.

Keep the feedback coming peeps.


Tuesday 11 September 2012

Deaf Girly's accidental wedding

I'm getting married...

To erm... I have no idea!

And here's how that happened:

So, yesterday evening I decided to take back the bridesmaid shoes that weren't worn at the weekend's wedding and get my money back. They were for the other bridesmaid, so when I took them back I said 'These were for the bridesmaid but she got her own instead.'

I then nodded and smiled as the shop assistant said stuff and then I heard her say, 'When's your wedding?' and realised, in horror, that I'd totally given her the wrong idea by vaguely nodding and smiling to her earlier questions that I hadn't really heard.

I stood there for a second, assessing the fork in the road I was at. I could either go, 'Oh no, it's not my wedding, it's for a wedding that happened two days ago. I'm not getting married. I'm not even CLOSE to getting married and I'm deaf, which is why for the last few minutes I have unwittingly implied to you by vaguely answering your questions that I am getting married,' and have her feel embarrassed and me feel even more so, or I could simply say 'It's in April' and wonder in amazement at what the hell just happened.

And the latter is exactly what I did.

'After all,' I reasoned as I tried to field her other questions and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, 'I was never going to see her again.'

So what's a little fake wedding between strangers.

Leaving the shop, bright red and mortified, I turned to Twitter.

'Just returned some bridemaid shoes. Misheard the woman and she thought I was getting married... Whoops!' I wrote.

'Once I realised it seemed easier to answer her questions than tell her I was deaf so I'm getting married in April! And you're all invited,' I continued.

Before finally adding, 'It's going to be great! There'll be port by the wine glass and the wedding list is at Orla Kiely! And I'm making the cake!'

I then wondered, out loud on Twitter with the help of my fab followers, about my fictional April wedding. The service would be in St Brides, the reception in Skylon on the South Bank and all guests could have a free ride on the London Eye.

There'd be peanut butter canapés and gin cocktails with a special exemption menu for @grouchotendency, and we'd all party the night away before I went on my honeymoon to Venice.

The hen party, we decided, would be held in Umbria. We'd go on a cooking course, visit markets, come back with baskets laden with amazing fresh produce and eat fabulous meals on the terrace while sipping chilled champagne.

But my Twitter followers didn't stop there.

You see @katiefforde offered to be maid of honour, @donnysandra wants to conduct the service with help from Trusty Camerawoman, @carolinesmith34 says she'll come if there is cheese, and @paulbelmontesli offered to sort the music and dancing. @grouchotendency wants to throw flash-bang grenades and @HannahHudson1 is going to make a Maltesers wedding cake. And it didn't stop there, @xraixrai is going to do the flowers and @jowo23x suggested a 50s-style wedding dress.

Marvellous huh?

And what about the groom?

Well, obviously there isn't one. But does that really matter?

Can I have an 'I'm not getting married party' instead with canapés and cake, and a gift list at Orla Kiely?

After all, promising to love, honour and cherish yourself is no bad thing.

So there you go peeps, a mishearing mishap means I'm getting married in April, and it will be fabulous! You're all invited.

And seeing as there will be no groom, make sure you bring your fabulous single guy mates, yah?

RSVP @deafgirly

Monday 10 September 2012

Deaf girl bakes

Sorry for the radio silence everyone! I've been busy the last few weeks making a wedding cake and doing bridesmaid duties.

It was marvellous fun.

Here's the cake:

Now I'm just off to get some much needed sleep.

Back soon, I promise.


Tuesday 4 September 2012

Changes are deafinitely happening! (NHS)

When you ask for something repeatedly that you truly deserve, and still you don't get it, it's very easy to become completely discouraged. To lose faith that people really do have your best interests at heart.

Last night, Trusty Camerawoman put a tweet out about my blog and NHS campaign and another twitter follower questioned whether I was simply wasting my time.

They weren't being mean or horrible, they were just utterly jaded by their own experiences of not seeing deaf services improved.

As I'm learning at the moment, change takes time, but if the right people have a willingness to change or indeed the power to make that change, then you're halfway there.

One of the outcomes of my meeting with CLCH is that they recognise that Walk-in Centres need some sort of alert system, such as a vibrating pager for deaf and hard-of-hearing people so they know when their name is being called. This is a brilliant idea and, when it eventually happens, or something similar is installed, it will make things much easier.

In the meantime however, and as a result of my feedback, it has been arranged that signs will be put on the front desks of the Walk-in centres letting people know that if they require any assistance, it will be gladly given.

The example given in writing on the sign is that hard of hearing and deaf people will be personally alerted by the nurse, doctor or receptionist. Instead of having having your name called out, someone will come to the chair you are sitting in and let you know it's your turn. Further more, the CLCH are also looking at getting the booking-in form changed so you can put any assistance needs on here, too.

The CLCH recognises that this is not a permanent solution, and for some it might not even be an attractive solution in the interim. I personally think it's brilliant. It means that should I go to a Walk-in centre again, I will find the whole experience much less stressful. I will be able to read my book and play on my phone to pass the waiting time safe in the knowledge that when it's my turn, someone will let me know.

It's amazing to see that less than one week after my meeting, change is happening. Wheels are in motion for much bigger changes and over time I'm going to flipping well make sure they happen, too.

But like I said, my aim is not to create a DG-friendly NHS so all feedback is appreciated.

I've had some really interesting stuff so far such as BSL-trained doctors – wouldn't it be amazing if BSL 1 with extra medical signs was part of a medical or nursing degree? I've also had some feedback on the lack of availability of deaf/blind interpreters at a big London hospital.

Keep it coming peeps and if you see the Walk-in centre sign, let me know what you think, if it worked and whether it made things less stressful for you.

DG x

DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and ha...