Tuesday 11 April 2017

Why Deaf Girly doesn't carry cash

Back in February, I took part in a two-day induction at Hearing Dogs – there's a big blog coming soon about that – as part of my application process. It was amazing and I met so many wonderful people and had so many lightbulb moments about my deafness while talking to them.

One of the loveliest people I met – Tracy – took me, and an adorable Hearing Dog, to a garden centre to see what it's like to be out and about with a dog. We had a cup of tea in the coffee shop. Tracy went to pay and joked about putting everything on card before she had her hearing dog as she could never hear how much something was so didn't want to hand over the wrong cash. Now she has a hearing dog, she says that cashiers are more aware so say the price more clearly enabling her to feel more confident about paying in cash.

And it was as if everything suddenly fell in to place...

I never carry cash. I never pay by cash. If I have a £10 note in my wallet, it will languish there for days as I pay for everything on card.

FJM jokes that I am like the Queen. But jokes aside, it's frustrating when you need change for a parking meter, a corner shop or the dry cleaners.

I stopped carrying cash around the minute I got my first Switch card at 17 years old. But I never really thought about the reason the reason why.

At university, and even now, I would always pay for drinks in pub with my card as I could never hear the barman say how much the drinks were... but again, I never really thought, 'Oh that's the reason why I do this.'

Shopping is challenging enough with all the questions I already struggle to hear such as:

'Have you got a loyalty card?'
'Would you like a bag'
'Would you like one of these products here that I've been told I have to sell today'

without the added stress of struggling to hear how much something is. Sure there's often a visible till screen to have a look at but not always... and even if there is, looking at that distracts you from the barrage of questions shop assistants continue to fire at you after all the usual ones.

I spend most of my time guessing what people in shops are saying – it usually works. You say no to most questions because they're usually just marketing things. On occasions though, this plan doesn't work – like the time I said no three times to a woman in TopShop who it turned out was asking me to enter my PIN. I thought she was going to brain me with my shopping bag.

Let's take a moment to now celebrate the marvel of contactless payment, which now reduces the chance of that happening again.

When I get my hearing dog, I wonder if like Tracy, I will find paying with cash less intimidating and stressful? Or if I will continue to remain defiantly cashless even when I'm paying for a 50p chocolate bar.

I have a feeling, it'll be the latter.

Happy Tuesday peeps!


Wednesday 5 April 2017

Deaf Girly and the Fitbit Blaze

I'm a bit of a tech geek - always have been, which was quite exciting in the 1980s and 90s when technology was moving at a fair old pace.

I remember the first time I got a caption reader to add subtitles to videos, my mind was blown. When mobile phones came out, I got a really early one – a brick-like Panasonic with a capacity for 10 text messages and a massive keypad. I loved it. All of a sudden I could text people – although I had no one to text as I was the only one with a mobile phone.

I embraced the netbook trend with gusto and got Pinktop – my dinky little laptop that came everywhere with me especially during my Superdrug beauty blogging days. When wireless dongles came out, I got one so I could work anywhere, anytime – where there was a 3G connection of course.

I impulse bought an iPad mini on the day it came out (thankfully near payday from what I can remember), which I still use all the time nearly five years' later... and when wearable tech arrived, I embraced the Jawbone Up – a steps and sleep tracker with a nifty app... and continued to do so for four years until last week the band (number 7 in four years – most of which had been replaced for free by Jawbone) completely disintegrated and so it seems, after a spot of googling, the company has disintegrated, too.

And so, I did a spot of research and bought a FitBit Blaze - with a pink strap of course - in the sale at Tesco Direct, using my ClubCard points and nervously tried it out.

Would it be as good as the Jawbone Up? Would the step counter work? Would I like the watch model rather than just a simple band? Would I miss my pink Casio watch, which I got from Argos with my Nectar points? (I'm a bit of a loyalty card geek incase you hadn't noticed)

And after three days I can confirm that I LOVE my Fitbit Blaze!

Yes it does all the usual steps and sleep tracking and yes that's great. But I'm more interested on what other things it can do for me and how it can help my deaf life.

And here's how:

The alarm clock
The first time FJM was present for my vibrating alarm clock going off under my pillow I thought he was never going to come back down off the ceiling. Sonic Boom alarm clocks, while very efficient at waking me up, are also very efficient at scaring the crap out of your boyfriend, and after two months of hoping he'd get used to it, I ditched the alarm clock.

But the Jawbone UP vibrating alarm wasn't powerful enough to wake me up. The band would sometimes fall off my wrist and there was no way I was relying on that. So I resorted to setting my iPhone alarm and hoping the noise of it rattling against the bedside table woke me. Usually it didn't. It woke FJM, who then woke me, which wasn't fun for him when I get up two hours earlier than he needs to.

Hopefully one day a hearing dog will be there to wake me up *waits excitedly* but in the meantime, I've been trying out the FitBit Blaze vibrating alarm and it is awesome! Totally awesome. Alarms are easy to set. You can set multiple alarms. Different times for different days and when it goes off, there's even a snooze option.

Job done!

The workouts
So, I'm a bit fan of the workout video. Sometimes I just don't want to exercise in public and since I discovered that you could rent them from the library in my teens, I've sweated it out with the best of them, from Cindy Crawford to Rosemary Conley. But the lack of subtitles frustrate me. It's hard to know exactly what's going on and get your technique right. iTunes does have some subtitled exercise workouts and they're good, but then I discovered Fitstar, Fitbit's exercise app.

Built into the Blaze are three workouts you can do. You hit play; the watch vibrates and the screen shows you the exercise while counting down how long you have to do it for. It's fun. But the Fitstar app goes one better. With short videos and workouts you can follow on your phone. And guess what? There's an option to switch on captions... amazing eh?

And all the workouts get logged on your Fitbit, which excitedly tells you you're fabulous and have hit targets and "Wooo, that's a lot of green!"

The notifications
There's one more thing that makes the Fitbit Blaze ace in my deaf opinion and that's the on-screen notification option. That means text messages, Whatsapp messages, and compatible apps can send buzzy notifications to your Blaze when it's within a room-sized distance of your phone.

This has been brilliant for when my phone is in my bag and I can't feel it vibrate. Or when it's under a pile of papers on my desk. Or when I'm cooking and it's by the sofa.

Basically it does the job a sound notification would do otherwise.


I can't help but feel incredibly lucky that I was born at a time when technology was developing quickly. And that I am now an deaf adult in a world where texts and emails have largely replaced phone calls and allow me to communicate incredibly efficiently where I might otherwise have felt incredibly isolated.

Things aren't completely there yet – there are still woeful gabs on the accessibility front:

    Consistent, regular, multiple options of subtitled cinema 
    My GP surgery... no phone-less emergency appointment option
    Woeful live subtitles
    Woeful subtitles on previously live programmes
    Woeful subtitles on some catch-up apps

However, modern technology has given me a sense of independence that in the early 2000s I did wonder if I would ever have. It's enabled me to sort gas bills over Twitter, book appointments with the tax man, and wake up at 6.15am without FJM having to wake up to.

This morning he got to sleep soundly until 6.30am exactly, when instead of waking him with my alarm on my phone, I woke him up by putting something on our induction hob and causing it to beep frantically... Oops!

But I'm confident that one day there'll be an app for that beep... and FJM will get his full sleep quota.

Happy Wednesday peeps



Monday 3 April 2017

Deaf Girly and the opticians

When it comes to vision and hearing, I am unfortunately blessed with very bad levels of both. I am comedy short-sighted, to the point that, if I was ever without my glasses or contact lenses, I would have a lot of difficulty navigating my way anywhere.

I first realised just how short sighted I was while on a climbing trip at university. We were staying in a cheap campsite – cheap because it had not toilets or showers and instead had a single cold tap that daily washing activities took place around.

One evening, after most people had gone to sleep, I nipped into the woods for a trip to the ladies. In my haste, I forgot to put on my glasses and for privacy, I turned off my head torch once I'd wandered a little way into trees.

And, on turning the head torch back on again, I realised that I had no idea where the campsite was or how to get back to it, and what's more, I couldn't follow the noise to it either. I was stranded. In a wood. In a section of wood that was more of a public convenience than a wood... not the sort of place you'd want to trip and fall over in.

So instead, I stood and yelled until Tigger – who was also on the climbing trip – put down his book and came to find me, guiding me back to my tent and reminding me to put my bloody glasses on before venturing out for a pee in future.

I have always felt incredibly grateful that my trips to the optician also see me leaving with lenses or glasses that restore my vision to 20/20. That give me everything back and allow me to see all that people with perfect vision have. I am acutely aware that trips to the audiologist, while good, never result in me leaving with my hearing restored.

But today, I left my optician feeling disappointed. And a bit sad.

You see, because my vision is quite bad, my lenses are quite thick and therefore if I don't want to bankrupt myself with the cost of new lenses, then I need to have quite a chunky frame. But the problem with chunky frames? Along with my hearing aids, that's a lot of face furniture behind my ears.

And while I know it's not the end of the world, it changes how much I like the glasses, because when I tie my hair up, my ears look different and therefore my face does, too.

I've written about that before. About my sheepishness that I should be so worried about how my face looks with hearing aids and glasses with my hair up. But it's something that, how ever hard I try, still bothers me.

And that got me thinking – are there glasses that have thin legs but also chunky frames to allow for short sighted people to have affordable lenses in and wear hearing aids?

At Vision Express I found none... although the guy who served me was very sweet and helpful as I got more and more frustrated about this. But surely there have to be some out there somewhere?

Some lovely peeps on Twitter gave me tips about which frames they'd recommend so I will check all of those out, but I am also going to go on a tour of opticians to see if I can find the holy grail of glasses that don't encroach on the space needed for hearing aids, are comfortable and come in a range of frame shapes to suit the range of people who wear hearing aids.

And if I cannot find a range, an optician, a single pair of glasses that do this? Then I am going to ask them all why they don't have this... with a population that has a growing number of deaf people and hearing aid wearers.

Imagine – a hearing aid-friendly glasses range? That's nice. Fashionable. Affordable. Comfortable.

If you know of one, please shout, but in the meantime, I'm going glasses shopping.

I'll keep you posted peeps.


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