Wednesday 31 January 2018

Deaf Girly wants choices

The other night, I tweeted the following words:

"As a deaf person, it seems the one thing I'm fighting for more and more is choices. Options of which night to go to the cinema or theatre, a choice of what TV channel to watch, which TED talk to listen to, YouTube video to watch. We have less choice in life."

Ok, maybe not the most succinct or eloquent tweet in the world, but I meant every single word of it. And I believe every word is true.

Deaf people have fewer choices available to them. On all levels of their life. Social. Personal. Professional. Educational. Medical. Physical. The list goes on. If you look at it plainly, we have less choice.

But how does this impact me? And what can be done about it? My Twitter timeline is filled with inspirational deaf (and hearing) people – @DeafieBlogger, @HearingLossHour, @HearingDogs, @Stagetext (The list goes on... and on... and on...) – doing to inspirational things to try and create positive changes for those with hearing loss and give us more choices. 

I'm proud of the changes I've made – from vibrating pagers in NHS walk-in centres to raising awareness when I campaigned for subtitled Star Wars on my honeymoon. But sometimes I feel like when we get that little change, the people in charge of the change sit down, pat themselves happily on the back and say, "We've done our bit," and forget about the fact that we need more change. Like when you donate £5 to charity and then ignore all other charity calls to action for the next month or so...

But we are not a charity. We are people who need choices. And what I want to understand is why aren't we getting them?

Social choices for Deaf Girly

Ok, so I'm talking about cinema, theatre, talks, nightclubs, bars, experiences, museums... We are restricted to single nights in a month, Tuesday afternoons at best or nothing at all at worst, to make these things accessible to us.

Why? Is it money? Is it demand in that area? I know that the amazing company Stagetext fights hard to do as much as it can to provide captioned theatre, and that it costs an enormous amount of money... 

But what about cinema? Two petitions here and here recently both set out to help give deaf people choices when it came to cinema – and between them they have almost 30,000 signatures. If you haven't signed them, then do. But what I want to know with the cinema is what is stopping them putting more shows on with subtitles? What are they afraid of? 

When FJM and I attended our honeymoon screening of Star Wars at Vue back in December, the cinema was full. Absolutely packed full. And I know for a fact that it wasn't packed full exclusively of deaf people. As far as I can tell, most hearing people don't object to subtitles on the screen... and if they do, guess what? They have a choice. Even if every cinema gave us at one subtitled showing a night, that would still give hearing people a whole lotta choice. We currently have none.

Professional choices for Deaf Girly

I've spoken before about how terrifying unemployment is to me, because I know that I lose out on jobs because of my deafness – as documented in this blog here. I can't read this blog back without getting emotional. And I walk past the office responsible most days and it makes me want to scream. But how do we get more choice professionally?

I currently work in a global company that uses Skype for Business for all its calls. My company is being amazing. They have switched to video calls to allow me to lipread. But Skype for Business won't include the speech to text service it has called Skype Translate on its business app. So while you can activate it on your personal Skype account, you cannot on a professional level. 

I'm 37 years old. I want to hold my own in meetings. Contribute. Add value. I know there are other services available to help make video calls accessible. But what I want to know is why won't Microsoft give us that choice? And they've yet to tell me. What they did tell me was that I could add my request to their feedback forum and if it got enough votes they may consider implementing it. Nice huh? You can vote for it here.

But what else can we do to change the fact that Action on Hearing Loss reports that 70% of deaf people in the UK feel that their deafness prevents them succeeding in the workplace?

Personal choices for Deaf Girly

This is one of the areas where I have seen the most change in the last 10 years of so. Thanks to Twitter, it's now much easier for me to access services that were previously phone only. Such as utilities companies, mobile phone companies, insurance companies. More recently, my GP surgery joined the 21st century and now allows you to make appointments online. The app NGT Lite, gives you a basic TypeTalk phone service. HMRC will give you one-to-one, face-to-face meetings with advisors so you can get the same support that people get when they phone.  I can book restaurants online or from an app on my phone. The personal 'life admin' choices are greater than ever before. But they're not perfect. More choice please! 

Give deaf people the same choices as hearing people

So what is this blog really about? It's about keeping the conversation going. It's about getting it out there to hearing people. To companies. To schools. To universities. To cinemas. To theatres. To anyone who can help make changes and give us choices. And if it's a money thing, to let us know. Be transparent as to why, as a deaf person, we can't have the same choice. And then let us help make that choice possible.

So like, share, retweet, blog, ask, campaign and get out there and see if we can get more choice.

Well that's what I'm going to do anyway. 

Happy Humpday peeps


Tuesday 30 January 2018

Deaf Girly and Naomi Broady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must. Stop. That.

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

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

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

I am learning all the time.

And what could be better than that?

Happy Tuesday peeps!


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.


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.


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

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