Saturday, 10 November 2018

Life as a good lip-reader.

When Verbatim Isn’t Enough

When Verbatim Isn't Enough
My name is Kimberly Rashell, and I have been a broadcast captioner for the past 13 years. I have worked for two of the largest captioning firms in the U.S., and I have also worked as an independent contractor for multiple smaller firms. In my career, I have captioned anything and everything from local news to live Olympic events. 

The court reporting and captioning college that trained me was very cognizant of the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing viewers. From the very first day, it was drilled into my head that comprehension and readability trumps verbatim every day. We have one – and only one – chance to make sure that the captions we are providing make sense to someone who cannot hear what was said. The Shift to ASR Recently, it has been announced by multiple media groups in the U.S. and Canada that they are moving away from using skilled captioners to provide captions on live television broadcasts. 

When Verbatim Isn't Enough Instead, they have decided that Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has developed to the point that it can be used. This is nothing but a cost-saving measure on the part of the media groups, who would rather buy a software once than pay a skilled person each time they need captioning. This roll-out of ASR into multiple media outlets in the U.S. and Canada has raised some serious red flags to those who depend on captions for equal access to audio information. 

While ASR can do a fine job of translating the spoken word into written ones in an absolutely perfect situation — where there are no background noises, no accented speech, and only one person talking at a time — it fails miserably in most real-world scenarios. Verbatim Isn’t Enough One of the repeated claims about ASR’s superiority to a skilled captioner is that it is verbatim. Since the roll-out of ASR, we have seen examples proving that ASR is most definitely NOT verbatim, but even more than that, in the context of the captioning environment, being verbatim is not enough. 

The words spoken are only part of the story. ASR is missing the tone and the context that leads to a deeper understanding of the meaning behind those spoken words.


Practically, Hard of Hearing use text access far more than deaf do.  The advantage of using an operator is you can get clarifications as you go, otherwise, it can be reams and reams of text which often you cannot refer back to afterwards to clarify yourself due to various 'rules' and legalities covered by data protection acts in the UK.

Deaf don't use text much but sign language, and having had extensive opportunity to observe its use with sign users I could compare what the signers got with what I got via text, and can assure readers the signers got far less than I did, but seemed happy enough with that which certainly we would not have been, so much trust given to a terp whom, they would not be able to refer to if push came to shove.

One instance ATR can recall is attending a BDA meeting and I asked for a speech to text operator, many deaf were astounded at the level of detail I was being given they weren't.  It amounts to users of access systems to ensure the communication support fits your level of comprehension and ability, with the deaf this is never done apparently there is a 'global', sometimes child-like approach to explanations that would never do with Hard of hearing.

Before using speech to text or sign language we need to ensure they pitch information at the levels we can easily follow, it would appear with the deaf too much detail leads to a switch off of concentration and the terps then start lowering the levels of explanation and simplify things which is an issue.  Of course, text support has issues too users need to establishing the level at the start not as you go or the same thing happens.  What needed is not just a simple verbatim read out (That disappears off the screen after a minute or so, so we have to rely on memory), but a refer-back system too on the screen/lap tops we are issued with.

No point having the support if it operates above your abilities to follow.  Or like deaf signers, use some sort of 'Chinese whisper' system to catch up. Speech to text systems are still unreliable and far from portable or widely used either.  USA systems tend not to work well with British ones or accents and different languages.  It would seem the ability of HoH to fill in gaps and poor grammar is higher than with the deaf too.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Deaf Connect get funding cuts...

Image result for Deaf Connect, based at the Dallington Spencer Community Centre
Isn't the real answer demanding the right to use existing advice areas? Specialisation means isolation.  The at odds system where deaf demand deaf access on their terms and in specialised supported surroundings, only undermines their other (Alleged primary), demand for access to the same as everyone else.  You have half demanding universal access for all deaf and HoH and the other half demanding deaf-only areas, get it sorted!

Deaf Connect in Spencer is facing having its funding cut by a quarter if the county council removes its yearly grant.  A Northampton service which helps around 300 deaf people in the county live independently could have its funding cut by the county council.

Deaf Connect, based at the Dallington Spencer Community Centre, helps put its users in touch with lip-reading classes, helps them to call vital services such as schools and doctors' surgeries and runs a job club among a long list of services. But as part of its ongoing funding review Northamptonshire County Council is to consider cutting the £18,000-a-year grant it gives to the service.

Chief executive Joanna Steer says the loss of the money, a quarter of its overall budget, will have a huge impact. "That will mean I'll have to consider cutting a member of staff - then how the heck are we going to deliver services moving forward?"  "Our demand is just getting bigger."

Deaf Connect runs a regular drop-in service for severely hearing-impaired people in the county to resolve a wide range of problems and operates with just 12 largely part-time members of staff.

You say To-ma-to I say Po-tay-to?

The author saying "I love you" in American Sign Language.
The trick is to not fall into the labels quagmire, or get sucked into challenging your own ID by those who can not do anything else.  Us Hybrid deaf don't need the angst the rest seem obsessed with.

I’m too hard of hearing to be considered part of the hearing world, but I’m not deaf enough to be considered part of the Deaf world. 

I was born with a moderate bilateral high-frequency hearing loss. According to my family, I had enough hearing to adapt to the hearing world and attend mainstream school. I struggled through school, not only to hear my teachers ― some of whom begged for my parents to get me hearing aids ― but also to hear my classmates. I felt isolated and disconnected from people most of the time, even though my mother is deaf and the Deaf world was part of my life. 

I experienced the jokes, bullying and rejections of growing up hard of hearing in a world where everyone can hear. Yet I did learn how to adapt to the hearing world. I learned to read lips, decipher body language, and find patterns in daily activities to predict conversations. (People are predictable.) I even use reading to learn new words so it will be easier for me to grasp words within conversations. 

I’m grateful that I understand at least 85 percent of most conversations around me. I can glide around mainstream culture and act as if I have normal hearing even if I’m not wearing my hearing aids. If I’m not wearing my hearing aids, I pretend I can hear everything when I really don’t, just to be part of the hearing world. The truth is I miss words and nod to inaudible conversations while smiling. Sometimes, I depend on other people to tell me what’s going on. On most days, that works. I use my phone flash for notifications and captions to watch TV. I ask people to repeat themselves, and I can’t follow a group conversation in a noisy restaurant. 

I can’t walk and listen at the same time. I need to see a person’s face to get the full conversation. I have to strain to hear certain voices ― like children’s ― even if I have hearing aids. The aftermath is that I get exhausted more easily. Then I avoid these necessary social interactions, even if I want to be a part of them. These challenges leave me feeling isolated, lonely and fatigued. The truth is I miss words and nod to inaudible conversations while smiling. Sometimes, I depend on other people to tell me what’s going on. I don’t feel like I fit into the hearing world. But I don’t fit into the Deaf world either. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Trouble at the Mill...

Related imageThe British NHS by-passing the randomness of a part-time/free-lance BSL UK support set up? perhaps not before time.   Looks like the NHS response to the free-lance and unreliable deaf support, but using unsustainable alternatives.  It's time the system and the hearing loss community got their access/support needs in order!

The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI), which is part of Unite the union, is writing to NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCG) in the north west of England after the interpreting provider Language Empire was ordered to pay £240,000 in damages over masquerading as a competitor to win contracts with the NHS, police forces and civil service.

The letter, raising concerns over Language Empire’s conduct, follows reports that the Rochdale based firm has been contacting British Sign Language (BSL), /English interpreters, asking them to provide services through it after winning several contracts to provide interpreting services to NHS trusts in the north-west.

Revelations of the damages come amid reports that interpreters and translators booked through Language Empire have not been paid for their work and concerns that Language Empire is seeking to drive down pay.

Seeking confirmation that Language Empire has been awarded an interpreting contract, the NUBSLI letter warns CCGs that the firm may not be able to meet contractual obligations, saying: “We are writing to seek reassurances that Language Empire has not been awarded a contract by claiming that it can provide BSL/ English interpreting services at rates which are below market rates.

“And that the bid it put forward allows interpreters, who undertake bookings, to be remunerated under business terms which are in line with industry standards.

“If this is not the case the result may be that interpreters will not be able to provide services you commission through Language Empire, and, subsequently, Language Empire will be unable to meet its contractual obligations.”

The letter goes on to add: “The fact that Language Empire was recently forced to pay substantial costs and damages in court for unethical business practices and was heavily criticised for ‘conduct so exceptional as to amount to an abuse of process’ cannot be ignored.

“Our members are extremely concerned that this agency is still being awarded contracts to work with vulnerable clients and would like this matter to be investigated as a matter of urgency.”

BSL/English interpreters provide an essential service in providing communication support between public service providers and deaf people. This can range from providing interpreting in hospitals...

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The EAF allowance (Australia).

Work with a Deaf person?

Advice for parents of deaf children.

Should deaf declare their issue to an employer?

Image result for own up to deafness!
Just reading this recent post from CryptoDeaf and though, the hearing aid wearer may not have succeeded in getting a job in the UK had he or she deliberately hidden the fact they had hearing loss.  The fact a woman got teased with a hearing aid avoided the basic issue she failed to state how effective it was, having an aid doesn't mean people know it works for her, they just assume if you have one it does.  Unless you say differently and 80% of aid users won't say.  They are notorious for hiding the fact.

Co-workers used to cut the wires on my hearing aid regularly, so in the end, I had to remove it.  Complaining was frowned on.  ATR applied for many jobs not declaring profound deafness.  I succeeded with about 15% of applications and endured years of abuse as a result, including employers stating they had no place for deaf idiots, and you had nobody to complain to.    My local job centre said I would be fined for not declaring my deafness because it was 'attempting to gain employment by deceit'.  I was not blagging my ability to do the job but not stating my inability to hear everything.

I had no choice, there were two avenues I could adopt, one, was to carry a green card registering my 'disability', which was a sure-fire gurantee I would NOT get an interview, once they saw that on a CV, the other was to ask the system to provide me with support to follow,  which again was guaranteed to prevent any successsful application for employment.  Today they proclaim we don't have to do that, but, nothing has changed.  As it was, and not being a sign user but a  lip-reader, that was entirely random in being effective, the system had nothing in place to support me.

Unfortunately not having followed ye olde deaf route of deaf schools/social worker support, or having any access to BSL or lip-reading classes at the time, choice wasn't an option.  Unless you can lip-read or sign there is/was nothing, there is no way to obtain work relying on text support, at that time the technology simply did not exist.  I'm none too sure it is now.  If you wanted to work with hearing others it was very difficult unless you accepted ridicule and teasing was part and parcel of it. 

A major flaw is no assessment of what you use/prefer(!) to determine if it IS effective enough for you to hold down a job without support.    Deaf won't submit to a communication 'test' to ascertain how effective it is outside the deaf community where they have to seek jobs.  They just demand terp support.  Of course, once in a job and without that, difficulties very quickly mount up.  Sign is OK within your own area, but a real issue outside it.

There may be an onus on employers to help, but not co-workers who you have to get on with by putting up with the banter and not assuming its all aimed at you.  And yes teasing and ridicule is part and parcel of work, you have to stick it out and get involved where you can, the worst you can do is complain and set the rest against you.  The world is full of idiots you can only concentrate on the majority who aren't.  The dole can be populated with martyrs to the cause.  Those who get support tend not to be in the mainstream of employment but in specialist areas where other deaf or disabled 'friendly' are.  But, it's an artificial environment. Attempts to point out that deaf wanting to only work with other deaf is not a good idea, is met with cultural angst, despite obviously limiting inclusion, access, or integration, making them uncompetitive. 

You have to be in it to win it.  All employers should treat disabled and deaf the same, it should not be an onus on us to seek them out. The fact a law exists already is not proof at all it works.  In reality, most don't at all.  It's no surprise, therefore, the primary opponents to caps on welfare/communication support to work are targeting the deaf, who are the most expensive users of that welfare/work supplement.  Nor is it a surprise employers expected to pick up that tab later, prefer instead to make the deaf redundant to save that expense. 

As most is 'work experience' then there is no onus or way to ensure they keep you on anyway.  Mostly errant employers tolerate you and then replace you with another deafie claiming they are 'giving deaf a chance' but the blatant and inevitable redundancy nature of work experience, shows us its a sham and a con with next to no deaf getting a job at all.

The UK employment system is based on deaf or disabled searching for employers who at least would advertise they give them an interview, but there is no real onus to insist all employers must give disabled consideration.   It's unenforceable.   I gather turning up for a job interview with a BSL interpreter was also certain to mean an employer will not hire you, as employers would asume you cannot work without one.  As for turning up with a lip-speaker forget it! it never happens anyway or anywhere!

UK deaf and disabled are victims of the employment times too, where it is far easier to hire a migrant with hearing than a local without any.  Too many deaf are limiting own options by looking for jobs that tend to be singular or solitary in nature, self-employment etc or just catering for their own community.  The sorry state of deaf setting themselves up as 'deaf advisors' to the industry is farcical and opposed because it isn't awareness at all of hearing loss, but some seminar or lecture on deaf culture and not valid hints/tips or procedures to adopt so those with hearing loss can be accommodated in work.

Does anyone seriously believe teaching the finger-spelling ABC will give those with hearing loss an in to work?  Or arming hearing employers with a smattering of deafhood or Milan, helps at all?

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Disabled logo alternative: WHY?

No automatic alt text available.
More social media out-takes... A UK supermarket has decided to introduce alternatives for disabled customers, what for? someone put it in perspective and had a go at the wheelchair logos too!


Anything that gets rid of the 'iconic' stereotypes is welcome. The wheel logo had mixed reception amidst most disabled and quoted as inaccurate and misleading. 

It's based on a very dated idea of people with a disability and distorts actual access and support need too as it refers to a minority within the disabled area, which has many variations like the deaf e.g. or the blind etc many of who are nowhere near using a wheelchair or understand how a wider door/ramp helps their requirement. 

Even within other areas, they argue about which icon really represents their issue, because degrees of disablement or multi-disabled people won't accept the system logos of them and their own are divisive to a degree. True acceptance/inclusion will emerge when no icons are necessary and access is a norm. Disabled don't look for 'things to help' anymore but a wider mainstream acceptance instead. 

They are very political these days and some are annoyed at the image of 'all disabled in a wheelchair'. Even the oldies are annoyed at street furniture with an old codger with a walking stick painted on it, it's about people, not their issue, and society such as it is still hasn't got this message. Why should it make any difference if you cannot see or hear or walk?

Stop listening to my FARTS!!

School children
Deaf boy shocked others can hear his farts A deaf boy was left horrified after finding out the rest of his classmates could hear his farts. 

A deaf boy was left horrified after finding out the rest of his classmates could hear his farts. School children Schoolchildren The six-year-old boy's teacher, Anna Trupiano, revealed the hilarious exchange on Twitter which happened in her American Sign Language class, and it has since been shared thousands of times and even caught the attention of 'Good Will Hunting' actress Minnie Driver who retweeted it on her page. 

Writing on Twitter, Anna said: ''Today in first grade one of my deaf students farted loudly in class and other students turned to look at them. ''The following is a snippet of a 15-minute conversation that happened entirely in American Sign Language among the group of deaf students and I.'' The boy replied: ''Why are they looking at me.'' He was then left in shock as his teacher replied: ''Because they heard you fart.'' The surprised pupil answered: ''Whhhhat do you mean?'' to which his teacher responded: ''Hearing people can hear farts''. Another deaf child who was left horrified added: ''Wait, they can hear all farts?!?!?!'' 

 Anna had to explain: ''You know how sometimes you can feel your butt move when you fart? ''A lot of those they can hear. But if your butt doesn't move it's more likely they didn't hear it.'' The boy then shouted: ''TELL THEM TO STOP LISTENING TO MY FARTS! THAT IS NOT NICE!'' Anna hilariously added at the end: ''I went to college for 8 years to have these conversations.''

New plan to support Deaf homeless in Scotland.

Picture: Getty
The Scottish Housing Regulator has launched a plan for promoting and supporting British Sign Language (BSL). 

The Scottish Housing Regulator has launched a plan for promoting and supporting British Sign Language intends to make the information it releases more accessible to deaf people and make interpreters between English and BSL available for meetings. 

By June 2019, the regulator has said, it will make its website more accessible and carry out awareness training with its staff. The regulator also said it plans to carry out “future thematic work” on how deaf people access housing and homelessness services. According to the plan, this work will be carried out by March 2023. This plan is the result of a consultation over the summer, during which organisations and individuals were asked to give feedback. 

Susan Campbell, head of planning and performance at the Scottish Housing Regulator, said: “We are delighted to launch this plan, which will help to ensure BSL users can easily access information about how we regulate and about their landlord. “It’s important that all service users can access housing and homelessness services when they need them. So we will also look at how we can promote BSL to the landlords that we regulate. 

Deaf man ‘let down’ by police..

Adrian Cracknell, not pictured, felt feels let down by police. Picture: Archant
Why are deaf surprised there is no 24/7 cover for a BSL user?  When it takes 2 weeks to get one for a Dr?

 A deaf man from Norwich says he has been “let down” by police after no interpreters were available to help him after an attack. 

Adrian Cracknell, of Long Road, was thrown to the ground whilst walking in Wensum Park. Once on the ground, the attacker tried to take his wallet.  He did not hear his attacker approaching because he is profoundly deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL). Mr Cracknell was able to fend off the attacker who got away without stealing anything.

The 66-year-old was “badly shaken”, bruised and left with a cut on his arm after the incident on August 5. Mr Crackwell’s neighbour took him to Bethel Street Police Station to make a statement, but on arrival, there were no BSL interpreters. Mr Cracknell said: “When I arrived at the station and the police hadn’t been able to get an interpreter I felt bad and very upset.

“I need an interpreter, I have to understand what is happening and to explain what happened to me.”  Mr Cracknell had to communicate with officers by writing down everything down. But this was still a struggle as English is not his first language as he has spent most of his life using BSL.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Silence is stupid.

the quiet man review boss
No access no awareness and a non-starter.  Critic pans the Quiet Man.

During Square Enix’s bizarre 2018 E3 conference we mostly saw nothing of value. However, there was one game that caught my eye. This was The Quiet Man, and I’m not sure it captured my attention for the right reasons. Since seeing more of it, I realize I was excited not as a game but as a possible train wreck. Now it’s in my hands, and simply, it’s hard to be quiet about how hilariously awful the game truly is.

You play as Dane, a name I only know because I read the game’s Steam description. The best I can figure is that Dane works for a crime boss and is in love with some lounge singer. Then, some guy in a bird’s mask shows up and kidnaps the lounge singer. After that, I totally lost the plot. At no point does The Quiet Man even try to make sense. Sometimes there are hints of supernatural stuff. I think three different characters betray you. I’m not sure any of it ever matters.

The reason I can’t figure the game’s plot out at all? Dane is deaf. The Quiet Man attempts to emulate this by playing no sound at all at any point in the game. This is a novel idea that can totally work if the developers build the game around it. However, The Quiet Man is not that game. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that this was a regular game that quickly shoehorned this in. Cutscenes will go five or more minutes yet include absolutely nothing but two characters talking. There are no subtitles, there are no translations, there is no way to tell what they’re saying. As such, the plot gets totally lost.

However, The Quiet Man seems particularly strange about this. The excuse given is that you “experience the world as Dane does.” Yet, Dane can understand sign language, so why isn’t any of that subtitled? It’s later shown that Dane can read lips, but the game still isn’t telling you what anyone is saying? 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

A Message from Trinidad and Tobago.

The deaf still seems overly obsessed with demands for BSL grammar and do not appreciate this is an 'alien' grammar with little 'in' to the mainstream usage of the local language. Signed English poses no problems if taught at day one and is aligned with the educational curriculum. 

Do the deaf think hearing have an easier time learning English? I might want to insist on a French approach to signing, but I don't live in France, herein lies the problem, deaf have to learn TWO forms of language and the BSL one being more simplistic they reject the one they really need to learn. Especially and given there are still not enough signs in BSL or support exists, to enable a deaf person to manage outside a deaf world. 

The entire BSL dictionary is challenged as valid at this time.    Mainly because it was left to deaf people to develop it their way.  We have people like Paddy Ladd and others to blame for the nonsense of deafhood and its total obscurity of explanation and inability to stand up to real scrutiny or even accessibility TO other deaf people. Learn Signed English approaches first, then the entire deaf community is more on par with everyone else, and access issues become easier to address.  Sign is still signing. If hearing people can learn BSL, why can't deaf learn English?  They are saying they are not up to it?  using the lesser used grammar as an excuse? or even exploiting cultural aspiration as a right to remain isolated?

Deaf are disabling themselves via a reluctance to address language issues.  Simply demanding others adapt to them is unrealistic.  Mainstream will carry on without them.