Wednesday, 28 November 2018


Megan Lannert has five children, three of them were born 100 per cent deaf. However, with cochlear implants, you wouldn't know it.

With the exception of Dad, everyone in this family has some form of Waardenburg Syndrome.  "Layman's term, it is a mutant X gene that is in the system, so it's hereditary," said Lannert.   Waardenburg has multiple symptoms, like different colour eyes. However, the most notable symptom is hearing loss. William, 11, Lexi, 9, and Gabe, 4, were all born completely deaf.

It's hard to tell with their cochlear implants though. Lexi doesn't really need to know sign language because her implants allow her to hear pretty well. Which in turn, has allowed her to talk. "I like art and math and science," explained Lexi.  Her older brother William has the same type of technology, just a less updated version. He got them when he was two.

"Emotional and scary for him, he screamed his head off!" said Lannert. "You go from two years of hearing absolutely nothing to wow, hang on, wait for a second what is that? That's somebody's voice!" The technology is not a perfect fix and that's what Megan Lannert wants others to understand. "He struggles every single day, whether it be in a classroom, whether it be even sitting here in this setting," said Lannert.  All three of her children with deafness have to process what they hear.

"Where we sit here and have a typical conversation, they have to sit there and think and their conversations might be much slower than ours," said Lannert.  "And I'm always trying to concentrate but I can't because my friends are so loud," explained William.   Luckily, Bluetooth technology has come a long way. With it, the kids can hook up to electronic devices like phones or even a teacher's microphone at school. Of course, there are also applications you can download for the devices as well. 

"It has a GPS tracker," explained Lannert. 

Accessible Shopping...

Ableism and Hearing Loss.

Sadly the access via text is very poor and littered with issues, are we disabling ourselves by not insisting on a higher standard in accessible output?

Holy Grail found?

Martin Phillips, founder of Desifa which is launching the Hearclear app
A revolutionary new app is being developed in the Tees Valley to help deaf people communicate over video calls. Hearclear has been described as Skype with text and uses its software to create subtitles of conversations as they are happening during a video call. 

The idea is the brainchild of Martin Phillips, who founded his company Desifa in Sadberge after realising his wife was having trouble communicating with their son when he moved to the US. Mr Phillips said: “I thought, there has to be something around but having looked around there was nothing. Most of the solutions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is speech to text on a landline or streaming into hearing aids through Bluetooth – but you can’t have a family conversation as the other sounds are wiped out. 

“None of them were terribly satisfactory, so phone calls to Josh, my son, and to other members of the family were quite stressful as unfortunately, my wife has problems hearing deep voices, such as male voices. “Having realised there was nothing around, I started looking at how we could make a product to fix that. I had a chance meeting with Steven Tinkler, who is now on my team, and we have been developing it since.” 

The Hearclear app allows people who are hard of hearing to speak to family and friends over its video call technology. The two co-founders both have family members who struggle to communicate using video phone call apps, which gave them the inspiration to create the product. By combining text with the app’s video features the duo believes they can improve conversations by reducing misunderstandings that can take place when only text is used. 

Explaining how the product works, Mr Phillips added: “What happens is you make a video call, then you get an automatic transcription of what is being said. “You only hear a very small amount of what is said. Over half of what you understand is through gestures and tense, so through the app you will also get the ability to see what is being said.” 

Deaf woman rejected 1,000 times by employers..

A deaf woman is desperately searching for a job after being knocked back for more than 1,000 positions. 32-year-old Kellie Wilson says her job hunt has been so gruelling because bosses reject her as soon as they realise she’s deaf. 

She says having so many job applications rejected has knocked her confidence, and that she fears she’ll never find her dream position because of her disability. Kellie suddenly lost her hearing when she was just four years old and relies on lip reading to understand people. 

She says she’s absolutely sick of being rejected, despite having a range of experience, having previously worked as an administrative officer, legal assistant and finance assistant. Kellie, who lives in Richmond, North Yorkshire, once worked as an assistant at notorious jail HMP Wakefield in West Yorkshire, from 2004 to 2009. Since then, she has had a number of temporary jobs secured through a local job agency but the longest time spent in employment has been nine months, while the shortest was four days.