Saturday, 1 June 2019

Those Dreadful Deaf people.

Fifi Garfield and Nadeem Islam in Horrible Histories: Dreadful Deaf
Who is oppressed?   I'm not.  Those who live in the past tend to remain there.  Will the deaf community ever move forward while making a celebration of oppression that took place via the Egyptians 1,000s of years ago? or attacking a man who has been dead for years because he dared to promote speaking?  We urge deaf to enter the 20th even 21stc for the real good of our future deaf.

It should come as a surprise to no one that the latest Horrible Histories, Dreadful Deaf is another triumph; after all, Birmingham Stage Company has cornered the market in the stage versions of a franchise that mixes facts with a heavy dose of flagellants and flatulence. Here, teaming up with Deafinitely Theatre, they have produced an hour's trawl through the history of Deafness, pairing fascinating tales with giggles aplenty.

Did you know that in 1000 BC Egyptian Hebrew law denied deaf people rights to be married or have children? Or that their attempted cure involved goat's urine being poured directly into the ear? How about that Greek philosopher and all-around modern thinker Aristotle, who claimed that ‘"Deaf are born incapable of reason". On and on it goes, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, campaigned for banning sign language and promoting oralism but signed his dying words. Horrible Histories has always enjoyed telling the bleak, but what this shows is that those born deaf have faced centuries of being oppressed. 

Thankfully as we begin to shift into more modern history, heroes do begin to emerge. There is Thomas Brainwood, founder of the first school for deaf children in Edinburgh in the 1760s or Helen Watts, a suffragette who campaigned so fervently from a gaol cell in Reading that she was released early for fear of fatality. In a nice touch in Paul Burgess' compact set, modern heroes from the deaf community are projected before and after, a mix of sportsmen and women, doctors and teachers. It's a sign of how far things have come and also a telling indictment of how much further things still need to shift. After all, there were very few instantly recognisable faces on the list, a sign that barriers are still up for this community to rise to the very top.  

Friday, 31 May 2019

Turning on the Captions.

Image result for turn on the subtitles campaign
Elsewhere signers are demanding more 'turning on of BSL' in media.  The issue with sign is you DON'T get an option to turn it on or off, if it is there, you are stuck with it. As averse to captions which you can choose or not to use, far too many BSL campaigns ignore choice. TV and films are a visual medium nobody has solved (or wants to), the conflict of imaging on programs, there doesn't seem to be an accepted format that is a norm either.   

It is far from clear what image the deaf signer is actually following, the film/Item? or the signed translation?   Most at grass root level would say the signer is the central person/image they are following.  Or, why some dedicated signing programs with BSL included are subject to Interpreter on-screen inclusion too?  If a digital option became available re sign translation choices, perhaps including the option 'whole screen' for the signer would perhaps be more effective, however, this means missing the action otherwise.  Some areas e.g. sport, suggest neither captions or BSL was entirely necessary, with regards to some weather reporting, captions obliterated some area coverage entirely. 

Most issues appear to have been overcome via captioning which tends to become invisible to most deaf and not interfering with what is being transmitted.  One suggestion would be to split the TV set into two parts with a captioning section below the actual program?  Then nothing is on-screen to detract.

Currently, there is no digital modus for an '889' sign option. Hence BSL moved to the media graveyard shift, and even the BBC handing the Deaf two dedicated programs for BSL (Despite others with hearing loss complaining they were frozen out of inclusion).   Why aren't there options visually in media?  Surely the technology already exists?  And if it does would lip-speakers come into it?  

Portugese sign language app gets Google funds.

Image result for hand talk appEarlier this month, Google AI Impact Challenge awarded HandTalk with a grant worth US$750 thousand. The app and website plugin offers real-time translations from Portuguese to Brazilian Sign Language for deaf users. HandTalk is one of 20 winners from the Google AI Impact Challenge, all of whom shared US$25 million in grants. Organizers surveyed over 2,600 applicants using AI to address social and environmental challenges. In the end, the corporation invested in 20 international non-profits, social enterprises, and research institutions.

Besides this pool of money, participants received consulting from Google Cloud and personalized coaching from Google-affiliated AI experts. Additionally, the chosen groups were invited to join Google’s six-month Launchpad Accelerator program.  During this time, participants have the option to develop OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as well as establish timelines for projects. Every partner will also work with a Google expert for regular coaching sessions and mentorship.

With its portion of the money, HandTalk will elevate its platform that automatically translates Portuguese into Libras, also known as Brazilian Sign Language. The company strives to break communication barriers by making its product more accessible to members of the deaf community. While improving the quality of translations is paramount, HandTalk is also planning to expand its service to include American Sign Language.  Today, there are two main products under HandTalk’s model. With Hugo serving as an animated language interpreter, partners incorporate the Website Translator into their domains through a plugin. From there, Hugo translates texts into Libras.

Not only does this ensure better communication, social responsibility, and innovation, but also compliance with the Brazilian Accessibility Act. Under this ordinance, public and private sector entities must be inclusive to everyone, including people with disabilities. The second product is the app itself, which essentially functions as a pocket translator. It translates Portuguese text or dictations into Libras, not to mention offering a dictionary for language learners. Since the 2012 founding, HandTalk has seen over two million app downloads.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 per cent of the world’s 360 million deaf people can’t understand the spoken or written version of their native language. Just in Brazil alone, 70 per cent of Brazilian deaf people can’t read or write in Portuguese.

Google expects AI to remedy this predicament, hence its support for HandTalk.

Automating Lip-reading.

It's taken them a long time to understand what lip-readers (and sign users), already know.  Ergo lip-readers use the entire visual image to follow, the same as sign users do, we don't just look at the face, we try to take in the whole picture.  

If you observe the deaf signer then concentration is not on the hands most of the time, as averse to lip-readers where the face is all.  The issue with lip-reading is that it is assumed unless the total concentration is on the face it is hard to follow and there are fewer visuals that can add to it.   The issue we have is people cannot orate properly and the ideal situation for effectiveness doesn't exist nor do classes approach tuition to accommodate that. Less than 5% of deaf or hard of hearing people attend a lip-reading class.  

The ratio with deaf pre-signers attending classes is that even fewer of them do. The signer doesn't use many assistive aids to follow as the lip-reader tends to do, but often it adds to lesser understanding rather than improves it because we don't really know what we can hear, then guesswork gets involved, some of it educated some totally 'Half past two, how are you..'.  There are issues with body language as regards to different cultures and people too, as well as their etiquettes.

The study investigates a model that can use hybrid visual features for optimizing lip-reading. Lip reading, also known as speech-reading, is a technique of understanding speech by visually interpreting the movements of the lips, face and tongue when normal sound is not available. 

Experiments over many years have revealed that speech intelligibility increases if visual facial information becomes available. The research was carried out by Fatemeh Vakhshiteh with the supervision of professors Farshad Almasgan and Ahmad Nickabadi. In an interview with ISNA, Vakhshiteh said using a variety of sources for extracting information substantially helps the lip-reading process. According to Vakhshiteh, this model was inspired by the function of the brain because the human brain also processes several sources of information in production and reception of speech. 

In this model, deep neural networks are used to make the recognition of lip-reading as well as phone recognition easier, she said. “The neural networks were specially used for situations that audial and visual features must be processed simultaneously.” “This is especially helpful in noisy environments where the audial data produced by speakers might become less clear or incomprehensible.” “This would also help the people with speech difficulty because they can use their visual data to compensate for the interruption in the speech signal they receive,” she added. The research results demonstrated that the proposed method outperforms the conventional Hidden Markov Model (HMM) and competes well with the state-of-the-art visual speech recognition works.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Beethoven's Hair for sale.

Illustration for article titled Beethoven's Hair Turned Into Diamond for Sale on eBayI want a DNA test done on it to settle the question he was or wasn't hereditary deaf lol.  He lost his sign gene if he has.  Who are they 'Kidding'?

A lock of Beethoven’s hair is going up for auction after being snipped off by the composer himself almost 200 years ago. Beethoven gave the dark brown and grey strands to his friend, pianist Anton Halm, in 1826, just a year before he died. The precious and “substantial” lock is expected to fetch £15,000 when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s, London, next month. 

Beethoven only gave it to his friend after he was originally tricked with hairs from a goat. Simon Maguire, director and senior specialist of books and manuscripts at the auction house, said the lock had “arguably the best story behind it of any to appear at auction”. Sotheby's The lock is expected to fetch £15,000 when it goes under the hammer (Sotheby’s) More Halm was arranging Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge op.133 for two pianos, composed when he was deaf and now seen as one of his greatest achievements when the pair became friends. “Halm asked for a lock of Beethoven’s hair for his wife Maria….” 

Mr Maguire said. “The hairs arrived a few days later, supposedly Beethoven’s, but had in fact been cut from a goat. “When he had finished his arrangement, Halm brought it and the hair to Beethoven. “The composer was furious that his friend had been deceived, and promptly snipped off some hair and gave it to him, declaring it to be genuine.” The trick sparked “conflicting accounts of who was to blame for the original prank, one indeed implicating Beethoven himself”, he said. Beethoven’s biographer, AW Thayer, later spoke to Halm about the story, who told him that the composer had “turned to me with a fearsome expression and said, ‘You have been deceived about this lock of hair!’. “‘See what terrible creatures I am surrounded by, whom respectable people should be ashamed to be with. You’ve been given the hairs of a goat’.

Why no Deaf signing newsreaders?

Shakespeare - Pic of director (Cathy Heffernan)
Deaf seem to forget they already have TWO dedicated channels/programs for them in BSL already.  They can present news how they want on there free and gratis, care of 10m other taxpayers with hearing loss paying for it who aren't even included.

Deaf ARE a minority, but as they would still have to be accessed via captioning/subtitles, it would be no advance on what we get now.  Online primary access to news and other deaf people even on won dedicated sites, is still, TEXT.  Prime-time news exposes BSL as a format that does NOT include sufficient detail, mainly because the signs aren't there for it or the interpreters to ensure what is interpreted are understood by all sign users.  

There are huge differences already regarding deaf people's academic abilities IN sign language, without text even BSL Zone would be unviewable to most.  Much BSL has been taken off news reporting on prime-time because hearing had issues with visual interference on the screen, the only way to make it work is an '889' option whereby those deaf who want only sign can have it and others can turn it off who don't.  It's called choice, access is a double-edged sword isn't it?  

To be frank deaf appearances have been a bit iffy in regards to them all resorting to 'Deaf do this, and deaf do that..' creeping in at every opportunity, it's killing off their inclusion because nobody wants to watch an awareness lecture all the time. The reality, is that SEE HEAR and the BSL Zone have virtually no deaf viewers of note, they exist only because deaf activism saw a loophole in the 'cultural' access laws.  If it was via the numbers game the BBC etc apply to all ratings the Deaf would be out of it.  I'd like to see PROOF there is a real demand for it.  Every time we do ask, they change the question to a right, not a need because they know the numbers are against them.  They have agreed already UKTV is accessible already mainly because we have two options to access the spoken word, not, just one.  Preferences are a luxury, not a necessity. SO what are they actually asking for?

If we assume ALL minorities and Language should be on-screen, then, BSL is number 5 in the list of people by numbers and usage who should have it, with Polish/Urdu/Bengali ahead of BSL, and, what of sign users who want Signed English?  Others who want lip-speakers, Ignored?

The Article.

Progress has been made but a deaf newsreader remains a long way off, says Cathy Heffernan The words ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ might be overused but they are true. Programmes made in British Sign Language (BSL) allow deaf people who sign to be involved on screen – and behind the camera – in ways that mainstream TV doesn’t. Although TV in spoken language can be made (and often is) accessible to deaf people, it rarely reflects their lives and production teams rarely include deaf people. What BSL programming does is put stories about deaf people who sign on to the screen. All I had growing up was See Hear, short-lived series and a few films. Now, we have deaf children watching people like themselves fronting cookery shows and interview formats, and playing the leads in dramas and sitcoms shown on the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) website and seeded on mainstream channels. What’s more, you’ll find many of the directors, producers, writers and researchers are deaf too. If you can be what you can see, you can aspire to a career in the media. The BSLBT has been commissioning since 2008. 

By offering an alternative way for commercial broadcasters to meet regulatory requirements to provide programming in sign language, it has delivered a sustained source of funding. This has allowed for more programme development, which in turn has generated more opportunities for deaf people. But limitations remain. Programme- making in sign language is in its infancy and remains conservative like 1960s TV seems to our modern eyes. One challenge for BSL programming is the visual nature of sign language – you need to see it to ‘hear’ it. Therefore, when editing interviews in sign language, you can’t paint the audio with archive or cutaways. The time is now ripe for some rule-breaking and experimentation. In Getting Personal, an interview format I developed for BSLBT, we shun the sit-down interview that has been the norm. Instead, we film in locations relevant to the story and bring more action and movement into conversations, so they are more visually interesting. It has been a challenge, but worth it.


New BSL App for Scottish Rail.

For deaf unable to read presumably.  Train operator ScotRail is introducing a new British Sign Language (BSL) app to help deaf customers communicate with staff. In what is being described as a first for the UK rail industry, the app directly connects someone travelling on their trains or at the platform to an interpreter through a video call. 

The interpreter will then pass on the query to a member of staff and sign the answer back. ScotRail access and inclusion manager, Andrew Marshall-Roberts, said: “We’re committed to making the railway open and accessible for all, and teaming up with InterpreterNow to launch this new app is just one of the ways we’re doing that. “Customers using British Sign Language as their main form of communication can now have the confidence to travel by rail, knowing our people can help with any query they have in a simple, straightforward way.” 

The app, which launches on Thursday, uses the InterpreterNow service and is open to “any part of their journey” – from information to disruption times to queries at stations or ticket offices. Just knowing that access in your own language is available throughout your journey is not far off ground-breaking Andy Irvine, InterpreterNow Andy Irvine, operations director at the tech firm, said: “We at InterpreterNow are delighted to have been working with ScotRail on this solution. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

Breaking News..... Breaking News.

Are Deaf people political? (UK).

Politics IS accessible to deaf people. These vlogs don't help anyone and, they lack accessibility too.   Whether that political access is via BSL is debatable, but is it wanted? it's immaterial, if you can read you can be involved. If deaf voters are claiming an inability to be involved in can only be for 2 reasons, a refusal to unless it is signed, or, a refusal to demand or use, the access they already have.  What is hard about putting an X on a paper?

I was always told there are 3 issues we should avoid, they were sex, religion, and politics.  But all 3 govern our lives.  Both myself and my partner are fully informed on the recent MEP voting last week and, we both voted without issue. Like other deaf people we look at other deaf areas online and were appalled at the bias and ignorance BSL sites are producing, taking every advantage of dependent BSL users to plug their particular brand of nonsense and disinformation, always adding 'Hearing are preventing us..' to ensure if deaf DO vote (Most don't or won't anyway), the vote is against what is portrayed as hearing discriminators, the actual political point long since lost, this is abusing neutral information access for deaf people.  

The widespread usage of statistics and attacking other bona fide views as 'fake news', an unwelcome USA import,  is rife in the online 'cut and paste' deaf world, sadly those deaf who follow such areas are being manipulated.  Very often bombarded with 'facts' that are never explained or details ever compared with opposing points, AKA 'Party A says ....' and 'Party B says ... ', etc.  Which is the right and democratic way to inform.  A lot is over the BSL grass-root head, there is little or no attempt to bring the explanations to the level of clear comprehension.  The promotion of politics aimed only, at those with the sufficient level of written and academic attainment as they have, the hoi pollie deaf aren't really included or follow like sheeple.   

THIS post I am told would be 'beyond the BSL using reader', or at best, non-accessible because sign isn't included.  My response would be that it is identical in format to what online deaf are already using.     There are virtually NO signed explanation in social deaf media its all text.  

My initial ventures into signed explanations made me a target for the purists of BSL, it wasn't worth the effort in the end, they would diss every sign made.  I can sign to make myself understood they wanted something else, control over me and what I said, failing that bans and blocks.  No attempt at all to include or accept less than what they viewed as 'real sign' coming from a 'real' cultural supporter.  And they wonder why they are out of it. 

The end result being deaf got little or none at all, from us as non-cultural deaf, Hard of Hearing, deafened, or from hearing neither.  I was amid the very first in the UK to add subtitling to a vlog, and 80% rubbished my signing and condemned the use of captions.  I never signed for them again. As we see by this vlog they are STILL anti-captions or even averse to adding narrative.  We can only assume it is BSL-Only stuff, how to inform deaf people.... NOT.  It's not even preaching to the converted, as nobody takes any notice.

The current Brexit issues in the UK are almost completely polarised, the Deaf politico sites are too.  Sadly, some pro-European deaf areas use their sites to block, undermine or simply attack other deaf who don't agree with that, their consensus appears to be pro-EU and anti-everyone else.  Leave areas just ignore them and appeal to the majority instead.   The online moderation is as extreme as their viewpoint is, there are NO deaf sites in the United Kingdome that explain in simpler terms what is going on, so that grass root deaf can make up their OWN minds.  And none in BSL either!  You are either for remaining or determined to leave the European Union altogether.  Whilst factual reporting is complex and difficult for hearing to follow, it is almost totally beyond the deaf.  They lack the more able deaf to explain properly.

They vote with their feet mostly, not get involved, then blame it all on others.  If they want things to change then they have to stop contemplating their navel and wasting considerable effort chasing culture and join the real world and understand and get involved with what is going on.  If you want to follow national politics, then, you cannot do this from a deaf isolated stance, the mainstream will not see any link between sign/culture and Brexit.  Stick to the issues in hand.    Start reading hearing areas, start attending meetings, join online hearing areas, they are all text no excuse not to put a point.  It just exposes the reality, BSL is their problem in access terms, but as we are more than just sign we can use other means too, those who won't, just leave them where they are.

If someone wants some explanations with no bias feel free to ask...

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Terp agencies are biased?

Image result for Robin HorwitzJobs for the boys?  Perhaps not.

There are about 1,300 sign language interpreting agencies in this country. Approximately 15-20 of them are deaf-owned interpreting agencies (More of an estimate at this point).  What can we do to boost deaf-owned interpreting agencies?

Generally the advantage they have is an ability to acquire information from other business owners quickly and without any immediate barriers.

Here's an idea: Let's do a weekly meet up via zoom for deaf-owned interpreting agencies to share information (i.e. how to drive up revenue, RFP, operations, Finances and more). Anybody interested in this?

What else can we do to improve this number of deaf-owned interpreting agencies? Any ideas?


How do deaf agencies work?  By employing hearing people to answer the phone?  or being able to lip-read fluently?  Seems a conundrum to me.

How to Fake Hearing loss..

How to talk to people that cannot hear you.

Image result for awarenessAnother well-meaning blogger who doesn't appear to understand the basics of hearing loss or how to raise real awareness about it.  These tried and never viable suggestions keep being trotted out as awareness by rote and sheer habit despite not being all that successful.  The real awareness should be with us and it isn't.  

It also assumes we are lip-readers and, that lip-reading is highly effective under set conditions, another myth.   Anyone today with a hearing loss will by default accept text is the most reliable method bar none.  Technology that enables that to happen is the only real in to those with hearing loss.  The article does not even cover the degrees of loss or, the abilities of the individual or medical conditions that prevent any of the suggestions noted from being viable, its a 'one size' fits all that fits nobody.  

What suits you won't suit me etc....  The basic 'ask me what will work...'  is a complete question mark.  If you can understand THAT request.........  The blog would not have been an issue of response but for the fact, it is tagged as for 'deaf and Hard of hearing'.  Just more abuse of those definitions and they are ALL at it.  I don't think you should create awareness by telling people what they should not be doing, as it may well work for others with hearing loss.  Don't do this, and don't do that, is a turn off.

The Article:

Is there a person with hearing loss in your family? If so, then you know all about what to do —and what not to do— for effective communication, right? Are you a person with hearing loss in a family where everyone else is hearing? If so, you know how difficult it is for your family members to remember and carry out the communication basics, right?

For most people, it’s just not easy to making the changes necessary for effective conversations. Assuming that there have been some preliminary talk about the basics – face me when speaking, don’t yell or over-enunciate and don’t starting talking to me until you’ve got my attention – the problem, to my way of thinking, boils down to things:

The person with hearing loss has not learned how to let others know their needs or understand that these needs must be expressed over and over again. Why? Because they expect their loved ones to rise to the situation and understand that every conversation is in danger of going down the communication toilet.

The hearing person is not a mind-reader, can’t tell if the hearing person is in communication difficulty, and so assumes that all is well. Why? Because they had a similar conversation yesterday in the same place, and the relative seemed to be coping, when in fact he or she may actually be fluffing (pretending to understand).
These two common scenarios are like a water balloon – perfectly designed to explode into an emotional mess. The person who can’t hear well is anxious at being cut out of the flow and the family member is impatient with the hearing aid user who doesn’t seem to stay engaged.

There are about two million variations on this scenario, which is played out, every day in lives affected by hearing loss. It takes time and practice and open dialogue to create conversations that approach what they used to be like in the family: spontaneous, humorous, or at least, free-flowing.

I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve been having the hearing loss conversation for 60 years. Sixty years! So believe me when I tell you – don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Here are the steps the HEARING people need to take to get back to the good stuff.

Get the person’s attention before starting to speak. A little wave, a little tap, putting your face in their line of sight – these are good things.  Don’t start a conversation from another room. Just don’t. If we answer, it’s only to say something like – “Are you kidding me? You think I understand you?”  Face the person – always. Whether we know it or not, we are speech-readers, and can understand you when we can see you.

And because of point #3 above, please ensure your mouth is free of food, gum, cigarettes and spinach stuck in your teeth… We won’t understand you because of the first three items, and we won’t be able to concentrate because of the last.
Don’t yell or over-enunciate. Neither of these are helpful – the first one hurts our ears and the second one makes you look stupid.

We don’t do dark. We understand better in a well-lit room, with little or no background noise.  If you’re not sure if I’m understanding, ask me. (Just in case I’m not assertive enough to ask you to do something differently.)  And never, never, never say ‘never mind’, if you’re asked to repeat yourself. It’s hurtful and if there was a reason you said it the first time, that’s a good enough reason to repeat it.