Friday, 7 June 2019

Deaf Literacy Project

The suggestion ASL isn't helping the deaf student/potential employee must raise some questions... Has the USA a signed equivalent of English they can use? It's clear the differing ASL grammar/language aspect is a brake on inclusion, as is the UK's BSL equivalent.  Deaf pride isn't paying the mortgage.  Deaf should retain their preferences for social intercourse, and learn a signed equivalent that more easily allows them to follow what mainstream uses, e.g. if they can master ASL then, they can master the English version of sign too, it just needs priorities set.  Be truly bilingual not pay 'lip-service' to the concept.  Even a master degree in ASL or BSL is not going to be much of an advantage in a hearing world sadly.

Tackling Invisible Disabilities.

Newport West MP Ruth Jones giving her maiden speech in Parliament.
You cannot help feeling the well-meaning amongst us still do not understand the issues of having a disability that cannot be immediately seen, its why we see the endless logo of wheelchairs etc because it something immediately recognisable as something connected with a disabled person.

The 'Ear/Hand' logos are just plain contentious or confusing because seeing such logos still don't identify properly and given so many disagreements still exist who they apply to, the 'Deaf' area preferring to not be associated with hearing loss par se, so they haven't really worked.  If we take the example of the 'Loop' logo,  then this hasn't worked at all basically.  Perhaps this responder to the news article is more realistic, but, do the deaf want to be easily identifiable when there is no consensus as to what identification process would be acceptable to all?  Most only function face to face.

#1 "Well my area of hearing loss struggles 90% of the time, mostly because it IS invisible, we would welcome suggestions on HOW to make it visible. We've had everything from putting labels on our back, to tattooing it on our forehead. People get confused they think it is easy to ID because a sector of deaf people use their hands all the time, but they represent only 2-4% of us all. Those with mental health issues would probably NOT want a lot of attention given to them, by definition it can make things worse in some cases. 

It's not a clear cut issue. All you can do is respect what they need. 'Coming Out' as having an invisible disability, isn't a subject we really think about. People in my sector deaf can only take recognition to an extent because the stress of following others can be too much. We take inclusion piecemeal depending on how much stress that entails. We can return home after the day exhausted with the sheer effort of communicating outside it."

Reference (1).

Reference (2).

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Being deaf and useless...

Hear through your fingertips

A diagram of the Vibrating Auditory Stimulator, which required no training to use
Amongst the challenges faced by the deaf is what's known as the "cocktail party effect," in which they have difficulty discerning one speaker's voice from others in crowded, noisy environments. A new device could help, however – by buzzing two of their fingers. Led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Dr Amir Amedi, an international research team started with 12 test subjects (both male and female), aged an average of 29 years old. All of them spoke English, although not as their first language, and none of them had any reported hearing problems. 

The volunteers were tasked with listening to 25 groups of 10 short, simple sentences, all of which were spoken in English in a male voice. Distracting, background-conversation-like noise was added to the audio. When the test subjects initially listened to the sentences using headphones only, they found it quite difficult to understand what the speaker was saying. Their understanding improved considerably, however, when they listened while also holding their index and middle fingers against an inexpensive tactile feedback device. 

Known as a Vibrating Auditory Stimulator, that device converted low-frequency speech audio signals into vibrations. The scientists believe that it helped the participants by allowing them to use two of their senses – hearing and touch – to interpret what was being said. All told, it produced a 6-decibel improvement in perceived loudness. For reference, 10 db represents a doubling of loudness. 

"Our approach suggests that multisensory stimulations providing the same type of information (in this case spoken language conveyed through touch in addition to hearing) should be processed in the same brain region (in this case spoken language centres), ultimately then predicting that multisensory stimulations (both sounds and touch) should enhance perception."  

Welsh Charity awards for the BSL-Friendly.

Is BSL awareness, deaf awareness?  It isn't.  We still do not get a breakdown of what the course of BSL awareness, is.  The irony being the AOHL is a Hard Of Hearing charity the BSL user deserted many years ago for repression of the sign user and the brutal sacking of the one (and still only), BSL CEO by Hard of Hearing members and hearing AOHL staff.  

One area * awarded, was an area where women feared to go to have their babies and were the subject of an NHS investigation.  The Welsh ambulance area they have just managed to get 5 people to stage 1 BSL which isn't even conversational level.  Is 5 a success?  What this is all about, is the corporate AOHL awarding just about anyone who can sign a bit some recognition, in the hope, such areas will give them funding.  To that end, much will be spent hosting a junket in a posh Cardiff Hotel.  One doubts ANY deaf or HoH will be there.  There are current concerns the AOHL website has again attempted to remove grass root feedback via their forum.  Last time it was pulled for years as criticism rose.  Also restructuring as donations fall.

Wales’ most deaf friendly organisations announced Guest Contributor, News from Wales Five Welsh organisations that go above and beyond to make their services and workplaces accessible to the one in six people in Wales with hearing loss have been recognised at the prestigious Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards. 

The organisations, which include construction firms, health boards and arts initiatives, were presented awards for their continuous and inspiring efforts to create a deaf-friendly Wales. Awarded the Excellence in Health Award, Cwm Taf University Health Board was recognised for its commitment to improving communication methods for deaf patients when wishing to change an appointment, confirm personal details or check treatment information. 

The Health Board, which covers Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend, also boasts a new accessible buildings policy which means the needs of people with hearing loss will be taken into account when planning new builds and refurbishments; from contracting to completion. Peter Jenkins, Jack Griffiths and Paul Cachia of Cardiff-based Willis Construction won the award of Best Employer – PC by Matthew Horwood Cardiff based Willis Construction was awarded the Best Employer accolade for the support it’s provided to a profoundly deaf member of staff over the last three years. 

The firm adapted its recruitment process, utilised a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter for the interview and implemented a buddy system to support him from a communication and health and safety point of view once he secured the position. Staff members were also invited to attend a ‘BSL at work’ training course in order to remove communication barriers when working together. Now flourishing in the role, Willis Construction actively promote the many benefits of creating an accessible workplace and the importance of being deaf aware in the construction industry. Action on Hearing Loss Cymru launched the awards in 2015 to celebrate businesses and organisations that take steps to support the 575,000 people in Wales who have varying degrees of hearing loss. 

The 2019 Excellence Awards were open to all public services, private companies and voluntary organisations providing services in Wales. The charity has been supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss since 1911 and statistics show that deafness and hearing loss is on the rise and that by 2035, one-fifth of people in Wales will be affected, often with significant effects to their daily lives. Nine Welsh organisations were shortlisted in total and all shortlisted entries were judged by a panel of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The awards were presented at a ceremony that took place last month (17 May) at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay. 

ITV Wales correspondent, SiĆ“n Jenkins, hosted the awards, while charity volunteers, donors and previous award winners attended to celebrate this year’s cohort of winners. Western Power Distribution, winners of last year’s overall Excellence in Service award and this year’s winner of the coveted Ambassador Award, are supporting this year’s event. Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust won the People’s Choice Award which was voted for by the public, they also scooped this year’s Excellence in Service Award. The organisation was praised for its continuous engagement with the deaf community to understand the areas of improvement required by those with hearing loss. Over the past year alone, 100 members of staff have been trained in BSL and the organisation is already seeing the benefits of staff undertaking such training. 

The five Welsh companies recognised at the ceremony were: Artes Mundi, Cardiff Willis Construction,  * CardiffCwm Taf University Health Board Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Western Power Distribution.

Speaking at Friday’s award ceremony, Liz Jenkins, Equality Manager at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “Being able to communicate with people whether they’re booking hospital appointments or receiving medical treatment is incredibly important. We want all of our patients to feel confident in the knowledge that they can contact the hospital when needed and that the correct level of support will be provided. We know our work has made a huge difference to staff and patients alike so we’re over the moon to have had our efforts recognised by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.”

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

ENT Caption generating

newsroom with Telepromter
I can agree with the issue live captioning is still an issue with some deaf. In the UK it appears we get the USA created software involved in our captioning and subtitling, (A la Google it seems!), and the standard of spelling and grammar suffers because USA English is a type of its own. 

Some of we can ignore, some just make no sense at all.  Accents seem to throw USA material a curve as do most speech to text applications.  Good suggestions here so no excuse for poor captions on pre-recorded stuff. Whether the system will still work without adequate UK/English-sourced grammar and spelling input... after all it was our language :)  (Even if ASL and BSL deaf cannot read it apparently).

How is the quality of ENT-generated captions?

Consumer groups have argued that the use of ENT for captioning prevents DHOH viewers from fully accessing news broadcasts, especially in instances of non-scripted news, with viewers missing out on live interviews, breaking news reports, and weather updates. In response, the FCC strengthened its requirements around ENT captioning in 2014, and added additional requirements for programmers outside the top 25 DMAs.

The FCC’s ENT Best Practices dictate that:

● In-studio produced programming (news, sports, weather, and entertainment) should be scripted.

● Pre-produced programming should be scripted to the best extent possible.

● If live interviews, live on-the-scene and/or breaking news segments are not scripted, stations should supplement them with screen crawls, textual information, or other means.

● Stations should train all news staff on scripting for improved ENT.

● Stations should appoint an ENT coordinator to oversee compliance.

Ambulance staff learn sign language

The Patient Experience and Community Engagement team collecting the awards. Picture: Wales Ambulance Service.
Ambulance staff learn sign language in an effort to help patients with hearing loss The Welsh Ambulance Service has been recognised for its efforts to become more accessible for those with hearing loss. 

Following the introduction of a scheme which encourages staff to learn how to speak the British Sign Language (BSL), the service picked up the Service Excellence and People’s Choice awards at the Excellence Wales Awards 2019. These awards conclude the year-long effort from the Welsh Ambulance Service to address the issue of making its services more accessible for those who cannot rely on a ‘traditional’ 999 call. 

100 Welsh Ambulance staff signed up for a year-long online course, supplemented by live practice sessions with a tutor. So far, five members of staff have passed the Level One BSL exam.

Level one is laudable, but most would need Level 3/4 to establish confidence with the deaf.  Of course any certainty such learners are on YOUR ambulance isn't there. We are concerned at areas teaching very basic signs to people, and then deaf (Or other medical staff), not being able to identify who they are.  One Gwent hospital had nobody who knew sign at all and there were 6 deaf and HoH patients in the hospital, in the end they found a floor cleaner who knew some to aid the Dr on the rounds.  None of the medical staff knew any.  Mostly she understood the deaf wanted their family called in.

Captions turning a negative to a positive.

A negative experience has turned into an opportunity for change for Melbourne’s deaf community. In April a group of about 40 deaf people attended an advertised open captions screening of The Avengers at Village Cinemas at the Sunshine Marketplace. 

The group quickly realised that something had gone wrong and there were no captions. One member of the group, Alexandra McKenzie, unsatisfied with resolution of the problem on the day, took to Facebook to express her disappointment. The post was shared almost 400 times. Ms McKenzie said the opportunity to highlight the situation had resulted in significant change. “All the noise we made has resulted in about triple the amount of captioned screenings and regular times for seven Village cinema locations across Victoria,” she said. 

 “I was so grateful people were willing to take the time to care about the issue. I hope it can bring about lasting change. “There’s a long way to go, but this kind of response shows the world is ready to listen to this particular issue.” Ms McKenzie said it was encouraging that Village Cinemas management was willing to listen. “Village were really receptive,” she said. “We met with them and it was really positive. They’re the only major chain in Australia that I know of that are making attempts to do this.” Ms McKenzie said she would like to see the company add an accessibility page to their website with further information for those who need it and session times. And she said she would like to see regular deaf-friendly screenings at more venues become a reality.

The BSL Dream

Photograph by Ian Georgeson Pic: Kirsty McEwen try's out some sign language.   Secondary school pupils from schools across Edinburgh the Lothians, Borders and Fife will take part in a British Sign Language (BSL) workshop at Heriot-Watt University's Brightest Watts summer week.  A highly interactive session pupil's will experience what it's like to communicate without using spoken words, and to focus on visual modes of communication. They will have the opportunity to learn and practice some BSL.   When?                 Tuesday 16 July, 10.30am to 12.30pm   Where?                Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus, BEC Lecture Theatre, Esmee Fairbairn Building   Who?                    19 pupils due to go on to fifth year after the summer will join this workshop being led by Gary Quinn, BSL Teaching Fellow, Heriot-Watt University
ATR made these points to the deaf community 15 YEARS ago, that to initiate any BSL act you had to have the infrastructure and demand proven to enable it.  Instead, BSL lobbies rambled endlessly on about culture and sign and, relied on Untrained help and families instead.  

When asked to properly explain WHERE they get their statistics and demand from? they revert to rights/preferences not a need or demand basis.  E.G. There are NOT 87,000 deaf who prefer BSL to other avenues of communication in Scotland, and in this case, the statistic certainly does NOT relate to Scotland, it is an alleged but unproven UK inclusive stat.  In fact, based on clinical identification of people with hearing loss who are deaf, clinicians do not ask what modes they use.   In esence, the BSL lobby then said all those deaf signed in or 'preferred' BSL, because they know establishing it true or false isn't possible.  It is unproven because the question is blocked from inclusion on 'privacy' and legal (Data Protection Act), grounds.

Census returns in the UK found only 15,000 in England e.g. who 'knew about sign language.'  Wales has less than 1500, where the additional numbers emerge from is not stated other than it must be Scotland and Northern Ireland who have all these BSL deaf, however, their own deaf stats don't appear to justify or identify the communication differences.  Hard of Hearing, deaf, deafened etc are NOT BSL deaf.  Deaf lobbies posted this as wrong because the census question about sign use wasn't 'Asked the right way..' Yet, the British deaf lobbies had the question put in themselves.  Knowing some BSL and daily usage and demand, are entirely different questions and weren't asked.  There is only one statistic that is true, and that is current take-up of present resources which would identify demand.

However the fly in the proverbial are the interpreters themselves, if Scotland is anything like the rest of the UK, most are freelance and please themselves who they support and where they work, there is no unified or reliable BSL support UK system in that respect.  Respecting terps aren't a charity and are highly trained, they require regular work and the wage to reflect that.  They cannot earn a living outside a sizeable town or city without a significant deaf community.

We aren't aware of how BSL Scottish terps are 'tested' to gain their levels we do know learners pay a high financial price to take such exams and getting issues with regional judges that deter them.  Also that Interpreters are against receiving a standard wage and organising themselves so resources are more effective.  40% were reported as refusing to work for W.I.T.S. because the system wanted that as a standard and norm, the system was frustrated having to rely on freelance help and enduring endless delays.  There was a collapse in wales of BSL support when the DWP decided to introduce PIP e.g.  It wasn't possible to support the deaf there, and terps were refusing to enable the DWP assessments because 'bread and butter' work would suffer, they didn't want to be seen by their clients helping the DWP either.  The DWP cuts to the deaf were blamed then squarely on their support, as the DWP told deaf we have asked BSL terps 2 or 3 times to support you and they aren't turning up.

Interpreter support, like educational support demands trained people, we aren't seeing DEMAND for that because deaf are still by-passing trained help for family support e.g. still taking up 64% of all deaf support for free. Integrating deaf children into the mainstream pretty much removed what trained deaf teachers and special schools there were.   It starts off as all BSL lobbies do, using 'preference' as a need demand, instead of identifying what works and basic NEED.  Worse it distorts Stats to gain higher figures to create what is still not a clearly identified need or area.  Until we get a proper survey of ALL deaf we will never know, but this seems to suit BSL lobbyists who can 'think of a number, double/treble it..' then challenge you to prove it wrong, rather than them having to prove it right.  A lot of people are deaf a lot never sign either.  Maybe demanding the return of specialised social services for the deaf is an option, albeit deaf got rid of them years ago on the grounds they patronised deaf people.  That specialisation also created state dependencies on the deaf.

This appears the 2nd time this week reality has been omitted in BSL campaigns in Scotland. we have a number of rights/access laws but none currently function because neither the staff or the demand is identified properly.  Of course 'Use it or lose it..' is still the bottom line.  Deaf are notorious for asking for things then not using them.  Just as systems are saying use it or else because there is no money to waste.

What Scots Said:

British Sign Language (BSL) is the preferred language for more than 87,000 deaf people in the UK, according to the British Deaf ­Association, and to comply with new ­legislation introduced under the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, ­Scotland must now rise to the ­challenge of promoting its use and understanding. 

The Scottish Government has ­boldly set out 70 actions in its BSL National Plan, designed to help ­Scotland become the best place for BSL users to live, work and ­visit. The National Plan is a welcome ­document, recognising the need for interpreters to attain skills in ­specialist fields of work such as healthcare and the judiciary system where BSL users frequently face inequalities, and to be employed effectively across the country. However, the reality of the ­interpreting landscape in Scotland is that there are limited human resources available for the actions on the National Plan to be achieved. Joined up thinking and decision-making at a strategic level is going to be essential.


Monday, 3 June 2019

Overcoming Hearing aid Aversion and Loss attitudes..

Family-centred Care Addressing potential barriers to hearing aid uptake in a structured and transparent way An extended version of the FOCAS tool, the FOCAS–ME, has the potential to address the emotional impact of hearing loss on both clients and their families, removing barriers to hearing aid adoption Shareno comments Sabaa Tahir writes: ‘Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. 

Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier’. (Sabaa Tahir, A Torch Against the Night). So too can be the case for the emotional impacts of hearing loss experienced by both the individual and their family. Acknowledging and openly discussing these emotions and impacts can help promote a better understanding of all affected parties, and the development of shared goals that contribute to better outcomes seen with family-centred care (FCC) approach.

Recognizing this importance of both family and emotions in managing hearing loss, the FOCAS (Family Oriented Communication Assessment and Solutions)4 tool was developed for every clinician’s FCC resource kit. It addresses the needs of families by providing a clear structure to involve them and looks beyond hearing aids alone to meet those needs. It was developed to assist clinicians to more efficiently implement FCC in adult audiology appointments and to more thoroughly address the far-field hearing needs of people with hearing loss. 

Additionally, the FOCAS aims to provide a useful way for clinicians to address the emotional impact of their clients hearing loss on them and their families. Since its creation, the FOCAS has been translated into over 20 languages to support use by hearing healthcare professionals around the world. An adapted version of the FOCAS – The FOCAS-ME Recently, a new version of this resource was created, the FOCAS-ME (Family Oriented Communication Assessment and Solutions – Motivation and Experience) tool.5 It expands on the original FOCAS tool to include a third section than assess Motivation and Experience regarding hearing loss and rehabilitation interventions. 

Specifically, there are 5 questions that address some common barriers to uptake of rehabilitation interventions, such as the client’s prior experience of hearing aids (HAs), and their level of motivation regarding improving their hearing, as well as the cost of HAs, which can be another barrier to hearing aid uptake.6 The questions in this section aid the clinician to address these potential barriers to rehabilitation in a structured and transparent way. How does the FOCAS-ME Tool compare to current practice? 

Elizabeth Collins, a recent graduate of the University of Auckland Master of Audiology program, conducted a qualitative analysis of the FOCAS-ME tool for her Master’s thesis.7 Fig 1. Elizabeth Collins, Author of the study: Family Oriented Communication Assessment and Solutions–Motivation and Experience (FOCAS-ME): A Qualitative Analysis of a Family-Centred Tool. Specifically, she investigated the clinical application of the FOCAS-ME tool as compared to current standard audiological practice, in terms of whether this tool can help promote active inclusion of the family, which is reportedly low in the literature,4,8 exploration of the emotional impacts of hearing loss, consideration of both near- and far-field hearing needs as well determination of motivation and experience. Digging deeper with a random sample… 

A sample of 20 conventional hearing aid discussions (HADs) randomly selected from case notes relating to 52 client appointments conducted at the University of Auckland Hearing and Tinnitus clinic underwent qualitative analysis. Data analysis was framed by seven key elements which were classified as themes, based on the key sections of the FOCAS-ME tool. These included the emotional impact of hearing loss, the client’s perspective on their family member’s experience and vice versa, the family member’s perspective on their own experience, shared goal setting, and the exploration of hearing needs as being near- or far-field, and the components of motivation and experience. 

Additionally, 12 anonymized FOCAS-ME forms completed by hearing healthcare professionals (HCPs) in clinical appointments during a pilot of FOCAS-ME in Australia underwent theme analysis to determine any differences compared to a convention HAD approach. What did the results show? The preliminary results of this study showed that the FOCAS and FOCAS-ME tools have the potential to elicit the information intended towards achieving the aims of these tools, especially with regards to the emotional impact of hearing loss and the impact of third-party disability through incorporating a FCC approach. The FOCAS-ME data showed evidence of the negative emotional impact that hearing loss can have on family members as well as clients, and exhibited the empathy family members can feel for the person with hearing loss.


Research has found that Guinness can help prevent hearing loss
A pint of Guinness each day can help stop you going deaf, new research shows. Long thought to have medicinal properties, Guinness, thanks to its high iron content, may also combat hearing loss. 

It's official, Guinness is good for you Up until recently, Guinness was given to patients in recovery to build up their strength and now, apparently, it replaces lost iron, which helps patients with hearing difficulties. The new research was published in the Journal of American Medicine. 

It seems Guinness has a beneficial impact when drunk, providing much-needed iron that may help to prevent deafness. The research conducted at Pennsylvania State University found that high levels of iron help stop hearing loss. The study of more than 300,000 people found a link between iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) and hearing loss. More than 30 per cent of the world’s population is anaemic and needs more iron and is in danger of hearing loss.

Messages from the Alternative Deaf Universe.

Goldthorpe PCSO builds confidence in deaf community
Having had the access for 26 years in  S. Wales, these deaf say they haven't had, you have to wonder what on earth goes on via 'awareness'.  Our own area provided a first direct text/Minicom service to the police, DWP, and the Job Centres.  We installed 42 Minicoms there despite Social Services opposing them.

It also had a dedicated and direct line to the Hospital and a person to deal with any and all enquiries or support you needed.  So what has happened in the last 25 years of raising access awareness and getting a Disability Act... erm nothing! and what we did have has gone.  Given ATR was the sole deaf person in the UK to attend the actual launch of the original Disability Act with other disabled, because 'Deaf assumed it was about disabled people not them, and preferred to go sightseeing (After claiming attendance expenses), instead.' should we be surprised?   So now they are using a charity relay system to be paid for instead?  Far be it from ATR to suggest it is 'Jobs for the deaf boys and gals..' at the root of it.

Why are deaf still unable to contact 999?  Maybe we should look at the fact 87% of them refused outright to register their number or validity with the police?  Who needed that verification to prevent hackers and spoilers abusing the number.  Or, deaf simply asking family/friends who can hear to do it instead? Deaf are 'deafinitely', their own worst access enemy.  Their approaches create more issues than they solve.

Goldthorpe PCSO builds confidence in deaf community By Chloe West | 03/06/2019 Goldthorpe PCSO builds confidence in deaf community PCSO Tom Berry, pictured presenting on how to contact the police. 

A PCSO from Goldthorpe has delivered educational sessions to the local deaf community to increase their awareness and confidence in the police. PCSO Tom Berry delivered his first session to the charity ‘Deafinitions’ last Wednesday. The session covered an understanding of reporting hate crime, protecting vulnerable people and how to contact the police in an emergency and non-emergency situation. 

Deafinitions are a charity based in Goldthorpe, which supports the deaf community in relation to health, employment and youth development, as well as hosting regular community events where members from across South Yorkshire come together and socialise. The charity contacted PCSO Berry earlier this year and he was later invited along to meet their members. The community explained how they had a lack of faith in the police, would often leave crimes unreported and were unclear on how to make contact. 

PCSO Berry explained how people who are unable to call 999 and speak down the phone can use a SMS text messaging service. The emergency SMS service lets deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people in the UK send an SMS text message to the UK 999 service, where it will be passed to the police, ambulance, fire service or coastguard.