Thursday, 21 May 2020

New world order.


What isn't properly explained is that difficulties in lip-reading people (or not seeing anyone using sign for you), has been the norm pre-virus. Today interpreters are reluctant to stand anywhere near a deaf person to facilitate them either.  Everything is being done by remote.  

Who do they want wearing these clear masks?  Medical staff have no approved safe clear masks as we understand, so we are assuming the deaf want the public to wear them?  or just certain areas of them? But will that satisfy sign users?

They are also critical of 'homemade' masks (As are medical people saying they are only partial protection from others in the street and not approved for clinical use as they need stringent safeguards built-in), as stated, patterns and vivid colours detract the eye away from the clear panel they want as well. At two metres, lip-reading starts to pose problems anyway doesn't it? As we know next to nobody on the street is sign using or aware either.  

COVID 19 has 'exposed' the two primary means we use to facilitate communication, i.e. sign language, and lip-reading, should we not now be adapting to systems or devices that rely on neither exclusively?

Video conferencing also posed problems as did phones because of the unreliability, or simple non-existence of speech to text technology included, and/or it being ineffective too.  More than 4 participants participating renders following academic.  The prime area benefitting, is the sign user who relies on visuals anyway, but not the lip-reader who followed oral speech approaches, often with with hearing aids.  

Deaf communications are heavily reliant on face to face meetings, club social aspects, dedicated schools, peer signers, etc, it is an essential part of their community ethos and cultural aspiration, the virus has stopped that to a large degree too.

The 'New World Order' post virus means those with hearing loss are going to have to set up/learn alternatives, there will be no 'norm' to return to, and the old norm has clearly been found wanting.

Quit with the complaining



Despite 6 blogs notifying deaf where their BSL support is, and 14 notifications to BSL sites, they are still complaining there is next to no BSL access during this pandemic, here is the official version of what's available, try reading it!

Covid-19 poses unique challenges to the 12 million people in the UK with hearing loss, many of whom rely on visual cues such as lip-reading and sign language, which leans heavily on facial cues and expressions for communication. 

[1] In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, not all UK government briefings were accompanied by British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and this provoked appreciable concern among the 151,000 people who are BSL users. 

[2] The Equality Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made to support disabled people, including providing information in an accessible format. The Accessible Information Standard puts a legal requirement on all health and social care providers to identify communication needs and provide information in people’s preferred format. The government should provide and publicise comprehensive, timely public health information in BSL and ensure BSL interpretation for all daily televised COVID-19 briefings and emergency announcements. As a result, a petition was put forward by the Deaf community. 

The recent response by the government explained that in accordance with Public Health Guidance it is not possible to safely include a physical BSL interpreter in the room for daily briefings, without potentially putting them and others at risk. However, BSL interpretation of the daily covid-19 briefings are now provided via the BBC News channel and iPlayer. 

[This will put at rest the current complaint England is not providing BSL updates live. Downing Street is an exception.  Such BBC access has been there since early March in reality.]

[3] In response to the needs of the Deaf community to have timely and accessible information, the UK’s D/deaf charities have mobilised swiftly. Charities such as the British Deaf Association, SignHealth and the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) are providing BSL versions of the Government’s briefings on coronavirus. SignHealth continues to provide Deaf mental health support to members of the community and have moved their service for helping victims of domestic abuse online during the pandemic. deafPLUS charity’s BSL advice line remains open and Action on Hearing Loss have set up a BSL information service to support Deaf people during the outbreak. Due to social distancing Enabled Living set up virtual drop-in sessions for Deaf patients to access GP and Health Visitor appointments via video call, to address health concerns. New innovations and free services for people with hearing loss A great example of organisations coming together during COVID-19 is BSL Health Access. 

[AOHL is also running a campaign about LACK of access on the BBC too, where HAVE they been?].

[4] The service provides immediate, on-demand access to BSL interpreters for communication with Deaf people in all health settings, including pharmacy, opticians, general practice and dentists, free of charge during the current coronavirus situation. Access to BSL interpreters takes place through two methods: Video Relay Services (VRS)—when a BSL interpreter relays information over a telephone call between a BSL user and the hearing person receiving or making the call; and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)—where a remote interpreter is used to facilitate communication with a Deaf and hearing person in the same location. Innovation in response to covid-19 has been notable. A student in the USA reminds us of the importance of compassion and not overlooking the unique needs of people as we respond to this challenging time. She created a mask that uses a clear panel to enable people to read lips and facial cues. 

[Clear panel masks are an issue currently, none are approved for use in medical or clinical situations, and DIY masks are not deemed reliable or offer any immunity to COVID 19.]

[5] However, there are no transparent masks available for use in healthcare settings in the UK and these are not classified as suitable for use in a healthcare setting, where type IIR or FFP3 masks are required. The Government’s latest guidance advises wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces such as public transport, where social distancing may not be possible. Nine charities all joined in solidarity, led by the National Deaf Children’s Society and asked for future Government guidance on face coverings to include advice on speaking to deaf or deafblind people whilst wearing masks. They also wrote to Public Health England and NHS England asking them to commission transparent face masks. A UK Doctor created digital flashcards which enable medical staff to ask critically ill or Deaf coronavirus patients questions and share vital information on digital flashcards displayed on a phone, tablet, or computer. 

[6] In just 72 hours it was used by NHS trusts and hospitals in 50 countries across the world. Cardmedic is currently available in 10 different languages and features a “read aloud” option to help those who are blind or too unwell to read. An app is in development which will include illustrations and videos for British Sign Language, as well as creating downloadable PDF versions for healthcare professionals to print, laminate, write on, wipe off and reuse. Personal protective equipment communication barriers, isolation and loneliness are challenges common to many patients, but the needs of those who rely solely on lip reading have been largely ignored. Two deaf doctors have recently written powerfully about their experience. 

[7] I have witnessed this myself, with my grandmother who wears bilateral hearing aids. She is in hospital currently and struggles to understand what the healthcare workers are saying beneath their face mask as she’s reliant on lip-reading. This can be exhausting, especially with each new encounter, update or explanation. Simple measures to aid patients with hearing loss who don’t use BSL and cannot use visual cues, such as on the telephone or when wearing PPE, including speaking clearly but not too slowly, and not loudly; checking understanding by asking the patient to repeat information back or rephrasing if the patient asks to repeat the information; using plain language; sticking clearly to the point and reducing background noise as much as possible. Using the written word, speech to text apps or digital flashcards are additional helpful aids.

[The deaf are going to have to use other/additional means to follow, albeit remote interpreting is a better option for those who are BSL reliant there is no system of lip-SPOKEN support, there never has been, see-through mask effectiveness is relative obviously to the person's own skillsIf you are not 100% confident you can don't use it.  COVID 19 doesn't forgive errors or guesswork.]

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Much ado about nothing

(Or How to train your lip-reading teacher).  What grassroots said.

CAN YOU READ MY LIPS? on VimeoPerhaps holding classes when everyone is at work is one negative, as is insisting on useful hearing first.  If we could hear why would we need to lip-read?

Always watch the mouth movements carefully!

Yes obvious advice watching mouth movements, but we can get aggravation doing that, people would say why are you staring at me?  

Yeah 'stay and face me, talk naturally..' etc it doesn't work but the advice never changes.  A lot of pretty unrealistic advice that ignores joe public's response.  We should be training them.

A tutor I had used to write things on a blackboard then lip-speak it to help, of course, that approach rendered her lip-speaking point zero, I already knew what she was saying. The clue became the easier answer.  

As a plug for text support, lip-reading works well. As does BSL!

I suppose TV is the same? with titles there, you aren't going to bother looking at the mouth.   It is why sign users do not like captions being used because we read those and ignore the sign.  

The more I concentrated the less I saw really, I don't know why that is other than I was searching for other clues because the lip-reading wasn't working for me. The mouth alone doesn't do it, there are facial clues, body language etc.  Not all tutors used those. 

Every class can be different, there is no 'norm'.  By definition no real coursework let's face it.

A teacher may lip-speak very well, but joe public will be mumbling, half-turned away from you, or just ignoring the fact you need to see their face and look at you.  

In regards to the tuition of lip-reading we need on the street training so we can learn to cope in real-time with people who don't talk properly or face you.    Why isn't that done?

It is a failing of lip-reading coursework if you aren't taught how to cope outside the class, you are stuck with those within it, in an artificial atmosphere and once outside the same as when you went in.  

I don't do spontaneous at all.  I have to cut people short if they vary from the response or topic because I would be lost immediately, it's not being rude, so you also have to explain why you are doing that.  

Me too.  I have to deal 24/7 with speech outside the home or twiddle my thumbs at home isolated.  

Planning is essential. I never go anywhere before ensuring I have belt and bracers and alternatives in case.  My prime asset is my voice.  It's rather a restrictive way of life but, it works for me,  (apart from the fact everyone thinks I can hear....)

The only way is to get into the habit of looking at the mouth, it takes time to lip read. Some people look like they are mumbling and that’s why it’s hard to lip read, I rely on lip reading.

When do we get that time?  Only a few minutes in a class with a dozen others that's all, outside we won't get any clues or support to do it.

It is because classes are not there to teach you lip-reading as a first priority, initially, it is to encourage you to socialise like with like, (with a tutor assisting), so the pupil gains the confidence to attempt lip-reading itself later, but, that doesn't work when the class finishes.  Most classes are a few hours for a few weeks and for a few months.  

So every  3/6 months whatever, back to square one? and NOBODY tells you what to do when your hearing no longer IS an assist to lip-reading and you cannot use the class anymore.

It's hard to follow this is a system designed to address a serious sensory loss and disability isn't it?  It's more a hobby class to address a professional and clinical issue. 

Or to encourage them to approach clinical support? (Get a CI, MH support, or a better hearing aid etc).  I am unsure where that actually leaves lip-reading?

Pose any hearing loss issues at a teacher then the class can get seriously delayed as the tutor struggles to accommodate the ones struggling, these usually end up frustrated and leave or advised to go to the welfare/social system for help, this kills any real impetus to bother to lip-read, as pupils feel lip-reading is not viable or too hard.

If they wanted to approach social services they would have anyway, wouldn't they?

Perhaps they lack the confidence to do that.  It is why such Lip-reading classes need to be better organised and understand, if people take that effort to go to a class and seek help and it fails then they won't perhaps try again or seek help anywhere else.

That makes Lip-reading classes an essential way in surely?

The main point, but it lacks the ability to do that in most part with those needing the most help, the classes are simply not designed for them and once deterred, that's it. It becomes an exit, not an entrance to help.

I'm sure Lip-reading teachers do their very best, but I do wonder if their training includes those with a serious loss at all, or with the many age groups and varying abilities that are presented to them, that suggests quite a high degree of professionalism and clinical awareness is required that these teachers are not required currently to have and they can refer people to the right areas.

There aren't any 'right' areas, that's the problem, no set up exists for acquired deafness or serious loss, except a few unsupported charities, then if you have huge issues following how are you going to sort that elsewhere?  

They will just send you back to the class or ENT so you are in the wrong place again.  Most are at a Lip-reading class because every other avenue has failed.  It is a way in to further help, but that help and tuition doesn't actually work does it? If you are put off there, that's it you  won't go anywhere else.

Nationally the classes don't cover the entire country anyway, whole areas never see a class, it's all in cities or towns.  As someone already said, the classes aren't really viable either as they can only help a few for a short while.

Not possible to get effective help is it? there is no national support or back-up system for the hard of hearing who constitute the majority of potential pupils.  Or even classes for the most.

I'm totally frustrated with the advice to face me and speak clearly if you cannot lip-read its useless advice.  For most, it is a CLUE not a prime means of following. 

Therein lies the issue, we assume we follow more than we really do it's hard of hearing failing that stops everything else working.

So we stick to texting everyone?   It seems that most of us do that.

Deaf demaning zero risk...

Is it realistic to trade with zero risk? | FOREX ROBOTS HubStill, some deaf not in the real world it seems with deaf activism launching legal complaints via MP's about the workplaces and lack of clear masks for lip-readers, and generally not making the work areas safe for deaf people. 

Zero risk is never possible, risk needs to be as low as reasonably practicable.  

All businesses and organisations have insurances for employees and public liability, but no insurance area can guarantee it, the NHS and medical profession can't.  Living is a risk.

As a rule of thumb 3-5% is accepted as the risk factor mostly, but the risk factor will be considerably higher via Covid-19 as we haven't a handle on the virus at all yet, so virtually no one can guarantee much at present...

Yes the point I was making. The welsh assembly updates said today they cannot guarantee 100% even to protect teachers and children in schools and won't open them, they will try to do the best they can but 100% is unrealistic, unreasonable a demand,  and impossible. 

I'm puzzled at the deaf approaches to this virus it is all complaints and asking others to risk lives for them, and they seem blissfully unaware what this virus means to everyone, not just them. E.G Other campaigns for clear masks and claims they aren't getting signed access is also untrue they just refuse to listen basically, anyone deaf who wants a link to signed access can get it by looking  ATR put all the BSL links they will need on his blog.  

Those demanding clear masks all we can say is none are medically approved at present and the only ones we see DIY are not safe for anyone to use really apart from suggesting some mental reassurance, they offer limited if any 'immunity'.   The masks are to protect other people from YOU.

For aiding lip-reading, I am told hardly any deaf people are proficient enough to lip-read without extra signed help, and a clear mask isn't a help to an interpreter who will be hearing and not need it anyway. The deaf have to accept access is limited for EVERYONE not just them, adapt and survive, not complain and attack.

10 books about silence.


Office in a Small City by Edward Hopper, 1953.
Keep up that reading folks.

1. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare After being brutally raped, Titus’s daughter, Lavinia, also has her tongue pulled out and her hands cut off to stop her reporting who is responsible for the attack. Incapacitated and robbed of her precious chastity, Lavinia’s powerlessness becomes a potent symbol of the silencing of abused women. 


2. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker Barker retells the Iliad primarily from the perspective of Briseis, the woman awarded as a prize to Achilles after the ransacking of Lyrnessus. With the narrative in her hands, there is nowhere to hide from the misogyny of ancient Greece. Ajax may be convinced that “silence becomes a woman”, but it is through Barker’s reclaiming of the voices muted by history that we realise just how much modern resonance these classical stories hold in the #MeToo era. 

3. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard When Steffi, a selective mute, meets Rhys, a deaf pupil at her school, their worlds begin to open up. For Steffi, the prospect of speech is riddled with anxiety and Barnard provides a sensitive exploration of the issue for a young adult audience. Steffi and Rhys communicate in part through BSL, a fascinating entry point into deaf culture. As their friendship quietly builds in something more, will Steffi find her voice and the courage to use it, again? 

4. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers John Singer starts the novel as one of two mutes in a small, Georgia mill town. When his best friend George is taken to a mental institution, John becomes isolated. Until, that is, he begins to take his meals in a local cafe and establishes himself as the silent confidant for the various people who frequent it. A beautiful exploration of conversation, its difficulties and the often-mystical search for understanding. Isabel Allende in 1985.

5. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende Following the lives of three generations of the Trueba family, this novel is marked by the decision of matriarch Clara to fall silent for nine years after the death of her older sister. In place of speech, Clara turns to writing, art and her spiritual powers as an alternative means to connect with the world around her. This is suitably beguiling proof that shouting the loudest isn’t always the best way to be heard. 

6. The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil In this memoir, we follow Wamariya’s journey from the Rwandan massacre in 1994 through the six years she and her sister spent displaced in seven African countries until they are eventually granted refugee status in the US. As she reflects on her trauma, Wamariya struggles with the inability of language to do justice to her lived experience. It is impossible to forget the passage where she explores why “genocide” fails to capture the full scope of an atrocity: “You cannot bear witness with a single word.” 

7. Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson This little-known novel follows Miriam Henderson across 13 volumes (or “novel-chapters” as Richardson wanted them to be known), following her quotidian life as a young working woman in early 20th-century London. The text is characterised by a high quantity of ellipses (‘…’) as Richardson plays into a wider modernist fascination with absence and its representation. A long read, but one that more than rewards the effort and, in the process, sheds light on the silence that lies at the heart of consciousness. 

8. Atonement by Ian McEwan To keep shtum, or not to keep shtum – that’s one of the big questions in play in this Booker prize-shortlisted novel. From Paul and Lola’s silence over Robbie’s wrongful imprisonment to Briony’s attempt at repentance through voicing her version of the truth, it’s a story that shows just how compelling silence can be as a narrative device. 

9. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot At 30, Liptrot moves from London to Orkney, the site of her childhood, as she comes to terms with the alcoholism that characterised her 20s. In the dichotomy between city and island life, urban noise and wild silence, it’s a stunning meditation on the restorative power of nature and its power to heal. 

10. Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge As an adventurer, Kagge was the first person to complete the “three poles challenge”, reaching the north pole, south pole and the summit of Everest. Rest assured, he isn’t encouraging a trip to any/all of the three in a quest to find silence in the modern world. Rather, Kagge advocates finding pockets of quiet throughout everyday life – whether that’s on the walk to work, in the shower, or taking a moment of stillness over a sandwich during lunchbreak.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Postcards from the Pandemic.


Gavin and Trisha Balharrie discuss news on the coronavirus using sign language and the assistance of an on-screen Auslan translator onscreen.
From the absence of Auslan interpreters on TV to the struggle to adapt to life without face-to-face communication, the pandemic has posed unexpected challenges for the deaf community.


Gavin Balharrie, the president of Expression Australia, a deaf services provider. Being deaf during the coronavirus pandemic has brought a fresh set of challenges for him and his wife, Trisha, who is also deaf. He and his wife, Trish, who is also deaf, ‘are really looking forward to [coronavirus] being over’. 

Even before isolation, Gavin Balharrie was used to feeling isolated. It’s a side effect of being deaf in a hearing world. “In a way [the deaf community] has been preparing for this our whole lives,” he says. “There have always been barriers for us, so we are kind of used to it.” There were plenty of extra barriers for Balharrie as the Covid-19 pandemic hit Australia. 

The first hurdle was just getting information, as Auslan interpreters weren’t initially common at press conferences. 'A huge hit': Balharrie is the president of the deaf services provider Expression Australia, so professionally this worried him, but personally he also knew how dangerous it can be to be left in the dark. On 30 December last year, his family was in Mallacoota, in eastern Victoria, with a bushfire raging towards the town, and no idea if they should stay or leave. 

For hearing people, figuring out the seriousness of a situation is as easy as turning on the radio or TV, but Balharrie and his wife Trisha didn’t have that option. They are both deaf, and none of the local broadcasts had an Auslan interpreter. “There was information available in English, written out or in apps, but it’s hard to understand the gravitas. The emotions are removed from it,” he says. Gavin and Trisha Balharrie discuss news on the coronavirus using sign language and the assistance of an on-screen Auslan translator onscreen. 

Gavin and Trisha Balharrie watch the news using the assistance of an on-screen Auslan translator. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian Their 10-year-old daughter can hear, but they are careful never to place the burden of an interpreter on her. Coronavirus: the week explained - sign up for our email newsletter 

Balharrie recorded the local broadcast on his phone and managed to find a translator to send it to. When they got the video back 30 minutes later, they knew straight away they had to get out of there. “You could see the CFA [Country Fire Authority] walking around but, you know, it was still a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the kids were still playing. I don’t think we were quite cognisant of how serious the situation was until we got that information in Auslan.”

Monday, 18 May 2020

9m face masks


Staff in the ‘red zone’ of the ICU, where the most serious Covid-19 cases are treated
The see-through mask saga rambles on, with one leading UK deaf blog claiming 9m deaf are missing out because they cannot lip-read NHS staff.  



Whilst also claiming no signed access is there for BBC updates either.



Casting aside the fact 9m deaf do not exist in the UK let alone 9m of them capable of lip-reading, and BSL access has been there on the BBC since day one,  perhaps this clear explanation can help?

Masks have to meet strict medical UK PPE criteria for safety, no clear mask have been approved by the NHS, and few if any demands for them. 

COVID-19: Where to buy the materials to make masks at home
Certainly not home-made ones like the photo left that are a dangerous DIY joke, which doesn't even work unless double or triple-layered with appropriate material. It is far from simple to put a bit of clear plastic over the mouth and then complain about why others don't do that, it is because they aren't SAFE. 


NHS staff have to wear masks, goggles, and visors or you could get infected. They will be demanding goggles and visors make it hard next. Yes, they do but given the alternative.... COVID-19 is lethal. Unfortunately, face masks with clear windows tend to mist up when you breathe plus light and sun reflects so you can't see through them, even if viable, it's no help to a sign user.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Face masks and text Apps.

Google Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier to help deaf and hard ...Hard of hearing people and charities uniting with the deaf to complain about mask-wearing disadvantaging them, but not getting much sympathy with that.  

The AOHL charity asking users which app did they think is best? while deaf stating they want to lip-read via clear masks, despite them not being effective in stopping infection of Covid-19 or the majority of deaf not able to lip-read effectively if they did provide clear masks.


"I've 'Live Transcribe' best of the current bunch really but their detection of speech still gives errors and an accent is going to render it problematic.  You can use it with a remote microphone via Bluetooth, I find this is better than using the phone in-built microphone, as it means less interference from background noise.  Phones are concentrating on the camera at the expense of the audio it seems to me. 

Crystal clear videos and selfies but no idea what the people are saying, welcome to our world.  The problem as ever is the reluctance to develop a speech to text app as a NORM that works on ALL phones because of competition, but I would have thought the audio is universal to all anyway.   

AOHL should be putting the pressure on video app developers to ensure speech to text is a built-in norm.  

We've seen it easily done if you are a sign user so why are 10m people in this country just ignored?  

AOHL said it was going to campaign more, but it is following the BSL gravy train instead when up to recently less than 15% of their campaign-related to that area and they sold off deaf care and assistive technology sales as not worth it anymore. 

The reality is hard of hearing (Their core membership), haven't a campaign worth a s.h.i.t  lets face it, or support for one. 

The mask issues and lip-reading thing, does not address the chaos and ineffectiveness OF (UK) lip-reading approaches, or the ridiculous insistence it is for those with useful hearing only at classes, be they lip-reading or wanting BSL (Which only has hearing people attending because of a job possibility at the end of it).  Again 10m out in the cold because there is no effective communication system approach in the UK aimed AT those with hearing loss.  Lip-reading is a hobby class like flower arranging and with no end aim and no qualification either.  It's an amateur approach to an area that needs professionalism and clinical integration.

Can you effectively teach the Hard of Hearing?  It's a problem with such wide-ranging age groups and abilities, as well as loss degree, it would demand a specialisation to teach, that doesn't exist at present, and unviable in a 'class' scenario, a lot need one-on-one help.  Currently, if you need serious help they dump you on the welfare state who refer you back to where you started because there isn't anything they can do.  If the current system doesn't work there is no point referring you anywhere else.

A few well-placed boots in the rear need to be applied to both signing and lip-reading areas.  It's a job-creating scheme to keep charities going as it stands and isn't helping US.  More 'reliance', more 'support', more 'help', and awareness is the biggest joke being played out on us all.  

The virus has shown us all where the loopholes are, please, start acting on those not criticising the NHS risking own lives to save us.

I'm bloody ashamed to be deaf currently and do not support this campaign of demands for deliberate exposure to Covid-19 to score brownie points for systems that are clearly ineffective as they stand anyway.  Are these people not aware there is a virus about?"