Saturday, 9 January 2021

Happy birthday CEEFAX!


Lots of older deaf people in the UK will remember when CEEFAX was launched on this day 1978 and how it influenced awareness and access for 1,000s of isolated deaf people, (who recently opposed the removal of its text services on the BBC).  Here, we see someone who has actually established a similar version.

A software engineer has recruited a team of dedicated volunteers to create and maintain a retro version of the classic teletext information service Ceefax. Peter Kwan has spent years perfecting his own system, which he has called Teefax, after Ceefax was shut down in 2012 after nearly four decades of service. Available to anyone with an internet connection, Teefax is formatted in the same style of the old teletext system and sources its news directly from the BBC. The service has pages of classic Ceefax-like content as well as an archive of old teletext pages. It also features pages displaying Tweets among its pages of up-to-date news.

Teefax can be viewed through online servers but with a Raspberry Pi – a small, credit-card sized computer device that costs around £25 – the service can be connected to and viewed through a TV. Mr Kwan, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, said users find his Teefax system “nostalgic”. “It’s got all the original stuff like horoscopes, weather pages, travel,” the 63-year-old said. “People can mostly find whatever their favourite page was on Ceefax. Usually they’ll have the page number still memorised.

“We’ve got a couple of quizzes and games, too, although at the moment they don’t get updated very often, so people might have to wait a while for new ones to come up.” Mr Kwan has now been running Teefax for about five years – and has dozens of contributors working on it from around the country. “We don’t make any money from this – it is all run by enthusiasts. It’s not something we take too seriously,” he said.

“There are about a dozen contributors around the country, who all concentrate on their own bits. “We have a chap in Ireland who provides regional news and weather, and we have people who do art. “We also have quite a few gamers from Digitiser magazine who contribute – the magazine has a fanatical following and was quite closely related to Ceefax, so this is good for us. “We have a solid fan base, that’s for sure. Lots of people do like to see that the medium has come back.”

Mr Kwan admitted that although the news and information for Teefax comes “straight from the BBC”, he has never requested any licencing rights. Peter Kwan has created his own version of the teletext system Ceefax with all the same favourite pages as the origina Peter Kwan has created his own version of the teletext system Ceefax with all the same favourite pages as the original (Tom Wren / SWNS) “I think they [the BBC] probably know about what we’re doing, but we haven’t had a cease and desist”, he said.

“I think the BBC does allow their news to be used in this way, as long as we’re not making a profit from it, or trying to claim it as our own.” Despite all his work, Mr Kwan doesn’t actually know how many people use the service. “As for audience, I have no idea because the logging is turned off to stop wear and tear of the server,” he said.

“If it breaks I quickly get complaints, so I know that people are using it, but that’s all I know about the usage.”



Cultural awareness a myth?

 We note there are still certain deaf areas insisting deafness and sign language solely belongs to them, only deaf people can sign and only certain deaf are actually that.  When the world was young, the born deaf or those with nil useful hearing ended up in an institution or deaf school apart from everyone else, which allowed a culture of sorts to be honed in isolation, this hasn't been the basis or norm of deaf people for the last 30 years in reality, and what constitutes the 'validity' of having a separate culture today is becoming quite loosely based as the criteria and situations no longer apply as they did.

Obviously, those who insist they are still a la as they used to be in those times even today, have seized upon the film and acting professions as a 'target' because hearing actors are being used to portray deaf people and not deaf actors playing themselves.  I am deaf I can sign why shouldn't I play the role about the culture? I don't belong to it, but it just requires someone deaf who can sign to plug the image let's face it.  However, I risk the wrath of them all by speaking and lip-reading too, or even having a CI or something.

It is such critics who defeat their own inclusion. The crux of the issue is HOW deaf people come across as actors in whatever role they are playing.  They tend to not stick to the script which may or may NOT be about deaf culture.  Then we can see the relentless drive by them to 'lecture' the audience and anyone else within range on how they must adopt the position with deaf people. (Deaf do this, deaf do that etc.).  Which may have no place either within the role or the script.  Everyone is an advocate. It's not exactly clear WHAT they are advocating but....

It is misleading to suggest the 'Deaf' lifestyle and perceived culture is one that is a norm for deaf people because we know it isn't.  While activism can lobby at the hearing to promote their lifestyles their way, they are getting opposition FROM deaf who don't actually share their view.  The idea sign belongs TO deaf people is wrong also, hearing made it a means to communicate more effectively or it would have remained mime.  Hearing created their basic ABC.

Culture identities are pretty easy to acquire, the actual criteria simply state 'Any two people or group living and acting in the same way..' can call itself a culture.  The Hard of Hearing could do the same tomorrow, and it is a conundrum as to why they haven't utilised the cultural gig because the kudos would have given them far more support and profile than they are getting now.  

At the base of all these rows is a stark reality, deaf actors cannot portray hearing ones.  That is because they cannot hear and there is no way around that.  However certain deaf areas that DON'T use sign and e.g. lip-read, can do a passable imitation (And risk getting attacked for it as not being really deaf). Which they are, and the reality is a lot of deaf do not have a cultural want.    More inclusion by default means deaf have to adapt to new realities, like using alternatives to sign basically if they are able.  Bi-linguality has to be real.

It would seem the fact those deaf actors who are reliant on sign language, is at the root as to why it is difficult for TV and filmmakers to include them without it drawing attention away from the story or other actors.  Not everyone wants to risk including a deaf signer bent on telling others what they have to do to accommodate them all the time, that is for deaf awareness gigs.  We know children of a lesser god was mooted as a major breakthrough, but it was done toning down cultural aspects (There were no deaf peers etc), and the deaf actor was able to bridge communication issues which a lot of current-day actors do not seem to want to do, but to stay 'true' to what they believe deaf people are, but they remain a minority, albeit able to punch well above their weight, there is no getting around their stance presents issues for deaf actors who mostly, tend to be involved in deaf output, a minority form of the arts and aligned primarily with disability output.

The more they do this the less they are able to, or want to adapt, little wonder then those that make films or shows employ those who present less aggravation or confrontation to them and prepared to step outside their own perception.  Playing yourself is stereotyping let's face it.  Deaf culture cannot exist apart and be included as well,  inclusion demands compromise they do not appear to want to do.  Nobody deaf or hearing wants tokenism either that would kill off cultural awareness, demean the point.  The facts remain deaf actors lack a lot of basic skills too and awareness of 'hearing' things is alien to some of them so they encounter issues relating to roles and revert to typecasting.  

At the end of a very long day, acting is about pretending you are someone else, and the Deaf are struggling to do that.  The intro photo needs an explanation?  or maybe it doesn't....

Friday, 8 January 2021

Selective Listening.

No, not 'hears when he wants to..' but asking why recorded sound or live sound output via listening equipment like TVs, radios, etc don't have a more selective sound 'edit' option as a norm?

There has been a growing interest in addressing sound output on TV's.  Because of the variances in what we can hear and follow via sound, it is suggested we lobby TV manufacturers to install as a norm, sound channel/split edit options, so we can listen to them editing out those sounds that don't help us listen, and to remove background sounds that make listening difficult. Regardless of how effective some hearing aids or CI's are, quite often we still struggle to follow, enhanced/louder volume is not the way we want it, or even clearly hearing background noises, but choice, in what sounds we are hearing.  

Being very simplistic (Sorry), a TV show may be a singer doing a song and dance in from of a crowd of people, we will notice every area on that show will have a microphone attached to it, what we 'hear' as output is the final mix.  What we could benefit from is us doing that 'mix' ourselves via an option on our output equipment, the technology is actually quite basic re the recording.  Certain frequencies are not possible to hear for some of us and so clearing away surplus sounds that don't help us follow would be more useful.

I used to have an old vinyl record player (!) whereby I could switch stereo channels on and off, which meant I could listen to the music, or, the singer using it because that is the way they record things, different channels for different instruments and singers etc.  Personally, I preferred the music to the singer but... 

Karaoke was developed that way originally where they sold the music channels off so wannabee singers could have professional backing to their efforts. You can buy such recordings today easily.  The old player allowed me to select which I wanted to listen to, surely in the 21stc this should be a doddle to include on TV and film equipment now despite 100s of sound edited options they use to record? I  am unsure if that was via the vinyl makeup itself or the channel split option in my player?   

We don't really understand sound, only what we can hear or can't.  E.G.  I could do without traffic noises in the background or loud music. If such editing equipment was pre-installed in TV manufacture then the cost of so doing would make it worthwhile?

Sound options you can currently use. NOTE: These don't contain sound channel split options, but options to raise/mute or lower some of them.  Those with hearing loss need a more comprehensive option as frequency and hearing loss loss varies so much.



Thursday, 7 January 2021

Democracy has failed...

The US Congress certified Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election, hours after Trump supporters stormed the building in an attack that saw four people die.  Lawmakers resumed the session after police managed to remove the mob, which had been encouraged by President Trump in a bid to overturn his defeat.


Sad that across the pond in the USA, democracy has resulted in the complete opposite to what it was intended for.  The USA which was envied for many years as a bastion of freedom and freedom of speech (But not now),  has enabled the rabble-rouser, the extremist, and just about anyone with a petty grudge or gripe, or who is different (Which means the entire population really). America has failed to understand human nature and their own people, in that in attempting to enable and equalise everyone the sole result is anarchy and a free for all, and a right to shoot at those who disagree with you, even plant a few pipe-bombs at their seat of government.  

There are leaders, and the led and any attempt to address that is against what the USA stands for where anyone can be or do anything.   America now needs to change the way it approaches democracy or descend into absolute minority rule.  Yesterday's events did more for countries like China, Korea and Russia who could not have hoped for a better reason to state, 'this is what you get for being democratic..' Incompetents rule and extremists support them.  They, of course, would have shot the lot or sent them away somewhere for the rest of their unnatural.

Obviously who the Americans choose to lead them is down to how they vote (Which doesn't seem to be all that straightforward).  But there does seem a total lack of political awareness in the USA whom the Brits assume politicians only get to be elected via how much is in their bank balance and not by any suitability for the job, it costs billions of dollars not votes to get to the white house.  As a result, they got Trump. The wild West came to town.  They need to dump the gun culture and start educating their populace, greed isn't good.

The future of hearing healthcare..


How do you see the future of hearing health care? This is a difficult question, but one that Ida Institute is tackling in its Future Hearing Journeys project. In December, Ida organized two online innovation workshops with stakeholders from around the world to examine the trends that will affect hearing health care. I was pleased to participate and represent the consumer point of view. The project’s goal is to help people with hearing loss and hearing care providers better navigate this changing landscape. Read more about the workshop here.

ATR COMMENT:  Research needs investment badly, there is a growing 'acceptance' of deafness that while helping hearing loss sufferers, is making issues for progress towards its alleviation or eventual cure. 

By all means, support those now, but the bottom line has to be aimed at eradicating deafness and hearing loss as much as possible, and I don't see charities doing this, (except the RNID who heavily invested in research), but they are struggling now and reverting to supporting deaf-only approaches again, whilst other deaf charities have simply refused to back research at all, and objected or opposed it.  It started with CI's but extended to objections to oral support, lip-reading, hearing aids, basic English access and divisions by decibel, attacks on hearing parents of deaf children,  and biased communication and supportive approaches.

Minority rule is overruling majority need. The drive for rights and support is clouding that bottom line, research has to have an equal priority. I'd also like to see the haphazard class approach of BSL and Lip-reading scrapped altogether to remove any 'and/or' type of choice, to be replaced by a new/free system that includes total communication. 10m sufferers want out and I don't see any determined drive to make it happen.  Back to basics, NOT, back to same old.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Half of deaf children get no support.

To be scrupulously fair hearing children are suffering too, covid isn't just affecting those who can hear. 

One in two deaf children in England are not getting necessary specialist teaching support since returning to school in September, The Independent can reveal, amid warnings that pupils with hearing loss are at risk of falling behind.

Before the pandemic, about two-thirds (67 per cent) of deaf children usually had visits from a teacher of the deaf (ToD), but only half of these pupils (51 per cent) are currently receiving the support they need during the pandemic’s second wave, according to a national poll of parents by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

Since going into year 2, six-year-old Liam has been asking his mother, Brodie Kingston, when his teacher will be coming in to see him. She’s had to explain that she won’t be able to come to his school – an academy in Stoke-on-Trent where he’s the only deaf child – because of the pandemic; the school told her they were informed that social distancing rules meant she would not be able to visit.

The visits have been stopped across the country for a range of reasons, according to the NDCS, who clarified that they did not have data on how many schools versus local authorities were making the decision. The charity said that several local authorities have said the decision lies with individual schools, while some schools will only allow the teacher to come if it is the only school they’re visiting that day. Additionally, some specialist teachers have not been able to make appointments because they have been self-isolating.



Deaf education is such an issue, the trade-off in specialist support versus empowerment/inclusion for a child to access and manage mainstream has no balance and no targeted education to ensure it either. Sign language is an eternal barrier regardless if best suited to the child or not, simply because the rest of the world is hearing and doesn't work that way. 

Inclusion is tokenistic and once you insert an interpreter that is yet another barrier to overcome. That is without the various factions who are anti-sign or pro-culture vying for priority. Specialisation in itself is isolating there is no way around that, you develop in a closed-off and supported world unrelated to the mainstream etc and when you leave that set up as a late teen or adult there are few places to go then when such help vanishes as it usually does. I am not for specialisation except for those who would never manage mainstream anyway. educationalists suggest less than 9% of deaf children need that specialisation, but the rest need that support in the mainstream to develop and aren't getting it. If you keep kids apart then they adopt the position. 

Sign language wrapped up in a neat cultural package has advocates who want further isolating approaches where basic English grammar is NOT to be used, speech use is deterred and sign prominent at all times, and only parental choice actually prevents that happening at present. I suppose those issues will be eternal until some sort of mass 'cure' for deafness presents itself. 

Curiously what drives all these issues is the fact BSL is a saleable commodity, had it not been for that deaf education may have developed a lot further and inclusive in enabling the deaf child, and hearing loss identified properly and addressed accordingly, now everyone wants to 'cash in' on BSL and the gig of culture. This drives opposition to real inclusion in the long run by suggestings reliance is good/a right etc and independence not so good because it is 'hell out there for deaf people' as hearing have it in for them.  Of course, real inclusion means fewer jobs for the BSL boys and gals too and fewer charities existing to waste money on their behalf..