Saturday, 27 February 2021

I'm scared my signing is going...

A result of putting all eggs in one basket? A valid reason why ALL deaf need alternative options to sign reliance, and not least because she was struggling to find a sign to use, maybe this down to the single-handed finger/hand selling approach ASL users have.  It's very adept and clever but as highlighted a bit of carpal tunnel or arthritis, even RSI, you're screwed.

Welsh BSL Bill Open letter.

ATR (who didn't endorse a welsh BSL Bill proposal as it stands because it lacked inclusion), and challenged the proposer, gets responses.  (I hope allows this, as they have already blocked two attempts.)

What ATR wrote to the proposer:  

Hi Mark

I appreciate you gave me a hearing (So to speak!), but it is all academic anyway giving an election is looming.  Sadly pandering to lost causes may not be a reason to get our vote.  I've been deaf longer than many of these people have been alive, nobody is an expert except on their own issue.  

There is so much ignorance of deaf issues and hearing loss awareness, not least from charity, it serves no point to be proposing a piecemeal approach to child access or inclusion and, BSL users DON'T want including. The BSL Bill does not actually mention that, it is about sign language 'rights', based on a preference, not an identified need, and takes nil account of a deaf children's prospects as an adult, which means BSL isn't accessed without a 3rd party.  BSL just means more of the same reliances and state dependences etc and you and 47 others endorse that.  A price deaf children will have to pay not you.

Best Wishes

#1  There are some laws protecting the rights of groups, eg pregnant women, race, etc. This bill is so important for Deaf people whose first/preferred language is BSL. The ripple effect WILL help other deaf people who don't use BSL.  Be supportive to others, thank you.

#2  Here lies the issue, to include or not others. 'First'?  or 'Preferred'? they are not the same thing.  It is far simpler and more effective if (when BSL people run a campaign), they work with us all, not least because the more of us, the more they have to listen. If we don't speak for ourselves and allow others to do it, they will just ask for what they want. Do I support 300,000 hard of hearing here? or 1500 deaf? 60% who only use BSL part-time?  Why must I choose who gets equality and parity? 

The basis of the bill is aimed at the deaf child, this is the pat and stat approach of BSL activism to undermine objection by you having to challenge the deaf child, and their support areas, it's grossly unfair but very effective.  Deaf adults rarely front up themselves or if they do, do that from 'cover' of their community, so again challenge one, challenge all.  It is why hardly any HoH do but pay lip-service to it.

The bill as it stands if passed (It won't because its election time anyway), can be used for deaf adults too. We need to approach access collectively not piecemeal because this creates holes we can all fall through.   Not least the deaf who don't choose to use BSL. At the root of the BSL Bill is no mention of their own inclusion, only their sign rights. That must concern the deaf who are campaigning for it? Please don't assume my concern is negative or an attack, that is a Deaf smokescreen, to fend off debate.   They fear any debate on inclusion.  At some point, they have to emerge from their area to get political support and currently that is the sole way we have of raising issues or engaging with them. Debate is healthy, democratic, and a consensus is the right thing to do, singular approaches aren't. Let's move forward together.

#3  I have been partially deaf since the age of three. I have never used sign language; I feel that rather than SL being pushed as an "alternative" language , a better option would be to concentrate on the use of technology and devices such as Google Live Transcribe to generate subtitles to enable all parties to access the content. I remember going to groups listed as "hard of hearing" years ago and finding they had been taken over by deaf people using sign language. I felt excluded. As a hearing person, I met then said to me "You're not like them  you're too deaf for the hearing world and not deaf enough for the deaf world...."

#4  Well the 'Deaf' versus everyone else has long been the approach of some. You sign, or sit in some corner etc of course excluding signers from HoH clubs leaves you open to discrimination but they can exclude you by the simple act of only using BSL. 9 times out of 10 you just have to leave or adopt the sign yourself.  It isn't equality in action is it? Who is making effort? it isn't them is it?

#5  If it isn't CI's hearing aids or oral approaches it is hearing who they blame, I tend to marginalise such areas and people as irrelevant and divisive. There is no place for it, or them. I've been deaf longer than these activists have been alive there is little they can tell me about it.  Or about sign effectiveness.  A preference isn't a need but this escapes most, we might all 'prefer' to be/do something else but ability and realism determine. We use whatever because we know being dogmatic only makes it worse, I don't want to be a martyr for its own sake. 

#6  I think they are on a high a present and don't feel any need to include others. You are either an idealist or an abuser of deaf rights via challenge you cannot win.  I  can only applaud those trying.

#7  Yes it is a brave person these days who challenges a minority for sure, but, when its decisions affect others I don't think you have a choice. They are so protective and touchy and others leap to their defence without though sadly. Victims they aren't.  I should have half what they have already.  

Note: Comments are gathered from more than one social media UK site.  The idea to get wider views on this issue than just the BSL one.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

BSL Bill Wales (a clarification).

ATR responds to recent claims on a Limping Chicken site with a headline 'Deaf News: British Sign Language Bill proposal passes in Welsh Parliament.'  It isn't a parliament it is a Senedd and the poster is English.  The headline did not reflect what happened or, the nature of it.  

Mark Isherwood states: Today’s vote was on my Member's Legislative Proposal to ‘Note a proposal for a Bill’.

A note on a note effectively.  ATR is welsh. A BSL Bill has NOT Happened, has NOT been approved, the Senedd in Wales has accepted a Senedd Member 'proposal' nothing more.  No vote has been taken on a BSL Bill.  Mr Isherwood who offered up the request, has since posted to ATR saying no BSL Bill will be enacted without a much wider consultation of all with hearing loss in Wales, it won't rely only on deaf charities or the deaf clubs e.g.  Primarily on the ground, less than 5% of deaf were consulted themselves.

ATR voiced concern at 'back door' campaigns by some deaf activists to circumvent proper consultation by suggesting some representation that didn't have validity.  None of them had devolved either.  ATR also decries charities for not explaining need, background, awareness or support or the fact they had no valid numerical membership to suggest their representation.  Nothing for us without us.   English BDA areas were interfering in campaigns here by remote, and Newcastle was one area identified.  

Currently, ATR in Wales is NOT supporting a BSL Bill on the grounds it is exclusively based and not inclusive of other deaf or those with hearing loss in Wales.  You cannot allow a few dozen BSL signers to control the access of 300,000 others.  Their 'all deaf sign' campaigns have already created many support issues.

An endorsement would mean prioritising one hearing loss sector against another, a violation of access and inclusion as well as equality law.  There were some statements sent in response to ATR by Mark Isherwood on charitable support and claims that hadn't been substantiated, including one from the RNID and another from the NDCS (Who has yet to endorse a BSL Bill in England and did not back a BSL curriculum request because it suggested parents could be overruled by people unconnected to the state or their children), the elusive deaf activists.

Scotland and N Ireland may well be happy having a token acceptance/talk shop there,  but in Wales (and we hope England), inclusion is the main point of equality and an access Bill, not minority 'preference' and 'choice' that aren't based on primary need.  A silent majority is NOT a silent assent, as BSL activism is going to find out, Welsh and English hard of hearing are incensed these bills exclude or ignore their access and support needs.  The current adverts and mantras say 'we are all in this together' clearly BSL users aren't subscribing to that.

Piecemeal access for the loudest voice is undemocratic and undermines rights for others. The Welsh Senedd runs the risk of violating equality laws by endorsing a BSL Bill as it stands.  We have to put this 'culture' clout in its proper perspective.  Considering deaf activism campaigns go against Welsh and English why endorse that?  If it is illegal for hearing then it is illegal for the deaf too.  You cannot have equality for some and not others or determine who is deaf or Deaf or isn't, via what means they use to communicate, db loss they have, social life they lead, or school they went to, be it via BSL or any other means.  especially and given wales hasn't a deaf school.

We oppose any privileges. Deaf activism needs to look up what inclusion means, they appear to have no grasp of it at present or prefer to ignore it for their own version.  Too many areas are exploiting the pandemic to sneak through legislation that damages and discriminates against others.  It has to stop.

Zoom to offer free captions.


[Facetime/skype et al take note!].

As part of our commitment to connecting users across the world, we are focused on continually enhancing our features to provide a platform that is accessible to all of the diverse communities we serve. Among the Zoom Meetings accessibility features we offer to all users are manual closed captioning, keyboard accessibility, pinning or spotlighting interpreter video, screen reader support, and a range of accessibility settings. Now we are excited to announce that we are looking to take our efforts a step further and are working towards making automatic closed captioning available to all of our users in the fall of 2021. 

To help free account holders who require Live Transcription, starting today and up until the feature’s broader release, we will also be offering automatic closed captioning to meeting hosts who need accommodation upon request. To sign up, please enter your information in this form. You will receive a confirmation email with more details. Since we expect a high volume of requests, we appreciate your patience as we work to make automatic closed captioning available for all of our users.


Wednesday, 24 February 2021

BSL DIY Online why ?

Is learning culture a necessity?  sign we can understand to a point [combined with a realistic and definite design to be English literate as well], but culture is not essential, as communication comes first.  Deaf people know knowledge of the 1880s and 50 shades of Audism is not going to get them a job or access to the mainstream. 

BSL isn't awareness of hearing loss which is a huge issue via sign language and cultural promotions in that they are mutually exclusive of other deaf people, the hard of hearing, and hearing, so not inclusive of all an official and accepted challenge to inclusion and access by cultural default.  This also is NOT what we are about you don't get equality by distancing yourself from others or developing rules that exclude other people and how they communicate.  The culture was never intended to do that i.e. unless it has developed into some sect or other.

Which nobody supports.  Should hearing loss awareness have an equal priority to sign language?  The odd few signers may well feel it is some birthright and throw social modelling at you or something but most don't.   Culture is not about the majority either, I don't think the ABC lessons online do anything frankly, everyone and their pet dog are online doing their version, when they run out of letters that's it.

I think culture misrepresents access and deaf people personally, and because it is a specialised area that functions via reliance and preaches dependence on others as some accepted (and acceptable), 'norm', which isn't a great Deaf image or true let's face it, I would be interested to know if anything really comes from these 'classes' via inclusion, and who teaches the deaf?  Many of whom don't have any BSL accreditation level themselves, are they assuming 'I am deaf so that is qualification enough?'  I trust not.   They won't become deaf teachers on that basis.  Educational references say this will limit the deaf advance for a lifetime. 

If you are a poor signer then your culture will reflect that.  We see a lot of pressures for hearing to get accreditation and learn sign, whilst the deaf are static and stop post-education by all accounts, an issue that doesn't happen with hearing people, if they remain static and don't keep updating their communication and other skills, they know what the result will be, they learn and re-learn new skills or else they don't work etc. 

If I see yet another deaf 'mentor' it will be too soon for me, they wouldn't manage in the mainstream, so they cannot lead by example and their support is 'culture' not need-based. Anyone who can sign can do that they don't need to be a peer first.  I know the adage blind leading the blind, but deaf too?  Far better hearing did it.  Is acquiring a basic  BSL ABC just a pathway for learners to get work as deaf support?  If so, that is not what deaf want but for hearing to include them as individuals, not carers.    
Obviously, sign use cannot be maximised while deaf remain apart from the main event, and using culture as an 'excuse' to avoid that, is a pretty good way of ensuring deaf never manage it.  Others must adapt but not the deaf? Sorry, inclusion does not work that way.   You are in or you are out, a halfway house is not a lot of use to anyone.

From what we read online too many potential sign learners are seeing it as a novelty and not, as a vital hearing-deaf and bilingual communication aid and tool since they never meet those who take it up, and BSL alone will only be understood BY a minority of deaf, the hype suggesting 'all deaf sign' is an own goal, because it is simply untrue.  Learners find this out to their cost and then will assume why did I bother to learn it? Deaf aren't all the same.  And they cannot tell one deaf person from another or what modes work for them, because hearing loss was never part of the cultural deal, nor what other means deaf use to follow either. 

The aim presumably is to empower deaf to sell themselves and get work that way, again hearing beat them to it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Living with profound loss.

Living with profound hearing loss from SimpleUsability on Vimeo.

Could the real answer just be awareness doesn't work? Another post that highlights sign language promotion is causing awareness distortion and disinformation whilst creating very real issues of access and inclusion for other deaf people too, by refusing to clarify need or identify deaf people.  Requests to remove face masks are actually illegal on health grounds, it isn't a deliberate attempt to discriminate against deaf people but to protect them from infection.  

Hearing have rights too, we cannot demand their mask removal they have a right to refuse.  It would save time and angst if the deaf took a spare clear mask with them, obviously, this is an issue currently because only 2 manufacturers make a clear mask that meets medical criteria, but they are available, obviously commercial clear masks are NOT acceptable as they don't meet strict criteria.  Idiots who just annoy are par for the course, find one with a brain.  Planning ahead saves a lot of time if you leave the home hoping others will be aware and comply that is a basic error, always assume, they WON'T!

A conversation with Asha Hylton. Paediatric ICU Nurse and Deaf Advocate.


How has this condition changed - for better or worse - since the start of the pandemic? 

I rely on lipreading so the face masks cover the whole of the faces, so I can’t see the facial expressions, I can’t see their lip pattern. And even if you do explain it to people they are not patient with you they just get really agitated with you, and get quite annoyed.

Why do you think accessibility is not where it should be and what’s missing from the conversation?  

With deafness, a lot of people assume that deaf people have the same needs. They think oh you’re deaf so we’ll just provide a BSL interpreter, that’s it. That’s not the case. Every deaf person has their own individual needs, which could be like lipreading, interpreters, notetakers, or, lip speaker.

We are all so unique. No deaf person is the same. So I think that’s what people are not aware about. What do you think can, and will improve the accessibility of products and services online? Just having all the access that are readily available. Where do you think the UK should make improvements first?

When I get the train or the tube. Like, I hate getting the train or the public transport because, sometimes there’s delays, cancellations And I see like a group of people running somewhere and I’m like “Where am I going?” Because they’ve made the announcement that there’s a platform change or the trains are being split up.

When would you say the world is accessible? Probably when people are listening, but do people listen? Not all the time.

Google AI reads sign language too.


Google states that its new project allows smartphones to interpret and “read aloud” sign language. There’s no app, but there are algorithms developers can use to make their own apps.

Until now, this type of software has only worked on PCs, so it’s a huge and important step. The hearing-impaired community appreciated the project, but also noted that the tech might have problems fully translating some conversations.  In an AI blog, Google research engineers Valentin Bazarevsky and Fan Zhang state that the project will be “the basis for sign language understanding”. It was developed in partnership with image software company MediaPipe.

“We’re excited to see what people come up with. For our part, we will continue our research to make the technology more robust and to stabilize tracking, increasing the number of gestures we can reliably detect,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.  This is only the first step as the approach now misses any facial expressions or speed of signing and these, changing the meaning of what is being discussed.

You can learn more here.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Why, Do People Assume Everyone With Hearing Loss Can Sign?

We would love for you to make videos to reach a hearing loss audience, the media rep suggested. “Sure, that sounds good,” I replied, “assuming the videos would be captioned, of course.” “But wouldn’t you just sign in them?” she asked with some confusion. I stopped dead in my tracks in surprise. “Most people with hearing loss, myself included, don’t know sign language,” I explained, “particularly if we acquired our hearing issues later in life.” “I didn’t know that,” she said.

This was an intelligent, educated person working in media for a patient advocacy company. If she doesn’t know this basic fact about people with hearing loss, imagine the ignorance of the general public.

Sign language is a beautiful language that works well for people in the Deaf community, but as someone who developed hearing loss later in life, it is not a workable option for me, unless I wanted to change almost everything about my life. I prefer to augment my residual hearing with technology to remain firmly in the hearing world.

Even so, I have always been curious about sign language — ever since learning how to finger spell in grade school, well before my hearing issues began. A hearing loss friend and I took several sign language lessons a few years ago. It was fun, but also challenging.

American Sign Language (ASL) does not mirror spoken English in sentence construction which made it hard for us to translate our thoughts into this new visual way of communicating. Between lessons, we also lost a lot of what we had learned since we didn’t have any consistent practice partners. Eventually, we stopped the sessions.

At first, I shrugged off my experience with the media rep with a roll of my eyes and a chuckle, similar to the times when people have told me that I don’t look deaf, but upon further reflection, this mistake seemed different. The misperception that people with hearing loss generally know sign language could have serious ramifications for accessibility.

According to Wikipedia, there are 250,000 – 500,000 people using ASL today in the United States, including a number of children of deaf adults. This represents about 1% of the estimated 48 million people in the United States with hearing loss, meaning sign language is not the norm for the vast majority of people who have trouble hearing.

Much education about how to make things more accessible for people with hearing loss is needed. Sometimes, when people with hearing loss ask for accommodation at a hospital or museum, they are told that the only available option is a sign language interpreter. This should not be the case.

As people with hearing loss outside of the Deaf community, we must continue to raise awareness with legislators, leaders at cultural institutions, medical facilities, and schools as well as with the general public about the accessibility options that work best for us. 

ATR:   This is mirrored in the UK too, support for non-signing deaf and hard of hearing suffers considerably because no national set up exists except for sign users.  So we all get 'you are deaf, so you must need sign langauge.'   To be fair (and avoid pointless feedback and discrimination claims from the sign user), the issue is pretty basic, non-signers do not make demands of their need, at least they don't here in the UK 10m are more mute than any deaf are.  

If they speak out they can get attacked for it, called whiners even with 'why not my access too?', and the root is the state inclusion process's or what passes for inclusion.  It is defined as equal access but operates unequally because non-signers avoid confrontation and fear discrimination and anti-cultural claims going at them.  They need to challenge the perceptions of BSL and who uses it, and the relentless labelling of people by those with a vested/financial interest in creating demand that isn't there.

There is a very adept cultural promotion and sign area worldwide that is very effective in misleading everyone about hearing loss awareness and need.  ALL DEAF SIGN. Of course, they don't, they are a small minority made to look bigger via exceptional hype aidied by sign language saleability.  Deaf lost control of sign to hearing years ago.  

Deaf culture has altered inclusion definitions to suit their own way of doing things, and the state has accepted it without ensuring access is applied equally to all, because they are hit by anti-culture/human right claims too.  E.G. if sign interpreters are a right then access MUST also include means others use as well, no prioritising. But, support and charity are already polarised and that in essence IS discrimination by any other name.  Culture is the brick wall we all hit if we complain.

It can be solved very easily by 10m HoH saying enough is enough, using the same approaches the BSL/ASL deaf use in demanding rights and equality, that can force the state and systems to be truly inclusive it would help offset the equality abuses currently being accepted as a right by intimidation.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

The Gift of Hearing


A brave Maltese woman who was born with a heart condition and is now living her life as a bilateral cochlear implant (CI) user has opened up to raise awareness about the challenges and experiences that came along with it.

Around 23 years ago, Luisa Fenech was born with a hole in her heart and given medication to treat her condition. She was then told that it was safe for her to go home. However, nine months later, her parents realised that Luisa wasn’t reacting to any noise, even to loud noises such as the sound of pots and pans being banged in her face.

Her parents immediately took Luisa to a doctor for a check-up and they found out that she had gone profoundly deaf.

Speaking with The Malta Independent on Sunday, Luisa explained how medical experts who treated her came to believe that her hearing impairment was a result of the medication she was given to treat her heart condition.  

“Following this diagnosis in 1999, I had the option of being fitted with a cochlear implant in my right ear, however the operation was not available in Malta. For this reason, my parents took me to do the operation in Manchester when I was just two and a half years old. The speech therapy sessions following the operation were also done in Manchester, thus together with my parents and sister we had to fly to the UK frequently,” she said.

In simple terms, a cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. An implant is different from a hearing aid as it needs to be surgically fitted and placed under the skin. 

Fast forward 12 years living with one CI, at 14 years of age, Luisa went through another operation as she was fitted with her second CI in her left ear. This time, both the surgery and speech therapy sessions were done locally.

A second implant

Being fitted with a second CI in her left ear was very unexpected and it was only done because Luisa wanted to. At 14 years of age, Luisa saw that the first cochlear implant operation was going to be done in Malta so she wanted to do her second one, and went under the knife in May 2012.

“Doctors and family members were all very hesitant and apprehensive to allow me to go through yet another major surgery as it had its risks. I understand that at 14 you might not really comprehend or realise how difficult something can be. Thankfully, I had a lot of support and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she said.