This week, 6-12th May we are celebrating Deaf Awareness Week
There’s so many incredible things going on this week, from UK Council on Deafness’ theme of ‘Celebrating Deaf Role Models’ to Action on Hearing Loss’ ‘#DontBeADonut Be Deaf Aware’ campaign and people sharing their stories on social media. But why do we celebrate Deaf Awareness Week?
One of the biggest disabilities
Deafness is one of the biggest disabilities, but it’s an invisible one. It doesn’t just affect the deaf/hard of hearing person, it has an impact on hearing communities as well, because communication is the biggest obstacle that deaf people face. Communication is a two-way process, and with a little deaf awareness and understanding, these barriers can be broken down.
Why the importance of deaf awareness week?
Daily, there are still stories of inequality, lack of accessibility and frustration from deaf people; unhappy and angry sometimes that others just don’t understand. We aren’t asking for a lot. We don’t expect the hearing world to make huge adaptions, all we ask for is a little consideration. Is that too much to ask?
The disability itself can cause feelings of isolation from the hearing world, we can often feel like we exist in our own little bubble, excluded from the rest of society, the world going about their noisy, complicated business with little clue as to the daily struggles which deaf people face constantly.
Having the condition is one thing, trying to live in a hearing world is another, but it’s part and parcel of the condition. For those with a disability, many learn to come to terms with it, many accept their lot and try to make the best of it to overcome it and the difficulties. What we often struggle with is the intolerance, impatience and discrimination which is still widespread today.
Deafness… simple or complex?
In my experience, many people just don’t get deafness and hearing loss. To that, I’d say, but it’s so simple, we cannot hear to different degrees, so we require a little consideration and adaptions when communicating, but usually if you ask the person with a hearing loss how they would like to communicate and be prepared to make some allowances, communication can usually work to some extent.
I always say that ‘communication is at least a two way process, so the emphasis shouldn’t just be on the person with a hearing loss to put the effort in.’
There is a BIG misconception that if the volume is turned up or increased on sounds or speech, that it will all fall into place and everything will be tickety-boo and when that doesn’t happen, people often become impatient or give up.
Deaf people shouldn’t be viewed as difficult or confrontational, all we ask for is a little help. We don’t mean to moan, but little seems to be improving.
No-one objects to a wheelchair ramp, or disabled toilets, people understand the need for disabled parking bays or wider doorways, but many haven’t read the memo about the need to speak clearly, the importance of facing a deaf person, providing accessible contact methods, or providing subtitles so the person with a hearing loss can actually access the video, DVD, film or TV programme!
We all have a part to play… please spread the word!
I would encourage any readers to do their bit. If we join forces; D/deaf, hard of hearing, we are united by our hearing loss, together we can be a strong force for good to get the word out there.
No-one knows if they will lose their hearing one day, it can happen to anyone. Society needs a little more education, that’s all, then it’s up to them. Surely, we can meet in the middle?
It might feel like a mountain to climb, so many have given up, but where would we be if campaigners and advocates of the past had given up, nothing would have changed. Women still would be second class citizens, sexuality still wouldn’t be a choice and those with a different skin colour would still be treated unfavourably. We’ve come so far.
As a nation, we’ve successfully made such strides in stamping out much of the discrimination around Race, Religion, Sexuality and Gender, but for the Disabled, this group of people, I feel, still needs more done.
So, by doing our own little bit, whether it be explaining how you feel to a loved one, doing a deaf awareness presentation at your school or work place, directing friends to deaf blog sites or by supporting deaf charities, we can make these changes to make the hearing world listen!
A role model is someone to look up to, someone you follow by example and inspires you to achieve in life. Role models aren’t necessarily celebrities, but could be someone who has led change within your local community, or country.
My Role Model Journey
When I started blogging, I was also going through the process of finding my deaf identity, and part of that was looking for a deaf role model; someone to look up to. Other than the famous deaf celebrities, I couldn’t find that person and I aspired for an influential individual, so I figured why not become that person?
Through my blogs and work that I do within the deaf community, what drives me is knowing that I’m making a change, whether for one person or for an organisation. Sharing my stories and experiences for others to read helps to raise awareness, but also reassures families of deaf children that they have a bright future ahead of them.
I love seeing the next generation of Deaf Young Leaders already making change in the community, leading the generation to come, especially through the wonders of the internet and social media that we have today, making it easier to reach out to others.
Check out these Inspirational Deaf Role Models
These Deaf Role Models have each got a talent of their own, which they have embraced and shared within the deaf community, and are definitely worth a follow…
Jessica Kellgren Fozard
YouTuber and Vintage Fashion Lover
Mr Luke Christian
Male Grooming and Lifestyle Blogger
Art Director and Creative Filmmaker
Lifestyle and Travel YouTuber
Louise Deaf Awareness
Campaigner, Awareness Raiser and Blogger
Dancer and Choreographer
Funny YouTuber and advocate
Being Her Twins
Travel and Fashion Bloggers
Rugby Player and Professional Sportsman
Deaf Traveller and Blogger
‘iheartdeafness’ Blogger and Disability Advocate
How you can be a Role ModelWhat inspires you?
Find your passion, what drives you, what makes you unique as an individual and embrace that. Find your identity, you should learn to accept yourself and who you are before you reach out to others.
How do you want to make a change?
Find your medium, what works best for you? Is it public speaking, be it blogging, sharing videos, or telling your story… how do you want to get the message out there?
However you raise awareness, make a change, or send a message, each one is worth something. You may reach one person, you may touch an entire audience. Believe in your passion and others will believe you.
Change happens a little at a time
Nothing happens overnight and if you do nothing, nothing will change, so go for it and don’t give up!
Is there a Deaf Role Model you know, who deserves a little recognition? Share their story on social media, we’d love to hear it! Be sure to spread the word using #DAWRoleModels2019
‘Even though deafness is one of the most common disabilities, it is still one of the most misunderstood.’ – Deafie Blogger
As a deaf blogger, I have been invited to give deaf awareness talks and informal training sessions to organisations, such as Banks, the Education sector and local groups.
Each speech varies, covering different topics, numerous life experiences but all with a similar outcome; to inspire others and raise deaf awareness.
For this blog, I’ve written about my public speaking experiences, along with some tips towards the end!
Reflecting on experience
As a young adult, I have gotten more used to public speaking about my experience of deafness, but of course the early years, my Mum remembers more, as my memory dates back to the time I was around seven years old!
Mum and I were recently invited to talk to a group of professionals from the Education sector; Sensory Support. They asked us to outline our experiences as a parent and student team, namely the highs and lows, challenges and triumphs of a family dealing with deafness.
To prepare for our speeches of course we had to look back. Me, to a childhood and teenage years with a severe hearing loss, trying to cope with the fast pace of education in this confusing hearing world. Mum remembering with a bittersweet mixture of pride and heartache, which came with the challenges surrounding a deaf child.
Speaking from the heart
Mum was nervous speaking to a large group, but she spoke from the heart. Her passionate words were a culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of bringing up a child with a profound hearing loss, giving a real insight into the difficulties we had on a daily basis throughout the mainstream journey, but giving praise to all the professionals who helped along the way.
Most speeches, including this one outline my achievements, the examples of overcoming the disability, my highlights and the wonderful opportunities I have had. Whilst touching on difficult subjects, such as the judgement I faced from peers, discrimination from a teacher who told me I couldn’t do a subject as I was deaf, and how it’s made me a stronger person today.
For this particular talk, I wanted to show that ‘deaf people can achieve anything given the right support’, but also underline the importance of getting the support right, tailor made for each individual. We also shared our common concerns for those children who are unable to access the correct support in education and the worrying longer term implications of not getting it right.
Reaching out to the audience
It’s not often that the professionals we spoke to, were able to meet with ex-pupils who had been through the education system and emerged at the other end. I think in a way, they were pleasantly surprised as to the amount of my success in life, but at the same time their eyes were opened more to the realities and extent of the struggles, hard work, determination and time which we all had to put in.
Other audiences have expressed their interest and surprise of what they have learnt. Some groups show more response than others, but with each conversation I hope to reach out to at least one person, in the hope that they can be confident and understanding if they approach a deaf person in the future.
Remembering the challenges
From diagnosis to the present day and beyond, life for a deaf young person involves constant hard work, sacrifice, exhaustion and difficulty. A disability throws up challenges every day, many things are hard, some impossible. In each talk, I wish to help people see that the realities, away from the textbook or theoretical take on deafness.
These basic facts need to be remembered, even with professionals who deal with deafness every day of their working lives, or work alongside a deaf colleague, or the general public, who still seem to believe that deafness simply means you can’t hear very well. Sometimes it is easy to assume that the rest of society understands the disability as well as you. It’s only by living with it that you know what it’s really like. From my experience, that is what makes public speaking worthwhile, sharing experiences, communication tips and raising deaf awareness. It all helps to make the world a better, more accessible place.
How you can get involved!Public Speaking
Do your research
No presentation or speech is perfect without research. Look into themes, facts and statistics, terminology, organisations, information about deafness and different people’s experiences.
Think about what you’d like to talk about, what grasps people’s attention? Personal life experiences can be interesting. How long will your talk be? Why not plan some visual aids, like a presentation or video?
Practise makes perfect. Prepare your presentation, perform in front of the mirror or friends and family, and ask for constructive criticism. With time, you’ll be more than ready.
Why not get in touch with some local businesses in your area, and show your interest in speaking to employees about deafness and your experience in return for a small donation to a deaf charity?
As an organisation
Invest in Deaf or Disability Awareness Training
How about incorporating Deaf or Disability Awareness Training within staff inductions or team training sessions? They give staff a broader understanding of how to approach and speak to deaf people.
Invite inspiring Deaf individuals to give a presentation/speech to employees
You could make it a monthly or annual practice to bring in external speakers. Hearing others speak about experiences can motivate and inspire employees. It also raises valuable awareness.
Look into the Disability Confident Scheme or Investors in People Award
It says a lot about an organisation if you have thought about disabilities and encouraging a fairer workplace. Plus, awards help make your brand more appealing!
For most D/deaf and disabled people, accessibility is crucial. If you advertise how your organisation and services are accessible, it’s a business opportunity! You will gain more customers and a better brand reputation.
Whilst reading through a job description with a well-known deaf charity, I stumbled upon the phrase; ‘Guaranteed Interview Scheme’. I hadn’t come across it before so I looked into it, and I definitely think it’s something we should be spreading the word about…
The ‘Guaranteed Interview Scheme’ as known previously, has been replaced by HM Government Disability Confident Scheme in 2016.
‘Through Disability Confident, the Government is working with employers to challenge attitudes, increase understanding of disability, remove barriers, and ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.’ – Their website explains further.
The scheme aims to highlight the benefits of employing disabled people
All levels cover various criteria which employers have to fulfil if they wish to proceed to a higher level. To become Level One, employers commit to certain disability friendly objectives, including offering an interview to disabled people. This is definitely worth knowing especially for those who struggle to find work because of their disability.
There is a list of thousands of employers who have signed up to the scheme, with organisations including charities who you might expect to be more disability aware such as Action on Hearing Loss, Royal Association for the Deaf and Scope. It also includes many large companies such as Barclays, Aviva and Royal Mail, as well as hundreds of smaller enterprises.
It’s definitely worth a look at the list and to find out more if you are looking for work in case the company you are applying to is committed to the scheme. It could also be worth a mention on an application letter or at interview if you are discussing your disability that you notice they are part of the scheme.
Not part of the scheme?
If you are already in work and your employer hasn’t currently signed up, it could be worth a mention to management or HR. The more organisations who can become increasingly disability aware the better, to try to eventually remove the barriers many disabled people face when trying to find work.
Although we should be equal when it comes to job searching, disability and deafness shouldn’t stand in our way. We should be proud to tell potential employers that we have a hearing loss, but I personally don’t always feel comfortable doing so, as sad as that may sound.
I don’t want to give employers a reason to not give me the job or an interview. We need to change that ethos. I shouldn’t have to hide my deafness. I am proud of it, in most fields it’s something I want to shout from the rooftops, but I still don’t feel equal when it comes to finding a job.
I’m not sure how widely publicised this scheme is to companies, so I think more needs to be done to spread the word. Hopefully we can raise awareness of this to encourage more organisations to join up and recognise the value of employing disabled workers.
Conventional homes are designed for the hearing majority of the population. Doorbells, fire alarms, telephones and baby monitors are all auditory. Without visual or vibrating replacements, a Deaf person will live a much more dangerous life.
Smartphones have made things easier of course but a vibrating phone is of no use outside your pocket. It may be easy for a friend to text when they are at your door instead of ringing a bell but what about strangers making unexpected calls?
Conor Mervyn is an NEC member of the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf. He said that installing visual doorbells and alarms was:
“Not that difficult. Many Deaf people contact their social services in their respective local authorities who fit them. It’s more reliable to have a flashing light fixated somewhere (if not all lights flashing, this is a bit more cumbersome and you have to have the switches on which is electrically expensive over time). They also supply baby monitors and fire alarms with vibrating pads under the beds. Budget cuts however means this is becoming harder.
There are some new things now like ‘Ring’ where you can see who is at the door which may be appealing to Deaf people but many may not understand what is being said but still useful to see who is at the door. There was something coming out with…different colours flashing for different things – text messages, FaceTime call, doorbell etc. This sounds really appealing but I suspect for some Deaf people their house would resemble a colourful disco 24/7!”
Kevin Taylor, Product Technologist for Action on Hearing Loss, said:
“Certainly, ‘smart Wi-Fi doorbells’ that provide a vibrate notification on a smartphone are an increasingly viable option for many people with hearing loss and deafness. They are an example of how mainstream technology and devices provide an ‘inclusive’ solution. In addition, some smart doorbells also have an optional Wi-Fi chime receiver unit (the RING Wi-Fi doorbell has this). This gives an audible chime in addition to the alert notification received on the smartphone. However, so far, we haven’t seen any Wi-Fi chime receivers with a visual alert (or indeed a vibrate function).
Traditional (non-Wi-Fi) wireless doorbells with loud audible chime, flashing light and vibrate function have been available for many years and are still available. Some are ‘stand-alone’ systems with either a flashing light chime receiver or vibrating pager (or both), while multi-alerting systems include doorbell alerting.
Examples of multi-alerting systems with a doorbell function include the Bellman Visit System, and Humantechnik Signolux system. These have flashing light receivers and vibrating pagers.
A wireless doorbell with flashing light will be around £40 – 60. The cost of multi alerting system with flashing light receiver, it really depends on what is included in the system – but a rough estimate is £100 – £250.”
As budget cuts get worse, the Deaf community will need to use apps as a cheaper alternative to hardware. Even £40 is a lot of money in a period of austerity.
This blog is dedicated to all the Mums of D/deaf children and adults, who have gone above and beyond to help make our world a better place.
Coming to terms with deafness
I can’t begin to imagine the thought and realisation of what parents who have no experience or family history of deafness, go through when they find out their child is D/deaf.
My parents received my hearing loss diagnosis at the tender age of 9 months. The hospital gave me hearing aids and sent us on our way with very little information, and being the 90’s, there was no such thing as the internet or the wonders of social media.
With the support from my Teacher of the Deaf, my parents along with their constant determination, repetition, hard work (even blood, sweat and tears), meant that I learnt to speak, that I was able to attend mainstream school and succeeded in my education.
(Note: I’m not saying either speech or sign language is best option, every D/deaf child’s language requirements differ. I’m happy with my parents’ choice and I am now learning BSL, so I have the best of both worlds).
Will my children be deaf?
I’ve always wondered whether or not my child would be deaf, and as scary as the thought of having children, I think deaf or not, I’d be prepared and I’d love them all the same. Perhaps being a deaf Mum may have its advantages, knowing how to best communicate with the child, reading their facial expressions, but whatever the challenges, there’s always a way around them. That’s for me to find out!
Most importantly, you’re not alone
I bet it’s not an easy job being a Mum, let alone to a D/deaf or disabled child. But it’s important to know you’re not alone. There’s other Mums you can talk to, Facebook Groups, organisations and more. It just takes a little research, but there’s a whole world of resources and support out there.
Your D/deaf child will go far!
As far as my motto goes; ‘Deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support. Don’t let anything stand in their way!’
It may be a slow process to start, but I promise you, with the right support they can do anything. The world is their oyster!
It might seem hard, but please do not give up on us. They may turn around and surprise you! I certainly did by studying German A Level and becoming an award-winning blogger!
My Mum inspired me to give things a try, to do my best, to stay strong and rise above the critics and doubters and prove them wrong. For that, I’m forever thankful.
We appreciate it!
Of course, Dads are amazing too! But for today, it’s for the Mums…
Dear Mum, We may not say it enough, but we really appreciate everything you do. This Mother’s Day, we’d like to say a big Thank You!
With Mother’s Day coming up, I figured, why not turn the tables and give my wonderful Mum the opportunity to share her story of deafness and what it means to her.
Here’s her story…
“Before deafness, I knew nothing…
Deafness had nothing to do with me before Ellie (Deafie Blogger) was born. It hadn’t touched my life. It was something I had a vague knowledge of on the periphery of my existence, but of course if something doesn’t affect you personally, you haven’t really got the time or inclination to show an interest. It’s sad and quite a self-centred attitude, but the world has got so complicated. Quite simply there is too much information out there, too many disabilities and health conditions, things that are happening in the world that you can’t get involved in everything.
Also we lead quite insular lives, even though we have far greater insight into and knowledge of the wider world, but our own lives have also become more complex that we haven’t got the time to consider something which doesn’t impact upon our own lives, so a hearing loss in my mind was a condition that affected old people in their later years or the occasional person that you might come across as you journey through life.
Pregnant with Ellie
When I was pregnant will Ellie, I had this feeling, this sixth sense if you like that my baby would be born disabled, but when she was born after no complications, she appeared to be ‘normal’. (I hate that world by the way, because what is ‘normal’? We are all a wonderful eclectic mix of uniqueness, so what I mean by that is, she didn’t appear to have a disability or health condition)
As the weeks progressed from the new-born stage through to around five or six months old, I started thinking that all was not quite as well as it first seemed. Crunch point came when I clumsily dropped some saucepans in the kitchen and Ellie didn’t even flinch. My suspicions were growing, that all was not right with her hearing.
Twenty two years ago, before the time of smartphones and the internet, I couldn’t even Google it! I can’t even remember the exact chain of events, but we ended up at ENT getting a hearing test. I was blissfully unaware of the full possibilities, I just had to find out what the problems was. Friends reassured me that it was probably Glue Ear, but I think deep down I suspected a bigger problem. The Mother’s intuition I guess…
Fast forward a few weeks and we emerged from Audiology with ten month old Ellie wearing these cumbersome hearing aids, too big for her beautiful body. Held in place by bands, because at that stage she still spent most of her days lying or sitting and they would fall off because of the delicate nature of her young ears.
Ellie had been diagnosed with a bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.
To say we were shell shocked, confused and scared was an understatement. That feeling, I’ll never forget. Unfortunately parents are still experiencing similar emotions. The fear of the unknown. How bad could it be? She wasn’t ill or deformed or in pain. It could be much worse right?
Of course it could be. We had to be grateful for small mercies. Her life wasn’t in danger, she just couldn’t hear very well, this wouldn’t affect her much would it? My ignorant, naive thought, that a congenital profound hearing loss just meant she couldn’t hear very well, how little did I know. Of course, it’s so much more than that, I had no idea of the future struggles.
We went sent on our way from the hospital, the only weapon in our armoury was the news that a Teacher of The Deaf would visit us shortly.
And so she did. The most wonderful lady. My lifeline. The difference between crumbling and succeeding. I can’t go into how much she supported us all, but she held me up when I didn’t know what to do and how to cope. She taught Ellie to speak eventually and she guided us through the process of education.
I owe so much to her and to Sensory Support.
Searching for answers
We searched for answers, we needed to know why, and it has to make sense. What was the cause? We went through the usual channels of genetic tests, but found nothing. That was hard in itself. I had my own suspicions, something which had happened whilst I was pregnant, I have no proof, but I needed a reason in order to try to deal with it.
A parent can go through so many emotions on hearing a diagnosis, it can almost be a period of mourning, grieving for the hearing child they never were. The plan we have for our hearing child as they grow and mature had been altered, which is beyond our control. We want control in our lives and it is hard to accept something different.
I’d like to say it was all ok. I’d like to reassure new parents that it will be an easy ride, but that would be unfair and untrue. It’s been tough. It’s been a long hard road of appointments, hearing tests, relentless work teaching Ellie to speak and to keep pace with her hearing peers through mainstream education, but the highs coming from this have been far greater knowing the price and sacrifices we’ve all had to pay.
My other steadfast support came through my own Mother. As mums we do what we need to do. We step up. She did just that. She has been rock solid through all of this. She has always been there to help both Ellie and I, so let’s also give praise to the fantastic Grandmothers out there too. A team effort.
Ellie has worked so hard through the extreme fatigue, frequent migraines and headaches, the discrimination, intolerance, heartache and sheer frustration, she constantly amazes us. She is a pure joy and inspiration to so many. Her continued success has been hard won, but she lets nothing stand in her way.
What drives her?
Well, an inner strength to overcome the challenges and barriers and a drive and desire to help others, those not quite so fortunate, or those simply finding it difficult. She strives to raise awareness and help to let the wider world know that communication is a two way process and the emphasis shouldn’t just be on the deaf individual to facilitate effective communication.
We have laws in place to protect, but as most disabled people know, they don’t. Life is a constant battle, if living with the disability isn’t enough, people shouldn’t have to still fight for the right to be equal and accepted. There are so many good reasons to keep picking yourself up, to not be defeated and to keep going.
Deafness doesn’t define Ellie, but it has made her into the beautiful, fascinating, wonderful young person she is today. She never fails to surprise me with her resilience in this tough world.
I am proud beyond words to be Mother to my gorgeous, special girl.”
Troi Lee ‘DJ Chinaman’ has been organising Deaf Rave http://www.deafrave.com since 2003. I interviewed him about the barriers Deaf musicians can face and about his plans for a Deaf Festival. If you want to help him organise this, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you get into organising Deaf Rave?
Well basically, growing up in London, Hackney born and bred, it was normal for me to grow up in a multicultural environment. I’m half English, quarter Chinese and a quarter Vietnamese, I grew up in a West Indian community. My cousins are professional DJs, so growing up I wanted to be like them. When I was 17 or 18 I went raving, music was my passion. I got my first turntable when I was 22, started collecting records and getting into UK garage music.
Being in the Deaf community was a different ballgame. You’d go to the pub once a month to drink and chat, I’d keep asking everyone ‘come on, let’s go raving’ but none of them were interested, so I’d go with my hearing friends, that’s how I know about music in raves.
How old were you when you lost your hearing and did you learn to sign or talk first?
I was born Deaf, I wear hearing aids. I’m proper Deaf mate, it’s just lucky I can talk on the phone. My mum was my speech therapist, we practiced two hours a day from the age of 2-11. I’ve been to mainstream schools and to a Deaf school in Brighton when I was 14, I preferred Deaf school. My mum had to fight to send me there because I wasn’t learning anything. When I arrived they asked me what GCSEs you want to take and I didn’t know what GCSE meant. In my primary school in Camden I had one Deaf friend and we just got stuck mate.
What are the differences between a Deaf rave and a normal rave?
Well obviously our events are with Deaf people. Basically, everyone’s signing away, communication’s never a problem no matter how loud the music is, the hearing community obviously can’t hear what the hell’s going on. We put extra bass on the sound systems. We very seldom have violence, it’s a different ballgame from your everyday usual cup of tea. We like to keep it unique. Obviously the performers are all Deaf, it’s Deaf led with a Deaf lineup. It’s a new thing, a new fashion, a new explosion. That’s what we’ll be doing for all these events. We’ve got a Deaf Rave in Newcastle, I’ve got a festival to go to in Wales, two more in the summer.
Do you have speakers that people can put their hands on so they can feel the music?
No because the sound system’s loud. There’s no need to worry about that because the vibrations travel all around the room via the floor or a hard surface. It’s my job to try and find a venue with a proper sound system.
Did Facebook and social media make things easier to organise?
Yeah of course, connection with people, networking, it’s much easier to spread the word, we can advertise way in advance. It’’s much easier to inform Deaf people now because they’re an isolated and marginalised group. We can do sign language vlogs for the adverts and basically I have a team to back me up, to bring the people in and make it work. It can’t do it by itself. About 50% of the audience come for the music, about 50% come to socialise.
I presume that the bigger the city, the bigger the turnout?
Yeah, we perform in all different platforms. The Sign Song Rap is the biggest explosion right now. We’ve got a Sign rapper, he’s completely Deaf, makes his own music: Kevin Signkid. He’s my prodigy, he writes his own music, lyrics and he performed at the Wireless festival last year for 8,000 people. We’re going big man, we’re trying to go in the mainstream, creating more Deaf Awareness and Sign Awareness.
Do non-signing Deaf people go to these events to practice signing?
Yeah, but most come simply to meet other Deaf people, they come from all over the country, all over the world to see our show and meet new Deaf people. That’s another unique selling point, that’s why we’ve been around so long. About 15% of the people who come are hearing.
Do you find that hearing people are dismissive of Deaf musicians?
I would say 50:50, the majority of the time they’re cool with me because I can talk but for people like Signkid it would be very difficult, he’d need an interpreter. Even I find it difficult at times, if I go to meet hearing people it takes time for me to adjust, I have to really concentrate, it takes a lot of energy man.
Does the music have to be very deep?
No, any music works: R&B, reggae, pop etc. Nowadays I’m focusing on the festival because that’s the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate dream. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I just want to pull this one off and basically, this festival I’m organising is going to be the most diverse, all spectrum, from all walks of life to experience this festival.
What’s been your best and worst experiences as a Deaf Rave organiser?
Oh boy, so many responsibilities, communication’s so difficult with my team at times, communicating across the room is crazy man, crazy. Trying to get the message across to do this, do that, it’s hard work for me man, hard work.
The happiest experience is seeing the community together as one, it’s all about community. The foremost aim of Deaf Rave is to show empathy of our community. It’s not about making money at the party, it’s not about doing this for fun, it’s about getting the Deaf community together as one. That’s what makes me happiest.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are the achievements of 5 famous D/deaf and hard of hearing British women.
Ethel Smyth – a member of the women’s suffrage movement and composer (1858 – 1944). Despite her father being opposed to her developing a career in music, she became a composer. Her work was both praised and criticised as being too masculine for a ‘lady composer.’
Smyth joined the suffrage organisation Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) in 1910. Her ‘The March Of Women’ became the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement. Ethel Smyth was one of the 109 women who followed WSPU’s leader Emmeline Pankhurst call to break a window in the house of any politician who opposed votes for women. She was arrested and imprisoned for 2 months.
Ethel Smyth had many relationships and affairs, mainly with women.
She began to lose her hearing from 1913 and completed one more major work. Afterwards, she developed a love of literature and published 10 books.
Evelyn Glennie – musician (1965 – Present). Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. She has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.
Evelyn studied at the Ellon Academy and the Royal Academy of Music. She was also a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.
Evelyn tours and performs with orchestras and musicians. She has her own registered tartan and she performed at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London 2012.
Evelyn lobbied with Sir James Galway, Julian Lloyd Webber and Michael Kamen, which led the UK government to announce £332 million for music education.
She has released several albums and won many awards, including an OBE in 1993 which was promoted to a DBE in 2007.
In response to largely inaccurate reporting by the media, Evelyn published ‘Hearing Essay’ to describe being deaf. In her TED talk ‘How To Truly Listen,’ she discussed how she feels music in different parts of her body. She regularly plays barefoot during live performances and studio recordings to feel the music.
Dorothy Miles – poet and activist (1931 – 1993). Dorothy Miles (née Squire) was born in Holywell, Flintshire. She became deaf in 1939 when she contracted cerebrospinal meningitis.
When she was 25, she moved to America to study at Gallaudet College. There, Dorothy became the first member of a junior class to be a member of the Gallaudet Phi Alpha Pi: the college’s scholastic honour society. She also edited the student magazines and won prizes for her writing and acting.
After graduating, Dorothy taught and counselled deaf adults. In 1967, she joined the National Theatre of the Deaf and created sign language poetry. It is suggested that she is the source of most sign language poetry performed today.
Dorothy returned to England after 20 years of living in America. She was soon part of the National Union of the Deaf’s ‘Open Door’ TV programme, as well as discussions leading to the ‘See Hear’ TV series. Dorothy Miles was also involved in setting up the first university course for training deaf people to become BSL tutors.
A group of deaf and hearing friends established The Dorothy Miles Cultural Centre, following her death in 1993.
Millie Bobby Brown – actress and model (2004 – Present). Born in Spain to English parents, Millie was born with partial hearing in one ear and gradually lost all hearing in that ear.
Her rise to fame was for her role as Eleven in the hit Netflix show ‘Stranger Things.’ With this role, she won the Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor in a Television Series. She is the youngest person ever to:
become an Emmy Award nominee
feature on a Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people
be appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
In January 2017, she made her modelling debut in Calvin Klein’s By Appointment campaign. The next month, she signed on to the agency IMG Models.
She deleted her Twitter account in June 2018 after being bullied following a false accusation of homophobia. She addressed her bullies when she won the Best Performance award for ‘Stranger Things,’ saying, “I was taught, if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say it. There should be no space in this world for bullying, and I’m not going to tolerate it and neither should any you.”
Claire Stancliffe – sports coach 1989 – Present). Claire was born in Reading. She began to lose her hearing aged 4 and was profoundly deaf aged 8.
At school, Claire played in the boys’ team because there wasn’t enough interest for a girls’ team. She played league football for Vicarage Farm U16 Girls and then Northampton Town Ladies FC. Aged 17, she struggled more and more with being deaf: missing out on dressing room banter and not being able to communicate on the pitch. Through online research, she found the Great Britain Deaf Football Team.
Claire’s international debut was at the Deaf World Cup 2008 for England, aged 19. 4 minutes into the game, she scored a 30 yarder goal with her right foot (despite being left-footed), and scored 3 more goals. England won the match 10-1. Claire now plays for Corby Town Ladies FC and Great Britain Deaf Women’s Football.
In July 2016, Claire Stancliffe was voted Sky Sports Sportswoman of the month, beating Wimbledon champion Serena Williams. She recently received a Points of Light Award from Theresa May.
More people are needed for a flash mob performing a song in sign language at Westgate Centre, Oxford, for Deaf Awareness Week.
Taking place in May 2019, the Westgate Centre is due to be taken over by a flash mob performing a song in sign language for Deaf Awareness Week. Organisers are looking for more participants to make it as big as possible.
What is a flash mob?
A flash mob is a large public gathering when people perform a typically unusual or random act in unison and then disperse.
The event will be professionally filmed and shared online.
“I want to get as many people as possible involved, especially more men and teenage boys. The idea is that the performance will show how diverse those using sign language can be. We’ve been told there’s no limit on how many can take part so I’m hoping for around 50.” – Chloe Amantrading, event organiser and sign language teacher.
There will be 4x 2-hour rehearsals, starting next month, before the performance in May, plus a run-through a few days prior to the flash mob.
Chloe Amantrading is also appealing for help with funding the event.
“It is expensive to hire equipment for filming and rehearsal space so anyone who would be willing to help would be really appreciated.”
For more information or to get involved, search Arma Sign Language on Facebook or Instagram, or contact Ms Amantrading on 07825 369244.