Wow. In the time it took to restart my brain after the BSL poetry festival (which was great btw!) and hand in my essay and then catch up with my life after obsessing about said essay, it seems a new meme has been created – “my chicken is ill”.
In case this needs explanation, there was a programme on BBC3 and iPlayer called Deaf Teens: Hearing World looking at how several deaf teenagers with varying backgrounds were dealing with becoming adults in a hearing world, going to college, uni and amazing deaf gatherings and in some cases, how the world reacted to them. One deaf teenager, waiting to go in her first college lecture, was approached by her notetaker, who due to a mix-up at student support had only been booked for one hour instead of two. The reason why she had to leave after one hour was because her chicken was ill. No word of a lie, she stood in front of a TV camera, looked the student in the eye, and said that she had to leave to take her chicken to the vet. I have to give that woman props for honesty.
Cue the twitterstorm, the facebook page, the jokes, the laughter. That notetaker took a kicking. Perhaps understandably, but the voice of reason came in the guise of Charlie Swinbourne, who made several good points; it wasn’t the notetaker’s mix-up, it was student support’s, the notetaker was able to sign, a rarity indeed and shows dedication, and as he says, she must have really loved that chicken.
But “my chicken is ill” still makes me laugh, and the page is still going strong, though we’ve moved away from chicken-crossing-the-road jokes to more mundane topics. I think the reason this phrase became such an instant hit was because it served as an ultimate example of the excuses that the world gives deaf people for not being accessible.
It wasn’t just that a notetaker appeared to be placing the health of a chicken above a deaf student’s access to their education.
It was LoveFilm emailing me back to say that they only offer subtitles on their foreign language films because a) their system didn’t currently support a wider use of subtitles and b) they were sorry for the inconvenience. (Inconvenience? That their online streaming is almost totally useless to me? That’s an inconvenience? I replied, quoting the Equality Act. It’s all gone quiet.)
It was whatsonstage.com saying that they don’t currently include whether a show is captioned / BSL interpreted in their listings but they were “looking into it”.
It was offwestend.com telling me pretty much the same thing.
It was HSBC telling me that they thought I was being unreasonable when I pointed out that their discriminatory practices were not only breaking the law, they were in breach of their own ethical codes of banking practice.
It was Student Finance England telling me they never received my travel and book receipts for DSA despite the fact that I sent them by recorded delivery.
It was the show organiser telling me they hadn’t booked an interpreter for the show despite having interpreters for the discussion beforehand because they couldn’t find one for the show. Despite having found them for the discussion beforehand… (Er, ASLI website? Agencies? Or just ask me, even. Try!)
It was the organiser of the poetry event standing up and saying that they hadn’t booked BSL interpreters for the spoken poetry because they weren’t interpreting the BSL poetry and that was fair… wasn’t it? (Hearing people can look at BSL poetry and at least guess, especially with more visual poets. What do you expect the deaf to do about spoken poetry? For pity’s sake, you’ve even got a projection screen above the stage you could have projected the words on. What’s wrong with you people?)
It was the [insert service] company who hung up on typetalk three times before I finally got through.
It was my Local Education Authority refusing to fund more note-takers at school because I was “doing too well” and they even tried to cut my funding.
It was the shop assistant who treated me like I was an escaped mental patient because I hadn’t understood what she was saying.
It was the DWP cutting my DLA without warning and making me go through a year of appeals and a tribunal before I got it back.
It was the manager of the JobCentre refusing to book me an interpreter because it wasn’t “in the budget”.
It was the woman who said I “spoke so well” she “didn’t think I’d need an interpreter” and then couldn’t understand why I got upset.
It’s the audiology nurses who call my name in reception.
It’s the receptionists who don’t bother to look at me to ask me questions after I’ve told them I’m deaf and need to lip-read.
It’s BBC iPlayer apologising for the umpteenth time because their subtitles aren’t working.
It’s the security guard who nearly jumped me because I didn’t hear him saying the shop was going to shut soon, and then apologised for not noticing my blue earmoulds.
It’s the whole goddamn world telling me that it can’t make itself accessible for me because its chicken is ill.
It was a moment where we all identified; a moment where deaf people bonded over an access fail and a surreal excuse that made it all the more memorable. Really, we should be thanking that notetaker, not only for her honesty and for spawning so many chicken jokes, but for giving us all something to unite over.
Cheers, and I hope the chicken made a full recovery. And apologies in advance to all my notetakers and interpreters whom I will be asking about their chickens for months to come… 🙂