My Take on Chickengate

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 fact that 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 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 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 idiot 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… 🙂

20 thoughts on “My Take on Chickengate

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Thanks! I considered doing the same thing but I get through so many DVDs… have decided I’m just going to keep bugging them instead 🙂

  1. Jane Ainsworth

    “It was the shop assistant who treated me like I was an escaped mental patient”
    A rather unfortunate comment if I may say so – you seem to be re-inforcing social stereotypes of ‘mental patients’.

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Hello there,

      It wasn’t my intention to reinforce but to represent; I’m aware of the stereotypes and used the word ‘escaped’ to imply someone who had just busted out of a secure hospital, and how would most people treat someone they suspected of this? Fear, suspicion and lots of prejudice, which this shop assistant gave me in one big dose, which is what I was trying to show.

      I guess it could lead to a debate over reinforcement v representation, but it genuinely wasn’t my intention to reinforce, just to use it to represent, apologies if reinforcing is what I was in fact doing.

  2. The Banker From Hell

    I am shocked.

    I thought you were an escaped sociopathic lunatic… That’s why I keep feeding you…

    Wednesday night – mail me to confirm!

  3. Martin Griffiths

    Great blog – you almost summed up my life in that blog – your examples were different to mine but in most cases you could substitute the name of the organisation you quoted with one I experienced in my own life but the core of the story remains the same. I agree with you – you spend a whole life receiving reasons why access isnt available and then you watch Deaf Teens: Hearing World and react instantly. I ran off to my laptop to post a status and found a page had already been set up and had 15 members at that point! For me it showed the potential of the deaf and hard of hearing communities to come together. I just wish we could mobilise like this when we want to contest, for example, welfare reforms, access to services, etc. I myself am not a BSL user but am profoundly deaf and require STTR (palantype/stenograph) to access information and communication. I can’t get work despite a raft of professional and management experiences – nothing to do with my disability of course they say. Can’t even volunteer with Action on Hearing Loss and attend their volunteer meetings as they ‘don’t have a budget for comms support’! Thanks for the posting Donna. It is good to know I am not alone. I already knew that but it is good to be reminded – let’s keep on ‘shouting to the top’!

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      I so feel you, and you’re right it’s good to know we’re not alone, I think that’s another positive thing to come out of this. Keep plugging away out there, and yep let’s keep shouting to the top!

    2. barakta

      FWIW Action on Hearing Loss in their previous incarnation would have turned me down for a job (if I had been first choice) after changing the jobspec mid-process to make it so a textphone user couldn’t do it and I’d never have got the comms support from AtW. Another interview for a different job (turned out to be completely different from described) was led by this hearing woman who was really nasty to me specifically cos I was deaf and effectively told me it was a disadvantage cos of my very loose connections to the deaf community. She was so snappy and nasty her younger underling told her to STFU mid interview and apologised to me while showing me out as she recognised bosslady was really out of order. I think I dodged a bullet there to be honest.

      There’s no way they don’t have the money to do comms support for deafies if smaller deaf orgs can manage it! They’re the UK’s largest hearing charity, if they can’t do it… I almost wish I could access such things to Equality Act them.

      Of course they’re no longer about deaf or indeed Deaf, they’re about people who are a bit hard of hearing and don’t really want to know the rest. I’ll nab their useful resources from time to time, but tbh they’re nicknamed ‘What?’ (+ sign) in my house cos their new name is so crap I can’t remember it.

      1. deaffirefly Post author

        Whoa, dude. Uncool. My sympathies! As for AOHL, the sign for them in some circles is ‘assholes’…:)

  4. Liz

    Thank you so much for such a concise article. I relate so much to all those experiences you’ve had and I think that this is why chickengate was such a big thing.

    1. barakta

      Yeah, I think this comment sums it up.

      If I’m honest, I still think it that scene was staged for the programme in as much that they needed to demonstrate “usual difficulties deaf people face” cos the university would have needed to agree to filming and that mistake makes their notetaker or their agency look bad which I really can’t see happening. Same with Meghan’s first lecture, if she’s not got communication support even with a fully working CI then I’d be surprised.

      I think the common joke is the almost absurdness of it (albeit still sad that notetaker lady’s chicken was ill staged or otherwise) which I think made us all doubletake at that scene and found that common bond. Also that the joke was in sign language and subtitles so we got to experience it in its native form and weren’t as per usual behind the joke curve,

      The giggleworthy thing is mainly that it was a chicken rather than perhaps the more expected cat/dog etc. My partner and I decided, iguana, tarantula, fish, monkey would all have been funny whereas cat/dog/horse/hamster wouldn’t have been so funny.

      I think many people have stayed within the bounds of funny but I have seen some comments which showed a complete lack of regard for the notetaker and assumed she was leaving work early (no set hours, and treated like crap to boot IMO) thus shirking her obligations and so on. It’s less about her specifically than the excuses people like to churn out.

      1. deaffirefly Post author

        ‘My tarantula is ill’ would have been amazing! I agree with all, deffo more about excuses in general than one specific incident, but cool something for deafies to bond over!

  5. Glen

    Hello there! this blog was shared by a friend on Facebook, and I have to say its fantastic! totally true! Reading the other entries in this blog and as a Deaf/HoH person, so much rung true. This particular post reminded me of my own struggles with getting support in Uni. So thanks! I have really enjoyed what I have read so far, keep it up!

    1. deaffirefly Post author

      Thanks, will certainly do my best! It’s definitely the common experience that brought us all together, here’s hoping we can all stay together for a little while! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Spitting the dummy! | DeafFirefly's Blog

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