Category Archives: Access

Telling Our Stories

Tomorrow, I’m due to perform my BSL poetry at Bristol’s M Shed as part of Resistance: Telling Our Stories, an event that has been organised as a (slightly belated) nod to Disability History Month, with the backdrop of Resistance: Which Way The Future?, a media installation directed by Liz Crow of Roaring Girl Productions which is on at the M shed from 5th January to 5th February 2012. More info can be found here:

I was looking forward to this anyway, but with the twitterstorm that blew up over the #spartacusreport (which I gleefully added my little raindrops to) last monday, the triple defeat of the government in the House of Lords over the Welfare Reform Bill, which Lord Fraud, excuse me, Freud, then attempted to roll back as soon as the Labour peers had left* and the governments’ response which basically seemed to be that they were going to keep pressing ahead with the WRB, despite all protests, it seems to me that the themes of Resistance are just as relevant as ever.

*Mason Dixon gives a colourful and Hollywood-worthy version of events:

Resistance looks at the Nazi eugenics program, Aktion T4, during which hundreds of thousands of disabled people… well, disappeared. They just went away in grey vans and didn’t come back. And apparently, not very many people questioned it at the time. It probably didn’t help that Nazi Germany was trying pull itself out of a recession, and the propagandists had done their best to tell everyone how much these ‘useless eaters’ were costing the state, via posters like this:
The translation is: “60,000RM. This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime.”

When some Minister or newspaper bangs on about benefit scroungers / how much the welfare state is costing / benefit fraud, while the coalition sits idly by while the HMRC aids and abets what have to be crimes against the treasury, I think of that poster.

And it’s working. Disability hate crime on the up, people living in terror of Work Capability Assessments, people with mental health issues having to be talked down by kind voices after receiving a particularly nasty letter from the DWP. Well fucking done.

A little fact-checking.
1) DWP own figures put fraud at less than 0.5%.
2) Of the “5.2 billion lost to error and fraud”, only 1.2 billion of that was fraud.
3) The coalition has said they want to cut payment of DLA by 20%.
4) They also say they want to ‘protect the most vulnerable’.
5) Unclaimed benefit in 08/09 was 17.7billion (12.7billion means tested, 5 billion tax credits).

Compare and contrast 3) and 4) with 1), 2) and 5). Conclusion: there are far less benefit scroungers out there than the coalition would have you believe. Am I wrong? Feel free to google it and check. In fact, I want you to google it and check. Challenge me. Challenge the coalition. Just please don’t ignore the Welfare Reform Bill.

And if, after reading the Spartacus Report, you think we should all take a deep breath and be allowed to look at the WRB proposals properly, go over to ‘Pat’s Petition’ and sign the petition to stop and review the cuts to benefits and services.

Spartacus Report/ Responsible Reform:
Pat’s Petition:

For my part, I hope lots of people will come and check out the Telling Our Stories event, there’s lots of happy stuff as well as serious stuff, and it promises to be at the very least an interesting day out! Plus, there’s my poetry 🙂 For those who can’t make it, the media installation will be on until 5th February.

Which Way The Future?, indeed.

The definition of unfairness

Sometimes life seems a little unfair. I’ve lost the last two weeks to a flu bug / chest infection, my festive season was punctuated by mucus; I genuinely don’t remember much between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, which was two days after I started taking the antibiotics. I’m behind on my MA work. I’m in the middle of a dispute with HSBC that, as soon as my brain is back on track, will be going to the Financial Ombudsman, but there’s a time limit, so my brain better get a move on. I’ve often felt that this world is very silly; telling us deaf and disabled that we should get out there more and then placing all sorts of barriers in our way. In short, as I lie here in a soft bed with a gurgling chest, high temp, wi-fi internet, a box of pills within reach and coffee on request, I felt a little bit hard done by.

And then I read this.

Felix Garcia was convicted of armed robbery and murder in 1983 on the strength of his sibling’s testimonies, and his signature on a piece of paper his brother had given him to sign. His brother was later to admit, in a letter and then under oath, that he had lied in order to avoid the death penalty; that he had fitted Felix up. He had asked Felix to sign a pawn shop receipt because he himself didn’t have ID on him at the time. That pawn shop receipt became the only physical evidence linking Felix to the crime. The ring the receipt was for was from a robbery / murder committed the previous day. Pretty soon the law came looking for Felix. The law was not kind. Taking his brother’s – and his sister’s – testimony and the receipt, they put him on trial, a trial Felix understood little, if anything, of. Skip forward 29 years, and he’s serving a life sentence. He has a lawyer, who I would nominate for Lawyer Of The Decade Award if there was one, who has tried her best to get him freed. Various statutes of limitation have conspired to keep Felix in jail, and a few years ago, a judge rejected his brother’s sworn testimony that Felix was entirely innocent because he “couldn’t tell what was true”. Felix is in a jail system that, despite strong disability rights laws in America, makes little or no concession to his deafness. He’s been beaten, raped, and abused by fellow prisoners and guards, often for causing offence by ‘ignoring’ or misunderstanding them. The governor of his state, who could in theory offer him a pardon, is a Tea Party darling who is very unlikely to do so. It’s all such bullshit.

I’m trying to think of an example where someone has been so thoroughly screwed over by just about everyone that was meant to help them; his family, the justice (ha!) system, the rehabilitation (ha!) system, the powers that be. It’s not coming to me.

I’ve signed both the petitions:

and started following the Free Felix twitter account:!/free_felix

But I fear it’s going to take a lot more to reverse this travesty.

And just as worrying: how many deaf prisoners are there out there? How many don’t have access to their trials, to rehabilitation, to appeals? No-one seems to know…

I hope that Pat Bliss, Felix’s lawyer who has worked for him pro bono for the last fifteen years, gets some recognition for her efforts, and that Felix, in the end, gets some justice.

America is so far ahead.

Not in economic terms, but in terms of how deaf people are portrayed in mainstream TV, particularly those who use sign language. In America, signing deaf characters have featured in The West Wing, CSI, Law and Order:SVU and ER, to name but a few. Whilst here in the UK, Shameless has shown that a signing deaf person can be as conflicted, unpredictable, independent or even downright psychotically angry as any hearing counterpart with the character of Danny, very few other British shows have had such strong signing deaf characters. Danny’s leaving scene in Shameless was as stunning for the fact that a deaf person (Shock! Horror!) was shown being so incandescent with rage they actually beat their own father to death (but it seems the guy may have had it coming) as it was for the violence – nothing graphic, but a hell of a lot of beating. Good for you. That’s a deaf person doing it for themselves on national telly, that is.

Finally, being a geek has paid off. The Big Bang Theory has rewarded my years of loyalty with a signing deaf character – and not the kind that’s ever so brave, and deals with the world despite all that is thrown in their way etc, but the kind that got her claws into Raj and took him for everything she could get. Go girl! Most of the jokes were funny, though I did feel uneasy at all the talking to each other while the girl looked on, vaguely puzzled, while the boys got laughs, it just seems that the type of gal who would chew out Penny and Howard with a lot of *somethings* and stomp off in a huff would wanna know what was going on. That aside, she was independent, she was sassy, she was pretty, and in the end she was ruthless, breaking Raj’s heart when it became clear the supply of money had dried up. And she did it in a funny way. And she taught Raj to sign. Was there anything she couldn’t do?

And I loved the way that Penny’s claim that “Disabled people are nice. Everyone knows that.” was challenged for the generic fallacy it was; not that we aren’t nice, but aren’t we allowed to have bad days and be grumpy like everyone else? Assuming disabled people are nice all the time is like saying we’re not allowed to be as moody and unpredictable as ‘normal’ people. Just ask the train station guard I had a brief word with yesterday when I discovered that both the assigned disabled access gates (the ticket operated things that let you access the platforms) were letting people out, but not in. There was tutting, and there was a “what’s the big idea?” and a muttered, half-hearted “thanks” as I was finally allowed to hobble through. I doubt he’ll be voting me for the ‘genteel spice’ award anytime soon.

The Big Bang Theory – well written, hilarious, and good kudos for a strong signing deaf character and for challenging preconceptions. Clearly, the natural next step is to show a deaf or disabled scientist /  geek. We’re out there, you know.

The cats are here!

The last couple of days have been spent on housework and settling in the new cats. They’re very chalk and cheese, with personalities as different as their markings. Yuki (Japanese for ‘snow’) is a pure white 3-month-old kitten, with some oriental good looks and smooth fur, with Siamese-sized ears (i.e. like little radar dishes on his head) that, in a perfect example of life’s little ironies, are stone deaf. So far I’ve tried the traditional clicking of fingers and clapping hands, and the less-traditional blast of music from my phone, but perhaps the most convincing evidence is that when The Doctor and Alex were sucked, screaming, into the cupboard, he didn’t even twitch. I’m looking forward to what happens when I bring out the hoover. He’s a playful but chilled kitten, who seems just as happy sleeping on his back on the sofa as he is killing random motes of dust and bits of fluff on the floor.

Lucy is an ancient, slightly grumpy, 22-year-old long-haired black moggy with a white bib and socks who lives for food. Her favourite activities so far have been lying on random patches of the kitchen floor, or the dining room floor, or on the landing, and eating. If she could spend all day with her face in a food bowl, I have no doubt she would. Yes, she does have an underactive thyroid, and if anything this has worked in her favour, as I wrap the pills in chicken. She’s already started to follow me when I open the fridge.

I’m happy that the cats are settling in, but still not sure what to do about Yuki when he’s been here long enough to – in theory – be let out. Do we set up a fence in the garden? We’ve already got a harness so we can take him out supervised. He’s not the brightest cat, and pretty fearless, so letting him out unsupervised is a risk at best, I’m all for deaf empowerment, but he’s too pretty to be run over by the boy racers we sometimes get round here. Am trying to teach him some basic signs / hand signals but it’s not going well. Mind you, I suppose it’s asking too much of the attention span of a 13-week-old kitten.

To clear up some confusion, my cat Faraday (whose picture is still my personal profile pic) who lived with me at my flat in Bristol passed away last November after a suspected kidney infection turned out to be end-stage renal failure. She came from the RSPCA at the age of 16, as I wanted a quiet cat to hang out at flat with me. This she did quite happily in return for a soft sofa and all the boiled chicken and felix she could eat, and when she went, she was 19-and-a-half. I still miss that bloody cat.

Tabby, who disappeared so mysteriously four months ago, was my parents’ cat, who came to live with us from RSPCA when I was about 14 or 15 after about two or three years of asking, persuading and eventually begging on my part. She was, as her name suggests, an ordinary tabby cat that I loved dearly, but she never quite forgave me for moving away to Uni, and then for moving away again to my own place, so our relationship over the last few years had been distant, at best. If I didn’t know better, I could almost put her disappearance a mere two months after I moved back in down to spite. I still wish I knew where the hell she went. Quite apart from closure, it’s like a Rubik’s cube that you can’t figure out. The solution is there somewhere, but you’re damned if you can work out what it is.

Cats, eh?

Tia Maria and Orange Juice

The last weekend went by in blur. This is something that I have often been told is a sign of having had a good time, but it would still be nice to remember more of it. I know I became a Dutch Marquis, a Spanish Count, a French Baron and an English Count, I bombarded and plundered two cities and gave them to the Dutch – hence the heady promotion to Marquis – I captured a Spanish treasure galleon and looted all the gold and eliminated my way to 2nd in the list of most notorious pirates on the Spanish Main. Sadly, none of this happened in reality, but in a game I became addicted to over the weekend, which is why I haven’t buggered off to Las Vegas with all the gold I looted. More’s the pity.

In the real world, I spent the weekend in a house with a mix of hearing and deaf people to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. I wasn’t sure what to expect; from experience deaf / hearing parties have tended to end with the hearing on one side of the room and the deaf on the other. It’s nothing personal, just communication; after a while it gets too hard to focus on lipreading, and unfortunately large amounts of alcohol tend not to help with the focus. To my pleasant surprise though, they turned out to be a pretty chilled out, patient bunch who were happy to repeat things and some even picked up a few signs over the weekend. I ended up assigning a new sign name (roughly translated as *twisty hair*), and gaining a new nickname (Owl). I tried to teach some basic signs to a very drunk boyfriend of the birthday girl, but even though Rosie is a fluent signer, he scored a disappointing 1 out of 5 in the spot test. We’ll have to work on him, he’s keen but unco-ordinated.

What else do I recall? The cool-looking shipwreck on the beach, only timbers left now, heck knows how old it is, but it formed a natural pool while the tide was out, very pretty, and watching Rob clamber over it and waiting for the moment when he slipped and caused himself a near-fatal injury and we’d have to clamber in and get him. Thankfully it didn’t happen, and our jeans / thick coats / raincoats remained mud free. Raincoats and jeans on a beach in summer? When it’s August 2011 and there’s a stiff winter breeze coming off the far, far, far, (very far) distant sea, yes.

The others decided they wanted to go off and explore, i.e. they wanted to walk to the nearest tiny seaside town and have a look around. I decided to return to the house and further my career as an adventuring, swash-buckling pirate. After I’d caused some confusion by emptying the dishwasher and tidying away the clean dishes and putting dirty ones in and (I thought) switching it back on and wandering off. Apparently, switching on the dishwasher is more involved than that, so the others returned and scratched their heads over how the clean dishes had become dirty dishes again, and by that point I was somewhere in Havana trading sugar so I was unable to help with the mystery. Now you know, guys.

The restaurant was lovely, and the creamy garlic mushrooms were to die for. Or, more practically, to google the recipe for. I have got to learn how to make that. The raspberry pavlova (the little I managed to stuff in) was gorgeous and there were nice birthday touches everywhere. A good time had by all, though I did consider giving the chef a gift of my own – a steak timer.

And for the record, yes I did try the Tia Maria and Orange Juice that Rosie insisted was delicious; it tasted like a weird, liquid, alcoholic Terry’s chocolate orange gone wrong. The part of my brain that likes Terry’s choc orange sort of liked it, but the part of my brain that knew what was in it rebelled. I can explain Virtue Theory to a layman, but I couldn’t get my head around putting Tia Maria in orange juice. I got own back though, I got her to try my own favourite cocktail; Dr Pepper and Malibu. Delicious. Or if her reaction was anything to go by, so disgusting she needed another glass of wine to get over it. Different folks, different strokes and all that.

Saturday night was quite a party, but Sunday was an altogether more sedate affair. After the late morning clear-up (do you know how many cans had at least a quarter of beer still left in them? Just remember where you’ve put your drinks down guys, then you won’t assume the empty can you just picked up and shook is yours and go off and get another one…) and a respectful period while everyone recovered, some of the group headed off to Cheddar gorge to walk around and take in the sights. I bombarded Villa Hermosa and made off with more trade goods than I could actually fit in my cargo holds.

At this point I should probably thank Bruce for the lift and the generous loans of the iPad (on which the game was based; steering ships by stroking a screen, genius) and the lovely, cuddly, strokable James for not fighting me over it and settling for checking his facebook on Bruce’s iPhone. Love you guys!

The others had a wonderful time climbing up steep inclines and taking in the majestic views; my feet tingled at the thought. And not in a good way. Some very pretty pictures though, which I look forward to seeing on facebook.

The BBQ was delicious – I chomped on a chewy minty lamb steak and a big caramelised sweetcorn cob – tough, bitsy food that has been cut out of the family diet in recent months thanks to my father’s ongoing issues that the hospital haven’t nailed down yet. Modern medicine, my foot.

I was amused that on Sunday night, most people had retired by midnight, with tea and biscuits. At midnight the night before, the party had just been hitting its stride. For my part, I was asleep by 1, idly wondering if I had any Malibu left…

By Monday morning, all attempts at deep thinking and quick wit had ceased, thoughts seemed to take a while to reach destinations, and my liver was sending urgent status reports. We got the house cleaned up, and I hope whoever comes to empty the recycling doesn’t judge us too harshly. There were 17 people, after all.

All in all, it was a pretty good weekend, chatting with lots of new people, though unfortunately not always remembering their names, consuming large amounts of alcohol and eating whatever I liked, and I hope everyone had just as good, if not better, a time. All together now: happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthdaaaaaaaaaaaaaay dear Rosieeeeeeeeeeeee, happy birthday to you! I hope you remembered to rescue your gift from the fridge before the raids began on Monday morning 🙂

On a side note, the cats arrive today! They will be picked up this evening and hopefully introductions will be smooth, though I still have visions of the kitten making a beeline for the nearest power socket / dangling wire / tiny gap / bear trap. Well, maybe not the last one. Here’s hoping all goes well!

Unusual Skills Week!

A couple of weeks ago, in the last week of July, I was lucky enough to attend Unusual Stage School’s skills week. A Disability Arts Cymru project, and with me based in Cardiff / Wales for my degree, I was able to gate-crash an amazing week with an amazing bunch of people. We worked on script development, performance, voice, singing (yes, singing) movement (where I tripped over the instructor) improv and physical theatre (not, as I had imagined, a sort of hippy wafting pretending-to-be-trees exercise, but in fact a type of improv). My fellow skills week attendees all knew each other with a couple of exceptions, but I was made to feel so welcome it was incredible. Usually, I struggle a lot with socialising with non-signers, but this lot were so patient, apparently happy to repeat themselves ad infinatum, and even better, a few of them knew a couple of signs and the manual alphabet, which in some cases can make or break a conversation. I even ended up staying over during the course, despite my misgivings (leaving my parents unsupervised and I typically don’t handle hearing social situations well) and I can honestly say that at the end of the week I didn’t want to leave. I wanted another week! Hell, I would have stayed for a month. We could call it ‘Big Brother DAC’ and sell the TV rights to the BBC…

One of the happiest moments had to be sitting on a makeshift bench in Cardiff Bay with the usual suspects, nibbling ‘starters’ we’d got from Tesco’s (chargrilled mushroom pasta and three bean salad, mmmm) and chatting in the evening sun while waiting for our accommodation to prepare our (somewhat unimaginative) supper. The less said about Hamgate, the better. But I couldn’t really complain as we were staying round the back of the Millennium Centre, an incredible location, and I was staying with a great bunch of people. Have I already said that? Well they were. From the bass tones of Richard, to the sweetness of Gwilym, to the cuteness of our youngest member, to the outgoing Laura, well you get the idea, I’d better stop here or I’ll make myself sick. But I loved them all, I really did. From my Persian General to the PAs.

And let’s not forget the reason we were all there – skills week! I now know that I naturally sing in a low pitch (no Katherine Jenkins then) that my speech / vocal pitch range is wider than I had thought, that there are many, many ways to say ‘yes’ when really you mean ‘no’, that physical theatre doesn’t necessarily involve pretending to be trees and improv in all its forms can be a lot of fun.

I learned that coffee and toffee are a nice combination for ice cream, that a buffalo burger actually tastes quite nice, and that a Strawberry Capirinha is a lovely cocktail. I also learned that it’s possible to put on four pounds in five days. I’ve lost those extra pounds though, thanks to the virus I picked up as a souvenir. One of those viruses that reduces your IQ level by half and makes it hard to think while you sniffle into your tissue.

It was still worth it though and I’d happily do it again! Love you guys!


BSL & Music

Sign language and music. Not the most obvious of bedfellows, I grant you, but when it’s done well, it works. Whether by sign singing (translating mainstream songs to BSL to the music – a la Fletch@) or original work (SignMark and Sean Forbes, step forward please) it can and does work, and is enjoyed by hearing and deaf alike.

Tonight, I am going to perform poetry and sign songs at a BSL music gig in Bath, only the second time I’ve ever done sign songs in public. Belting out 9 to 5 in front of the mirror doesn’t count. Hoping it goes well! I’m confident of my timings, my worst nightmare now is that the music is so loud it overloads my hearing aids and I lose my place – but the vibrations should keep me on track – or I totally forget the words and stand there like a lemon. Probably quite common stage worries, but anxiety-inducing all the same. Am still looking forward to it though – should be a laugh!

Yes, I like music. Yes, I understand music. Most deaf people do at least understand the concept, despite what some hearing people may think. I’m reminded of an incident back in Uni, When a poster in the Deaf Studies dept advertising a similar BSL / music gig was defaced by someone who had written something to the effect of:

“What’s the point? Deaf people and music? How do they hear it?”

This is the scribbled conversation that followed over the next couple of days, as far as my memory allows:

“We feel the vibrations!”

“Yeah sure but you can’t hear the words, what’s the point?”

“That’s what the BSL is for”

And then, below that:

“Look up and to your right :)”

Sure enough, when I looked up and to my right, I saw the CCTV camera, little red light winking at me. I couldn’t help but laugh that the idiot would have looked up and realised their ignorance was being recorded for all to see. I don’t know if anyone ever caught up with them, but I hope the moment of realisation that they were being taped and sniggered at had a lasting effect. At the very least, it put an end to the conversation.

I feel the vibrations, when the beat is clear. When the words are clear, I hear them. If there’s no distinguishable beat or words, I’m lost. This may be why I struggle with Amy Winehouse and many, many other so-called musicians – slurring your words into a microphone and yelling indiscriminately over a crashing guitar and an apparently drunk drummer does not help. Is it too much to ask that music sounds and feels like, well, music?

I should have no such issues tonight, the interpreters are booked, so bring it on!

Adventures in Audiology

A friend of mine was due to attend an audiology appointment. On arriving, she discovered that she had been branded a ‘troublemaker’ for making some comments on her last visit, and for asking the audiologist questions about how much they knew about the deaf community. As predicted, she had a great time arguing with the nurses over the audiology department’s access for deaf people. As amusing as reading her facebook updates were, it put me in mind of some of my own previous adventures…

I arrive at audiology reception. the receptionist barely looks at me, and addresses the computer. Eventually, I remind her that I’m deaf and I have to lipread. She looks at me blankly as if seeing me for the first time and asks me to take a seat.

A young, fresh-out-of-the-stables audiologist has to take a mould of my ear for a new earmould. The process basically involves putting a small sponge on a thread in my ear, right next to the eardrum, and filling my ear with putty. The polite thing to do with the sponge is push it gently down the ear canal with the little ear torch thing, in one smooth flowing movement, stopping when it meets slight resistance – the eardrum. The thread is then arranged just so and the putty stuffed in. What does this one do? She jabs the sponge in, millimetre by millimetre like a little woodpecker – jabjabjabjab and just as I’m about to mention that I think she’s getting near the end and could she take it easy, she suddenly, apparently thinking she’s clearly not doing this fast enough, does a slightly bigger jab – and hits the eardrum. Owwwwwww! For the love of…

And last, but certainly not least, I’m at the audiology drop-in to have a problem with my hearing-aid sorted out. I’m sitting telling the nurse how the hearing-aid is misbehaving, and I’m not sure if it’s me or the hearing-aid. She says ‘All right then, let’s have a look’ and just like that, reaches out and tries to grab my hearing-aid off my ear.

I jerk back in surprise, but too late, she’s already got a grip on it, and ends up pulling the hearing-aid and tubing off, leaving her holding a whistling, protesting hearing-aid and me with the earmould still in my ear. I looked at her in shock for a moment, and she actually seemed surprised at my reaction. I calmly explained that usually, people let me take own hearing-aids off and “seriously, it’s like taking someone’s glasses off”. I’m not sure she really understood the severity of what she’d just done, but accepted that I hadn’t liked it, for whatever reason. The reason is this – those hearing-aids are mine. They’re as much a part of my personal space as my glasses. If you want to look at the damn things, ask me first, and I’ll take them off. Simple as. DON’T GRAB THEM!

This is just a small sample of my experiences with audiology departments, and frankly I think I’m going to have to stop here ’cause I’m getting flashbacks.

Do they not train these people?

A world without phones…

An impossible dream perhaps, but who said dreams had to be achievable? I’ll tell you my impossible dream – a world in which phones are NOT the only method of communication.

In this world, box offices have email addresses that actually reply within say, five days. Ditto support services, government departments, businesses and individuals – everyone, in fact, should offer a viable alternative to the ever-present telephone number. Be it email, text, fax, skywriting co-ordinates, I don’t care.

I had thought that with the advent of emails, broadband, and messenger, the hearing might begin to relinquish their dependence on the landline. Apparently not. Odd really, when you consider that 9 million people in the UK have some form of deafness or hearing loss, that this situation has been put up with for so long.

All these businesses / companies / theatres / depts are missing a trick – sort it out, people! In the meantime, I shall continue to dream. And in case dreaming doesn’t work, I shall continue to send peevish, cajoling and in some cases just plain complaining emails to those I see as the worst offenders. Sometimes the world needs a little encouragement to change.

Now if only they’d reply to their emails…

Liz Carr, London Pride and Signing Ticket Inspectors

Oof – an interesting couple of days has seen me attend a BSL interpreted performance of Liz Carr’s “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” at the Tobacco Factory, watch a play by Deafinitely Theatre, check out the main stage at London Pride in Trafalgar Square and be pleasantly surprised by a deaf-aware ticket inspector.

On Friday night, I got myself down to the Tobacco Factory, expecting that there would be a decent audience for a comedienne of reasonable fame; indeed Wikipedia describes her as “a British actor, stand-up comedian, television presenter and international disability rights activist”. I was surprised at the low turnout, but those of us who were in the audience enjoyed the show, and it was lovely to have another BSL-accessible performance so soon after Caroline Parker’s / Graeae’s “Signs of a Diva”, held in the same venue a few months ago. I see a bright future for the Tobacco Factory. Whilst it’s true that some of the humour was ‘lost in translation’ – plays on words for example – the show was signed with verve and good timing by the interpreter, who was at one point incorporated into the routine himself. I could identify with having an inner ‘evil’ voice making sarcastic comments and inappropriate outbursts whilst dealing with life, and some comments regarding the mechanics of disabled sex added some spice to the evening. It was just a pity the lighting technician kept dimming the light on the interpreter, making it at times hard to follow, but this is something can easily be improved, and my hope is that as the Tobacco Factory puts on more BSL accessible shows, they’ll get better at it.

Saturday saw me travel to London for a day out at the theatre and London Pride. Deafinitely Theatre’s new children’s play, “The Boy and the Statue” was visual, funny and enjoyable, and I enjoyed chatting to the actors after the show – I’ve known one of them since Uni and haven’t seen him in ages, it was very cool to see him performing in his first full-length play.

London Pride was amazing! Beautiful weather, loads of people, roads clear of traffic – but not of rubbish, despite the best efforts of roaming roadsweepers – lots of colour and a great atmosphere made for a great Pride event, and even better – they had BSL interpreters on the main stage with the performers! They even had their own little corner on the big screen, they’d even set up a little blue screen on stage that the interpreters could stand in front of, so they showed up better. Brilliant. I don’t know who was in charge of organising the interpreters, but kudos to them – and to the interpreters of course, who were signing everything from dance to rap to bitchy drag acts. Wonderful. More, please. Pride events, take note.

All in all, a pretty good day, but it was topped off by an unexpected delight – a ticket inspector on the train who waved a hand to get my attention, signed ‘hello’ and then signed ‘thank you’ after I produced my ticket. Wow! I can honestly say I think this is the first time this has ever happened in all my years of travelling via train, and I can only hope this is the start of a trend. Train companies take heed – start teaching your staff to sign and they might just make a deaf person’s day.