Tag Archives: disability

I’s in a book!

“Whose Flame Is It Anyway?” Anthology
A celebration in words and pictures



Not my book, sadly, but an anthology by Disability Arts Cymru, with poetry, prose, art and pictures of various productions. I’ve been lucky enough to have two English poems accepted for the book, and I’m told there’s a very fetching pic of me in my ‘Queen of the Birds’ Eryr Euraid regalia 🙂

Here’s the official blurb: ‘Through “Whose Flame is it Anyway?” Disability Arts Cymru has uncovered a wealth of talent amongst young disabled people in Wales. For four years, our young poets, painters, performers and musicians have never ceased to amaze & inspire. This anthology is a celebration of their skill and passion.’

Good eh? I’ve been invited to the book launch, where I’ll be performing sign language poems, but sadly, the event is RSVP only. Sorry, folks! The poems – which I still need to compose… – will reflect the English poems I have in the book – ‘When the Dead Are Cured’ and ‘Lament of a Bilingual Poet’. If you wanna read them, you’ll have to buy the book! Speaking of which, you can order here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whose-Flame-Anyway-Macsen-McKay/dp/1907476091

Just to whet your appetite, here are the first three lines of ‘When the Dead are Cured’, affectionately known as the ‘Zombies Haiku’.

Zombies surround me:
Bodies, faces, say nothing.
Only their mouths move.

Ooh, I wonder who / what I could possibly be talking about?

P.S. The blog is probably going to be slow for a while, am knee-deep (or I should be) in my MA dissertation. The working title is “Demonising genes: this way the future?” and my argument is that blaming everything on genes; pathologising and normalising them based on factors we don’t yet fully understand (take the debate on epigenetics for example) and concerted efforts to eradicate increasing numbers of genes and random mutations are misguided. Especially as technology that can help people with disabilities integrate into society has also moved on: we need to have faith in human ability to adapt. In the future, accidents will still happen, genes will slip through the net, some people will still have ‘disabilities’ compared to the rest of ‘normal’ society, society will still need to adapt to those who fall outside of their ‘normal range’. Basically I’m arguing that people with (non-life-threatening) disabilities deserve a chance at life too! To clarify, I’m arguing for a spectrum of ‘fatal — non-fatal’ and ‘difference — disease / disability’ as opposed to ‘disabled — normal’ or ‘abnormal — normal’. Deafness, for example, would be an example of a non-fatal disability that doesn’t deserve to legislated against *ahem, HFEA Clause 14, ahem* whereas life-threatening diseases such as Tay-Sachs, where a sufferer will live a very short life (rarely living past the age of four) should absolutely be tested for and guarded against. It’s a dissertation that takes in arguments about value of life, aspects of medical law, genetic ethics or genethics, social commentary and disability rights. And it’s due in at the end of August. Forgive me for not updating regularly for a while 🙂

I’m a fashionista! (And didn’t know it!)

The last week or so I’ve been a bit preoccupied, but enjoying the popularity of my last post, I had been a bit worried that revealing my inner, sarcastic voice might be too much, but it seems that far from it, I should let it out more often. Perhaps on a day-release basis.

Today, I’m thinking about Rod Liddle. Heard of him? As I type, he’s trending on twitter, and thus probably enjoying his own brand of popularity. He wrote a piece in The Sun that ostensibly attacks those who fraudulently claim benefits. I agree in principle – with the idea that those who fraudulently claim benefits should be put in the stocks. Where Rod and I differ, is his definition of a “not too serious disability”, the idea that there “is a lot of money to be made from being disabled” (excuse me while I cough up my coffee with helpless laughter), that being disabled is somehow fashionable (oh, so that’s why disability hate crime has gone up by 75%. It’s because people are jealous, and nothing to do with inflammatory articles like this), and that 80% of people on ‘incapacity’ are considered fit to work (erm, DLA fraud rate 0.5%, versus barely-qualified tick-boxing bureaucrats using a discredited assessment system? I know who I believe).

As a claimant of DLA, I invited Mr Liddle to spend a day in my shoes, or if he doesn’t like them, my mother’s shoes. My mother is one of those who “gets to park wherever she wants” thanks to a blue badge, and yes she does have motability car (which, by the way, is not free). Here follows a transcript of events during our day together. Enjoy.

“Arrrggh! It’s an earthquake!”
Actually, no, it’s my alarm clock. The buzzing is a vibrator – no, not that kind – under my pillow and the light is my clock. Just press the button to turn it off.
“Erm, thanks. What do I do now?”
Why don’t you try getting out of bed? That’s where I usually start.
And do be careful not to walk on your big toes.
“Excuse me?”
Well, a kink in my feet causes you to walk on the insides of your feet, distributing your body weight through your bunions and your big toes. But you see, if you keep doing that, it gets painful, as you noticed. Just make sure you focus on walking on the outside of your feet at all times OK? It’ll also help with the minor kinks in your legs if you walk that way. Just don’t forget yourself.
“All the time? What kinks?”
Well, currently the suspicion is on Hypermobility Syndrome, if so, it would explain a lot, like why my knees can dislocate, why I have raging Iliotibial Band Syndrome, and why I can do this *touches arms with thumbs on same hands while twisting arms around*
Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, that’s usually just a party trick.

*Later that day*
“Ow, my knee! My feet! My leg!”
Well, you decided you wanted to go shopping. If you’d told me you were planning on doing a lot of walking, I would have given you the knee brace and the walking stick. You’ve got to plan, my friend.

“Argh! What was that?”
You weren’t paying attention when you went down the stairs were you? If you misjudge the depth of a step, there’s a chance your knee will half-collapse, just to spite you. You’ve been warned.

“Hey! Why is that person looking at me like I’m a piece of dirt? What did I do?”
Erm, let me see…. ah yes, seems they asked you politely to excuse them, but you didn’t hear them, and so of course because the world revolves around them, they’ve assumed you’re ignoring them and pushed past you with a dirty look.
“What? But my earmoulds are blue for gods’ sake! Don’t they LOOK?”
Welcome to my life.

What’s going on?”
“I’m supposed to catch this train, but everyone’s walking off. What do I do?”
Quick, follow them! And see if you can pick out someone who might be easy to lip-read and ask them what the tannoy said.
“What tannoy? How do I know they’re easy to lip-read?”
Did you hear that sort of quiet white noise that sounded vaguely like Sauron gargling with a lawnmower? That’s the tannoy. You can’t, but things to avoid are beards and moustaches. After that it’s pot luck. Good luck!

“What the hell was that?”
Probably feedback from the hearing-aids. Or tinnitus. Or you’re going mad. Don’t worry too much about it.

“What’s this person saying? They keep moving their head around.”
Tell them you need to lip-read and ask them to keep their head still.
“I did, but they’re still doing it.”
Ask them again, and be a bit more firm.
“I don’t want to make a fuss.”
Sometimes you have to. Now ask them again.
“I did, now they’re treating me like it’s my fault.”
Sigh. You’ve got one of the arseholes. OK, there’s two ways you can go about this. Either give up the conversation as a bad job and wander off, which will be interpreted as rude, or try and educate them, possibly ending in a row, which will be interpreted as rude. Which do you want to do?
Is there anything I can do that won’t be interpreted as rude?”
Not if you don’t understand what they’re saying, no. You’re kind of trapped, really. Rather than put myself through the stress, I prefer to leave it. Unless they have information you need, in which case you’re definitely trapped. Try getting them to write it down.
“I did, but now they’re treating me like I’m completely stupid.”
Hmm. Wait until they’ve finished giving you the info you need, then repeat after me… ready? ‘I am an MA student, and it’s not my fault you don’t know how to communicate with deaf people. May I suggest a deaf and disability awareness course? And incidentally, fuck you.’ Now, run! Hobble, damn it. OK, you had to make a quick exit, but don’t you feel better?

“Oh, what a day. Why do my legs ache so much?”
Because you don’t walk right, even with the knee brace and the stick. Your muscles are always being pulled ever so slightly wrongly, not so much that they’ll do anything dramatic, occasional knee pop notwithstanding, but enough that they don’t like it and complain at the end of the day. I’ve found only two effective remedies; steaming hot baths and painkillers. Mind you, I’m probably not that disabled by your standards. I can still walk, after all.
“Whatever. It’s good enough for DLA, right? Where do I get it? What’s this?”
This is the paperwork. A half-inch thick form, and don’t forget to include submissions from all your consultants and doctors for every condition you cite, of course you’ll have to track them all down first, and they might charge you. but it’s worth it for the DLA right?
“I guess so…”
Well, here is how much DLA I get, and here a recent BSL interpreter invoice. Does anything strike you about them?
This one is per week, and this one is per hour. You’ll notice it’s roughly the same amount. One month’s DLA is about six hours of BSL interpreting, or 16 taxis, since public transport here is crap and I’m hardly going to walk to the train station. Let me know if you can figure out a profit margin. You’ll notice I’m actually losing money, hence why DLA was brought out in the first place. It’s because being disabled is actually bloody expensive. Are you getting it yet?
“Well, bugger me.”
There is someone here who gets more DLA than me though, perhaps you’d like to give her shoes a try before you go to bed?
“All right, then.”
Allow me to present my mother. I’m sure she’d love to let you borrow her shoes for a bit, oh, she’s already gone. Seems she’s enjoying her new-found freedom and decided to visit Westonbirt Arboretum, just for the hell of it.
I know, wild, huh? Anyway, here you go…

*A bit later*
“Wheezes… gasps… wheezes”
Oh, did I not mention? She has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Come on, it’s another step to get upstairs. You can make it.

“Oh, I’m so tired. Those stairs are so far.”
Well, this is what you have to do to get higher rate mobility. You want a car don’t you?
“I suppose so. Can I go to bed now?”
Certainly, just put this mask on first.
“What the hell is this?”
It’s an oxygen / breathing mask. She also has Sleep Apnoea, so if you don’t wear this, you’ll stop breathing. Come on, it’s easy to set the straps. I’ll show you how to switch on the machine…

Oh, what’s that? You’ve had enough of pretending to be disabled? You’d rather be able-bodied? But I thought it was so fashionable! Come on, you said a month, you haven’t even made it one day!

[DISCLAIMER: The above events did not happen. Maybe I’m being unfair to Mr Liddle, maybe he’d last longer than one day. But not as unfair as he’s been in his bloody article.]

Liddle’s article – http://politicalscrapbook.net/2012/01/rod-liddle-disabled-the-sun/

Diary of a Benefit Srounger’s great response – http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2012/01/sacrifice-more-hang-cheats-out-to-dry.html

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: http://masondixonautistic.blogspot.com/2012/01/us-and-them.html

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EnthanasiePropaganda.jpg
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.

Random ramblings and links

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to update my blog regularly, so here I am. What to write? I fear my life is somewhat uninteresting at the minute. Finished antibiotics a few days ago. Woke up with sore throat. Coughed pitifully. Drank coffee. Took painkillers. Checked twitter. Etc. Apparently, the fact that I’m still unwell even after a course of antibiotics indicates that my infection is at least partly viral. No, really? And it can last for up to 6 weeks or more. Thanks for that.

However, life goes on, and the main event for me yesterday was the launch of the spartacusreport / Responsible Reform report on the proposed changes to DLA, funded, written by and supported by the very people the proposed changes affect, and ooh, does it make for enlightening reading.


For example, where 98% of respondents opposed the qualifying period being raised to 6 months from 3, this somehow got translated by the government document as “some organisations were in favour of our proposal to extend the Qualifying Period from 3 months to 6 months before benefit would be paid… However many organisations and some individuals were not in favour of this” Er, excuse me? 98% against gets translated to ‘many’ and ‘some’ and 2% for is translated to ‘some’? Making it look as though the numbers aren’t as damning as they are? Google it if you don’t believe me. Even Boris Johnson objected in his submission: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielknowles/100127807/boris-johnson-turns-his-fire-on-the-governments-reforms-to-disability-living-allowance/ I think I’m starting to like Boris. It’s a strange sensation.

What I find even more damning though, is that the #spartacusreport was trending on twitter yesterday, even at first place for a short while, then hovering in second for the whole afternoon. It received support from various celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Tim Minchin, and even John Prescott noticed. It attracted millions of tweets.

And yet, where is the BBC report on this amazing reponse to the Welfare Reform Bill? Where is the Daily Mail story on this socially-funded and researched report? This must be it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084445/Incapacity-benefits-10-000-sick-Britons-abroad-claiming-1m-week.html
Oh, my mistake. Also, notice the ‘MAIL COMMENT: the welfare state has become a bonanza for the feckless’, mere days after being forced to print that, actually, the fraud rate for DLA is less than 0.5%: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083294/Boris-Johnson-attacks-Tory-plans-benefits-squeeze-disability-living-allowance.html?ito=feeds-newsxml
It’s like they’ve learned nothing.

Where is ANY mainstream news report on the twitterstorm that #spartacusreport inspired? It’s times like this that make me feel paranoid.

And how appropriate then, that the Resistance Exhibition Event: Telling Our Stories opens at M shed in Bristol this weekend, as a nod to Disability History Month. I’ll be performing BSL poetry in Studio 2 on Saturday as part of this event, all are welcome! http://mshed.org/whats-on/events/resistance-exhibition-event-telling-our-stories/ Check out the poster – how cool is that? Posed by none other than Liz Crow, the director of Resistance. Come on down!

Oh, and another thing: according to the pope, gay marriage is a threat to humanity’s future: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/09/us-pope-gay-idUSTRE8081RM20120109
There’s a lot of things I could say in response to this, but a tweet by Patrick Strudwick has summed it up perfectly:

Today the pope said that gay marriage undermines “the future of humanity itself”. I say telling people not to use condoms already has.

Well, quite.


An hour after I published this, the Daily Mail posted this. They pretty much agree with everything I said, and more. They tear into Cameron and the WRB, defend the disabled and quote the Spartacus Report. Not only do I take back (some) of what I said about them in my previous post, I think I may need a lie-down to get over the shock.


In fact, screw the lie-down, where’s my codeine? Fan me, someone, fan me.

The OTHER awards speech…

First, I’d like to say thanks to my good friend Rosie for giving me a heads-up on this. Seems so much attention has been focussed on Dr Dornan’s acceptance speech for the Businesswoman of the Year award,that her OTHER award (The White Pages Community and Government Award) and acceptance speech have been almost unremarked upon, even though that particular video is still available on youtube, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USbj2l_M6zg

Even better, the CC button works, and it seems that CC can handle Australian accents better than British, perhaps they’ve been trained on Americans. I digress. Apart from a few phonic mistakes, most of the speech is still understandable, and if this is anything to go by, I can see why the other video has been taken down. Stand-out quotes include:

“…because I would like to decimate the very significant impact of deafness around the earth” (1.26)

“deaf children have the potential to speak just like children with normal hearing, and develop at the same rate”(1.54)

She then goes on to say that what deaf children (in Australia) need now is a nationwide newborn hearing screening programme, access to hearing technologies and cochlear implants – and I give her credit for saying ‘if they need it’ as that allows some room for grey area – but, and perhaps the captions screwed this bit up, she apparently makes no mention of access to sign language.

It’s ironic she talks about helping people to communicate with each other (3.14) – though due to caption trouble, I’m not sure of that context – since there are other ways to communicate than speech.

She then goes on to say that “the job needs to be finished” (3.39) – ominous, and somewhat overly optimistic.

She seems very passionate, and it’s great that she thinks that deaf children “are worth it” (3.47) and she does say that there will be a whole new generation of deaf children who are ready to take their place on the world stage, which is at least ending on a positive note. Unfortunately, I lost the rest of the speech to CC glitches, but I think I got the gist. The theme that runs throughout the whole speech is that speaking clearly, cochlear implants and hearing technology are the be-all and end-all.

I wear powerful hearing-aids. I was mainstreamed. I speak well. I can hear speech, in that speech is within my frequency register.  I even ‘pass’ occasionally, in that people don’t notice my hearing aids and thus don’t notice my deafness.

The truth is, at school I was hopelessly lost. I have never been able to cope in hearing social situations; the constant back and forth, the background noise, the chatter. And when you speak well, the assumption is often “they can’t be that deaf”, even as an adult. In fact, I have a profound sensori-neural hearing loss; I’m missing an average of 95dB and a couple of frequencies, and my hearing-aids, whilst powerful, are not magic. Noises are blended together, radio is worse than meaningless, and music has to have a beat or something I can ‘hook into’ before it makes sense. Wailing guitars and random wailing are a no-no. Sign language was my saviour.

The point I’m trying to make here is that being able to speak well does not give one automatic access to the world. Far from it, if anything it hinders slightly, because of the assumption that you can hear better than you actually can. I still need assistance to access the world around me, whether via sign language interpreters or palantypists / captions, I still cannot use a telephone, and instead use minicoms and relay services. The upshot is that you can communicate with the other person, but it’s hard for them to communicate with you, and for some reason sometimes it’s hard for them to understand I am actually that deaf, and sometimes they won’t write things down or speak more clearly for you. Such conversations usually end in frustration.

Communication is a two way street. Just because they understand you, doesn’t mean you understand them.

Furthermore, cochlear implants are not suited to every deaf person. However far technology advances, it’s going to take something more than an implanted amplifier to ‘fix’ deformed or absent auditory nerves, or malfunctioning auditory processors in the brain. Cochlear implants are offered only to those who are considered suitable for them, hence reasonably high success rates. Mention is rarely made of those who cannot use them.

All this means the job will not be ‘finished’ as soon as Dr Dornan apparently hopes. The comment I found most objectionable though was “deaf children have the potential to speak just like children with normal hearing, and develop at the same rate”(1.54)

Not all deaf childen have this potential to speak; all children are different, and this comment infers that deaf children who do not speak well will not develop at a similar rate to hearing children, and this is wrong. I have friends who have never or rarely spoken in their lives, and yet have university degrees, which they accessed entirely through written English and sign language. Speech is not the most important thing. Having an understanding of language is. If a deaf child is taught written English and sign language, there is no reason they should not flourish. Speech, if they are able to develop it, should of course be an option, a fun game like it was for me, not something they have to do, even if they can’t or don’t understand. My parents made a game out of getting sounds right, without any pressure. Making a child do something they don’t understand is one way to put them off for life – ask one or two people I know who, after leaving school, literally threw away their hearing-aids and never looked back.

I fully support that deaf children should have full access to services that can help them, and I can see Dr Dornan’s passion even if I object strongly to what she has to say, but what I really, really object to is the idea that being able to speak clearly and hear speech sounds will fix all of a deaf child’s or person’s issues.

I know for a fact that this isn’t true.

Misunderstanding or misquoted? Apparently, both…

Oh dear. There seems to have been a terrible misunderstanding. See, when Dr Dornan used the word ‘scourge’, she wasn’t referring to deafness, she just meant polio. This is how far Dr Dornan has backtracked since her little speech, i.e. not very far at all. Even so, she insists that she was misquoted. Funnily enough though, the people behind the awards ceremony took down the youtube video of her acceptance speech for fear that it could “cause offence”, at the same time as Dr Dornan was saying that the journalists had reported her wrong (a reporter who was there later publicly said that they quoted her exactly right, but I digress). Surely, to clear this all up, it would be a simple matter to reinstate the video, with subtitles of course. Telstra? We’re waiting.

What was depressing though, was watching some of the backlash. They acted so surprised. Like they really hadn’t thought that stringing the words ‘scourge’, ‘polio’, ‘eradication’ and ‘deafness’ together in a sentence might upset anyone. If this woman really didn’t know how the deaf community was likely to react, then I don’t know how she can claim to represent the interests of the deaf. And if she did know, then why go out of your way and ruin a perfectly good opportunity for a public speech in order to wind people up? Perhaps, in a twisted logic, she was trying to help, in that the furore over this little incident may have raised awareness of just how touchy this subject can be. Yes, that could be it. She could get her PR people to put out a release saying she was only trying to raise awareness via the medium of controversy. It would be more convincing than saying she was misquoted and then refusing to let us see the evidence for ourselves.

Not to mention those who couldn’t get why deaf people were making such a fuss. A few quotes from a couple of open forums I visited: “nut bags” – in reference to militant deafies, “People being forced to be PC, ridiculous!” – re Dornan’s backtracking, and “I’d be beside myself if I lost my hearing” – a perfectly normal reaction, but then you’d adjust. That’s what humans do – adapt to circumstances. A somewhat enlightening glimpse into a corner of mainstream society. Makes me wonder how people look at me when I’m out and about. Do they see an independent individual or an object of pity? I really hope the former.

Still, I think that’s the same for a lot of people, whether deaf or hearing. All we really want is to be understood, or at least perceived how we want to be. If I worried about what people thought, with my blue glitter earmoulds, my goth-black hearing-aids, my thick stripy glasses and blue walking stick – or at the moment, boring grey NHS crutches – I’d never go anywhere. The hell with it. If I get rich enough, they’ll just call me eccentric.

Meantime, I call on Telstra to release the video – subtitled. It’ll either exonerate Dr Dornan and the deaf community will owe her an apology, or give us a glimpse of a leader of a deaf-focussed charity unloading both barrels into her foot. Either way, it promises entertainment.

Here is one who ‘gets it’: http://theconversation.edu.au/strong-and-proud-deaf-community-has-no-need-for-self-appointed-champions-3875

For my part, I hope I can raise awareness in my own way, whether via my poetry, writing, sign singing, studies, whatever, at least so that when people see me or other deaf people, they see us, and not our lack of hearing.

So I’m a scourge, am I?

Well, there was me thinking that I was leading a fairly blameless life, studying an MA, looking after my parents, writing small things here and there, getting involved with arty stuff, running for student councillor at Cardiff Uni (yes, my political career, take two) and well, generally getting on with my life. I had no idea that I was suffering from a scourge, or indeed, that I was a scourge – depending on how you interpret this woman’s comments – as described by someone who just won an award for businesswoman of the year in Queensland, Australia:


Thanks for the boost to my self-esteem! The key quote, I feel, is:

“Deafness is a scourge that can be eradicated and consigned to history, just like polio, according to Queensland’s newly crowned Business Woman of the Year.”

Quite apart from the comparison of a non-life-threatening condition to an extremely unpleasant and life-threatening illness, which is poor taste to say the least, when there are other life-threatening conditions the human race can do without (Tay-Sachs, which has no treatment and kills most sufferers by the age of 5, comes to mind) I feel that this kind of emotionally charged rhetoric against deafness, itself a morally neutral and non-life-threatening condition is really unhelpful, and can only serve to alienate deaf adults who have been living with, and in some cases, thriving with this ‘scourge’.

Another quote I found interesting was:

“Dr Dornan founded Hear and Say after she came across a crying boy who had lost his bus money in 1991.
Due to his deafness, Dr Dornan could not communicate properly with the boy about what was wrong and what she could do to help.
A year later, she founded Hear and Say to teach deaf children how to hear and speak and it is now one of the world’s leading paediatric auditory-verbal and cochlear implant centres.”

To me, this quote would look so much better (and her business maybe more inclusive) if it had gone:

“Due to her inability to understand him, she realised that she needed to go on a deaf awareness course and learn sign language forthwith. When she had done this, she realised that services for deaf children in her area were sorely lacking, and set about setting up a business, Hear and Say, in order to improve the situation, with auditory-verbal services and sign language classes, ensuring all deaf children in her area had access to anything they needed.”

Sadly, t’was not to be. Now we have someone who’s apparently providing services for deaf children who clearly believes they are suffering from a dreadful scourge that needs to be eradicated, a scourge just as bad as polio. (I’ve actually met a couple of people who survived polio, who are now wheelchair-users and lucky to be alive. I think they might disagree.) And she’s just won an award, and been given an opportunity to spout this rhetoric across the front page of a local newspaper. I might suggest that as such a public figure, Dr Dornan chooses her words more carefully, or she might just upset the very people she says she’s trying to help. Oh, wait. She already has. Just google ‘Dr Dornan Hear and Say’. I have a feeling this will be staying with her for a while.

Charlie Swinbourne has a few things to say as well – and check out his much more well-considered and researched response to Liz Jones, as opposed to my midnight rant! http://charlieswinbourne.com/2011/10/12/deafness-should-not-be-spoken-of-as-a-scourge/

Just for using the words ‘deaf’, ‘scourge’, ‘polio’ and ‘eradication’ in the same sentence, never mind the same speech, Dr Dornan, you have at the very least exercised poor judgement. At worst, you’re some kind of post-eugenic nightmare of the deaf community. Congratulations on your award.