West Ham and All That

My last navel gazing session saw me compare an Olympic athlete with a PHD scholar. I came to the conclusion that they were almost one of the same. I guess the reader had better settle down with a cup of coffee and a biscuit because I am engaging in a spot of navel gazing again.

I am a West Ham nut. I read and watch everything I can about West Ham. Last year I got Pay TV, almost solely so that I could watch their games. I live for midnight Saturday night so that I can watch them. Two of my three sons are West Ham nuts too. They both watch with me. One never shuts up even when I tell him too. The other, being just seven, falls asleep after ten minutes, wakes up five minutes from the end, sees the score and then denies he was ever asleep at all. Next week I will get a tattoo of the legendary Bobby Moore on my forearm.

I recall watching my first ever English football match back in 1972. It was Arsenal and Leeds FA Cup final and I was 7 years old. Alan Clarke scored the winner for Leeds. I was heart broken because I was going for Arsenal. For six months of my life I was an Arsenal nut until I learnt that I was actually from West Ham. From that day I was hooked. I was a complete Football Nut. At one stage, courtesy of Shoot magazine and watching two week old versions of the UK football show the Big Match I could tell you every player of every team in the English Division 1, now known as the Premier League.

Unless you are a football nut like me none of this will mean anything to you. But watching the game on Saturday made me reminiscence about the days I was hearing.  I vividly recall that first match I ever saw. Arsenal vs. Leeds at Wembley Stadium.  The crowd sing and chant and the atmosphere is electric. It still sends tingles up my spine just to remember. In my mind I still hear it – the rhythm and crescendo – ARSSSSSEEEEEEENALLLLLLLLLL CLAP CLAP CLAP, ARSSSSSEEEEENNNALLLLL CLAP CLAP CLAP – Sung over and over again by 50 000 Cockneys, it is just awe inspiring. Then of course you have the 50 000 Yorkshire men at the other end all singing LEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDS CLAP CLAP CLAP. All singing in unison, all trying to be heard above each other – 100 000 voices, it is awesome.

I am not hearing now, I have been Deaf for almost 40 years. I no longer hear these chants nor feel the vibe of the crowd. More is the pity because thinking back, the crowd was at least 50 % of the entertainment. Now I am a purist. I speak of one touch play, of zones and through balls. I speak of changing to  4 3 3 because 4 3 2 1 is too defensive. But I miss that atmosphere. Give me a pill so that I can be fixed and hear it again and I would take that pill tomorrow.

It is not just the fact that they cheer on their team; football fans are a witty lot. Last week West Ham played Newcastle.  West Ham and Newcastle are in turmoil at the moment. Newcastle have lost their manager. West Ham have a new manager and their sponsor has gone bust. My son tells me that the West Ham fans broke into a chant that targeted the old Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan. The West Ham fans broke into a chant, ” KEEGAN, KEEGAN, KEEGAN where has your KEEGAN GOOONE – FAR FAAAAAAAAR AWWWWWWWAAAYYY.” My son thought it hilarious.

Not to be out done the Newcastle fans apparently made up their own chant. West Ham scored a goal. The scorer, as footballers do, went into hysterics. He spread his arms out like wings and began to run all over the field in mock impersonation of an aeroplane. Now the West Ham sponsor that went broke was, ironically, an airline company. The Newcastle fans broke into a chant – ” YOU’RE NOT FLYYYYYYIIIINNNNGGGG  ANNNNYMMOOOOOORE … YOU’RE NOT FLYYYYYYYING ANNNNNNYMOOOORRREE” – All this spontaneously sung by thousands of fans. Apparently even the West Ham fans found this one funny and laughed along with the Newcastle fans.

Generally I am over being Deaf. It’s part of my life. I often say it has given me as much as it has taken away. It has given me a living, friends and a different perspective of life. BUT when I was watching the football on the weekend I was reminded that I will always be culturally hearing. My values are hearing and I realised that I actually miss many of the things that I valued when I was hearing.

Life goes on and it is not a bad life that I have. But that Pill to cure deafness. Even if it could only last for 90 minutes from midnight on a Saturday just to experience that atmosphere again – I would take it like a shot.

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Desma Hunt's Diaries – No 2

I had such a lovely morning. I attended my son’s school assembly. Usually I just go and smile like the other parents. It just doesn’t do to not be part of the crowd. You know how it is. You look secretly around you at what the other parents are doing. You see them chuckle so you chuckle with them. You chuckle, make eye contact and then shake or nod your head depending on what the others are doing. Occasionally you place your fingers gently on your lips and look adoringly at the children as they make their announcements.  I always feel a tad guilty pretending to be one of the hearies. Hiding being deaf is vaguely insulting but it’s better than looking like a miserable cow.

But today they had an interpreter! My goodness don’t those little kiddies come up with some wonderful stories. The school my son goes to have a unit for Deaf kids but until today they had never provided an interpreter. Usually it is just a teacher of the deaf passing on snippets of information to the kids. But not today, the interpreter gave me full information and for the first time I knew what was going on at the assembly. For once my lips actually quivered with real emotion because I actually understood what my boy was saying up on stage. Seven goals he scored, and didn’t he just let everyone know!

But the best part was the National Anthem. I sang it with full and florid lip movements, all thanks to the interpreter.  “OOOOZZZTRALLIIIIA let us REJOICE ….”, I mouthed in time with the interpreter. I might sing in the shower but no way was I going to let the crowd suffer my singing.  I was involved… It was lovely!

I’m Desma Hunt. I’m Deaf and I love it!

Desma Hunt's Diaries

I am Desma Hunt and these are my diaries. I tell it as it is.

I love Pay TV. Movies galore with subtitles followed by endless repeats of Tim with his gapped tooth smile. Searching for bargains and making not too subtle sexist remarks. He is almost an antique buyers version of Benny Hill.

I love cooking. I love the cooking shows. That Jamie is just a divine hunk; he really is. Gordon is so SEXY when he is angry. Dont you just love an assertive man. When he is on I usher the kiddies to bed, turn the sound off and watch it with captions. That is, of course, when the captions are on! Mind you when Nigella is on the only switch I touch is the off switch. The front end she has on her! It is a wonder she doesn’t topple over into her scone bowl.

My latest obsession is the show called the Great British Menu. Top chefs from my home country fight it out to cook with hunky Heston at the Gherkin. I tell you it is excitement personified. The previous series was not captioned but the new one is. Then it isn’t – then it is – then it isn’t. It is driving me insane. If the captions exist surely it cannot be that hard to turn the caption switch on at Foxtel.

All week it has not been captioned and then suddenly last night it was. I kind of wish it wasn’t. The Yorkshire chef was tasy but I am not sure his olive icecream with olive infused chocolate is something I would like to try. Modern British cookery he called it???

This happens all the time on Foxtel. One minute shows are captioned and one minute they are not. Shows from Britain nearly all come with captions but Foxtel seems to be selective about which captions they use. Some nights it seems they just cant be bothered putting the captions on. They get me excited about hunkie Jamie and his school dinners and then they dont put the captions on. Dont they know his lisp is impossible to lip-read. It’s driving me to chocolate and a size 22. What is going on? IT IS THE PITS!

Im Desma Hunt; I’m deaf and I hate it!

Research Project: Deafness & Sexuality

Hi. This is Tony Nicholas of Mephisto’s Musings writing to tell you about an important survey I am working on with a colleague, Warwick Abraham.

The research project,  Deafness and Sexuality, which I have written about on two occassions previously, in Mephisto’s Musings: Research Project [see also Research Project Update], and has been mentioned in the AAD [now Deaf Australia] when they still had a forum, is still seeking participants.

Especially from Australian Deaf and deaf.

The survey is concerned with how our deafness impacts our ability to receive information on sex and sexuality, and the opportunities we receive to seek and express our sexuality. No other survery/ research project, to my knowledge, has been carried out into Deaf/deaf and  Sexuality.

I am inviting readers of this blog to participate in this important research project. Confidentiality is guaranteed, as the survey can be done anonymously.

Just a note, I have said in the past, while Deaf and deaf Gays and Lesbians are the focus of this survey, I would like Deaf and deaf people who identify as straight [heterosexual], bisexual, or transgender to consider doing the survey. Our deafness impacts how we receive information on sex and sexuality.

This is an important survey. To my knowledge, no other survery/ research has been carried out into Deaf/deaf and  Sexuality. So, I hope that you would consider doing this survey, or past it on to someone who you think will.

Further Reading:
Research Project
Survey
Deafness and Sexuality
On Being Deaf: Part Three

A Fish in What Sea?

My good mate Deano, the big deaf fella that went to the Olympics, used to live and train in Adelaide. He had this ramshackle blue Toyota Corolla that was smaller than he is now. The car was, to put it mildly, a pigsty. In the back he had an assortment of stuff usually related to his training. He had pole vaults, flippers, bags of smelly clothes and god knows what else. I used to love looking in the back of his car because there were motivational notes to himself. On the flippers he had written, “No Pain No Gain”. My favourite was the note scrawled on piece of cardboard that went something like “I want to be a great athlete not just a great Deaf athlete.” This last note was apparently in response to a question from his coach. His coach asked him: “What do you want to be – A great athlete or just a great Deaf athlete?”

I was thinking about this during a navel gazing moment last night. There was no fluff this particular night so I had plenty of time to think. Thinking of Dean took me back to a meeting I had with Pierre Gorman. Gorman is best known as being the first deaf person to obtain a PHD from Cambridge University and assisting in the development of the Paget-Gorman Sign System.

I met him as part of research that I was carrying out into young deaf people and mental health. We talked about everything under the sun and he was a hopeless gossip. He started chatting about deaf people he knew. I vividly recall him mentioning a high standing and much respected member of the Deaf community and asking me: “Do you think he is trying to be a big fish in a small sea?” Thus, implying that the person was wasting his talents solely within the Deaf community. He was suggesting that this individual was avoiding the challenge of using these talents in the wider community. Gorman could be controversial like that.

In navel gazing moments my mind flies off in tangents. From Gorman my mind journeyed to a confrontation I had with a manager of one of our deafness organisations. She and I started talking about the respective merits of actively employing deaf people into management roles within the deafness sector.  She was quite frank and disparaging of many deaf people she had worked with.

She talked of a current deaf manager as being a, “waste of time”, because -“He is only using us as a stepping stone to bigger things and has little interest in what he is doing within the organisation.” She spoke of former deaf employees who they had encouraged and nurtured only for them to leave for greener pastures. Thus, wasting everyone’s time.

She felt that if deaf people did not have the same experience and qualifications as hearing people to compete for leadership positions within the deafness sector, to appoint them to leadership roles was akin to tokenism. Affirmative Action was not part of her vocabulary. There was very little we agreed on but it was a civil and spirited debate.

While people were watching television or reading books I entertained myself with my thoughts. It is no surprise that I fell asleep soon after. However I awoke with these thoughts still fresh in my mind. What can we make of these three stories? First let’s revisit Deano’s example.

Sport at the Olympics is elite sport. Competitors are the very best at their chosen event. To succeed Dean had to forget the label of Deaf athlete and see himself as an athlete – full stop. Deaf sport can be of a high standard but it has no comparison to the Olympics. Dean was an athlete first and foremost; being deaf had nothing to do with it.

It would be the same if Deano was a computer programmer. There is no point in being a deaf computer programmer and wanting to work only within deaf sector organisations to program computers. I am sure there are some jobs for computer programmers in the deaf sector just as there are opportunities within Deaf sport. But to be the best and compete with other computer programmers, deafness has no bearing.

Pierre Gorman’s comment was mildly offensive to me at the time. The person he spoke of has achieved enormous growth and improvements in access for Deaf people. To imply that the achievements would be more prestigious if it had occurred within the hearing sector seemed to be bordering on snobbery.

Pierre Gorman was a fascinating and talented man. But to me, at the time, it felt wrong to assume or even suggest that a person that has worked so hard and achieved so much for the Deaf community was working in the sector because it made them feel more significant than what they could feel in the hearing sector. It seemed offensive to suggest that this prestige would be somewhat greater had it been earned within the hearing community. Why was doing the very best in the Deaf sector any different from doing the very best in the hearing sector? To me they were one and the same. I only wish that I had challenged Pierre Gorman about his view instead of being overawed by him as I was at the time.

Had I done so, I may have come to understand that Gorman was not entirely wrong. Perhaps there actually are deaf people that work in the deafness sector because they are comfortable. All their needs are met. Interpreters are provided. Work colleagues can communicate with them. Most of the time anyway. We have all heard of the hearing worker that has worked in a deaf organisation that is impossible to lip-read or who after 30 years still cannot sign. Unacceptable as this is, the question remains – are there deaf people working within the deaf sector simply because they do not wish to leave their comfort zone? Gorman may have been wrong about the particular person whose motives he questioned but in retrospect he may have been touching on an entirely different point altogether.

In the third story I was perplexed when having the conversation and I have no less clarity now. It seemed to me that the manager was looking for excuses as to why there were not more deaf people working in leadership positions within her organisation. On the one hand a deaf person who was a manager will leave because his interests lay elsewhere. On the other, a person they were grooming for management left them and wasted their time. It was almost as if having deaf people in positions of management was a burden for the organisation.

In Dean’s story his coach wanted him to be an athlete, not a deaf athlete. The coach’s focus was on Dean’s abilities and not the fact he is deaf. Given the coach, before meeting Dean, had probably had little experience of deafness one might have expected the coach to allow some latitude for Dean’s deafness. But to the coach Dean was an athlete whose deafness had no influence on his achievements.

In Pierre Gorman’s story, Gorman seemed to feel that many deaf people are not achieving their full potential. He seemed to have been suggesting that some deaf people use the deafness sector as a crutch rather than take on the challenge of succeeding within the wider community. Gorman’s focus was on skill, ability and challenging one’s comfort zones. Deafness did not really come into it.

As for the third story I just do not know what to make of it. Perhaps the manager felt threatened about having deaf people at her own level. Perhaps she felt that if there were too many deaf people in leadership roles in her organisation, the organisation would become too lopsided. I really do not know. Her whole attitude just left me confused and a little downhearted.

I believe that deaf sector organisations have a role to nurture and develop deaf people for management and leadership roles. Not to protect deaf people but to allow them to develop the skills that will allow them to compete for positions within and outside the deaf sector. If they stay within the deaf sector – great! If they leave and take up opportunities outside the deaf area, that’s great too!

Dean’s coach and Pierre Gorman are not really that different in their attitude. The coach wanted Dean to be an athlete and not use his deafness as an excuse for anything. Gorman, if you think a little deeper, was pointing out that people should not hide behind their deafness. Being a big fish in a small sea might feel satisfying but for Gorman this was akin to settling for mediocrity. His attitude was debatable, a little snobby but ultimately with good motive.

As for that manager, talent and ability don’t even seem to come into play. For her it seems deaf people are all the same. For her it seems deaf people are unreliable and likely to cause more problems than benefits. Whereas the coach and Gorman see only ability she sees only the deafness. Her attitude is stereotyping at its worst.

Phew!! It is amazing what you can come up with from a bit of navel gazing. Goodness, what is this? Is it fluff I see? I think I will get back to it and give my poor head a rest.

Double Dipping

I was at a Do on the weekend in Ballarat.  Ballarat is a historical town in Australia famous for gold mining and considered the birthplace of Trade Unionism in Australia. Fair play and equal opportunity are very much rooted in the history of Ballarat. What better place than Ballarat to have a discussion over a few beers about the merits of our respective Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy organisations. After all, advocacy and representation of the layman are essential components of the history of Ballarat.

Our advocacy organisations can be compared to Trade Unions. Unions advocate and promote the rights of the workers. Our advocacy organisations advocate and promote the rights of Deaf and hearing impaired people. Our Unions exist and largely survive from the membership fees of its members. This is where the similarities end. Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy organisations exist largely and only if the Government deems them relevant enough to fund. Take government funding away and Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy organisations would fall in an undignified heap. Unions are largely independent of the Government and self sufficient, even if they do tend to favour Labor politics. (Democrat equivalent for all our US readers.)

Unions are generally rich organisations. In recent years they have struggled to retain their significance. Membership has dropped and Labor governments now try to put some distance between themselves and the Unions. Unions are not reliant on Government funding – they exist for and because of their members. This is a good thing because it means they can attack the Government when needed, without fear or favour. Can our Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy agencies claim the same thing?

If our Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy agencies are funded mainly from the Government how independent of the Government are they? I know for a fact that government ministers contact our advocacy agencies for advice. Whether they take the advice is another thing. It tends to suggest that the Government sees the advocacy agencies as extensions of their own departments. This happens not just with Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum, I am also aware that it happens with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

In America there is great concern about advocacy organisations that receive funds from the Government. For example the Association of Retired People receives $73 Million from the US Government. $39 Billion is provided to all advocacy groups. (source:http://www.heritage.org/research/governmentreform/bg1040.cfm) The concern in America is that because the Government provides so much money to these groups that they, in fact, use these organisations to further the Governments purpose. What this means is that to keep their funding the agencies tend to fear rocking the boat too much. They largely promote and support the Governments view for fear of losing their funding. This should not be the case, advocacy agencies should feel free to challenge and even take Governments to court.

Very few advocacy organisations will come out openly and say that they are manipulated or controlled by the Government. But one wonders how much they hold back or fear really openly challenging the Government when their very existence relies on the funds that the Government provides. In Australia nearly everything disability is government funded even disability sections of the Australian Human Rights Commission.  It is a little bit scary because it gives the Government enormous influence and control.

At the Do in Ballarat my friend complained that she had been told that Deaf Australia would not provide support to her unless she was a paying member. (Who she was told by, I do not know.) My friend felt that this was not fair. She felt that because she paid tax and Deaf Australia were funded by the Government, they are expected to support Deaf people and no one should have to pay membership. We then started discussing how independent Deaf Australia really was if they existed almost solely on Government funding. We discussed whether the Government should withdraw their funding if Deaf Australia were only going to support the 2 or three hundred people that had paid membership. There was no conclusion to the discussion, except to leave a lot of questions unanswered.

In 2006 the Australian Government commissioned a review of disability advocacy in Australia. The review suggested many things but two stand out. The first being the recommendation for a one stop shop to advocate for all disabilities. The second was the suggestion of a competitive tendering process. What this means is that the Government of the day believed that disability advocacy should largely come under one roof  AND the organisation that can provide it should be the one that best meets the Government tendering process. The suggestions caused much debate.

Martin (Muzzling Disability) was particularly scathing of the recommendations. Martin does not think it was feasible that one organisation could specialise in all disabilities. He compares this to having Doctors who are General Practice types being used to carry out all types of Surgery – sounds like a good idea but ultimately is a crazy one. How does this relate to merging Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum? Deaf Australia  must be jumping with glee.

More pointedly Martin argues that Organisations that compete for Government Funding have their independence and quality compromised. Rather than providing Advocacy as it is needed they provide advocacy as the Government prescribes it through their tender process. In a sense they can not challenge the Government in a way or do anything that is not permissible within the tender document.

Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum both have funding agreements with the Government. Their funding agreement would outline what is permissible under the terms of their funding. I have not seen the funding agreements of the two organisations so I cannot comment on what they are required to do. BUT, at least potentially, the funding agreement will restrict what the two organisations can and cannot do. If this is so, it is not a good thing.

This article is very scholarly compared to the previous articles about THAT AD. I could be wrong but I did not hear or see even a little bit of protest from our Deaf and hearing impaired advocacy agents in relation to those Ads. I know that the South Australian Association of the Deaf did make a complaint to the Cora Barclay Centre and were largely ignored. Did our deaf and hearing impaired advocacy agencies remain quiet for fear of upsetting their funder? Are the oral groups so influential in Government that Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum feared speaking out lest they get backlash? Scare mongering? am I? – Yes I am, but these scenarios have the potential to rear their ugly heads when the Government is so heavily involved in funding our Advocacy organisations.

What’s the answer? Beyond giving the Government the funding back and trying to exist independently I do not know. What I do know is that we have a flawed system at the moment with more questions left unanswered than answered.

Is Technology Killing Deaf People?

I’ve seen three miracles this week. I saw a curly headed deaf boy convert from sign to fluent speech. I saw a deaf twin pretending to be her hearing twin and speaking so well we could not tell the difference. I then saw a whole host of deaf kids listening and enjoying music on headphones and, apparently, understanding all the words and nuances of the song. All of this happening here and now. DEAF KIDS CAN HEAR AND SPEAK!

And yes they can, at least the ones that they show anyway. It is not a bad thing. Hearing aids and cochlear implants have all made this possible. Technological advances have meant that there are now listening devices that assist listening devices so that devices are more effective devices. The consequence is that we are now seeing deaf kids with excellent speech.  At least the very successful ones anyway!

I am very much a skeptic. It is not that I do not believe that these kids have learnt to speak well. It is not that I do not believe that they have a significant hearing loss. It is more to do with the spin doctors and the way these spin doctors will pick the cream of the crop to promote their needs and wants all in the name of money. “Give your lolly to us and your deaf kid can be  the same” is what they imply. They conveniently do not show those kids who have not done very well with speech acquisition. They blame parents, social circumstances and the child’s intelligence. They conveniently leave out the issue of interaction, socialisation and isolation which are all part of being deaf. Speak and you shall succeed. It is tunnel vision at its worst.

Our society is under the illusion that technology is so great today that devices like cochlear implants and hearing aids virtually restore hearing. The technology is certainly better and we are now seeing more and more deaf kids developing good spoken language. This is not a bad thing. What is bad is the professionals misleading parents and the public with the illusion that good speech largely overcomes the disability of deafness. It doesn’t!

Deafness is largely a social disability. Speaking well is one thing but interacting with society is another. Being able to make yourself heard is great but not being able to hear others is 75% of the problem. The best technology today still is only beneficial in small groups and one on one situations. Deaf kids will leave school and find once they are out of their support network it is a whole new ball game.

The university lecturer that mumbles, the work colleagues that forget and the friends that start to develop interests beyond the playground towards the more adult social aspects such as bars, noisy restaurants and nightclubs. It is not easy and many of these kids who have learnt to speak successfully will seek out people that have the time to communicate with them. Many will shun the hearing community in favour of the Deaf community.

Many will then become angry, even bitter, that they were denied access to sign language. They will discover the benefits of having interpreters, the joys of communication that is full and not stilted and the relief in not having to rely on one or two people to keep them informed. The period of anger and bitterness can last a long time. It will take them time to learn to sign fluently and they will even become angry with other deaf people for not having the patience to communicate with them. Deaf and hearing rejection. There can be nothing worse.

Most will get through this period and find there niche in the world but some will not. They will spiral into depression and withdraw from both deaf and hearing worlds. They will require help and even medication. A few will take their own lives. Even these few are too many.

This all happens in the name of technology. Blessed technology. The children in these Ads may go on to be happy members of hearing society, some may find the Deaf community and some, having been led to believe that speech and technology will give them a NORMAL life, will be so angry and lonely that they may never recover.

This is why these Ads are so dangerous. They raise hopes and worse they do not tell the story of the many deaf kids that fail to acquire good spoken language or very little language at all. There are so many variables and so many skills that a deaf child needs to develop and understand. Speech is but part of the equation. The agencies responsible for these misleading and dishonest Ads should bow their heads in shame.

BELOW ARE THE TRANSCRIPTS AND LINKS TO TWO OF THE ADS THAT WERE DESCRIBED IN THE OPENING PARAGRAPH. READ THE TRANSCRIPTS THEN WATCH THE VIDEOS. THANKS TO NIC GOOK FOR COMPLETING THE TRANSCRIPTS FOR US.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdMVfx7UQzA&feature=related

Song playing in the background – What is that sound, ringing in my ears. The
Sound that makes the world go round, the sound that makes the world go round

All of us were born Deaf, but now we can hear and speak. Thanks to donations
to the Hear and Say Centre. During the butterfly appeal, buy a butterfly at
Suncorp or KFC and help other young Deaf kids into our world of sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7xLaKbsNUA

My sister Maddie and I are identical twins. Except that she was born
completely Deaf and I wasn’t. The Hear AND Say Centre for Deaf children
helped kids like Maddie to actually hear and to speak just like me so that
they can communicate to the world with confidence like everyone else. And
you’ll be surprised just how much they have helped Maddie.

Other girl talks – You are Maddie silly.