I just can’t hear you….

8617995216_771cc8615e_q‘I just can’t hear you..’ said my Dad. Through gritted teeth I repeated what I had originally said to him. I then paused and felt the biggest hypocrite and quite mean! Why was I treating my father any differently from when I meet deaf people who cannot hear me? Looking back I can get quite frustrated with older people with hearing loss, who find it difficult to hear me. I go to raise my hands but realise they cannot sign, so that strategy is no use when trying to communicate with older adults with hearing loss.

However, other strategies that I use when communicating with a deaf person can help when talking with my Dad, and yet I don’t seem to use these. The strategies are things such as looking at him when talking to him. Too many times I’ll try to talk to my dad whilst I am walking away from him. No wonder he can’t hear me! Not only this, but when we are at the dinner table, for example for Christmas dinner, my Dad was left out of about 50% of the conversation because he could not keep up with everyone talking all at once. I did try to keep him in the conversation, but maybe I didn’t try as much as I would have if someone deaf was next to me. But why? Perhaps hearing loss is a lot closer to home than I previously realised and perhaps I need to practice more of what I preach. Sorry Dad!

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94630727@N07/8617995216/in/photolist-e8xtJq

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Subtitle It!

5754743006_ab4e5268fe_bRecently I was with my dad and we were going to watch a film on Sky via Virgin Media. My dad is hard of hearing (old age – sorry dad) – but no subtitles were available. I thought I must have been doing something wrong because – hello – it’s 2015 – of course they would provide subtitles. I am not technologically minded, but how hard can it be to subtitle a film or programme?! When I looked into it on the internet I found hundreds of comments on the Sky ‘community forum’ asking for the reason why films weren’t being subtitled. Comments as recent as April 2015, such as this: Hi I have been waiting for subtitles to arrive for catch up and on demand but no joy. I have just started to watch on Amazon Prime and can get subtitles for some of the content so when is Sky going to play catch up?I love the fact there is so much to watch on sky but unfortunately being deaf it is no good to me. Thanks” (http://helpforum.sky.com/t5/On-Demand-Catch-Up-TV/Subtitles-for-catch-up-and-on-demand/td-p/2326136 )This isn’t the only time when my father wasn’t able to enjoy a TV programme or film – most evenings when he watches BBC news with the subtitles – he has to piece together what is being said by having the volume as high as he can without the vibrations of the TV disturbing the sound quality and the disjointed subtitling. So, not only is the lack of subtitling unacceptable, the inaccuracy of subtitling – whilst possibly, funny to us who can hear, can be insulting to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Recently SL First magazine released an article about the importance of subtitling, with the conclusion being that although some progress on subtitling has been made, there is still a long way to go. Check out the article and some mistakes/inaccuracies that have been made on TV here: http://slfirst.co.uk/entertainment/captioned-signed/ofcom-some-progress-on-subtitles-but-further-progress-needed/

Looking to my deaf friends and their individual perspectives on the situation I had some interesting comments. One of my friends recognised that the BBC appear to have a high percentage of their programmes subtitled, however they noted that the infinite number of other programmes available on freeview and other such TV packages appeared to have limited subtitling. Another comment from a different deaf friend was that despite being an avid film lover, and paying for a ‘LoveFilm’ subscription, some of the DVDs he was sent did not have subtitles. What’s more, the LoveFilm website does not make it clear whether the DVD you are ordering will have subtitles or not and it seems to be a luck of the draw whether you receive a DVD with subtitles. I also read on the blog ‘Day in the Life of a Deafie’ https://dayinthelifeofadeafie.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/video-on-demand-services-subtitle-it/ – See how E says “Without subtitles it’s like I am being excluded from the world”.

Coincidentally to me writing this blog, Action on Hearing Loss have recently launched a campaign called ‘Subtitle It!’ http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/SubtitleIt.aspx Action on Hearing Loss state that 80% ‘on demand’ providers do not offer any subtitles for on demand content. The government has pledged to review legislation for subtitling on demand services next year (2016) – please sign this petition to ensure this is a priority and that the government keeps their promise http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1783&ea.campaign.id=38715&ea.tracking.id=WebCampaignPage . Furthermore, looking at America where the amount of subtitled on demand content is high – if they can do it – why can’t Britain?! I have also found that the famous, American, deaf, actress – Marlee Matlin (‘Children of a Lesser God’ and ‘The West Wing’) who is supporting the campaign – ‘VIKI Billion Words March’ where an online TV site streams content in more than 200 languages. Viewers subtitle and translate popular TV shows from around the world (http://www.viki.com/billionwordsmarch)

Regardless of the TV programme, I don’t feel subtitling accurately and consistently is rocket science. People petitioning for this basic right is not something so far-fetched that it is impossible to achieve. We therefore need as much support as possible to ensure that subtitling is featured on all programmes and features accurately. I expect if you think about it now, you can think of someone who could benefit from subtitling.

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/5754743006/in Daniel Oines.

Lip reading – hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability…

LipsI am amazed at those that can communicate through lip reading. I have had a go at it myself, e.g. when out in a club and trying to lip read my friends as to what they are trying to say to me – not hard considering it’s usually either “Do you want another drink?” and “Let’s dance!” As long as I catch the word “drink” or “dance” then it’s not rocket science to know what they are trying to say. I have also tried lip reading by turning off the sound on my TV and trying to lip read what is being said – for me, this is nearly impossible! Every day I meet deaf people that rely on lip reading to communicate. My concern is that this is then taken for granted as the main communication method the deaf person prefers to use. I remember one deaf person telling me that it is awkward when one hearing person introduces her by saying “This is ‘X’ she’s deaf but can lip read really well!” Lady ‘X’ says that although she can lip read she wished people wouldn’t rely on this. Why? Because lip reading is hard work! The deaf health charity – Sign Health, states that it is a myth that deaf people can understand 100% of a conversation through lip reading (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/) What’s more, they state that “Lip reading requires a huge amount of concentration and perfect environmental conditions, and even when both of those factors are achieved, a D/deaf person can only understand 20%-60% of a conversation.” 20% to 60% of a conversation – so what happens to the rest of the 40% of the discourse? As a hearing person, whilst I may not always fully understand what a doctor has said to me at least I have received the whole message to be able to have the option of asking questions to clarify what I have heard. However, Sign Health have found from their ‘Sick of It’ report that only 3% of deaf people want to communicate with their doctor via lip reading, but 40% are forced to (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/).  Don’t get me wrong, I expect there are deaf people who are happy to communicate via lip reading, that is their choice! But as my previous blog says about “Choices https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/22/choices/” and as Sign Health states – the best thing is to ask how the deaf person wants to communicate and to not make assumptions about their communication needs. Every deaf person is, of course, different and therefore we can expect people who are deaf to have differing communication needs. What’s more, whilst a person who is deaf may be able to lip read one person this does not necessarily mean they will be able to with another person. So many factors such as accent, facial hair all have a part to play in the ease/difficulty of lip reading. As the Scottish Sensory Centre at Edinburgh University have stated – “There is naturally individual variation in the ability to lipread, and as with any skill, competence varies, with level of hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability.” (http://www.ssc.education.ed.ac.uk/courses/deaf/ddec05f.html)

So many words look the same on the mouth from what is actually being said. We know that this is true just by the amount of videos out there at the moment which are dubbed for comedy value  – take a look at this- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjGk_jU6t5A. Whilst this video does have comedy value, it also has a serious undertone about how ambiguous lip reading can be. Whilst there may be some situations where lip reading can be used to ‘get by’ and get the gist of what is being said, I do believe there are other situations such as a GP and hospital appointments where getting by, i.e. receiving 20% -60% of the message isn’t good enough and could have devastating consequences.

Picture sourced from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fauxpress/ Jan McLaughlin

Is some access better than no access at all?

318947873_12028f1b66_oThis is a question that crops-up time and time again in my profession  – and one which doesn’t have an easy answer in my opinion. One thing that springs to mind when thinking about this is the abysmal access the deaf community received at Nelson Mandela’s funeral with the fake interpreter. It is still not clear to me why he was hired in the first place. Perhaps it was a case of forgetting to book an interpreter and they were in desperate need of someone and he was the only one available; or perhaps he came out cheapest – some similar reasons I hear now and again why an interpreter wasn’t booked.  Whatever the reason in this situation, if this was the only person available (and I find that hard to believe) but let’s just say he was – then I would think the right decision would be not to provide an interpreter at all.

Speaking to a deaf lady recently, she said that perhaps it depends on the situation which requires an interpreter. She gave the example of a child protection meeting compared to a parents evening, giving less weight to the importance of a registered interpreter at a parents evening. Another example she gave is the utmost importance of having a registered interpreter available at a GP or hospital appointment so that the deaf person goes away with the full knowledge of what was their problem, diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, as the charity SignHealth has found all too often this is not the case as shown by the ‘Sick Of It’ report (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/sick-of-it-poor-treatment/ ) However, whilst this particular deaf lady may feel that she could tolerate an unregistered interpreter/signer, another deaf person’s view could be that this would be unacceptable. Perhaps this comes back to my previous blog about ‘choices’ https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/22/choices/.  That is, is it the deaf person’s right to choose who is and is not acceptable to interpret for them depending on their opinion of the situation?

As the deaf lady said, if she knew a person who was a proficient signer but had no qualifications to prove this and she wanted to use that person then she said that it was surely her right to have that person if she wished. I agree. Perhaps the problem lies when that choice is denied – that is, the deaf person wasn’t given the option. What’s more, perhaps one deaf person can get by with a level 2 signer that a school provided for a parents evening because they are able and happy to lip-read most of what the teacher is saying, so the signer is barely needed, except to clarify a few words lost on the lips. But how will that affect other deaf parents in the future? Perhaps in two years’ time in the same school a deaf parent will require an interpreter but is provided with an unregistered interpreter with no choice in the matter because the school saw how it ‘worked so well’ for a previous deaf parent so they now don’t understand why there should be a problem. The problem could be that this deaf parent finds it difficult to lip-read and can’t follow English as well as the previous deaf person (for example). Is there also an issue of hearing people being under a misapprehension when an unregistered interpreter and/or signer is used? They could believe that access has been provided and the needs of the deaf person matched by a level 2 signer being provided. However, that perception may well have been misinformed due to the hearing person having limited signing skills themselves and sees a person waving their hands about as satisfactory (as I probably would if I heard a German interpreter as I cannot speak or understand German).  Couple that with the deaf person declining to complain, and it could be assumed all is well and standards don’t need to be improved.

Furthermore, although it is about choice, if the deaf person was asked their preference how does this impact on the deaf person in feeling pressurised to accept a signer which is less costly than a registered interpreter? As with all people, this doesn’t just relate to the deaf community .  Some of us can be assertive and are aware of our rights, whereas others could feel obligated to accept whatever is provided and don’t want to ‘rock the boat’. Perhaps this contributes to the devastating results found in SignHealth’s ‘Sick of It’ report.

On top of that,  there is a lot more to interpreting than just being skilled in BSL. Swabey and Mickleson (2008 cited in Valero Garces and Martin 2008, p51) described sign language as “complex, linguistic, social cognitive and cultural process” and that interpreters have the potential impact on people’s lives (Swabey and Mickelson 2008 cited in Valero Garces and Martin 2008). Furthermore, an interpreter needs to be a holistic thinker, have reflective skills and be observant about experiences (Napier, Mckee and Goswell 2010). Therefore, whilst an unregistered interpreter / signer may have excellent linguistic skills, do they have the other attributes that have been described above to ensure high standards are maintained for the deaf person receiving the service?  Whilst it could be argued that registered newly qualified or trainee interpreters may not have attained all of the skills listed above, the assumption is that by being on a training course the interpreter is aware of their learning needs and seeking ways to achieve this.

Overall, this makes me think it’s about the importance of deaf people choosing who they wish to interpret for them. At the end of the day I am in my profession for the deaf community, so they should ultimately have the say on who they want to use as an interpreter (registered or not). I don’t believe there is anything wrong with trying to strive for the best.  One of the biggest reasons I believe in using registered interpreters is to promote, and to endeavour to have, the highest standards of interpreting available for all of the deaf community – that is if they want it.

References:

  • Swabey, L and Mickelson, P,G (2008) ‘Role Definition’ in Valero-Garces, C and Martin, A Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting Definitions and Dilemmas (2008) Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing Company, P51-71;
  • Napier, J, Mckee, R and Goswell, D (2010) Sign Language Interpreting Theory and Practice in Australia and New Zealand, Sydney, Federation Press;

Photo by Oberazzi found here – https://www.flickr.com/photos/oberazzi/