Access to Work

31 03 2008

Wednesday 2nd April, BBC TWO 1.00pm

In a special investigation that goes to the heart of government, Memnos Costi uncovers the shocking truth behind a company claiming thousands of pounds intended for their deaf and disabled staff.

It’s a story of lies, deception, unpaid bills, taxes and wages – and it raises huge questions about the way in which the Government’s £66 million Access to Work fund is being managed.

There’s also another chance to catch this edition overnight on Tuesday 8th/Wednesday 9th April on BBC ONE, as part of Sign Zone.

Remember, you can also watch old See Hear programmes on iPlayer, for up to seven days after the programme is broadcast. We’re now transmitting with full open subtitles for full access as well. Simply click on this link to find the latest programmes available for viewing.

Healthy Deaf Minds London Group

31 03 2008

The next meeting of the London Healthy Deaf Minds Forum will be on Wednesday 2nd April 2008 from 6.30 till 9pm.

The venue is the Small Meeting Room at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, opposite Euston station. Tea & coffee and BSL communication support will be provided. The evening is sponsored by BBC “See Hear” so entry will be free, normally the entrance fee is £5.

This is your opportunity to tell the “See Hear” team what you think of the current series and what topics you would like to see covered in future. As with so many things it is easy to spout views, and rare to get a chance to make a difference and influence decisions, so please show your support!

In order to receive automatic emails you only need to subscribe at:

British Society for Mental Health and Deafness

Chin chin

29 03 2008


We went to the British Museum today to see The First Emperor exhibition. We had booked online about a month ago, and it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived – only 500 tickets are allocated for each day and they had been sold out hours earlier. I brought my Hearing Dog and not a single person stopped me and queried my dog, I was really really impressed with that. They had lots of information guides in Braille and large print, and headphone sets for hearing people – but, nothing for deaf people. If the Tate can provide BSL guides, why can’t the British Museum? The BM do have BSL tours but you had to go and ask a staff member for details (brilliant thinking if you can only sign and the staff can’t sign back). There were plenty of little signs attached to the exhibits with information about them, and the film clips were, amazingly, subtitled. So I did manage to gain a lot of information during the time I spent there.

I had heard of The First Emperor but didn’t know anything about him. He was born Ying Zheng in 259BC and became King of Qin when he was 13. Qin was a small region in China. He developed sophisticated weaponry and military strategy, and conquered the other main Chinese states, and declared himself the Emperor of China – and of the Universe! Egotistical wasn’t in it.

What I really liked were all the additional exhibits which added depth to the exhibition. Not just the terracotta warriors were being shown, as I had thought. A single currency was ordered to be used – the coinage was round with a square hole because this signified earth under heaven, as the circular shape represents Heaven, the square hole, Earth.


The First Emperor also commanded that a single script be used. The script has changed so much, it’s quite different from modern Chinese characters. It’s an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy called unified small seal script, cave drawing style.


He built more than 270 palaces in his capital city of Xianyang, which housed the rulers of the states he conquered. Each palace was furnished with the war goods from that region. Walls were joined between states to create the First Great Wall. The belt holders and jewellery were to die for – such amazing craftsmanship.

The most fascinating part of the collection were the items that had been discovered underneath the ground. The First Emperor wanted to live forever, and built a tomb with an underworld complex reminiscent of the Egyptians. His tomb took more than 30 years to build. Film clips in the exhibition show the extent of the underground complex – it was huge. Seven thousand terracotta soldiers have been found buried outside the tomb, and there are likely to be many more, made to guard the First Emperor in the afterlife. Only a few had been brought to the exhibition.


They were individual, with different expressions, hairstyles, and clothing. They were a little larger than a real life soldier at 6′ – 6′ 5″ and were absolutely stunning, even though the colourful paints had worn off with exposure to sunlight.


The First Emperor died when he was 49, one year after the tomb was completed. Over 700,000 workers had been used to build the tomb and the terracotta army, many of them had been worked to death, and thousands were buried with the First Emperor, so no-one would know the location of the tomb. Spooky! The Emperor’s 3,000 harem was buried alive with him as well – these women were told they would get eternal life with him, so they went to their deaths quite willingly. The farmer who discovered the terracotta warriors in 1974 lost his farmland and was paid 30 yuan (worth £2.14 today) in recompense, but he is now quite happily making money out of his notoriety, posing for photos with tourists.

Amazingly, the tomb has still not been excavated, as geological tests have shown high mercury readings under the tomb. The man-made mountain is larger than the Giza pyramids, protected by hair-trigger crossbows and is rumoured to contain a scale model of his empire with rivers of mercury. The underground complex is littered with bronze birds and chariots, pottery musicians, entertainers, and horses – all of which had an example shown in the exhibition. Every pottery item was individual. The terracotta soldiers had held real weapons (many stolen by the Hans) and wore armour made specially for them in jade and stone.

This exhibition totally wowed us over.

Wise words of advice

27 03 2008

Dave Hingsburger has written a wonderful post, ‘10 bits of advice

This post related to my experiences of hearing loss in a very profound way. But it’s also good advice for any parent and child.

I urge you to read it.

And pass it on.


25 03 2008

My post on 15 March inadvertently insulted hearing people and for that, I sincerely apologise.

I’m now wondering, what gives hearing people the idea that they have a right to be condescending and arrogant towards deaf people?

What I SHOULD’VE said was ‘What gives people the idea that they have a right to be condescending and arrogant towards other people?’

I was writing this post with the people in the audiology centre in mind, not hearing people as a whole. This post was coloured by my past experiences of rudeness, which were mostly due to people’s attitudes towards my access of their services, because they can’t be patient with repeating themselves, with captioned telephony, with access for my Hearing Dog. Some people are just rude anyway. Often I have had to get another person to speak on my behalf, and they are taken much more seriously than I am. So I assumed this change in attitude and respect was to do with me being deaf and the stand-in being hearing. Why should it?

But of course, people can be rude for any reason and to anyone. And I have been reminded, they often are. I guess I’ve been lucky enough to miss most of it as I don’t hear it, or I just haven’t lived life enough. Thanks D, for the reminder.

Wasabi fire alarms

21 03 2008

Have you ever tried wasabi, that hot green Japanese stuff? The Japanese have invented a smoke alarm that releases a horseradish scent which is strong enough to waken people … without making a sound at all. Prototypes of this smoke alarm that sprayed canned wasabi extract into a room succeeded in waking 13 out of 14 test subjects within 2 minutes. One subject who is actually deaf awoke 10 seconds after the wasabi essence was sprayed.

Flashing lights don’t always work, especially if you sleep under the covers or with your eyes shut. Light won’t usually waken me. Batteries can run out too. Vibrating alarms which slip under the pillow are ok but batteries can run out, and they can move around and fall off the bed. This wasabi alarm certainly looks intriguing. It will be on sale in a few years time.

CHECK HERE for a demonstration of the wasabi smoke alarm.

CHECK HERE for a demonstration of what happens when you inhale a line of wasabi (and haven’t tried it!).

Fire alert systems

21 03 2008

There is a petition to try and make sure businesses and public places fit the right fire alarm systems for deaf and hard of hearing people. The petition is to create legislation by statute to include deaf people in the general regulations concerning the fire and emergency alarm systems in all public, commercial and industrial buildings in Britain.

Nine million deaf and hearing impaired people are unable to hear the sounding of the emergency alarm systems whilst sleeping at night in a hotel. Similarly this group may be unable to recognise the fire alarm even in ordinary circumstances due to hearing difficulties.

Technology has allowed development of auxiliary radio-alerter systems that work in conjunction with primary alarms; activating a pager that alerts the user. Such equipment may use a specific wavelength so the single radio frequency can be reserved for the sole purpose of deaf people.

Legislation is an essential prerequisite to ensure the same wavelength is used throughout Britain; the same radio-pager will activate to a commercial alarm in any public corporate building, factory, office or hotel.

Without access to general sounds, this group is vulnerable and in continual danger within places of work. This danger amplifies itself in magnitude during sleep in a hotel. Altogether deaf people will be continually at risk unless legislation is made available under regulation to ensure all such buildings are equipped with a working auxiliary radio transmitter that will activate users to the emergency.

Petition deadline : 03 April 2008

You can sign the petition here.

You can also write to Mr Bruce Calderwood, Director to the Office for Disability Issues, to express your reasons for supporting the petition at The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, London, WC2N 6HT

Freedom Pass update

20 03 2008

Transport for London have informed me that the expiry date for using Freedom Passes will be extended until May 30th 2008. They have today sent out new forms to disabled Freedom Pass holders for them to take to their GP for renewal. I asked why. Apparently these new forms mean the Freedom Pass will now be extended to cover the whole country.


I would still like to be able to use it on the trains before 9.30am so I can get to work earlier!

Checking the Freedom Pass website, it says London’s disabled Freedom Pass holders are entitled to concessions on buses outside London 9.30am – 11pm on the new English Bus Scheme, from 1st April 2008.

I’ll be clarifying this with a personal visit to my local council!

Bite me

19 03 2008

I tried to contact my hearing aid centre today, to find out whether they had sent a letter that had been promised to be sent to me last Friday, as it’s been four working days and no sign of a letter. Using Typetalk, I called the different numbers on the letters I had received from my hospital. The hearing aid centre phone rang through to an answering machine every time I rang it. I tried the main hospital switchboard – they put me through to the hearing aid centre’s answer machine every time. I tried calling Bob (the audiologist) direct but his phone just rang and rang, right through the morning and afternoon. I called the textphone number and that was just dead. I called the Speech Therapy department next door to Audiology and they had never heard of Bob. Totally fed up, I called PALS to complain. The line was constantly engaged so I tried their second number. An answer machine message came on – “We are unable to respond to your call. Please leave a message and we will get back to you in two days.” Two. Whole. Days.

By now I was starting to feel as if I was an extra on the set of ‘The Day After Tomorrow‘.

Where are all these people?

Why don’t they just pick up and answer the phone?

Is that so hard?!

I can’t even begin to describe how disgusted I am. I had spent an hour on the phone, trying to get hold of a living person that I could speak to in the hearing aid department, only to be met with brick walls.

Is this the new and improved NHS? Is this Tony Blair’s legacy? Is this how they cut down waiting times, by not answering phones and providing a “customer service” that only exists when it’s convenient?

IT’S DISGUSTING !!!!!!!!!!

Score : NHS 0 – Private sector 2

Audiology’s freedom pass to be rude and inefficient

15 03 2008

My Freedom Pass expires on 31 March and my local council kindly sent me a renewal form in January. A Freedom Pass means I can travel around London for free, subject to some restrictions. I went to my local hospital on 30 January and my audiologist Mirza took my renewal forms and accompanying evidence (copy of passport and TV Licence) from me, saying he would send them to the council with the required documentation (my audiogram and a letter stating my hearing loss from the hospital). I made it clear the deadline was 31 March and the forms needed to be sent as soon as possible. No problem. Or so I was told.

In the middle of February, I asked my colleague Amanda to contact my local council and check on the progress of my renewal. They hadn’t received anything. She called the hospital. They gave her the run-around between different departments and eventually she was put through to the right person, after about 30 minutes. This person said there is no application form in my file and that they don’t post out forms for patients anyway. So where is my personal information??? Binned, shredded, mailed, or what?! Does someone now possess a copy of my TV licence and passport?!!!


My friend Karen called the council yesterday and asked them to send another renewal form. They said there is a yellow part which my doctor can fill in. What yellow part? Why a different form, and why am I now told my doctor can complete it rather than my audiologist? The doctor would have been a lot easier, quicker, and let’s face it, honest. The council said they would send out the form immediately, by first class mail. Kudos to them.

I walked to the hospital yesterday with Karen and oh boy, was Karen’s back up (she’s brilliant). I had written a letter of complaint explaining the situation, and gave it to the receptionist. It was addressed to Bob, the head audiologist, and asked what had happened to my personal information. The receptionist is one of the rudest people I have ever met, abrupt and condescending don’t even come close. She treated us as if we were the dirt on the bottom of her shoes. She took the letter and took it to Mirza, who then came into reception and started flapping about. He had my file and pulled out my renewal form from the council.

- I will do this letter for you now.

He went to the printer in the receptionist’s office, I could see him flapping about, panicking, then he snapped imperiously at the receptionist,

- This letter is address to Bob. He can deal with this.

And he stormed off.

The receptionist went off with the letter and came back,

- Bob’s busy, you’ll have to come back another day.

Karen said,

- No. We are staying put. We’re not leaving until we get that letter. We’re staying here all night if we have to. We’re not leaving without that letter.

The look on the receptionist’s face was absolutely priceless. She couldn’t believe that someone had actually stood up to her.

She swanned off. In the meantime, Mirza came back into reception with a patient, a young man, who was picking up his earmoulds. Karen was visibly shocked at how rude Mirza was to him, I could tell he was over-exaggerating his speech and being very loud and condescending towards him.

The receptionist came back with Bob. Bob explained, very nicely and calmly, that he’s in the middle of a procedure at the moment and so can’t reply to the letter right now. Karen explained the situation and Bob listened. She said we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain to get here. She said I’ve waited two months for Mirza to send the information. She said now I have missed the deadline as the council also need four weeks to process the renewal. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. She said I’ve been lied to on the phone. She said Mirza had agreed to write the letter then changed his mind and stormed off. She said she was disgusted by Mirza’s rudeness. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. And we want an apology from Mirza.

Bob apologised, and said he would write the letter himself on his laptop on the way home. He asked if I had another appointment booked or needed anything done. I said no, but that I would like to change to another audiologist. Bob said I am welcome to see anyone I like, including him. I’ve seen Bob before and he’s super-duper professional. He explained he’s hard of hearing himself. His attitude was a world apart from Mirza’s and the receptionist’s. Calm, professional, respectful, polite.

I’m now wondering, what gives hearing people the idea that they have a right to be condescending and arrogant towards deaf people?

Or is it that because the NHS provides free hearing aids, the NHS staff think they can be disrespectful towards its’ patients? I know that NHS doctors can be very condescending towards nurses and some patients. Treatment like this in the private sector is unheard of. It’s unthinkable.

Are we now reduced to paying for respect??

Karen’s parting shot,

- Your rude staff need sorting out, they need some management training!

I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and went to visit my doctor’s surgery, and asked if they would sign the form. They said sorry, there should be a yellow part. I’m hoping tomorrow’s post will bring either the form with it’s yellow part or the letter from the hospital.

Sigh. Tomorrow’s a new day. Oh boy.

Score : NHS 0 – Private sector 1

(And no, lucky me, I don’t live in Lewisham!)