Government response to lipreading petition

22 11 2008

The UK government received a petition asking:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to recognise that lip-reading is an essential life-skill for the deaf and hard of hearing and therefore that adult education lip-reading courses should be funded in the same way as other life skills.”

Details of Petition:

“As you become deaf, you become isolated in a world of silence where you are ignored by the hearing majority and unable to communicate with them. Without alternative life skills including lip-reading, you eventually withdraw from society. A thirty week lip-reading course in Essex now costs £186. This has caused most courses to close, remaining courses to be under-subscribed and a large number of deaf people to be cast out into an uncaring world without the ability to communicate with others.”

The government’s response –

The Government recognises that lip reading is an important skill for some people with hearing impairment and recognises that many people wanting to take up lip reading courses face barriers, both physical and financial in accessing learning. Full fee remission is provided to learners on Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded Further Education (FE) courses where they are in receipt of income based benefits. In addition to this some FE colleges and providers can use their discretion to waive fees. They may choose to do so where a learner is undertaking a lip-reading course and has declared themselves as having a learning difficulty and / or disabilities; for example where a learner is hearing impaired.

In 2004/05 (the latest date for which figures are available), 81% of FE funded lip reading learners paid no fee due either to national policy or by having their fees waived at the discretion of the college or other provider.

Some very basic, introductory level lip reading courses may be offered informally outside of the LSC FE funding structure as part of family learning courses or personal and community development learning. In these cases the cost of learning will be a local decision.

Skills for Life (the Government’s adult basic skills strategy) covers literacy, numeracy and language (ESOL) learning up to Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE A – C grades). Literacy and numeracy learning is free of charge to all adults (people aged 16+) with literacy/numeracy skills below Level 2.

The Government has considered whether lip reading should be classified as a “Basic Skill” and therefore part of the Skills for Life strategy, but concluded that lip reading should not be classified as basic skills due to a number of points:

· Substantial numbers of people who do not themselves have hearing impairments undertake lip reading and especially signing courses for a variety of reasons (for example, carers seeking employment), or for general interest;

· The Government has defined “Basic Skills” in terms of national standards of literacy and numeracy, and lip reading/signing courses are not linked to these standards;

. “Basic Skills” can reasonably be regarded as those that virtually the whole population should possess. While lip reading may be valuable, and even essential for some learners, it is not a skill that all people might be expected to possess; and

It has not been considered reasonable to reclassify lip reading courses without including other communication skills, which form a significant volume of provision.

My response

I’m most annoyed. They have misunderstood the petition and don’t seem to realise that lipreading is a NECESSITY for most deaf and hard of hearing people, ergo it is a basic life skill for this large group of people, almost 1 in 7 of the UK population. If hearing people want to learn lipreading as well, well that’s up to them (I have never come across any hearing students when teaching my lipreading classses), but does not take away from the fact that for most deaf people, lipreading is a basic life skill. By this government’s reasoning, I agree that lipreading does not fit into their Skills for Life strategy. I do however, think that their Skills for Life strategy needs a rethink.

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6 responses

22 11 2008
MM

I totally agree, that is why I signed this petition and not the BSL one. We’re fed up being treated as second or third class deaf people, while HM government is giving full support to BSL, it is attacking Lip-reading, which is totally unfair. This will only serve, to suggest to us who lip-read, we are being undermined by the BSL user and the educational system. In most part the lip-reading tuition system in the UK is squarely to blame, because it is a clique, it is badly run, and not enough credence is given to the difficulty of learning it, or the time needed to acquire the basic skill of it.

My experience was one of LR Classes run like Tupperware parties for people who didn’t need to learn the skill at all, and tutors using classes woefully too short to make any real difference, to sell amplified telephones and flashing doorbells for the RNID or BT, and talk about dogs. A captive market for environmental alarms whilst our real need of LR is secondary and ignored.

2 hours a week ? why waste our time ? we need a shake out of LR tutors who take us not seriously at all… The petition SHOULD have lauded better lip-SPEAKING, since many hearing people talk but communicate badly, there is no point teaching hearing lip-SPEAKING they don’t need it. I appreciate LR need to put it on the same level as the ‘buzz language’ BSL, but in education it is used already for deaf children via TC, where it fails completely is in the dire class systems in the UK for adults, which frankly are a waste of time as they stand.

If we are going to campaign for lip-reading properly then we have to defeat the argument it is impossible to learn. BSL users say it is far too difficult to be worth bothering about, well, they would wouldn’t they ! and the deafened adult feels the class system is no use, you can’t learn deaf communication a few minutes a week, it is not on. I suspect you would need a few DAYS per week, for a year at least. Who teaches the LR tutors ? whoever, they are doing a bad job of it, time we did it… at least we KNOW what is needed.

22 11 2008
funnyoldlife

I feel too much support is given to BSL, which is ridiculous, as there are so few BSL users. How many people know someone whose first language is BSL? Very few.

The lipreading course is taught by hearing people. Lipreading is something that can be improved upon, it’s an art rather than something that can be learned, but it depends hugely upon the person speaking. Are they speaking clearly, in a good light, not too fast, not too slow, good rhythm of speech, clear lip patterns, no huge beard or moustache, good sight of full face, both hands covering face, facing the lipreader full on, not talking to the floor, not speaking from too far away … the list seems endless.

What was rather illuminating was my experience as a trainee lipreading teacher. My classes had previously been taught by a very experienced lip reading teacher, who was hearing. Unbelievably, the hard of hearing students didn’t know how to communicate effectively with me (as a deaf teacher), such as when asking questions. I had to teach the students good communication rules and keep reminding them of those, such as to wave or raise their hands when asking a question. Crazy really.

23 11 2008
MM

The fundamental flaw in teaching lip-reading at classes in the UK, is, that they depend on AUDIBLE clues. 99% of people learning have residual hearing ! What happens then is, they fall apart when they go deaf because there aren’t any. Why don’t teachers ask the pupils to take their hearing aids out ? at least to get an idea. The drop in acquired skills is HUGE afterwards, because no-one primed theto expect it. I attended a class because I went deaf rather quickly, I was told to go away and see a social worker ! SW are teachers now ? In reality all the SS said was join a deaf club, total nonsense.

Assuming I pick up LR skills, how, am I going to use them in a sign based community ? Answer, I am not, I wil be forced to acquire sign or forget it. If I sign and go out on the street, again, nobody else does, what is the purpose , unless I abandon mainstream interaction altogether ?

To spend a lifetime fighting for access that I would prefer not to use ? when I could be campaigning for better communication classes to get skills I can. Mandatory year-lomg intensive support in communications has to be a must, and, FREE ! Why the hell do they make us pay as well ? 30% LR skills is going to save the support system here, a lot more money… it is cost effective, but only if it is done properly.

23 11 2008
Brian

As it happens I used to go to Lip-reading classes many years ago in Oxford College of FE. Where the teacher was a hearing person and the class tended to be made up of older people who had lost their hearing due to either age related loss, or just lost it. However there were one or two in the class who had normal hearing and were there due to a relative such as a parent who were either shy or felt embarrassed by there loss. I personally had little need for the skill as I do it instinctively, I did learn why I sometimes had problems with some elements of lip-reading, so I became more aware of my failings shall we say. Overall we all had a lot of fun during the time I went along. For the record we didn’t use any voice during the sessions, just a very quiet whisper which most of us couldn’t hear but it ensured we spoke correctly during the exercises. We all participated not just the teacher, after all basing it around just one style would have been counter productive, as you’ll going to face many different types of speakers in the real world.

24 11 2008
Liz

Lipreading classes have certainly helped me as I found out last year, although I’m still not confident in lipreading. As you know there’s no classes near me still. Funding because of it more like. But I want to see one come back because I know I’d use it to keep up with skills and to feel confident again, and the others who attended class before certainly miss it.

9 12 2008
Ian Noon

It’s a pretty rubbish response from the Government… as you say, doesn’t acknowledge that it’s a key life skill for a large number of people. Surely, it’s linked to the life skill of language?

I’d be tempted to try and get a MP to ask how many people in lipreading classes were hearing. I bet they can’t give a hard number – which would undercut this whole response.

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