Specsavers honours Roger Hewitt

28 09 2010


The lovely Roger Hewitt was the winner of Specsavers’ Sound Barrier Star Awards. Well deserved, I say!

The Sound Barrier Star Awards is a joint initiative between Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Specsavers Hearing Centres to find heroes who are deaf or have a profound hearing loss. The awards celebrate those who have achieved great things and proved to be a great inspiration to others.

Roger has been deaf since he was six. He’s done so much good work for deaf people. He now volunteers for the charity Deaf Access and works for the UK Council on Deafness. He is also a trustee and advocate with Action for Deafness and a consultant with SignHealth and St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton. Busy man!

I’ve known Roger for years and years. I first met him at Deafax, where we were working to help empower deaf people to get back into work. He always teases me when he sees me, telling me he’s really David, not Roger. (David is his twin brother) Wicked!

Mexican wave

23 10 2008

We hit a new place, Benito’s Hat. I was fully expecting to be asked to leave as I had my Hearing Dog with me.

But oh no. They welcomed us with open arms and huge grins. The place was fresh, simple and pleasing on the eye. So was the food. It turned out to be great. They gave me different salsas on tortilla chips so I could ‘try before I buy’. All the food was laid out buffet style, and they made up your order for you in front of you. We had our order within five minutes of sitting down.


I had a huge burrito filled with all sorts of good stuff – chicken, rice, beans, salad, salsa and cheese wrapped in a warm soft flour tortilla. The fresh squeezed limeade with ice was to die for. I hadn’t eaten all day and this filled me up nicely.

Mmmmm mmmm mmmmm mmmm mmmmmm mmmm mmm mmmmmm mmmmm!

I will DEFINITELY be back! Besos Benito!

FOL’s verdict : PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Benito’s Hat, 56 Goodge Street, London W1T 4NB.
Mon-Wed 11.30am – 10pm. Thur-Sat 11.30-11pm.
Margarita Mondays : students get 2 for 1 on margaritas with a food order.
Benito’s also do takeaways.

Tate multimedia guide with BSL

3 02 2008

(Photo: Tate)

At this month’s Tate tour, we were introduced to the multimedia device which has BSL functionality, with subtitles and BSL signing available on the guide’s screen. The signing was done by various people, some of them my friends, it was so nice to see ‘real’ signing and not the impersonal signing provided by a professional. The subtitles were accurate and timely, and easy to read – a factor people often overlook. Each clip showed people explaining how they felt about each piece of art, bringing art to life. The guide is accompanied by a numbered list of the artworks included, correlating with the listed clips on the guide. This means we now don’t have to wait for a BSL guided tour to take place, we can go in and browse at our own convenience. It means I don’t have to tag along the end of a tour and tire myself out trying to lip read the tour guide, and I can improve my BSL at the same time.

The talk this month was on surrealism and I was really pleased with this as this is an area I had never understood or particularly liked (because, basically, I didn’t understand it!). The signer’s introduction explained the foundations and meanings of surrealism, before going on to comment on a number of paintings and taking comments from the audience. There was a person giving a voice-over, well actually he was providing this for the signer which was unfortunate, as this meant he was facing the signer and not the audience. I had a friend there who doesn’t sign, and she had to come to the front and face the audience, so she could see the speaker’s face. So really, this event could be more accessible for deaf-without-BSL. Then we had a super duper open bar. My friend and I were the last ones to be kicked out by security. Oops.

Film : The Kite Runner

26 01 2008

This film looked promising. It is a bit long at 128 minutes but you don’t really notice it, as the story carries you away. The storyline unfolds at a nice pace, starting in the USA in the present day and then going back to the past in Afghanistan. The film outlines the story of the childhood friendship of Amir and Hassan and the breakdown of that relationship. Twenty years later, Amir has a chance to set things right and redeem the friendship. This is a deep, sad film with some shocking scenes, but it’s still a wonderful film. There is some great acting and this film has left a deep impression on me, it’s still knocking around in my head two days later.

Several languages were spoken throughout the film, so most of it is subtitled. Small parts of the film are spoken in English and these are not subtitled, but you can still follow the storyline in spite of missing these bits. I would have given this film 5 stars if it had been 100% subtitled. If you missed the movie, you can buy the book from Amazon.

FOL’s verdict : PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Bus trouble

22 01 2008

I saw an article in the London Metro today, talking about a new emergency text service in London which could go live soon. How many times have you seen violence on London transport? I’ve not personally seen any but I know of two people who have been attacked recently.
One was a friend of a friend. She was sitting on the train one evening, and a beggar came walking down the aisle asking everybody for change. He asked her for change and she said sorry but she didn’t have any on her. What he did next shocked me. He punched her in the face and broke her nose. Then he sauntered off. She sat there with blood pouring down her face and not one passenger offered to assist her.
I have a friend called David who’s deaf. One evening he was taking the train home from work and at London Bridge, some yobs got on and proceeded to tear the black rubber lining strip from the windows. David got up and shouted at them to leave the windows alone. The yobs set upon him and left him with fractures and a black eye. The police were called, another passenger offered his testimony, but they still haven’t been caught. Luckily, David is ok.

This new emergency text service means bus passengers will be able to discreetly raise an alarm by sending a code as a text message to a dedicated police number, this code being shown on posters around the bus. Each bus will have it’s own code letters so police will know which bus to target.

This is all very fine and dandy for hearing people, luckily it’s handy for deaf people too. I’d like to see this on all public transport.

Alerting devices

14 01 2008

I always find it harder in the winter to wake early, and it didn’t help that my shakeawake didn’t really shake, instead it gave a weak wobble then died every morning. I replaced the batteries but there was no improvement. I left feedback on the alarm clock with the company that I purchased it from (Connevans), and a few days later the MD contacted me personally, asking for clarification of the problem as they had not seen this particular problem before. He suggested replacing the batteries with new alkaline ones instead of rechargeable ones which have a slightly lower terminal voltage. I did so, and hey presto! it worked. So I am now getting an earthquake simulation again every morning, how nice.

Well done on fabulous customer service, Connevans!


I’ve been thinking of getting a Philips wake-up light which might make waking up in the winter easier, it helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder. This clock simulates a rising sun with birds singing, to fool your body into thinking it’s time to get up – naturally. I was talking to a colleague and she says she has the same problem with waking up in the winter mornings and feeling tired all the time. I told her about this clock. She realised that her bedroom faces north and her second bedroom faces south. That night, she moved into the second bedroom and she came into the office the next day with a spring in her step and she was absolutely glowing. Good idea!


There may be a new alarm clock out soon, designed by Meng Fandi. The alarming ring is worn like a ring, and it wakes you up with a vibration – ideal for couples and there are also two rings in the set.


Another alarm clock that I found interesting was the sonic bomb at £29.95 – probably ideal for hard of hearing people (but I’d feel so sorry for the neighbours!). This one is really really loud at 113 decibels – a jackhammer has only 100 decibels. The sonic bomb also has a vibrating pad which you can tuck under the pillow for your favourite earthquake simulation.


What if your deaf teenage son refuses to get up in the morning? You could try the sonic grenade. Simply pull the pin, lob it into the room, and wait. The sleeper will have to hunt for the pin to silence the grenade – if you’re generous enough to throw that in as well. Cheap at £7.95


The drag racer alarm clock revs up and the lights light up in sequence. A cheap thrill at $30!


The danger bomb clock wakes you up with an explosion sound. To switch it off, you have to pull out one code from three, which is randomly set each morning. This one is a limited edition! $36.75


Here’s a lovely watch that has been designed by Nikita Golovlev with the hearing impaired in mind. The AlarMe is unique…. it has two multidirectional microphones that measure surrounding sound levels. When these change, the watch vibrates to alert the wearer, LED lights flash and a message appears on the watch face saying what the problem is, e.g. if a fire alert, they need to exit the building. Perhaps this could be an electronic version of a Hearing Dog?


29 12 2007

A friend was not happy at missing the last See Hear programme and that a repeat was not shown during the following week, as it was christmas week. She emailed the BBC on the 27th to complain. She got a reply today. Wow, they reply intelligently, they don’t fob you off, and they work on Saturdays!

Dear Mrs X

Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘See Hear’.

I understand you have been unable to access the 19 December edition of the programme and would like to know if there is any other way you can watch it.

I am pleased to inform you that the festive edition of this programme is scheduled for broadcast on 09 January at 01.25am. As this will be broadcast during the BBC One ‘Sign Zone’, it will appear in the late night listings for Tuesday 08 January. I would add that an edition of ‘See Hear’ is also broadcast at 01.25am on 03 January during the ‘Sign Zone’.

I would suggest for future reference that you book-mark both the BBC ‘What’s On website and the ‘Radio Times’ homepage as both are the most accurate and reliable sources of information on all BBC scheduling:



I hope that this goes some way in clarifying the situation and I would like to assure you that we have registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to contact the BBC with your concerns.


James Kelly
BBC Information
Have your say about the complaints process in the BBC Trust’s current public consultation –

Thumbs up! Chutneys

23 12 2007

– No dogs are allowed in here
– He’s a Hearing Dog for Deaf People
– A Hearing Dog! Ooohhh! That’s fine then!

We hit a vegetarian Indian for lunch, but once we got past the access issue, we sat at a table in the small crowded restaurant and tied Smudge’s lead to a chair leg. For the entire meal, he stayed quietly under the table (good boy). Chutneys provides an all-you-can-eat buffet for about £6 and it is great value. A notice on the wall made me laugh – “One plate each please”. The food was good, very filling, and there was lots to choose from. There were about six different curries and chutneys – they even had apple chutney and lemon chutney which was delightful. For pudding I had Gulaab Jamun (very sweet dough balls, like mini doughnuts) with rice pudding and fruit. We had Tikka beer and Kingfisher beer – the Tikka had quite a striking taste to it but the Kingfisher was more mellow. They sell organic red wine at only £8.95 a bottle. The atmosphere is busy, informal, and cheerful, the staff are friendly but stay out of your face. Top marks for friendly service, great food, and a low bill. The only downside was that afterwards I was so full that I felt ill.

Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street NW1 2HL
TEL 020 7388 0604

Tube stations : Euston Square Tube (2 minutes), Euston Tube (3 minutes)
Railway Stations : Euston (3 minutes), St Pancras and Eurostar Terminal (12 minutes)

Deaf review : Friendly staff, Hearing Dogs are welcome. It’s way too noisy so forget the chit-chat (or use sign language if you can) and just come here to eat!

Thumbs up! Busaba Eathai

16 12 2007

I was really looking forward to our christmas party as we had booked a room in a Thai restaurant and Thai is one of my favourite cuisines. Busaba Eathai is a chain created by Alan Yau, they guy behind Wagamama’s, the fantastic Japanese ramen noodle resaurants. There are usually long queues outside and you’re not able to make reservations. So we booked their private room for our christmas party. The ambience is nice, dark and moody with dim lighting and dark woods. They have Wagamama-style communal benches and tables, so it’s not intimate-dinner-for-two style, you can’t lean back in your chair, it’s busy, it’s more like a factory, and you’re sharing your table with strangers. This means it’s hard to have a decent conversation without distraction and people seem to be shouting at each other, so the private room suited me much better as it was quieter, with just one long table which seated up to 25.

I saw the floors were slate, and the walls and furnishings were wood, and straight away I knew the acoustics would be hell. Sounds echo off hard surfaces and makes it a much noisier environment for me. But eating in the small private room brought the noise level right down and I was able to relax. I didn’t have any access problems with bringing a Hearing Dog into the restaurant, which made a nice change. I put my fleece coat on the floor for Smudge and he settled down happily. The waiters didn’t trip over him and they even asked me if Smudge was ok.

The wait service was straight off the mark, we didn’t have to hang around for our food. The efficient and friendly waiters brought a constant stream of plates to us from our chosen set menu –

* Prawn pomelo with peanut served on betal leaf
* Thai calamari with ginger and peppercorn
* Fishcakes with cucumber and peanut relish
* Po pea jay vegetable spring rolls
* Pandan chicken marinated in garlic and coriander root

* Green chicken curry with pea aubergine and corn
* Muslim beef curry with banana capsicum
* Aromatic butternut pumpkin curry with cucumber relish
* Som tam green papaya salad
* Steamed jasmine rice
* Steamed coconut rice
* Phad thai rice noodle with prawn, dried shrimp, tofu and peanut
* French bean and mange tout with baby corn, coconut hurt and pine nut
* Chicken butternut with cashew nuts and chilli
* Ginger beef with thai pepper, chilli and spring onion
* Chilli prawn stir fry with sweet basil
* Tofu and spinach with shallot, chilli and yellow bean

The food was good and I highly recommend the Thai calamari, pumpkin curry, and green chicken curry which bounced out of their bowls with their zingy flavours. Laura had a jasmine smoothie and it was just mmmmmmm. Laura doesn’t eat meat so there wasn’t much choice for her, there’s certainly room for improvement on the vegetarian side of the menu. The wine and Thai beer were both good. They don’t do dessert so I had lemongrass tea with honey which was just divine.

Luckily the toilet signs aren’t in Thai. However, they use symbols which can be a bit confusing, not being the standard ISO 7001:2007 symbols.

There are often people queuing outside, especially if they have had a few beers, trying to work out what the symbols mean, and waiting to see who comes out of which door. The symbols represent the different ways that men and women use the facilities: standing up and sitting down.

My only quibble was that I felt we were rushed out as the private room had another booking, and they came in before we had vacated the room.

The verdict? A thumbs up!

Busaba Eathai, 22 Store St WC1E 7DF
T 020 7299 7900
F 020 7299 7909

Mon – Thurs 12pm – 11pm / Fri – Sat 12 noon – 11.30pm / Sun 12 noon – 10pm
Station: Tottenham Court Road
Average price: £24 and Under


16 12 2007

A scheme to help deaf and hard of hearing people live more independent lives has been operating in Teesside for a few months.

The Middlesbrough Deaf Centre has teamed up with taxi operator Blue Line Taxis to help deaf people get out and about without relying on relatives. Deaf people can now send a text message to the operator by dialling 0795 873 0076 and requesting a taxi.

The service will then text back to say when the taxi will arrive. It is available seven days a week.

Why isn’t this service available in London? It’s a simple one to put in place and would benefit so many people.