New name, new charity?

23 09 2010

I read that the RNID are going to re-brand and possibly change their name as according to Jackie Ballard CEO, the current name ‘is a barrier to people who are hard of hearing.’

The name is a barrier?! Errr  … run that one past me again!

Give me £260,000 Jackie and I’ll show you something REALLY worthwhile to do with it.

It’s a crying shame that charities spend so much money on re-branding …. and for what? Re-branding shouldn’t just be about nice new colours and logos. It should also  be about a change in strategy and service provision – for the better. Be interesting to see  how THIS one pans out.

Source: PR





Deaf = not old and boring

11 02 2010

Check out this new hearing aid concept from Designaffairs Studio in Germany. It’s different, unique, and very refreshing. Perhaps too innovative for some, though. This hearing aid is plugged into a large hole in the earlobe. Eww. They have designed an additional plug to add extra amplification.

At least some designers are heading in the right direction, they have the right idea – hearing aids are not just for old people, are they?

The RNID have come out with some new figures. They said the current 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK will increase to 13 million by the year 2014, due to an ageing population and the iPod generation becoming deaf. Scary figures. I’m expecting hearing aid designs to be revolutionized. Hearing aid design today is all talk and no action.

My personal opinion – I love the idea but I would not want to put a big hole in my earlobe. I would happily wear as this as an earring though. Good for the girls, not so good for the boys.

Images: Designaffairs





The Mirror Crack’d

7 01 2010

One of my concerns about the cochlear implant, and I suspect quite a common one for CI newbies, is the size of the thing. It looks quite big. It’s quite a collection of objects to have on the back of your head and looks very conspicuous when you have no or little hair – I’ve seen quite a few young men on the London underground with a CI stuck to their head. I’ve always thought it looks quite futuristic, like something out of a modern-day Star Trek. The CI comes in two parts. This is the part that sits on the ear and the round part is a magnet, which sits on the head behind the ear;

This is the internal part of the CI. The wires are electrodes which are threaded into the cochlea. The round part is the magnet which connects through the skin to the external magnet.

Wouldn’t it be great if the external part was designed to look like a telephone or something humorous. Listen up, CI companies! Cochlear now have a white CI, the Nucleus 5, and it looks gorgeous. Unfortunately it still looks like a hearing aid and I don’t like people’s reactions to them. Interesting comments from CI users have been that observers are interested, they think it’s some sort of bluetooth device, and this leads to useful conversations, educational and sometimes directly beneficial to the observer … who may happen to be deaf but has not seen a CI or heard of one.

Hearwear: The Future of Hearing was an exhibition held at the V&A London in 2006. The RNID had commissioned 15 product designers to come up with innovative hearing products. The results were prototypes and not available on the market in 2006 …. that was 4 years ago …. I wonder what is happening? Alloy were seeking manufacturers in 2005 for its SoundSpace product. ReSound have a new aid design called Be. I contacted both companies to get an update on hearing aid design. No replies were forthcoming.

You might be interested to read about the Carina on Steve’s blog Deafness and hearing aids. This is a new, fully implantable CI. Looking at this CI, it appears to be for people with a moderate to severe hearing loss, rather than profound. Perhaps in ten years time, they will have improved the technology enough to offer this to profoundly deaf recipients. There are also different kinds of implants: auditory, penetrating, and hybrid. Perhaps there may be developments there.

Back to the current day. It is possible to purchase ‘Skinits‘, customised plastic film to stick on your CI and ring the changes with your outfit or occasion. Cool. Some CIs come with different casing colours that you can swap around. You can also purchase Tube Riders to decorate hearing aids or implants. You can even get a bluetooth headset to work with your CI.

At my CI consultation, I had been told all CIs are the same. I had initially jumped for Cochlear’s Nucleus 5 because it was the newest and flashiest of the lot. I assumed newest was best. But when they said the performance of all brands was the same, alarm bells rang in my head. I did some research and spoke to a number of people, some of whom were electrical engineers. The results are posted on my Cochlear Implants blog page. If you’re considering a cochlear implant, go check this information out! It’s important to know about CI performance – because your surgeon won’t tell you this – surgeons are not experts on CIs. So… based on this new information, I have now finally chosen my preferred brand of CI. I chose Advanced Bionics for their superior performance and better future hardware and software prospects. Hello AB fans, are you out there?





New cinema advert for accessible screenings

11 05 2009

A new cinema advert aimed at raising audience awareness of the availability of subtitled and audio described screenings at UK cinemas will hit the big screen next month.

You can view the ad HERE.

UK cinemas lead the world in making their sites accessible to people with disabilities. More than 300 UK cinema sites have facilities to provide both subtitled and audio described films for people with hearing or sight problems respectively. And the number of subtitled film screenings per month now stands at around 2,000 nationwide, with more than 700 films now available in accessible formats.

But despite this provision, levels of attendance of many screenings remain low. The new ad – produced by Creative Mwldan with the support of a range of cinema industry interests – is an attempt to address that, and is aimed as much at the friends and family of those with such disabilities and the disabled customers themselves.

Looking forward to the new ad campaign, CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

I am hugely grateful to industry colleagues for all of their support in bringing this advert to the screen. We very much hope that it will encourage a large number of customers with disabilities to recognise that the cinema is for them as much as it is for any other member of the public.

Welcoming this initiative, Lesley-Anne Alexander, Chief Executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People said:

RNIB welcomes the launch of the cinema access advertisement as part of the continued efforts of the UK film and cinema industry to promote and increase access to films and cinemas for blind and partially sighted people. We look forward to continue working with them on this journey.

Jo Campion, Head of Campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society commented:

Every deaf child has the right to the same opportunities as a hearing child, and that includes being able to enjoy going to the cinema to see the latest films. The National Deaf Children’s Society welcomes the new cinema advert and hopes it will lead to greater awareness of the availability and importance of subtitled films for deaf children and young people.

Derek Brandon, editor of yourlocalcinema.com – the industry-sponsored website and information service for ‘accessible’ cinema – added:

This new advert will be viewed by thousands of people every week nationwide. Many people know someone with a hearing or sight problem and we hope that people who see the ad will inform others, creating awareness of the world-leading ‘access’ services provided by hundreds of UK cinemas.

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The UK leads the world in ‘accessible’ cinema. Most major cinemas now have facilities to screen the latest films with subtitles for people with hearing problems, and audio description for people with sight problems.

Most popular releases are available with subtitles & audio description ‘files’. These files can be used to screen shows on 35mm-based systems (installed in more than 300 UK cinemas), as well as on digital systems (installed in more than 250 UK cinemas). ‘Accessible’ shows are now a regular feature in hundreds of cinemas nationwide.

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“I served in Iraq, came home last year with permanent damage to my hearing…”
Click HERE to read hundreds of quotes and reports from people with hearing or sight problems who have discovered – or rediscovered – the joys of cinema-going, thanks to subtitles and audio description.

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ON THE WEBSITE:

Subtitled: Star Trek, Wolverine, Coraline, Hannah Montana, State of Play, Monsters vs Aliens, I Love You Man, Fast & Furious, Observe & Report, Let The Right One In and more…

Shows are added to the website when announced – view by film or location at Your Local Cinema.com

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Subtitled trailers:

New! Summer 2009 preview trailer! Star Trek, Wolverine, Transformers 2, New Harry Potter, Terminator Salvation, Observe & Report, Angels & Demons, I Love You Man, Fast & Furious, Race to Witch Mountain, Monsters vs Aliens, Marley & Me, Up (Pixar) and many more at Your Local Cinema.com

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About cinema subtitles & audio description.

“Fact is that as we age, loss of some hearing or sight is inevitable… Access to film via subtitles & audio description is something that we all may appreciate, eventually”

Cinema subtitles (properly known as captions) are displayed along the bottom of the cinema screen. They include the spoken text as well as descriptions of sounds such as ‘door creaks’, ‘footsteps approaching’, ‘gunshot’ etc.

Cinema audio description is a recorded narration which explains – in gaps in the dialogue – what’s happening on screen. It’s delivered through wireless headphones – only the wearer hears the audio description soundtrack. One blind cinema-goer has likened the experience to listening to a Harry Potter audio book, but with all the actors voicing their own parts, and the addition of the film soundtrack – in fabulous surround sound.

“It’s the accessible cinema experience: SEE the dialogue! HEAR the action!”

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Winner!

Your Local Cinema .com has won the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the Daily Mail Enterprise Awards. Thanks to everyone who voted! Coverage is HERE.

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Your Local Cinema .com is a non-profit group sponsored by the UK film industry.
Interested in part-sponsorship? Please contact subtitles@yourlocalcinema.com. View existing sponsors HERE.





Conference: Communication in the Information Age

16 04 2009

EFHOH Congress, London 2009

This year the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH) is holding its’ annual conference in the UK and its’ theme is Communication in the Information Age. The event will focus on opportunities to achieve equality in communication services and will look at the political effort necessary to bring about better communications networks. They will also look ahead to see what technologies may be empowering deaf and hard of hearing people in the future.

RNID members, and their friends, are invited to come to the events conference on Saturday 25th April. It will be held at the Park Crescent Conference Centre, the nearest tubes are Great Portland Street or Regent’s Park, admission is free to RNID members and just £10 for non-members.

To register for the event
Please go to Communication in the Information Age Conference 2009 and complete the online form. Alternatively ring 020 7296 8280 (voice) or 020 7608 0511(text) to speak with one of the RNID team who will register you for the conference.





Trying to be co-operative?

12 04 2009

I went into a supermarket which is part of a national chain called The Co-Operative Group. I had my hearing dog with me. He was wearing his official purple working coat which says “Hearing Dog for Deaf People” on both sides and has the Assistance Dogs UK logo on the top. I went to the till to pay for a loaf of bread. The shop assistant told me repeatedly that a dog was not allowed into the store, that it is a food shop. I kept explaining that my dog is a hearing dog, an assistance dog for deaf people, and that he therefore is entitled to the same access benefits as a guide dog for the blind. Unfortunately, the assistant clearly did not want to listen to what I had to say, and he refused to serve me. In the end, I asked to speak to the store manager.

A young man came out and he was incredibly rude and offensive towards me. Other customers in the queue were visibly shocked. He told me he was the junior manager and refused to listen to my explanations and kept talking over me and interrupting me. I explained that my hearing dog is an assistance dog, which is one of six different kinds of assistance dogs; there are not only guide dogs for the blind which most people are familiar with but other types of assistance dogs too. I showed the manager the official identity cards which I carry for my dog: one certifying that he is a trained hearing dog, and one from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People (the organisation which trained him) with a statement from the Institute of Environmental Health Officers, stating that;

“Hearing Dogs are allowed entry to restaurants, supermarkets and other food premises. Their very special training means they are not a risk to hygiene in such premises”

The manager said he was not interested, he did not want to see them, and told me to go outside the store. I refused to go outside as I know my rights and I was very offended by the manner in which he spoke to me. As a customer, I expected a certain level of courtesy and professionalism, but I was met with an unwillingness to listen, rudeness, and an offensive attitude towards my disabled status.

I was humiliated.

I joined the queue of customers at the till and the manager came over to me and asked to see the cards. He snatched the cards out of my hand, read them and then apologised. He then told the shop assistant that I was right and that he was to serve me. I asked both of them for an apology. I asked the manager why he had not listened to my explanation. His reply was that he had never seen a hearing dog before. Well, pardon me! Before I left Ireland, I had never seen a black person, but I still knew that people can’t be treated differently on account of their colour. I had never seen a guide dog for the blind either, but I also knew that they are allowed to go into places selling and serving food because of their special training. So no, that poor excuse didn’t wash with me.

Ignorantia legis neminem excusats.

Ignorance of the law excuses no one: this is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content.

I visited The Co-Op again later that day with a leaflet for the manager, which explained the different types of assistance dogs. He said he would put this up on the wall behind the till counter. When you think about it, it’s a good way to cut training costs, just stick a poster on the wall and hope everyone reads it. That’s what I call lazy, passive ‘training’. Or is it my responsibility to train their staff in diversity awareness?!

A few days later I visited The Co-Op again. There was a different assistant at the till. As soon as he saw me, he told me to leave the store. The manager happened to be nearby and said it was ok, my hearing dog was allowed. Clearly, the other staff still had not been trained. Or should I say, no one had bothered to read the leaflet stuck on the wall.

I was disappointed.

To make matters worse, I was very surprised, and disappointed, to see The Co-Op were displaying posters around the store stating that the RNID (Royal National Intsitute for the Deaf) is their charity of the year, with large RNID-branded collection buckets at the tills. My guess is that this was just a token PR exercise.

Does RNID = Really Not Interested in Deaf?

Recently, I went into The Co-Op again (I don’t scare easily), accompanied by my hearing dog, as always, wearing his official purple working coat. I was immediately approached by a shop assistant who told me that dogs were not allowed in the shop. I explained (again. YAWN) that my dog is a hearing dog. He clearly did not understand what I was talking about and went over to his colleague.

I was annoyed.

A few minutes later, I was approached by his colleague who also told me dogs were not allowed in the shop, citing the reason that there is food on the shop shelves. I explained – yet again – that my dog is a hearing dog, a type of assistance dog, therefore he was allowed into the shop. I asked him how many times he had to be told? His poor excuse was that he had never seen a hearing dog before. They trot this one out on a regular basis! The manager was not present so I was unable to discover why the staff had not been given training, a whole month after the original incident in January when I had been promised that staff would be given the appropriate diversity training.

I am disgusted.

I did some research and discovered that The Co-Op is a member of the Employer’s Forum on Disability (EFD). The EFD’s agenda on customers states, under ‘Policy and top level commitment’;

“Service to disabled customers will form an integral part of the company’s product and service standards. A company-wide policy will be agreed by the top team and communicated to the rest of the company.”

The service to disabled customers at this particular branch of The Co-Op is clearly not up to the expected high standards of service given to non-disabled customers. I wonder why their company policy on services to disabled customers was not communicated to this branch’s staff? Was such policy communicated to other branches? Or, dare I say it, was a company-wide policy on service to disabled customers never agreed in the first place?

I am dismayed.

The EFD’s agenda on customers states, under ‘Staff training and disability awareness’;

“Specific steps will be taken to raise awareness of disability among employees involved in developing, marketing and delivering products and services to customers. Training will be made available to communicate service standards and to equip employees to achieve these.”

Eh? HELLO? I would be most interested to know why specific steps had not been taken to raise awareness of deafness and hearing dogs among the employees involved in delivering products to customers. Clearly, no deaf awareness training had been delivered to staff. Never mind that they were supporting RNID for a whole year …. Who Are They When They’re At Home?

I am frustrated.

Making the store accessible is as straightforward as informing all the staff that work there about access rights for disabled people and their assistance dogs, whether those dogs be a guide dog for the blind, a hearing dog for deaf people, a dog for the disabled, a support dog, a canine partner, or a dual purpose guide and hearing dog.

I am tired of explaining my rights.

Looking at The Co-Op’s website, I discovered that 2009 marks their Disability step-change programme, and they are Two Ticks accredited for being positive about disabled people;

“We will also continue to pay attention to customers, and the audits to ensure that all our branches and stores are accessible as they can be for customers with disabilities.”

“By diversity, we mean we value the attributes and the experiences of every individual, be they employee, member or customer. These attributes include, but are certainly not limited to … physical ability”

“Externally, we mean that we will provide easy access to goods, services and facilities and actively seek to engage diverse elements of society.
Therefore:
• We value people for their contribution and will encourage their diversity in all aspects of our business.
• We will not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form.
• We recognise that we need to support the needs of our diverse customer and community base and will work to ensure that we exceed their expectations of us.”

Huh.

However, The Co-Op have tried to make good. They sent me a letter of apology, stating they would be giving their staff training in disability awareness. They also enclosed vouchers to the value of £50.

I had told RNID’s Legal Casework Service Team what had happened. Their response? Zip.

I had also informed the Co-Op charity of the year project manager at the RNID. Zip response.

I had copied in my local Member of Parliament and I received a letter the next day; his response was one of incredulity at the lack of common sense of these shop assistants.

Most helpful were Royal Association for Deaf people Legal Services (RAD) who responded promptly and advised me on my course of action. Kudos to them!

I had (note: past tense) a deaf friend who always said I shouldn’t complain when I came across discrimination in shops and restaurants but should just leave and go elsewhere. How would that improve access for disabled people? We need to fight for our rights. Why should we be treated as second class citizens? Why does he think the Disability Discrimination Act was set up in the first place? Just to make the government look good? Just so companies can say, “Oh yes, of course we’re accessible!”.

Let’s make it simple. Just substitute the word ‘disability’ for ‘black’ and the discrimination becomes clearer.

It pays to complain.

It pays to stand up for your rights and be counted.

I might be deaf, but I’m not invisible.

Hell, no.





RNID =

3 04 2008

= Really Not Interested in Deaf

Why?

Here’s one reason. A friend received her copy of RNID’s magazine ‘One in Seven’ today and she says –

Just opened up my One in Seven mag. Amongst all the junk mail/leaflets they put in there is a “welcome gift” catalogue offering a free radio if I purchase something.

She’s annoyed.

Annoyed? I’d be bl**dy FURIOUS!