‘Ishaare. Gestures and Signs in Mumbai’ by Annelies Kusters

“Ishaare” has a double meaning: it means “gestures” in Hindi and Marathi, but it also means “signs”, as such indicating that there cannot be made a strict distinction between them. However, whilst there seems to be overlap between gestures and sign language, they differ too, as the protagonists of the movie show and tell us. The film “Ishaare” documents how six deaf signers communicate with familiar and unfamiliar hearing shopkeepers, street vendors, customers, waiters, ticket conductors and fellow travellers in Mumbai. Reena and Pradip, who is deaf blind, go grocery shopping along local streets, in markets and in shops. Sujit, our guide throughout the movie, communicates in public transport. Mahesh is a retail businessman who sells stocks of pens to stationery shops. Komal runs an accessory shop with her husband Sanjay, where most customers are schoolgirls. Durga is the manager of a branch of Café Coffee Day, an upmarket coffee chain. When enquiring, selling, bargaining and chitchatting, these deaf and hearing people use gestures and signs, and they also lipread, mouthe, read and write in different spoken languages. In the film, they share how they experience these ways of communication.”

A film directed by Annalies Kusters.

‘Our Journey To Equality’ by Steven Mifsud, Founder of Direct Access Consultancy

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Mr Steven Mifsud

Slowly approaching the tenth birthday for Direct Access Consultancy, it has been an amazing adventure, but I can tell you it wasn’t easy. Over the last 10 years, we grew and grew, battling difficult times and overcoming tall obstacles, now we have provided access audits and access consultancy for over 10 Local Authorities/Councils, over 10 housing associations, over 650 schools and more than 2500 buildings.

My name is Steven Mifsud, I started my higher education life with an architectural degree, little that I knew, I would end up here running the company I started so many years ago. A few years after I finished the last minute exams and late night flat parties, I started working for Chester City Council (now known as Cheshire West Council) as an Access Officer. This effectively acted as my entry point into the disability access world as I was sent to take care of many community projects. Though it was a great experience, I was beginning to get fed up with the speed of that I was limited to by the red tape.

During my time as an Access Officer, I was head hunted by a large consultancy based in London, which gave me some great opportunities such as surveying land mark buildings. Within this time, I also managed a 300+ access auditing project for Brighton & Hove Council. Times were good now, but I felt something was missing. Unfortunately I was extremely frustrated that I was never with my family, more particularly my daughter Georgia. The work was also extremely deadline driven which a lot of the times meant to compromise the quality of the access audit reports in order to retain employment status.

Now, this is the good bit, one day I was approached by a large department store to undertake some access audits for them; thus how Direct Access Consultancy was born. After working for the consultancy in London, I learnt that access audits deserve precious time rather than rushing each project in the goal to finish more jobs, quality over quantity.

One job after another, year after year, the company grew and expanded and is now lead by myself with Judith acting as my communication support worker due to my hearing impairment. There has been some highs such as delivering a speech in Qatar on Accessible Sports on the behalf of the UKTi and extreme lows such as fractured family relationships due to my loyalty to Direct Access. The highest points in 10 years was not being privileged to access audit world famous sites such as The Roman Baths but hearing real sound for the first time in my life by having a Cochlear Implant and meeting my wife Judith.

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Judith & Steven.

I have built a company that is unique to our competitors, a disability access auditing service provided by people affected by disabilities, thus a unique edge and perspective to access projects. Disabled access auditing is for disabled people, so wouldn’t it make sense that disabled people are the best people to consult on how their lives can be made easier?

Yes, this is effectively my autobiography, but my life is basically the story of Direct Access Consultancy as I’ve devoted the majority of my working life being in the company. I love what I do as it combines my personal insight into disability, my passion for architecture and contributing to creating a society that is equal and fair regardless of what your physical difficulties may be. Here is to another 10 years of leading Direct Access Consultancy.

Steven Mifsud

Founder of Direct Access Consultancy

Read more about what Steven’s company does – http://www.accessaudits.com

They also do a lot of access audits for schools, over 800 to date.

One of their current key projects  – http://www.accessaudits.com/direct-access-appointed-access-consultants-for-new-victoria-square-development-woking/

A bit about what their access audits are about and what they entail – http://www.accessaudits.com/access-audits/

Some of the clients Steven have worked, including clients like Bodelwyddan castle, Roman baths etc etc http://www.accessaudits.com/our-clients/

Steven has also done a bit of free work (when he can) to help his local community such as Nantwich museum http://nantwichmuseum.org.uk/direct-access-audit/

‘Understanding Hearing Parents Of Deaf Children’ by Barry Sewell

When we published the piece by ‘The Deaf Terminator’, we were given a link to a video made by Barry Sewell, otherwise known as ‘The Holism’. We thought we would pass onto you, our readers, the link to the very same video.

“Recently much attention have been generated between AG Bell’s (Alexander Graham Bell Organization) and the culturally and linguistically deaf people, also known as the sign language community. AG Bell believes it is better to provide deaf children with necessary means and tools to learn to speak and hear sounds. However the sign language community believes it is better for deaf children to learn American Sign Language. Each sides have been vying for the most attention in the social media. They both are aiming for each other’s throats. Unfortunately it only hardened their stances against each other however I wanted to contribute my thoughts on the situation, maintaining my focus on 95% of deaf children’s hearing parents because they are the ultimate force here.”

~ Barry Sewell.

‘EU Referendum in BSL Survey’ by Drip Media

The EU (European Union) referendum leaflet is in just written English, large print and audio CD. There are no visual materials for those who rely on sign language hence why, I support this video by Drip Media in trying to gauge just how many people would like to see the same content available to them so they too, can make an informed choice however which way they would like to vote.

Their video is in BSL yet it is captioned to be inclusive of all.

Please complete their survey in order to assist them in achieving what I hope, will be a successful and fair result. This will only take a minute of your time.

http://www.dripmedia.tv/eureferendum

Thank you for your time and patience.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

‘Confessions Of A Raving Lunatic’ by Lesley Kiddell-Spencer

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Lesley Kiddell-Spencer and her darling grandson.

Bit about me, I went deaf at seven (that’s not great when you are a Dr Who fan and love music) due to meningitis of course. I have two deaf children (who married deaf spouses) and I also have five grandchildren, all deaf except one. I tell my daughter-in-law, Kaizen must belong to the postman, so you see I have my very own deaf club.

Married 3 times, only one of whom was deaf, I tend to trade them in when they fail their MOT, but my current one is a lovingly restored classic car so he will be fine.  My first husband had to deal with me blasting the chicken instead of basting it as I read the recipe book wrong and he couldn’t understand why I kept going to the kitchen to switch the oven on full blast then back down again. My current one who I met on a dating website had a heck of a shock coming face to face with a whole deaf family when he had never met a deaf person before…you can imagine communication was hilarious.

I am old – 55, and have spent the best part of my life fighting stupid systems made up by idiots with nothing better to do.  I was in the radical FDP – that was a brilliant time, thousands marching for recognition of British Sign Language, I had to make a speech at Trafalgar Square, so I was plied with whiskey beforehand by the other committee members as I was a wreck, and can remember nothing of it except I probably made a right idiot of myself.  We were in the media often… ‘Lesley and her comrades’ in the Guardian newspaper (their words not mine but boy did it turn me into an egoistic eejit) I still smile about that now.  However my life is like the Coldplay song “Viva La Vida” go read it and you will see the higher up you go, the greater the fall.

I have long since learnt, everyone is different, now that was hard because I wanted everyone to think like me because they jolly well should, people can be wonderful, and on the other extreme nasty.

Ten years or so ago I jumped out of my ivory tower as CEO of a deaf organisation and regenerated myself as a female Lovejoy, becoming an antique dealer which had always been my passion. I get hold of the most weird and wonderful items, and meet equally weird and wonderful people, however the antique world is a bit like the Mafia. Fortunately, I have blonde hair, green eyes (never mind fat and 5ft) not to forget deaf so I have been adopted very well, and boy do I play the deaf card, otherwise I would have found a horse’s head in my bed by now.

In my spare time I also take all kinds of deaf people on guided tours of the Richard III centre in Leicester – a man I totally am in love with, despite the fact he has been dead some 500 years plus. Yes, I am eccentric too. Or you can find me in a field full of people and mud, digging up the past with archaeologists (no, I promise I don’t pinch the stuff to sell!) I once found some bones in a Roman children’s cemetery and I was scared stiff, until they told me it was an expired rabbit.

What do I want to see? Utopia, where everyone gets on and dances around with flowers in their hair singing and kissing, but oh my days that’s never going to happen.  Technology has brought out a terrific change for deaf people, but with that has come out a new kind of nastiness with respect, morals and tolerance flying out the window into cyberspace and I sadly realise deaf people are never going to unite.  I fortunately have thick skin but many younger than me do not and are open to attacks, which can seriously cause a lot of grief, we have sadly reverted back to school day bullying.

As for expecting the whole world to change to understand hearing loss, and go mad, when they don’t… I was once like that and believe you me it is arrogant to think that because no one has the right to expect everyone to revolve around you – even if you are disabled.  All minority groups have these issues, it’s just a case of trying to teach and have an open mind.  There will always be downright rude nasty horrible people, I was probably one myself and so were you… I learnt to cut out the negative influence in your life.

I saw a saying recently which sums me up perfectly

“Don’t confuse my personality with my attitude… My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are”

by Lesley Kiddell-Spencer.

‘Rant of The Day’ by Suzie Jones.

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My rant for today – as a deaf person and it’s public. Everything in life should be accessible – from the bank to the Government to the public meetings everyone is entitled to attend – to the opportunity to go to the cinema, to the gym – or a counselling session, or to read the news online at our own leisure (with subtitles).. or to talk to family – or friends – We have to “ring” or we have to go round and rely on someone to speak clearly – no two bones about it. If we make the effort to go round – we are told to “wait” if someone rings your phone, but we were there first! – how come? Never say “it doesn’t matter – it’s not important” – never say “hang on my phone is ringing” in mid conversation with you.. if we are with you – we need to communicate -and we need to follow – never go from a clear speech to a mumbled speech if someone who is hearing starts a conversation.. I can go on…

– and so many are not aware that we are perfectly competent to communicate – Now I refer to those companies and organisations like HMRC, utility companies, electric gas and councils – BUT it needs to be in an accessible format, which, to me is the stumbling block. If you are discriminated against – it means they are trying to make you communicate with them in their way – not yours. Square peg in round hole – or whatever – they can’t force you to “learn how to access their services” – they should be making “their services fully accessible”. Forcing you to break the Data protection act because they can’t “accommodate your needs” – is discrimination. Pure and simple. Forcing you to use a different language – simply because it is seen to be the language of your “disability” – is NOT the ultimate solution.

By Suzie Jones, who is one of the founders of ‘Pardon’ and believer in equality for ALL of us – deaf and hearing.