‘Twas Truly A Pleasure’ By Lesley Kiddell-Spencer.


Oh dear, sometimes in life we realise the page has turned to a new chapter and another phase in our life has started. This has happened with “The Treehouse” group, it is now time to take down the curtains, remove the furniture and dismantle the structure of our treehouse to move to pastures new.

Sara gave a huge amount of her time setting up this group, she did us proud and we should remember her for that. The story below will give you an idea of the kind of person she is, she wrote this herself some 3 years ago and it sums her up perfectly.

“I have a sweet recollection to share, of a particular time long ago when a father wished to purchase for his daughter, a bag she so coveted. Mine. Was this you or perhaps, do you know them? If so, please do let us know.

I had jumped onto the train, all ready to meet friends with my roller-blades tucked away in my brand new sporting bag, that I had purchased especially.

As the tube rattled along and made its course, everyone was either reading the newspaper or dozing off encouraged by the monotonous vibrations of the train. I for one usually contemplated to pass the time.

Someone suddenly but gently tapped me on my knee, I was mildly astonished that someone wanted my attention. He explained that his daughter admired my bag and wanted to enquire as to where he could buy her, the exact same bag. I looked besides him to find his daughter being ever so shy. I remember being as shy as she once. Bless.

I seized the opportunity to draw a detailed map for them, alighting from a specific tube station, directions and the name of the shop. Even, where the bag was in the shop… His daughter seemed silently appreciative whilst her father seemed a little daunted, perhaps at the thought of making his way through crowds of people within the busy streets of London, with his daughter in tow.

My instincts told me he had at least, a little bit of experience with deaf people, knowing how to speak and listen in return. Therefore, I asked him, if he knew anyone that happened to be deaf. Much to his surprise at my evaluation, he then confessed his wife was deaf who remained in the United States whilst he was holidaying here, with their daughter.

Not forgetting the desired bag, their stop was the next one coming up. Mine was not for several stops after. He had shown me patience and kindness as a stranger, “What shall I do? I cannot leave them stranded at the mercy of body pushers” I thought… I decided to listen to my instincts and got off the train with them instead. He seemed to be somewhat surprised yet relieved that I was able to join and guide them through the bustling streets of London, which was heaving with tourists. He was no longer nervous and seemed more at ease; this meant his daughter was relatively more at peace.

Upon arriving at the shop, I showed his daughter through to where there was an identical bag to mine, waiting to be owned, by her. Different shades of gorgeous purple – who could resist? At last, two people were happy, having been looked after, satisfactorily. I explained that I now had to go because I was meeting friends, wisely omitting that I was late. After all, it was my choice.

I bode them well, to take care and to enjoy the rest of their holiday before turning around and leaving them to continue their retail therapy. As soon as they could no longer see me, I ran like the wind to make up for lost time.

My friends at the time was wondering where I was but they could not get annoyed with me once I explained, what I had been up to. Bless their cottons!

Who knows if the ‘six degrees of separation’ reasoning is viable yet my faith and trust in fate will remain. If this somehow reaches you and this has made you smile in reminiscence, being the daughter and/or the father – ‘Twas truly, my pleasure.”

We could never get annoyed with you Sara, and this time ‘Twas truly OUR pleasure”

Lets say “bye for now” but not “farewell



The Truth Always Prevails


“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Oftentimes I am reminded of the challenging positions of past that I was subjected to on different occasions by those who let their negativity and jealousy get the better of them, by those who had one rule for themselves and another for others, by those who conspired to overtake my role as founder and owner of The Tree House. There were also those who dared to manipulate (others) in order to engineer situations for their own gains, only, for it to be all in vain.

Only a select few has stood the test of time, remaining by my side throughout, giving continuous support and respect and so, it is they who deserve to be applauded for their courage to do right by others. Their moral values are both honourable and admirable.

Inevitably, there came a time when I became extremely deflated, of all the triviality and nastiness out there, so much so that I was determined not to close down The Tree House, in defiance of those who then chose to exploit and/or bully me, for being who I am. For being different, for being honest and for standing on my own two feet. For not following the (m)asses.

Fortunately, I soon realised all the unsavouriness was still dictating the quality of my time, which, to me, is very precious knowing how short life can be. My beloved children consequently became my first, second and last reason, hence the decision to take a sabbatical.

All I ever wished for was a space (for people) to speak freely with the greatest of respect, without fear of being judged. This is actually possible but only as long as people remain respectful and open minded of one another, willing to improve and learn, even from one’s (their own) mistakes. Except, there is yet much to absorb and practise regarding patience and relatively, respect. Everyone is different and there will always be those from all walks of life, who will teach us who not to be.

Even, those who may choose to knowingly associate themselves with the likes of the unsavouriness still, after having witnessing events or having seen evidence of the events, after allowing “them” to manipulate them into choosing a side – “they” are now, their problem. Their conscience.

To get by in the world of politics, one has to lie, be cunning, devious, manipulate and hold no or very little regard for others. It is all a game of ego and greed for power. Whereas a honest and genuine person trying to do their best by the people, for the people, will unfortunately be singled out and descended upon by a baying pack of wolves, those who are in fact afraid of having their true colours exposed, fearing the truth and subsequently, being embarrassed of their own flaws.


There are those of us who may (appear to) stand alone for speaking the truth and telling it like it is. However, that is okay because our conscience is clear.

Now would be an ideal time to remind you of one of my posts titled “Positivity rules!

There is no shame in being introspective, in being honest albeit respectfully, in seeking further knowledge, for it will all help you to become a better person. It is courageous at best since it is all about the survival of the fittest in our test of a lifetime.

On that note, do look forwards – not backwards as any impurities, which have been filtered out and left behind, are behind us for valid reasons.

Thus, why, I have decided to move on from such experiences. I have learnt so much more about people and their ways, the deaf world and how it functions. I can only hope you will appreciate this level of honesty, as I believe people deserve to know the truth since the truth always prevails.

We all have our own lives to mind and so, I wish you all the best in yours.

A token of gratitude and a tip of the hat please, for Andrew, Paul, Mervyn and all our readers / contributors simply, for being you.

More than you realise… 🙂

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

The response to the open letter

You may remember we sent an open letter to the CEO of Sign Health, Steve Powell?  You’ll be pleased to know we had a response.  Their response is below, and I quote:

Dear Sara and the Tree House team

Steve thanks you for your letter, and for your interest in the work that we’re doing. He’s asked me, as the person responsible for the project, to reply.

SignHealth has been working for Deaf people for nearly thirty years, and the charity is proud of the improvements and services it’s produced. We’re also painfully aware of all that still needs to be done in many areas, including access to information.

In an ideal world all information would be available to all users in a form they can easily use and understand.

As part of our efforts to move closer to that ideal, SignHealth tries to lead by example. Our website is offered in English and BSL. Our leaflets have QR codes leading to BSL clips, which sign the content. Aside from our health clips, our recent videos are almost without exception signed and subtitled.

We do this so we can ask others to look at their own websites and publications, and ask themselves if they are truly accessible to all. A surprising number of sites for or about D/deaf issues are inaccessible to BSL users.

At present, the BSL health videos we make are not subtitled. That is because they are a special case, and I will explain why.

A year ago the NHS Choices website had only 10 health videos in BSL.

The Sick Of It report showed that a lack of information was one of the reasons that Deaf people are more likely to have poorer health than hearing people.

So, we decided to do something about it. We set out to give people who use BSL as their first language a source of information, which will allow them to understand health issues and to make choices about their own health.

For most of those health conditions, this is the first time that information has been available in BSL.

All of the information we provide in the videos is already freely available elsewhere. They are all covered on the NHS Choices website, where all of the topics are already covered in captioned videos.

As a charity we rely on donations to carry out our work. Before we make a video we have to raise the money to make it possible. So we are using the grants we are given to make as much information as possible available to BSL users, who until now have had no access to information. We do it in the knowledge that people with other communication needs can get that information from the NHS already.

With sufficient funds we would love to be able to provide a large BSL health library which included subtitles too. The truth is we are struggling to find funding to do the work that we are doing already.

SignHealth works to improve access and healthcare for D/deaf people, and we provide services where that is the best way to make progress. We use our limited resources to work where there is the greatest need, and often that is in the BSL using Deaf community.

The work we do is not perfect, but we do the best we can with the resources we have.

Our BSL Healthy Minds, DeafHope and InterpreterNow services are predominantly for BSL users, but they are accessible and available to oral deaf users too. InterpreterNow is working hard to broaden its services so that they are available to all D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people too.

We’ve worked closely with the NHS on the new Accessible Information Standard (1605). We’ve asked them to fix the problems that our Sick Of It study revealed when it researched the healthcare of BSL users. But, we’ve made sure that the solutions benefit all deaf people, and even hearing people with other disabilities.

You say in your letter that you would like to support SignHealth, and we are pleased to know that. We work closely with a wide range of D/deaf organisations, and co-ordinating and combining our efforts makes us all stronger.

Although our approaches and priorities vary we are all working towards a common aim. That is improving access for D/deaf people.

Let’s do that by supporting successes which move us ahead in even the smallest way.


Paul Welsh
Director of Communications.

Your thoughts?  The PDF copies of the original letter are shown below should you need to see them.  Anyway, please let us know your thoughts.  Comment away!


Independence Is Key

© The Tree House 2014

© The Tree House 2014

Remaining independent is one of the main reasons why the Tree House (so far) has no sponsors or partners who can influence our balanced views to suit one’s needs or agendas. Every minute and beads of sweat that has been spent in dedication towards the Tree House is purely voluntary – out of generosity and passion. I am sure that I am not alone in truly admiring those for giving and for not receiving because all of the contributed writings, edited videos are of very high standards.

Now and again, there will be moments of holding one’s breath because we strive to provide an impartial and independent platform for those who are or wish to be “open minded, forward thinking, think the unthinkable, and say the unsayable all the while thinking outside the deaf box.” 

By facing reality and being realistic of our deaf ways, it does mean that now and again there may be acts of dispelling myths. We all need to keep up with the times, accept, respect current ways of modern thinking whilst being inclusive of today’s diversity. Only then can “we” move on.

However, if a neutral sponsor who is willing to remain impartial, open-minded, keeping in line with the Tree House’s ethos and has the loyal dwellers best interests at heart shows an interest, they will then be considered. As that is one aspect, we would be willing to move forwards with because it is not about us but the society we have to live in and share.

“To thine own self be true” – Shakespeare.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)




Royal College of Music Film Orchestra

On 6th November, a group of Tree House members went along to watch the Royal College of Music’s (RCM) Film Orchestra play a concert in aid of Help the Heroes. The theme was film music from war-themed films, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Out of Africa.


Photo by Sara Jae


One of the misconceptions about deaf and hard of hearing people is that we don’t enjoy music – or can’t appreciate music in the same way as hearing people can. However, as with various other things in life, people have their own relationships with the arts and culture – and music is no exception. My perception and appreciation of music is not the same as another deaf person’s – we all experience music in our own different ways. And just as some enjoy music, others don’t – a personal preference.

For example, my family has always enjoyed music – some of my parents’ stories about the 60s and 70s have me green with envy – seeing the Rolling Stones and Beatles live, going to the Dorothy in Cambridge for nights full of good music and dancing. When my sister and I were young, our parents and grandparents used to take us along to open air concerts with fireworks at the end, and without fail they would usually end the evening with John Williams’s Star Wars suite. I have fond memories of sitting on a blanket, full of expectation and awe at the fireworks and the stirring orchestral score. I even used the A New Hope theme as my wedding march…

My relationship with music is complicated, one that I have returned to many times in blog posts and articles. In the simplest terms, with music that has lyrics, I tend to hear the melody, bass line and voice but the words are not clear. I rely on reading lyrics – for example, using Spotify with MusicXmatch for the lyrics in time with the song, Youtube videos or looking up lyrics and listening closely to a song I want to get to know a number of times. I also have strong auditory memories of music that I listened to as a child and teenager, but this hasn’t stopped me listening and ‘learning’ new songs and music. In this case, level of hearing is irrelevant because everyone has a different reaction and preference. I’m profoundly deaf, and in another life, perhaps I wouldn’t have as strong a connection with music.

The Royal College of Music Film Orchestra was stunning. We sat at the front where we could see the conductor Richard Miller, hard at work with his graceful swoops and cues – some of us found it mesmerising. It was amazing to sit where we could feel the passion and energy rolling from the stage – where we could see the expressions of the musicians and feel the vibrations from the deeper instruments. It was an experience that fully immersed us into the world of music, both sight and sound. Some of the emotions evoked made some of us come out in goosebumps. The programme included scores from films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, and Schindler’s List – not to mention one of my favourite anime films, Grave of the Fireflies. There was a surprise performance, at the end, with ‘Dambusters’.

I felt that for the uninitiated, film music is a good way into listening to and appreciating orchestral music – it isn’t as inaccessible as it seems at first glance. In the past I have been afraid to listen to orchestral music because of the high notes and the quieter notes that I might not be able to pick up. However, in recent years I have been more open to listening to orchestral music via Spotify, and discovering powerful music with a theme. Film scores fit this category because they evoke the atmosphere and mood of a film, telling a story. In the end, I love a good story, and good music tells a story and evokes emotion – or just makes you want to dance (!)

So choosing to go to an orchestral performance is a new thing for me and some of the Tree House members that attended. It made me realise just how powerful it is to see a concert in person as opposed to the disconnect you might feel from just listening to music without being there. You miss the visual impact and the energy. I’m looking forwards to going to the next concerts with the Royal College of Music’s Film Orchestra – I can only hope for the Star Wars score next time…

Lizzie Ward-Mclaughlan

Deafness in Sport by Jennifer Wilson

I was born profoundly deaf, and enjoy life as much as the next person. I do think it is fascinating that the country is becoming seemingly more accessible with their curricular and non-curricular activities, whether sporty or not (even though I do not consider myself a sporty person, or attend any sports events).


But in my view, there is still much work to be done. Perhaps the reason I do not participate in sporting events and clubs is because, although I seem reasonably confident as a deaf person on the outside, I still fear marginalisation and belittling. There have been times where I have tried to get involved with a society, only to be told I must be placed in a section designed for people who have limited knowledge of that particular activity (even if I do have knowledge!!), or worse isolation, because either I would distract other students, due to my deafness OR I am – apparently – incapable of understanding simple instruction.

This brings me to realise that people sometimes treat disability as if it is black and white. Where deafness is concerned, people assume that we ALL must be BSL users and therefore unable to communicate using speech. This is not the case; deafness is very complex, as there are many different varieties of deafness, and deaf people use many different methods of communication. Yes, a lot of deaf people use BSL/SSE as their main form of communication, but not all of them do. People assume we must join a ‘deaf only’ group, and we simply must be a BSL user because we are deaf. Everyone is different. Some people may have used the same language since they started communicating, some people may have switched to a different communication method at some point in their lives. This does not make them unable to communicate, it just means they PREFER to communicate in a certain way. It is up to us how we want to communicate, and we do try our hardest to make things easier for you to communicate with us. Please try and meet us halfway.

However, in the rare event that I have been able to join in with the so-called ‘normal’ people in sporting events, belittling still rears its ugly head. Either the instructor will shout out to everyone that there is a deaf person in the group, and to treat me with respect, or they will ask me in front of everyone how I want them to communicate with me. (Cue feeling smaller than a dust mite). I’m all for being treated with respect, but I do not want people to be “especially nice” to be just because my ears do not work! Without meaning to be crude, how would a ‘normal’ person feel when participating in their favourite hobbies, if they were treated every day as if they are about to die?

Whatever happened to customer confidentiality? Disabled people are perfectly capable of feelings, and consider being asked in detail (without permission) about our disability in front of a massive group, (especially with people we have never met) quite as rude and embarrassing as asking someone how they got that massive scar on their forehead, or why they are so cross-eyed, pointing their deformity out for the world to know. The best action to take would be for the organiser/instructor to e-mail and ask beforehand, or take the deaf person aside, and ask them what their preferred method of communication or help (if needed) would be. Deaf people do NOT wish for “special treatment”, no matter how kind people think they are being. It would be much less marginalising for organisers, instructors and fellow students to treat us just the same as everybody else. If we want the other students to be aware of our disability, we will either ask the instructor to tell them, or tell them ourselves.

This brings me to another more complex problem, regarding other students. If they decide to be accepting and offer their help, fantastic! But more often than not, other peoples’ help can prove to be more of a hindrance. People get so absorbed and fascinated in helping us to communicate, that they actually answer questions for us without our knowledge! This is condescending, if not downright dangerous. Think of it this way – would you answer for a ‘normal’ person, if they were about to sleepwalk into a busy road? Would you answer for a ‘normal’ person, when asked what they wanted for lunch, then accidentally order them something they are allergic to? The point being, although we may need some extra time or help for communication, we are perfectly capable of independent thought, and are able to make our own decisions, and would much rather be able to answer for ourselves.

It would be extremely beneficial for sporting companies and the general population if more awareness was raised about disability, by organising compulsory disability awareness training, and organising more than a select few methods of communication. Some companies only offer telephone communication, which can be difficult and also make deaf people lose their independence. Would you want to be forty years old and have to ask your six-year-old child to phone the leisure centre and ask what time the swimming pool is open?

I am aware that some companies do offer e-mail as a method of communication. The problem with that is that people do not sit at their computer for hours, just waiting for an e-mail. Another potentially problematic part of this is that, if a deaf person was awaiting important information or class times, they would not receive this information until it is regrettably too late.

Companies and societies that claim to be disability/deaf aware do need to take a good hard look at how they are approaching the problem. If they are unsure of whether they are doing the right thing, they do need to find a way to contact deaf people, and ask them how they would want to be treated. Relying on information from an uninformed source can have disastrous consequences in the sense that they have thought up the information for themselves, rather than asked someone who is deaf what the best action to take would be.

Overall – ASK US – NOT other people. We do not get offended when people ask us how we want to be treated or what help we need (if any), but we DO get offended when people ask others for our opinion. Remember, everyone is unique.

Favourite BSL Signs

Greetings, beautiful Tree House dwellers and passing admirers (it’s a beautiful tree, come and see for yourself!).

The other week, we asked the dwellers of the Tree to say what their favourite BSL signs are, and to do a video of themselves signing them – if they wanted to, that is!

Below is the result…and there will be more to come, as a few of us have yet to make our videos. Pop back a little later in the week for more signs! Enjoy, and get those fingers flexing…

We hope you have had a great Sunday, and have a fantastic week!

Lots of love from the Tree House dwellers.

Sarah Ward x