One of my best friends, Helen, has been profoundly deaf since birth. She's an inspirational person, although she'd snort with laughter at the very idea. But she is. Deal with it, Helen.
Helen introduced me several months ago to Limping Chicken, a deaf news and views website which was created after the BBC3 programme Deaf Teens: Hearing World was screened, featuring a notetaker who regretfully informed a deaf student that she couldn't assist her for the entire duration of a university lecture because her chicken was ill. Hence "Limping Chicken". Go and have a read - you'll be glad you did.
Inappropriately or otherwise, the concept of an ill chicken amuses me slightly (as it does Helen, so I'm allowed to giggle too). I think it's meant to. But I'm pretty sure it's also supposed to serve as a reminder that sometimes deaf people are at the mercy of the rest of us and the way we do things. That life can sometimes exclude others if we're not careful and thoughtful. That the way we treat others can have a tremendous effect upon their ability to navigate through life.
A deaf blogger on Limping Chicken conducted an interview with himself today. It's here. If you've got time you should read it because it's really thought-provoking, but if you haven't, the gist is that he persuaded himself to sign a petition to protect specialist services for deaf children, which are in danger of being reduced in schools due to government cutbacks. If the petition can collect 100,000 signatures, Parliament will hold a debate on the subject, which in itself is a big deal. This guarantees nothing, but it's a first step. And first steps can lead to second steps and third steps and eventual action. Pressure can make a bit of difference. A group of people who care and want to make that difference can start the ball rolling. Please will you be part of that group by signing the petition? Here it is. It'll take you less than a minute. And every signature will inch the total closer to 100,000. Each one will help.
If it wasn't for Helen, I'd have very little idea of how deafness actually affects people on a day-to-day basis. And she's someone who manages everyday life extremely well and always has done. But imagine not being able to use the phone easily. Imagine relying on subtitles, which aren't always brilliantly executed, in order to watch TV or a film. Imagine needing to lipread people who don't realise they need to speak reasonably clearly in order that their meaning is understood. Imagine sitting in a classroom being unable to take a full set of notes without assistance. Imagine not really understanding everything that's being said in a large group of friends. Imagine the effort and energy that all of these things use up.
We all have vulnerabilities. These are the specific vulnerabilities which are often experienced by deaf people. Many of us do okay when we're using the phone or watching TV or interacting with strangers or sitting in a classroom or talking with several people at once. But they present challenges to deaf people. And deaf children deserve the same start in life as do the rest of us. They need a voice and they ought to be given support and advocacy.
So please stop what you're doing and sign a petition. Here it is.
Thanks so much!