Article for the Guardian: Why soaps can’t compete with Facebook for continuing drama


Recently I’ve watched three compelling narratives, each involving some of my favourite characters, play themselves out. Amanda realised her boyfriend was cheating on her and threw him out. Emma and Steve were joyous at the safe arrival of their baby son after Emma was rushed to hospital with pre-eclampsia. Barry was gutted when he lost the chance of a job interview because he asked the company to pay his travel expenses.

It’s a blend of stories that sounds like it could come from a TV soap opera, but you won’t recognise them from last week’s TV schedules. These storylines and people are real – although the names have been changed – and I followed the ever-evolving twists and turns of their lives on my Facebook timeline.

Read the whole article here:

My article for the Guardian: Disabled people aren’t here to inspire you

Here’s my latest article, for the Guardian:

Advertising agencies don’t miss a trick. In the run-up to the 2014 Super Bowl, an advert from Duracell that featured a deaf NFL footballer called Derrick Coleman went viral. Coleman narrated it himself, saying: “They gave up on me, told me I should quit. But I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”

That trend’s been followed up this year, with two adverts being aired during the Super Bowl featuring disabilities. One, featuring a six-year old boy called Braylon O’Neill, shows how, with the help of Microsoft technology, he can use prostheses to walk. The other shows Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, who also uses prosthetics, gliding across the snow to promote a car company. Both adverts have prompted a debate on “inspiration porn”.

To read the full article, click here:

Check out The Limping Chicken – offering news, features and opinion on deaf news, issues and culture!

Hi all, I’ve set up a new website called The Limping Chicken, offering news, features and opinion on deaf news, issues and culture in the UK.

This means that a fair bit of my writing will migrate to the new site, so if you’re subscribed here, subscribe to The Limping Chicken to keep getting my regular posts!

You’ll get more too. The aim of the new site is to feature more deaf writers, with varied perspectives and opinions we can all agree or disagree with. So keep an eye on it!

To read the first few posts, just click here. To read about the aims of the site, go to this page.
Enjoy! And do get involved if you can, we welcome new contributors! If you have a story, a point of view or just an idea, email


Photos from Graeae’s rehearsals for ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon watching the cast of Reasons To Be Cheerful reunite for a new tour. Their rehearsals made quite an impression on me, as you might be able to tell from reading my preview for Disability Arts Online. I had my camera with me, and here’s a slideshow of my photos.

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Deaf production company searches for actors – could YOU be a star?

Deaf production company VS1 are searching for deaf and hearing actors to play a number of roles in their new drama, Life’s Out There, which will be funded by the BSLBT and shown on the Community Channel in Autumn 2012.

There’s eight roles in all and you’d need to be available for various dates in April. Interested? Check out this information on their website: decide which role you’d like to go for, and email with a recent photograph and your CV. Good luck!

Why we all owe the ‘Chickengate’ notetaker an apology. Er… honest.

Ok, ok. So we’ve had our fun. In going viral, ‘Chickengate’ has expanded from a mere few seconds on BBC3’s Deaf Teens: Hearing World to inspire numerous gags on Twitter, hundreds of Facebook comments, and now, amazingly, a handful of tribute videos. A four year old girl even made the “my chicken is ill’ excuse on a Facebook video yesterday, and ‘Chickengate’ has duly been honoured with its own (admittedly rather clever) Downfall parody.

I still can’t stop laughing at the moment when Sara was told by her notetaker that she couldn’t stay for the whole two-hour lecture because her chicken was visiting the vet. Clearly I’m not alone.

But then, yesterday, something made me think again. Deaf actress Emily Howlett posted this tweet: “Can we all leave the poor note-taker alone now? We need these people to help us. Might be better not to shit all over them for doing so.”

At first, I argued back. I told Emily that she had a point, but that the reaction wasn’t cruel, it wasn’t aimed against the notetaker, but was simply one of those rare moments when the whole deaf world found itself laughing at the same thing. A funny excuse that became our version of Simon Cowell’s high trousers, Ricky Gervais dying (comedically) on stage during Live 8, or the bridesmaid who was grumpy during the Royal Wedding. The ‘chicken is ill’ joke was something that us deafies all understood, that we could all share. That bonded us together.

Then, through Twitter, Emily pointed out a few things. Like the fact the notetaker “was only booked for the hour, it’s not like she was booked and walked out before time up…” and that it wasn’t “worth the backlash the poor woman got for being honest.”

It got me thinking. There’s a person out there who’s probably wondering what she ever did to deserve this.

I don’t know much about Sara’s notetaker, but there are two things we can glean from the small amount of footage in the film. One: she cares about animals. Two: she works to support deaf students. Those are two things right there, that indicate, with high probability, that she may well be a pretty good egg.

When I think about it, if Sara’s notetaker is guilty of anything, then first, it’s of caring too much about her chicken. So much that when said chicken developed a limp, she didn’t decide it was a good time to plan a Sunday roast, she chose to try and help it get better. The vet fees alone must have cost more than simply murdering her chicken and replacing it with a new one. She must have really loved that chicken.

The other thing she was guilty of (as Emily pointed out) was being honest. Too honest. Think about it. She’s providing support for a student who is being filmed for a documentary. She walks up to her before her first lecture and there’s a camera filming their whole conversation. She suddenly finds out that the student’s lecture is two hours long. She can only stay for the first hour. Amazingly, she decides to tell the truth about why she has to go.

How many people, faced with the same circumstances, would make up a story here? A little white lie? How many people with a camera at their side and a disappointed student staring them in the eye would fib that they had an urgent doctor’s appointment of their own, or that their Grandmother was terminally ill, or that there was some kind of urgent flight out of the country they had to make? How many people would choose, as Sara’s notetaker did, to simply be honest, however ridiculous they might sound, and say those immortal words: “I have a problem. My chicken is ill.”

If that’s not enough for you, here’s one final reason why I think Sara’s notetaker is a good sort. Her job is writing down a summary of what’s said during a lecture for deaf students. She’s not an interpreter. Yet – and let’s not underestimate the significance of this – she has taken it upon herself to learn enough sign language to enable her to communicate easily with a deaf student. She doesn’t need to do this – she could probably get by writing notes to them on a piece of paper at the beginning and end of lectures. But somewhere along the line, she’s chosen to go the extra mile. For deaf people.

That’s why I think we’ve read ‘Chickengate’ all wrong. Rather than being vilified for a split second in her life, I think we should rally round Sara’s notetaker. She’s suffered for nothing more than being a good, honest, genuine person, and rather than continuing to laugh at her for nothing more than a moment in her life, we should instead all give her a big old deaf hug and wish that there were more people out there like her. People that care about their chickens and their deaf students, no matter the circumstances. On reflection, Sara’s notetaker, you are my hero.

(with thanks to Emily Howlett for making me see the picture with fresh eyes)

Interview with Claire Braden, director of BBC3’s Deaf Teens: Hearing World

First published in the February 2012 edition of the Hearing Times.

Claire (pictured right, with Meghan after her cochlear implant operation) has worked in TV for eight years, starting off in wildlife documentaries before moving into filming people instead. After working on programmes about children in care, she worked on medical series like 24 hours in A&E and went on to film in Africa. Deaf Teens: Hearing World is the first one hour programme she has directed.

Where did the idea for Deaf Teens: Hearing World come from?

My Dad is becoming deaf and he said that it makes people instantly assume you are a bit daft, so I wondered if this was even worse for young deaf people. Once I had spent the day at a deaf school, I decided that they had plenty to say and there was so much to learn about their experiences of being deaf and the deaf community. I wanted to know what it was like to be a deaf teenager – were the rules of engagement different – do deaf people only date other deaf people? What’s it like to go to uni when you can’t hear any potential friends? How is it going from a fully deaf school in to the hearing world?

How did you get the film commissioned?
This film is part of the Fresh strand on BBC3, which is an opportunity for relatively new directors to make their first one hour programme. It is a great opportunity to work on a programme that you have come up with – I pitched the idea to the BBC executives, then literally worked on it from start to finish.

Your film features various ‘types’ of deaf people – signers, cochlear implant users and so on. Were you surprised that such variety exists within the deaf world?
I was amazed that within one community there could be such a variety of people, so many different viewpoints and yet such a close-knit group of people. Two deaf people might have very different viewpoints on, for example, cochlear implants – one might have a cochlear implant and the other might be staunchly against cochlear implants believing them to weaken the strength of the deaf community – but it won’t stop them being friends.

How did you deal with communication during filming? 

In a variety of ways. Christianah and Meghan used speech so I just conversed with them directly. They are masters of lip-reading and as long as I remembered to take the camera away from my face before I spoke, faced them and didn’t mumble we got along fine! Jake and I could converse to a certain extent with the help of his family and on one occasion we used an interpreter. With Sara and Asher, who are BSL users, I had an interpreter for just about all the filming with them.

Were your perceptions of deaf people changed by making the film?
I was amazed at how important deaf identity is – most of the young people seem to find such solace in being with other deaf people and it seems like an amazing ‘club’ to be involved in. Their culture is very attractive, it is a friendly, warm, tactile culture with a beautiful language at the heart of it and many brilliant people who just see the world in a very slightly different way from me. I am fairly sure it is this ‘club’ or culture which makes most of the deaf people I spoke to say that they wouldn’t become hearing, even given the choice.

What did you learn about their families?
I think there is a huge difference between being born to deaf parents or hearing parents. I was surprised to find out that 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. I was really impressed by how the parents of one of the boys in the film, Jake, who are hearing, had managed to learn sign language and had made such a tremendous effort to connect Jake with so many other deaf young people. It must be a minefield for hearing parents initially in how to communicate with your child but not deny them their deaf identity.

You caught these young people at a certain stage in their lives – just as they’re going through big changes, moving away from home, becoming an adult and so on – how do you feel being deaf changed their experience?
All the contributors had a different experience of moving into the big wide world. I think moving from a deaf school or a place where you have lots of deaf support in to a mainstream university is incredibly hard. How do you make friends when you have an interpreter and a notetaker in tow? It is incredibly hard, as Sara found out when she set off for uni. I think all my contributors in the film had real balls and were utterly inspiring, I think they will all ultimately make real successes of themselves even if it doesn’t happen straight away for all of them.

How do you feel about the final film and would you like to revisit the contributors a few years down the line?
I am pleased with the final film, I am very happy that the contributors and the National Deaf Children’s Society like the film and feel it represents young deaf people fairly. I felt a big responsibility in making a film about such a strong-minded culture especially as I wasn’t part of it. The five young people in the film are so engaging and I think they offer a real insight in to the experience of being deaf. If the BBC is interested in a follow-up I will be there!

Deaf Teen: Hearing World will be broadcast on BBC3 at 9pm on Monday 6th February, – click here to watch the sign interpreted version of the programme on iPlayer.