An authentic look inside a deaf club by deaf filmmaker Simon Herdman

Deaf filmmaker Simon Herdman sent me this fantastic short documentary earlier tonight, filmed at Newcastle’s deaf club. At a time when deaf clubs are increasingly threatened (Middlesbrough’s deaf club is the latest to be faced with local cuts) this is an incredibly valuable look at what deaf clubs mean to the people who attend them, often for many years. Here’s the video and you can read Simon’s blog post about the short documentary here.

Our Lady of Lourdes from Simon Herdman on Vimeo.

Don’t Taser us… we’re deaf

A story has broken today about an elderly deaf man in America who died after a police officer (it is alleged) presumed he was ignoring him, and Tasered him while he was riding his bicycle. It’s in the Mail Online and Gawker here:

This comes on the back of a horrific incident last year outside a US shopping mall, where a deaf ASL user was held in a ‘choke hold’ by a security guard despite the protestations of his deaf friend in an incident that went viral on YouTube: What occurred to someone simply going about their daily business is enough to bring most deaf people out in a cold sweat.

Closer to home, just last month, we found out how a deaf man was arrested when the sign for “I’m deaf” was mistaken for the V sign by a police officer. The police officer was later criticised in court:

Far milder than the cases above,  I’ve had many times (in shops or on buses for example) when people have walked past me looking intensely annoyed and I’ve realised that they’ve been asking to get by, possibly more than once, not realising I can’t hear them. Presumably they think I’m ignoring them.

The Olympics arrive in London next year, and so it might be a good time to remind police and security staff in the UK and everywhere else, that people who do not respond to what you say at first, or respond with gestures instead of words, may not be trying to annoy you. They may simply be deaf. Apparently one in six of us are.

If you’ve never seen a comedy mini-series mix sign language and gangsters, check out The Fingerspellers

Two things that happened in quick succession this week made me write this post.

First, director William Mager won a prestigious AMI award on Sunday night (meeting the legendary Mike Leigh shortly afterwards), and second, our comedy The Fingerspellers (which I wrote and William directed) got another airing on digital TV a few hours later on Monday morning.

The Fingerspellers is a comedy mini-series about a family of deaf gangsters, who protect themselves with their signing hands (instead of bullets!). When another family called the Operas threaten to take over their patch, a war ensues…

It’s very very silly – The Fingerspellers was influenced by madcap comedies like Airplane and The Naked Gun and also by mafia films and TV shows like The Godfather, and The Sopranos. It’s more than silly – it’s ridiculous, but it was the most fun set I’ve worked on (I even played a small part in the first episode, spot me if you can!) and it also features some of the best deaf acting talent the UK has to offer.

The version that got shown on Monday morning is an omnibus of the eight episodes that made up the series. They were shown within the BSLBT series Wicked (made by Remark, who supported the production). As Harry Hill might say, I like the series, and I like the omnibus. FIIIIGGGGHHT!

For me, the series wins. The main reason being – there’s more material (because some footage had to be edited to fit within the half hour slot for the longer version) and as a result there’s also more pauses, a bit more breathing space between the gags and the fingerspelling shootouts (!). There’s also more silly episode titles, crazy final credits (thanks to animator James Merry) and over-dramatic music. So here, below, if you’ve not seen them, are those eight episodes. Enjoy.

Deaf school opens on Gaza Strip

In the UK, we’re accustomed to reading stories about deaf schools closing (there are now only a handful left in Britain), but from Gaza comes the heartwarming story of the first Secondary School for deaf children being opened on the Strip. The school is already teaching 200 pupils, taught by teachers who trained as Teachers of the Deaf before their class was cancelled during the blockade. Here is the full story:

The most cynical advert featuring deafness… ever.

An advert for Thai Life Insurance called ‘Silence of Love’ featuring a deaf Dad has become a hit on YouTube with well over a million views. This article on The Huffington Post described it as being “poignant,” but on first viewing, I thought must be watching a parody.

The film (spoiler alert) is about a father whose daughter becomes ashamed of him because he uses sign language. After she attempts to commit suicide, he dies trying to save her. All of which is a great mechanism for selling some life insurance, obviously.

The film tugs on every possible heartstring in order to make everyone who sees it (non-deaf at least) feel sorry for the Dad, burst into tears due to his sacrifice at the end, before buying some cover – presumably in case they start using sign language, then have a child who grows up to feel deeply ashamed of them before trying to kill themselves.

Here it is:

The ad begins with the daughter looking in the mirror thinking to herself ‘I want a better father… someone who’s not deaf-mute.’ No, I’m not making it up. She really thinks this. Mad to think that when I was a pup, I just wanted a Sega Mega-Drive.

We then see the daughter getting bullied at school (for having a ‘Deaf Dumb Dad’). Then, on the evening of her birthday, as her father sits waiting at a table in front of her cake, she tries to kill herself. He’s alerted when he feels the thump of her body falling to the ground in the bathroom.

In hospital she is rushed along on a stretcher, as we see flashbacks of the Dad doing GOOD THINGS. Just in case we didn’t know how good he was already.

A montage shows him telling his daughter to eat her greens, be good at school, and even (as he waits with her birthday cake) apologising for not being like other Dads. “I was born a deaf mute,” he says.  “I can’t speak like other fathers. But I want you to know that I love with all my heart.”

Back in A&E, HERO DEAF DAD (as he will now be known) then begs a doctor to “Take my blood!” It’s a good move. His blood saves his daughter, and, conscious again, her hand reaches out for his. Alas, HERO DEAF DAD has flatlined (from giving too much blood?!) and dies.

That’s clearly the most appropriate moment for the words ‘Thai Life Insurance’ to pop up on screen. HERO DEAF DAD may be dead, but his daughter will be taken care of. And that’s what counts, right?

What made me squirm is how HERO DEAF DAD is presented throughout – in a very cartooney way. Obviously he communicates visually, but his signs and expressions seem particularly exaggerated (that said, I’m no expert on Thai Sign Language). Strangely, for a deaf person, he seems unaware that his daughter keeps looking at him with an angry stare, until that fateful birthday.

What really bites is the final voiceover which says: ‘There are no perfect fathers. But a father will always love perfectly. Remember to care for those who care for you.’

Hold on… ‘no perfect fathers’? He seems pretty perfect to me. He’s even made the ultimate sacrifice for his kin. Ah I see. Something makes him imperfect… what could that be?

The agency who made it have a bit of form. They made an ad called Melody of Life featuring kids with a range of disabilities (Also for Thai Life Insurance) that won a few awards several years ago.

Perhaps coming up with the character of HERO DEAF DAD was the logical next step for them.

Missing apostrophe is a “is a choice linked to design and style,” say BDA

I wrote a post last week about the BDA’s new logo in which I also featured some of the Twitter responses to the new images that deaf people will choose from.

Something that stood out straight away for many people was the lack of an apostrophe in the phrase ‘Deaf Peoples Organisation’ that lies beneath the logo. The apostrophe is present and correct in the text on the BDA’s homepage, but not on the images beside it.

The charity have responded, (thanks to @Deaf for tweeting this) clarifying that: “The missing apostrophe is not a grammatical error; it is a choice linked to design and style.”

They also say that the phrase beneath the logo is not, as it appears, a strapline:

“Deaf Peoples Organisation” is not the strapline, it is part of the logo – we are currently working on an appropriate strapline which we will show to our members at the upcoming BDA conference on 26th November in Belfast.”

Ed Vaizey tells phone companies to take action on video relay for deaf people

Communications minister Ed Vaizey has told telecommunications companies to take action on video relay services for deaf people, or be faced with government action – full story here on the VRS Today website:

Vaizey’s comments are seen as a breakthrough by the campaign. There was a roundtable meeting in October between the government, telecommunications companies, and deaf organisations. Vaizey said on Wednesday’s episode of BBC2’s See Hear:

“I’ve said to the operators, if you want a system that works for you that is cost effective but provides opportunities for the Deaf community, come to the table with your own solutions. So that’s the invitation I’ve given to telecoms operators. And if they don’t come to the table with that solution, then I’m afraid, Government, through Ofcom, will impose a solution on them.”

What’s positive about Vaizey’s comments is that he seems to recognise that Ofcom’s current proposals –  including a quota of just 30 minutes a month to use sign language on the phone (which I recently argued against in this Guardian blog) – are inadequate. The onus is now on the telecommunications companies to come up with new measures that offer deaf people far more.

Let’s hope the companies can come up with a solution that deaf people can regard as a significant improvement (deaf people would be offended if the quota were simply marginally increased, for example) and that, if they can’t, Ofcom and the government are robust in introducing measures that achieve the equality that deaf people deserve.