Late again? It’s a deaf thing… 

A friend of mine is notoriously late for everything. We laugh about it and we wind her up but she just can’t help it. 

Punctuality and her just don’t gel… It’s probably lucky that she’s an artist and forgiven for her terrible time keeping, it’s “part of the trade” she insists “we don’t follow clocks, we flow, we move according to our internal rhythm.” 

And I like that. But I’ve been told I can also get away with being reasonably late too, because – apparently – it’s a ‘deaf thing.’ 

Spend some time with the deaf community and you’re bound to come across the phrase deaf time. This loosely translates to – in my definition – deaf time: being usually late but normally with a good and/or interesting  excuse. Is awfully charming with the lateness so is difficult to stay mad at. 

My hearing family didn’t believe me when I first told them it’s actually a thing but aside from being a bit of a joke and a ‘deaf-card’ to get you out of trouble, I actually think that being deaf does give you legitimate reasons for certain episodes of lateness. 

And I don’t mean it in a silly “my chicken was ill” kind of way 😉 but I’ve noticed that certain things do take longer to do because of my deafness. 

Phone calls. They take longer to connect. Sometimes you have to “explain text relay” or deal with numerous hanger-uppers that aren’t familiar with Typetalk and mistake you for a cold caller. And let’s face it not all of us can type as quickly as we sign/speak. 

Shopping trips. Especially with little ones in tow, that tap you and make you stop to lipread them. Using our eyes for everything we can’t multitask chit chat with shopping, it all takes longer. 

Appointments of any kind. Whether we are using a communicator, interpreter or just plain old lip reading, the majority of us will take our time to make sure we are understood and also clear about what’s being said. It’s a different pace so we should allow more time. 

Socialising. The deaf community don’t always see each other often; we are spread across the country. And we do miss our tribe. So when we do catch up, we catch up hard. So much to chat about, so little time! 

Eating. Going out for a meal with my deaf friends / family usually lasts hours. We like to pause between courses, eating at a stop/sign/start rhythm (it’s rude to sign with your mouth full) and more often than not our food does end up cold. 

Being immersed in something visually does mean you can lose track of time. So next time you’re a little late for something, providing you’re not just milking it, you might just have a viable reason. 

You’re on deaf time. 

But don’t push it. We don’t want to get a bad name for it do we 😉

What makes you guys late? 

Performance interpreters… 

I recall seeing a photo online a while back of Anthony, lead singer in Red Hot Chili Peppers, perform next to an American SignLanguage  interpreter. Social media went crazy with people desperate to know who the interpreter was – who actually now receives a fan following in her own right. Sassy, expressive and fully owning the song, she wasn’t just an interpreter, she was a performer

And then here in Blighty  last summer, I noticed the buzzing of excitement amongst my deaf festival goer friends as they discovered their favourite artists would be performing with a – gasp! – sign language interpreter beside them. 

We’ve had interpreters at musicals and theatre productions for a while now but at gigs… And rock concerts…? What’s going on? 

Well, may I introduce Performance Interpreting who work across the UK delivering high quality, artistic sign language interpreters at various events… Specialising –  obviously – in performing arts 😉

Headed by full time interpreter, Marie Pascall, the company was  initially set up after seeing her friend refused Sign language access to a festival she wanted to attend. Recognising there was a huge gap in the music industry, Marie set to work encouraging venues and promoters to make their events accessible to the deaf community.

The aim of Perofrmance Interpreting is to open as many doors as possible to provide quality access and social inclusion.  They also work with Deaf BSL Interpreters and Performers too. 

And to ensure the company is led by its clients – so to speak – Performance Interpreting has recently set up a BSL steering group in conjunction with Attitude is Everything to ensure the deaf community are truly represented and have a real impact in accessible services going forward.

And it seems all of her hard work is beginning to pay off. I was delighted to discover that the company, which was only formed a mere 18 months ago has landed some very exciting agreements. 

And I’m thrilled to tell you guys about one of them. 

If you ever want to attend a show at Nottingham’s Motorpoint arena, you can request an interpreter on your preferred attending date and they will provide one, courtesy of Performance Interpreting. 

They also have BSL interpretations as part of their core programme too! See their access page here: 

https://www.motorpointarenanottingham.com/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=accessibility&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=&menu_id=EB781A11-F20A-4C58-BE1D-685D821B2A85

This is a world away from my concert going days when interpreters were usually just your best hearing friend that you had dragged along to tell you what the band were talking about in between the songs… This is kind of news is nothing short of groundbreaking. 

And I must stress that the calibre of interpreters used by Performance Interprters  is outstanding.

Performance Interpreters actually invited two of Limping Chicken’s biggest rock music fans to attend a signed interpreted Limp Bizkit & Korn concert. And to say that they were impressed by the service is an understatement.

(See lovely William and Sammi below) 


These guys, both deaf sign language users, are big on their music but had never attended a sign interpreted show before. I was curious… Would they enjoy it? Here’s what they had to say..

“The interpreter was fantastic, she really learnt all the words and interpret them excellent. She was clear, and did really well with some really fast songs which I don’t think I could do!”

Judging by the amount of preparation the interpreter, Susan Merrick, had to undertake before the show, I’m impressed and relieved that it all worked out. Because contrary to assumptions, concert interpreters don’t get given a band set list. At least not until 15 minutes before showtime – at the best of times! 

For a band that performs 15-20 songs this means 20+ hours of study time for the interpreter – researching, learning, revising and translating lyrics. And knowing that theres no guarantee which song will be performed and possibly new ones premiered on the night, these are interpreters of a whole different league. 

William and Sammi also mentioned that the interpreter did more than just sign the words…

“She matched with the music, and swearing too. She even added the instruments sounds and pitch, which is really useful.”

I saw a clip of Susan performing a song by Korn and I was mesmerised by how she depicted the sounds of the instruments. The staccato. The fluidity. The overlapping tones. They were all visible. And that was when I realised that Performance Intepreters really are opening doors – not just by providing access at concerts – but by delivering artistic translations of a high standard that actually do the songs justice. 

I was fortunate enough to see a few other of their interpreters in action too and I can equally vouch for their are artistic excellence. After seeing them I felt like saying “Yes, finally! Someone gets it!” Because they fuse the BSL content with the lyrical meaning and their body becomes a rhythmical tool. 

They have the ability  to introduce music to those who perhaps would usually turn away from it. And that’s powerful stuff. 

That said. It is still early days and there are still improvements and adjustments to be made. The positioning of the interpreter at the concert isn’t ideal, and sadly nowhere near the stage… 

“I would have liked to be in the crowd in standing area, and the interpreter possibly to stand by the stage as I like to see how they play their instruments. 

Plus where we were in seating, we were at the back of the arena, just behind the standing, we had bit of trouble of seeing the band as there were some tall people which sort of blocking the view of stage. “

I noticed that the placement of interpreters seems to differ; on some occasions they’re on stage but more than often they’re not. Personally speaking I would like the interpreter as close to the performer as possible. Which is why we – the deaf concert goers – need to speak up and work with the venues. 

One person in particular who has worked with and for the deaf community remarkably well is Stephen Chaston – the Access Manager for Motorpoint Arena. 

Stephen helped Motorpoint Arena to win an Outstanding Attitude’s Award and the arena has now been awarded a gold standard by Attitude is Everything who monitor accessiblity. They were recognised for their commitment to and excellent delivery of accessibly services. 

Stephen’s aim is for as many Deaf British Sign Language Users to enjoy as many events as possible. So I am optimistic that the placement of interpreters could be easily resolved if discussions begin and more feedback is received. 

The arena does have an access page on their website and details on their award from Attitude is Everything can be found here: 

http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/resources/outstanding-attitude-awards-2016/motorpoint-arena-nottingham/

 Performance Interpreters can be followed on social media and on their site to keep updated on the latest accessible shows. You can also find out about other accessible arenas near you too. 

https://www.facebook.com/pg/performanceinterpreting/events/?ref=page_internal

http://performanceinterpreting.co.uk

But please remember that any requests for interpreters must be sent to the arena 28 days before the date of the show and if you can – please always give feedback. 

And if you want to attend an event but it isn’t sign language interpreted, why not drop Performance Interpreting an email and they will see if they can help. 

Isn’t it wonderful to see so many new doors opening? Musicals, festivals, concerts, comedy, cabaret, dance…. what’s next? 

And as somebody who loves to see fab-u-lous artistic deliveries of sign language, I know what I’ll be getting up to in 2017.

Strictly come dancing, sign language interpreted?! Hmm I don’t mind if I do 😉 

Different 

I came across the below post on the Internet. It wasn’t aimed at someone who’s deaf but they mention being “different” and I could instantly relate. 


It’s the type of advice I wish I knew about when I was younger. So I didn’t go through my teenage years trying to hide my deafness or the fact I felt like “damaged goods.” I wish I embraced how different I was earlier. 

I wonder if my daughter will be the same. I’ve been thinking about her future a lot lately. 

My son – who is hearing – won’t have all this to come. But my daughter will. Her hearing is “different.” She’s totally deaf in one ear and totally hearing in the other. So is she classed as deaf or hearing? Well actually… Neither. So is she partially deaf or partially hearing? I have no idea… She’s just – my girl. 

It’s getting pretty awkward when people ask me if she’s hearing or deaf. She isn’t one or the other. Medically speaking, she can use her one ear to access speech and language and she can hear the world around her. She passed all her hearing tests by depending on this one ear; so she listens, responds to verbal instructions without signing and turns when her name is called.

But as she has no hearing in her left ear, she does not always know straightaway where sounds are coming from. She may be affected in the future by background noise. We don’t know for sure as neither of us have uni-lateral deafness, both parents are bilaterally deaf. So our daughters experience with deafness is bound to be different to ours. 

Our deaf friends have asked us “well, if she’s deaf where’s her hearing aid?” and “would you consider a cochlear implant for her?” But due to her unique deafness type, there wouldn’t be any point aiding a totally deaf ear which wouldn’t pick anything up and her hearing ear doesn’t need any amplification. Cochlears are a conversation we don’t need to have. It’s different

Saying that her sign language skills are outstanding. Whilst she may only be verbalising the words mamma and dada, she has conversations in sign language, making herself understood and her needs known. She joins us at deaf events and she signs to other deaf people confidently and she knows they understand her. She knows they’re her tribe. 

At hearing play groups she enjoys herself and she understands what people say but she often gets left out or ignored because they don’t understand her signs. So I’m her Mother/translator too. 

I get asked if her signing is due to her deafness but our audiologist insists its not; they state that she has full access to speech and oral language but she simply finds it easier to express in sign. 

Whether or not her sign language aptitude is because of her deafness, there’s no doubt that possessing sign language has enabled us to give our daughter a head start in language development and a vocabulary that allows her to feel heard.

My parents who are hearing and non sign users have delighted at learning from her. Signing songs, role play, signing games, all at the age of 18 months, I rest assured that regardless of how her deafness affects her as she grows older, at least she has a language. 

Yes, it’s “different” to Spoken English that most people have as a first language but it’s her language. It’s her voice. 

Ive already started to ignore the sympathetic comments I get from others when I say my daughter’s deaf (in one ear!) and when deaf people remark “that’s so strange!” at her one sided deafness, I just shrug and smile. Because the truth of the matter is that she isn’t damaged and she isnt weird. She’s just different.

And I hope she reads those words above when she’s older and takes pride in her differences. Owns her language and her uniqueness. And refuses to let anyone make her feel less than what she is. Which is very worthy, very loved and absolutely good enough just as she is. Deaf ear and all 😉

The new hybrid: When hearing and deaf families mix… 

I very recently got married and it’s still sinking in. The fact that I have a new surname and a husband is something that I find myself giggling at like a child. It’s all a bit grown up for my liking despite the fact that I am a thirty year old working mother. 

Regarding the name change, I am remaining a “Withey” for all work purposes but officially and socially I’m a “Richards.”

The downside is that as a deaf person who’s never liked pronouncing S or Ch sounds, this name has both… But the upside is that as its a more commonly recognised name its easier for me to roll off when people ask for my surname. 

Withers, Whitley, Witchy – no. Richards? Yes. Easily understood and easily spelt. 
The wedding itself was a dream though we had a few concerns from the start; how would we seat the guests, how would everyone feel equally involved and more importantly how would we make sure everyone was happy?

Around 70% of our wedding guests were deaf. And the majority of hearing guests were family who had probably never seen me signing amongst my deaf friends and were certainly not used to being around so many sign language users. 

Our wedding planner had told us they had never had a deaf couple and so had to be informed about interpreters, seating placements and so on. 

We booked two of our favourite interpreters (who were also brothers and from a deaf family) to interpret the whole day and our photographer was also hearing and fluent in sign language. 

It was odd seeing my Dad give his speech and having an interpreter sign beside him. But at least it meant I didn’t miss a thing he said. 

Because music is so important to me we hired a video DJ who had the music videos on a large screen as the songs played, with lyrics in full view. This was an absolute delight for me and my friends who can’t always make a song out and usually exclaim “what is it? What is it??” till we figure it out. 

For our first dance we booked sign singer Martyn Kenyon to perform for us and our guests were mesmerised by how he signed five songs in a row absolutely flawlessly. With loud music, visible lyrics, a sign singer, I was completely in my element. 

But what was soooo nice for me was having all the different parts of my life come together. My buddies who are deaf, hearing, my work friends, dancing friends, hearing relatives, deaf family (on the Richards side) all in one room. 

At one point in the evening I saw a hearing relative of mine trying to sign to my new husband and I smiled in awe. This person had never signed before even though I had spent countless Christmasses in their company, sitting quietly and being ignored. But that was only because they hadn’t realised how much I couldn’t hear. 

Contrastingly, I had some deaf friends surprised at how musical I am, as I signed along to countless songs. “Are you going to stay on the dancefloor all night?!” They asked. Oh yes, I replied. And I did. 😉 it’s no exaggeration to say that 90% of our deaf guests stayed firmly fixed around the bar all night… 

So in a funny roundabout way our wedding was the chance for some people to really get to know us and see us at our most comfortable.  Perhaps me more so than my other half as he’s not the social chameleon I tend to be, he’s well and truly a big D with generations of deaf family. 

Anyhow, looking back we really did our utmost to make sure everyone felt involved and included. The result was that I didn’t feel so much an insecure Inbetweener, drifting between two worlds but instead a Hybrid – someone who inhabits two cultures or two skill sets and is actually very fortunate to do so.

So I’m really excited for future gatherings now. Especially Christmas (which is just round the corner, eek!) I don’t need to play Hearing Beckie then Deaf Rebecca when I’m with hearing or deaf friends… I’m a grown up now. I’m a Mrs. *emits silent scream*

So excuse me if I don’t sit quietly and nod along this Christmas, instead I’ll be right where the action is. Possibly mispronouncing my s’s and stumbling over the Ch in my new name but enjoying myself nonetheless. And – no doubt – enjoying a sign song or two to the classic 80’s Christmas tunes. You just can’t beat ’em. 

Wishing all of the LC readers a wonderful Christmas. Whether you’re a big D, little d, Inbetweener or Hybrid; may the holidays be a happy time for you.