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London's deaf hubbub

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Damon Rose Damon Rose | 16:41 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Is it deaf week or something? we don't tend to do those awareness weeks on Ouch! because that's all we do all the time. But it seems like we're getting a lot of 'deaf' across our threshold in the past 10 days or so what with BBC One's The Silence and Charlie Swinbourne's excellent article about his Hogwats and Glee-esque love for deaf schools. Oh and a signed BBC Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

So let me add to the pile by saying that you can also listen to a radio show tonight that marvellously dips into a bit of deafie signie culture and that BBC Proms has gone a bit sign language love, too.

London Nights - Radio 4, 11pm tonight

Deaf actress Sophie Woolley travels home amid the capital's hubbub, and gives an audio picture of how she experiences it. She told me:

"For deaf people the sign for London also means 'noisy'. Almost the same gesture that hearing people make to indicate 'mad'. London's noise levels reach a crescendo at night. I've lived here all my life, but it's started sounding unrecognisable to me because over the last few years I've regenerated into a deaf person. Even though I can see other pedestrians talking, I can't decipher any actual words. It sounds a bit like listening to snatches of speech underwater, and the diction is terrible. The consonants are missing and the vowels honk like Charlie Brown's teacher or someone pretending to speak French...."

It's on BBC iPlayer here if you missed it going out live and features other contributors and their London lives.

In the comments below, maybe some kindly BSL user can describe this noise / mad sign for me? And what is it you mouth when doing it? I've never understood the 'brilliant' sign where you say 'vee' while doing it. Why do you say that? Aren't you making things ultra complex for yourselves? I know, it's a deaf thing.


  • Comment number 1.

    um radio, I doubt many deaf people will listen in

  • Comment number 2.

    It would be a great help if the official deaf and partial community and the relevant charities would unite with the age spokesmen (and the mental health charities) and raise the issue of intrusive noise.

    In particular, all b.b.c and other media have got hold of the silly idea that everything is improved by adding background noise in the form of music

    Even the B.B.C. Trust which is pretending to ask for listener's views, has a completely closed mind to all protest where musical tomato ketchup is concerned. The stuff is smothered over every offering on the menu. If it means that some customers cannot use the product, nobody will respect their protests.

  • Comment number 3.

    The 'London' sign is made by pointing your index finger towards your head and twirling your wrist in a circle around your ear (about 2 inches away). The sign also means 'loud'.

    As for the 'vee' sign, it's a multichannel sign which incorporates more than 1 meaning and doesn't have a direct translation into English. It is the same sign as that for 'brilliant' or 'fantastic', but it's made with more emphasis and speed than just 'brilliant' so it has its own mouth pattern which is quicker and conveys that feeling visually (as opposed to conveying that emotion vocally). Such mouth patterns are also BSL linguistic features with a meaning.

  • Comment number 4.

    P.s. You mouth 'London' when signing the name.

  • Comment number 5.

    You seem to have some strange ideas about deaf people! If you are going to write leaders about them then you might at least find out the facts. Most deaf people do not sign. They lipread. Please get your facts right.

  • Comment number 6.

    P.S. Putting programmes on the radio about deaf people is insulting. We are not included in programmes that rely on sound! Why are we excluded from things that are about us?
    There's a mixed message here. One the one hand the BBC bang on about sign language (which people use because they can't hear)and on the other hand they put programmes about people who can't hear ... on the radio!
    This is the equivalent of discussing Old Masters on a programme for blind people. I bet there would be such a fuss if that happened!

  • Comment number 7.

    Just another 'awareness' day at the BBC lol....

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Cornish. Thankfully I don't believe I did say that all deaf people use sign language.

    And, yes, the apparent irony of having a programme about deaf people on the radio. Well, would you suggest it's better that deaf people are excluded from the radio on that basis? And blind people from TV? Doesn't sound an entirely convincing argument though a transcript would be nice. Sophie's programme was a pen pic of how she experiences London, used as part of a more general radio programme. Had the programme been critical information or a debate on deaf awareness then a transcript could be appropriate, I'd say.

    And as if by magic, yesterday Ouch's Charlie Swinbourne appeared on Word
    of Mouth, a radio 4 programme about BSL. Listen and read a transcript of Word of Mouth.

    Radio 4's In Touch programme also produces a weekly transcript aimed primarily at its deafblind audience.

    Hope this helps.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's not so much that anyone said that all deaf people sign, it's more that every single item about deaf people includes an assumption that they sign. In fact I have just found out that the BDA has officially accepted that there are about 100,000 adult signers in the country.

    What I am saying is that the words "deaf" and "BSL" do not necessarily go together, but whenever public mention is made of deafness, sure enough along comes the stuff about BSL! So what has happened is that deaf has becomes synonymous with sign.

    As a case in point I mention the famous feature in the Telegraph about deafness. Over four pages of stories,all about signers who had "made good" the word lipreading didn't appear ONCE! And this was meant to be a feature about hearing loss! A number of people protested to the Editor about the lack of balance.

    There are an estimated 4million people who would benefit from hearing aids, this is an NHS study, and about half of them actually have hearing aids. The rest get by on a mixture of bluff and lipreading.
    But still the linkpersists between deaf people and sign language.
    I have actually had people say to me "Oh you're deaf, I can't sign!" but I have perfectly good speech and lipreading skills!
    It's just one of those misapprehensions that persists despite everything.
    I suppose it's a bit like "All blind people can read Braille" which is also a big assumption.


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