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Meera Modi - Guest post #4

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Meera Modi Meera Modi | 16:48 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

How are you supported in the workplace?

The BBC Access Unit team provides me with an interpreter in the work place. This is paid for by a government scheme called Access to Work (ATW). Sign language interpreters make the workplace more accessible for deaf people, however I do I feel it would be useful if my team knew and understood basic sign language in order to communicate with me directly. For those of you who are interested , Learning to Sign Week is coming up  - it's held annually in the first week of October. Do have a look at this Learn to Sign Week website and check out these British Sign Language quick video guides for a speedy way to equip yourself with the sign language alphabet.

It is important to remember that not every deaf person has the same needs; I can lip-read well as long as the speaker takes their time to speak slowly and clearly. Also, while I feel interpreters are great and very useful, I try not to rely on them totally and like to communicate with hearing people myself, especially as I come from a hearing family. With an interpreter it sometimes takes longer to relay information, but I am very glad they are available so I can have equal access to information.

I also use modern technology a great deal - I find that emails and instant messaging makes things easier and comes in handy when communicating with my colleagues!

The Department of Work & Pensions provides Access to Work funding as well as financing for interpreters or communication support workers for deaf people in the workplace.

Other Deaf colleagues in employment receive different forms of support through Access to Work, for example the provision of computers/ laptops, note takers, lip speakers. The important thing is that support is designed to meet the needs of the individual to allow them to do their job effectively.

Why do you need to use interpreters?

For many of the Deaf community, English (spoken or written) is not their first language. We experience the same language issues experienced by any foreign language speaker. For many, English is our second or third language.

Some deaf people experience difficulties in written communication e.g. time taken and grammar. British Sign Language (BSL) does not follow the same grammatical rules as spoken English; this makes writing difficult. BSL is predominately a topic 'comment' language, and could be likened to French. A deaf person would sign car, red. As you can see this is very different to from English! BSL does not use tense for example. You may find some deaf people find it hard to know which word endings to use, whether to use ...ing ...ed and when to add ...s's to the end of words. Also there are no conjunctions (joining words) like 'and, 'or', 'for'.

Deaf people have no inner voice. Hearing children learn to read by reading out loud, as this helps them think about how the sentences sound and whether they sound right. As deaf people don't have this, they have no way of checking if their written English is right or wrong. Therefore, they often lack confidence in their writing ability.

What is your relationship with interpreters?

Working for the Extend scheme is the first time I have experienced working with interpreters on a regular basis. I am happy to work with interpreters but it is our right to refuse to work with a specific interpreter. We also reserve the right to refuse to explain why we do not want to work with that particular interpreter. It is rather like match-making - some pairs work better than others. I may work with an interpreter who is right for me and another who does not mesh with me so well. It depends on attitude, personality, and how we connect. The better we get on, the better they understand me and how I wish to receive information.

What are some of the reactions that you've had since you arrived?

I am aware that for many people I am the first deaf person they have met, and therefore are not used to communicating with deaf people and are liable to make mistakes. I hope that eventually people realise what I am really like, and ultimately feel more comfortable communicating with me.

I also hope people realise that I do not bite! In any one day, I get a mixed range of reactions; from the understandable to the bizarre. Some people actually try to hide or avoid eye contact!

At the BBC everyone seems very friendly, maybe a few avoid eye contact but otherwise, they don't seem to see me differently.

There are clashes between deaf and hearing people. As a deaf person, I am used to people tapping me on the shoulder or throwing light objects at me to get my attention! I realise that it can take a while for hearing colleagues to feel comfortable enough to tap me to get my attention so, it can often mean a long wait for them before I realise that they want to talk to me!

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