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7 01, 2015

Clarion News Round Up 2014

By |January 7th, 2015|Categories: British Sign Language, Deaf Awareness Training, Deaf Education|0 Comments

2014 was the year when our blog has blossomed. Here are some of the most popular and useful posts from the last year.

Most Popular Posts
7 Signs You Should Invest In BSL Interpreting
What’s the difference between a Lip Reader and a Lip Speaker?
Why do I need two interpreters? What we can learn from the past

Deaf People in the Justice System
How do British Sign Language Users Fare at Police Stations
Worried about working with deaf people? Best practice at your practice – guidelines for solicitors
BSL Interpreting for Deaf Jurors
Deaf Jurors, an Interesting Development
Interpreter Impartiality during Court Cases

Deaf Students in Education
Would you like to encourage more deaf students to your college or university?
Cuts in DSA – What does this mean for deaf and deafblind students?

Interpreter Stories
A Day in the Life of a Clarion Court Interpreter
A Day of Hospital Interpreting

Deaf Culture
New Sign Language Words to Describe the Solar System
Do we know how many sign languages there are in the world?
The long road to recognition for British Sign Language
“It’s all about you, baby”

We have more great news stories planned for 2015, to make sure you keep up to date, please subscribe to our blog using the form in the page footer.


26 11, 2014

Newcastle and Liverpool City Councils are “on the brink of financial collapse”. What does this mean for BSL Interpreters who work for the public sector?

By |November 26th, 2014|Categories: Access to Work, British Sign Language, Deaf Advocacy, Deaf Education, Deaf Employment|0 Comments

As a Geordie I was shocked and saddened to read yesterday’s Guardian article  about central government funding for Northern cities. In it, Nick Forbes, Newcastle’s council leader said: “You can see the embers of unrest starting to smoulder. Nationally, you see it in that drift to parties outside the mainstream. Locally, we see it in a far greater profile of far right marches through the city, far left marches through the city … we see people in abject poverty, coming through our service centres daily.”

One of his biggest concerns is cuts to children’s social care for children at a time of ongoing sexual exploitation cases; cash for this has been cut by 32% but need is up by 40%. In fact, Newcastle’s situation already seems impossible. Westminster cut £37m from its spending in 2013-14, with an additional £38m for 2014-15. Then further annual cuts of £40m, £30m, and £20m.

Whatever way you cut it, over a third of the money the council once spent must go, so Newcastle is in the midst of a dire squeeze on funding for aid for homeless people, children’s centres, youth services and rubbish collection. Back in 2011, Forbes said, when he and his colleagues had first confronted the depth and breadth of what they faced, a lot of them lapsed into silence. “People went white.  They literally went white, at the prospect of it. There was a sense of disbelief about what it all meant, and the scale of cuts we would have to make.”

Over in the North West, the situation is equally desperate. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has warned government cuts mean the city could be “bankrupt” in just over two years and that it will only have money to run mandatory services, such as social care. He said that by 2016-17 “the city will be bankrupt – it is that stark a challenge for us”. Liverpool council has to save £156m over the next three years, on top of £173m worth of cuts over the last three years.

It could be said that there is a real inequality in the government’s actions, with the distinct flavour of a class war, waged from Westminster: with drastic cuts per head in mainly Labour areas, whilst richer, Tory-inclined places were relatively unscathed. For example, in Guildford in Surrey, the cuts between 2010 and 2013 worked out at £19 per resident; in Newcastle, it was £162.

But it’s not as though we weren’t warned. Think back to when Labour were still in power albeit just about to be ousted by David Cameron and organising services for Deaf people was relatively easy. I sat drinking coffee with an old friend, Craig Dearden (who knows stuff) and he told me the days of wine and roses were over, government coffers were empty, the cupboard was bare and basically the financial storm that was coming was going to be longer, harder and deeper than anything we had ever known in our lifetime. This was in 2007 and as today’s news points out is still taking its toll. It wasn’t a cheerful conversation, but it is a well-remembered one.

And, of course, the effects on our profession have been deep, competitors that set up alongside me in 2002 have gone to the wall; Lexicon, BSL Comms and the grandaddy of them all, Just Communication are all “Error 404” messages now. The swingeing cuts to ATW, with assessments of financial need now often performed with arbitrary and random decisions, are having a massive impact on the ability of Deaf people to find and sustain work. Only last week we had a Deaf client who was refused an interpreter for an interview due to lack of funding. The cuts in hospital budgets mean its much harder than in 2007 to persuade some hospitals to use our registered, qualified and experienced interpreters so we have to walk away. The cuts across the whole of HE and FE provision have meant students with disabilities are struggling with inadequate needs assessments and, again, FE colleges are asking for level 2 signers that are clearly not up to the job. All the interpreters and Deaf people I speak to know that cuts to legal aid budgets means that Deaf people are not getting fair access to justice, with the demise of RAD legal advice being the cherry on the cake of iniquity.

As for contracting, this government sent a clear message when it started that public sector contracts were going to much larger – with “supercontracts” leading the way. What this means is that small, local or specialist organisations (e.g. that work with people with learning disabilities only, or deaf people) cannot bid directly for work and often get cut out of the loop in favour of the very large international corporates.

So, we battle on, changing the way we work to suit the needs of our customers, negotiating with clients, end users and the incredible team of staff and freelancers that we work with and, for us, the future is relatively positive. But, those winds from the North are chill and I feel sad to be part of a society that cannot look after its more vulnerable people in a respectful and equitable way.

16 06, 2014

“Sorry I’m late, I didn’t hear the alarm clock”

By |June 16th, 2014|Categories: Deaf Education, Technology|0 Comments

Unfortunately, this excuse will only work so many times for a deaf student late to class.

Luckily, students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are working on developing a smartphone app and device that physically vibrates enough to wake you up.

Patrick Seypura and Alec Satterly are only 20 years old and met in a marketing class, yet are already developing technology that could revolutionise everybody’s morning routine, with their own company Cenify.

The device is a small object called ‘Alarmify’ which would be synced to your smartphone through an app. The object can record up to a week’s worth of different alarm times and would sell for about £40. It currently requires a plug and wall outlet, but a more convenient wireless device is also in the works.

The idea started a few years ago when Patrick pointed out a gap in the market for alarm clocks and smartphones that are powerful enough to wake people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The audience it was originally pitched to were not deaf and so apparently could not empathise with the issue enough to see the object’s real value. However, after a bit more research and targeting the correct audiences, including the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Patrick and Alec have already won awards for their invention this year.

The pair have big ideas for what else their company Cenify and its technology could be capable of, and from looking at research, a potential $6 million market. From automatically opening the blinds to let the sun shine in, to turning the coffee machine on before you’re out of bed. No doubt this little helping hand would make anyone’s life easier, let alone the Deaf community.

For a brief visual description of what it would be like to wake up to Cenify every morning, watch the short video below.

4 06, 2014

Signglasses: The future’s here and it’s called Google Glass

By |June 4th, 2014|Categories: Deaf Education, Sign Language, Technology|0 Comments

There’s something brewing in Brigham Young University, Utah, and it’s the kind of technology you only dreamed of after soaking in Minority Report with Tom Cruise for the first time.

Astronomy and the planetarium is a great experience for anyone able to see. However, a few students pointed out that while watching the space presentations, it’s physically impossible to also watch a sign language interpreter in a different part of the room. This is an issue than can undoubtedly be applied to situations outside of the planetarium as well.

galaxy 2

Along with the close collaboration of deaf students, a group of researchers (led by Michael Jones) have started developing software that could eliminate this problem – a product called ‘Signglasses’. A signer will appear on the Google Glass (in the corner or centre of the lens) allowing the student to view a presentation or film and an interpreter at the same time.

The BYU team have already begun to consider what else this software could be capable of. For example, they are working on creating a virtual pop-up dictionary. The reader points at a word on paper they do not yet know, and a signer pops up in the lens giving a short definition of that word in sign language.

There’s no knowing where this research could stop or where it could take us within ten years or so. But at the very least, it could help deaf children learn to read. This is a very clever piece of software and potentially an extremely beneficial step in technology. An inspiring example of human behavior and how we use our intelligence to overcome and adapt to any difficulties.

For a bit more information, and to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, enjoy the short film below.

1 05, 2014

Cochlear Implants – what questions should we be asking ourselves?

By |May 1st, 2014|Categories: Deaf Community, Deaf Education|2 Comments

We are so surrounded by devices that it is hard to tell where the person starts and the gadget ends.

From iPads through to mobile phones and Google Glass, more and more people – both hearing and Deaf use electronics to communicate with the world, their friends and people at work. In between our brains and these machines are our senses of sight and touch. What happens if those senses are removed from the equation and electronic devices can be our eyes and our ears or even our arms and our legs?

Studying how brains and machines work together has been going for decades. This research has been used for real, practical benefits. For example patients with Parkinson’s can be treated using Deep Brain Stimulation and implants. More than 30,000 people around the world have had these implants to lessen the symptoms of this degenerative disease (Klausen, Nature 2014). A second example is the way in which hearing for Deaf people can be improved through cochlear implants (CI), restoring function for people that society thinks are in need.

Friction about cochlear implants started in the 1980s and consensus on this within the Deaf community is still divided. Why is it divided? Because defining what is normal in society is notoriously difficult. If you look at it from the medical models point of view, Deafness is seen as being very different from the norm and it is therefore defined as a disease. From the other point of view i.e. the cultural and social model you can see that Deafness is not a disability but a significant part of people’s cultural and linguistic identity.

Confident and constructive arguments sit on both sides. If we follow this social model through and use their definition of what is “normal”, then cochlear implants may be seen as an enhancement beyond normal functioning and such treatments could then be defined as a “tyranny of the normal”. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that technology that sits between our brains and the outside world such as DBS and CI have benefits that can be very positive.

The ethical challenges that these problems and ideas raise are being grappled with all over the world. I believe that although we are well prepared to deal with the questions in co-operation with neuroscientific research, brain technologies should be presented as one option, but not the only solution.

14 04, 2014

Cuts in DSA – What does this mean for deaf and deafblind students?

By |April 14th, 2014|Categories: Deaf Advocacy, Deaf Education|1 Comment

David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science gave a statement on the 10th April announcing changes to funding that will drastically effect the recruitment, retention and achievement of many deaf, deafblind and disabled students. Read the full statement here.

Cuts in Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) Spending are anticipated to be in the region of 60 or 70%.

Four tiers of support, covering all students with disabilities in Higher Education are in place until September 2014. They can be read here.

Massive progress has been made in recent years with the number of disabled students in Higher Education increasing from 119,545 (5.5% of all UK students) in 2003-04 to 215,370 (8.6%) in 2011-12 and this is now threatened according to the equality challenge unit. Support for deaf, deafblind and disabled students is to be withdrawn for tiers one and two. These two tiers that are being removed include sighted guides, notetakers, examination support and study assistants, all roles that are critical to deaf and deafblind students at University.

What does this mean?

The cuts announced in funding for equipment and support are likely to put deaf, deafblind and disabled students off applying for University. Under the Equality Act 2010, the University will still need to provide reasonable adjustments but the legal responsibility is firmly on the University rather than the Government. This will means a large variance in provision depending on the wealth of the university and the possibility that students will get turned away because they have expensive or complex support needs. It will also involve an increase of pressure on both the student and the University.

There may well be positives about this, with imagination and the use of technology there are ways to come up with a creative response but when the rain is falling, it is hard to see the bright side of policy changes such as this. And it is hard to read “Modernising Disabled Students Allowances” knowing it means “cutting budgets by 60%” without seeing it as a perfect example of 1984 doublespeak.

The bigger picture

For deaf and deafblind people in work the response to cuts in Access To Work has been robust, loud, coherent and well co-ordinated. I remain positive about the potential outcome of the campaign as it came from the power in the grass-roots Deaf community and dealt with here and now issues in the workplace. However, a similar campaign for deaf education would need to come from potential deaf students, a base that may be less confident and without yet the experience of day-to-day real life at University.

What’s next?

The National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) is currently leading on consulting and replying to the statement. You can contact them by email or on their website. Or contact the minister’s department directly. Alternatively, there is a petition set up by The University of Sussex here.

5 02, 2014

Would you like to encourage more deaf students to your college or university?

By |February 5th, 2014|Categories: Advice, Deaf Education|0 Comments

Are you worried about working with Deaf students?  Read this quick guide to make sure it all goes smoothly.

Effective communication is the key to teaching Deaf students – tutors and lecturers have a responsibility to ensure good communication in their classes and lectures and to facilitate it in the interactive setting of a seminar, tutorial or group discussion.

  1. Deaf students usually develop strategies to achieve effective communication, so wherever possible take the lead from them and always ask if you are not sure. Remember, it is not possible for a Deaf student to lip-read at the same time as reading other material (e.g. OHPs), watching (e.g. videos or demonstrations) or doing practical tasks.
  2. Make sure appropriate communication technologies are available and used (e.g. listening devices and loop systems), always ensure that the room is well lit, structure teaching sessions well, write key words on the board, recap at intervals, use examples when explaining abstract concepts, and provide handouts and instructions in advance.
  3. Be prepared to allow additional time for a Deaf student to understand and assimilate what you have said and to make contributions to discussions. Deaf people need to keep up high levels of concentration in order to follow communication, so allow time for occasional relaxation or ‘eye breaks’.
  4. Provide human support in the form of a qualified and registered British Sign Language/English Interpreter, Communication Support Worker, Lipspeaker or Notetaker. Don’t worry though – if you are in doubt, ask the student, or ask us.

Clarion is available 24/7 365 days a year and we are happy to discuss your queries at any time. Contact us here.

Clarion can also provide Deaf Awareness Training that would help you better understand the needs of your deaf students – click here for more information.