Category Archives: All about Deafness

All about Deafness

Learn Auslan – Grammar

Read the text for this lesson, before you watch the video.

As I have already mentioned, in Auslan, the grammar and sentence structure is different from English. Now I want to go into this a little deeper and practise putting sentences together using correct Auslan grammar.

The topic is the first part of the sentence. “I’m going to the shop” becomes SHOP ME GO. The shop is the topic. Usually the verb is the last item.

If you use a time marker, (for example, ‘yesterday’) it goes first in the sentence, before the topic. The sentence ‘I went to the shop yesterday’ is signed ‘YESTERDAY SHOP ME GO.’

Try signing:

• I want a drink.
• Do you want to watch a movie?
• My father is very tall.
• Please pass me the salt.

If you don’t know the vocab for the above words, fingerspell them. AFTER you have tried signing them, watch the video and correct your signs:

The impossible feat my printers had to pull off to print my full colour illustrated novel

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Image: Two similar book covers. On the left is Future Girl (Australian edition) and on the right is The Words in my Hands (North American edition), both by Asphyxia. They show a girl with long, black, wavy hair. She wears a gray sleeveless top and holds a magenta pencil and paint brush in her fist, with a light blue paint dripping from the brush. She has large black cross over her right ear. Her eyes are green and her lips red. The background shows drawings of buildings. The left background is green, brown and teal textured paint; the right background is teal, pink and ochre textured paint. On both covers is a review by Amie Kaufman, a New York Times bestselling author, which says, ‘Brilliantly imaginative, totally immersive…’

When I first had the idea for my book, titled Future Girl (in Australia) and The Words in My Hands (in North America), I told my publishers I wanted to make a young adult novel that included full colour art on every page, because I believe that picture books should not just be for young children. I now know why this is a genre-breaking concept – it was way more complex than I could ever have imagined.

Usually picture books are printed on glossy thick paper, which makes the art look great, but when the pages add up (384 of them, in the case of my book), it can make the book prohibitively heavy. There’s a reason coffee-table books are called that – they sit more easily on a coffee table for viewing than in your hands while you lie back in a bath or in bed. We had to find a way to print it that would result in it feeling like a novel, not a coffee table book.

Using thinner paper is an option, but if you go too thin this risks ink bleeding through from one side to the other. If I have an artwork with heavy black on one page, then light colours on the next, the light page could be contaminated. My publisher selected a thinner stock than they would for a picture book, and printed special colour proofs double-sided on the actual stock (the first time they’d ever done this!) to ensure there were no problems here. The publisher also insisted we print on ‘woodfree’ stock, which is what most ‘normal’ novels are printed on, instead of glossy/shiny stock like picture books are often printed on – to ensure it still felt like a novel. This sort of paper knocks back the colours, so the designer had to ramp up colour in our files to compensate, and again, there were several test colour proofs done to check this colour before the actual book printed.

Not only that, but areas of very heavily saturated ink on a page can take a while to dry – risking the ink transferring on to page opposite it. If ink saturation gets too heavy, special measures need to be taken by the printer – such as separating out and drying pages individually, or putting a special varnish over the top of each page. These sorts of measures take a ton of extra time and cost a lot of extra money. So, the book designer also needed to knock back some of my heavier blacks to avoid this, walking that fine line of judging how much to knock them back in order to receive the best printed product possible while remaining true to the look of the artwork.

I am amazed that my publishers didn’t just tell me where to go with my idea. Instead they took a punt, consulted with highly experienced printers, and eventually came up with what we all hoped would be the perfect combination of paper, ink and techniques.

I am super-fussy about colour, and choose the precise shades of each colour in my artworks very carefully. I spent hours tweaking the colours for every page. This is further complicated by the fact that what you see on the screen doesn’t represent what will come out of the printing press. That meant I had to hand the final colour tweaks over to my publishers as they use professionally calibrated screens, special lights, and make further changes depending on the type of paper used and what they see in the proofs. Woodfree stock sucks up far more ink than shiny paper so a concern was that all the bright colours in final book would end up dulled. You will understand why I was extremely nervous when I ripped open the package containing the very first copy of the book. I didn’t know how much all the paper, ink and technologies used would mess with my vision for the art.

As I flipped through it for the very first time, my jaw dropped open. I couldn’t believe it. It’s perfect. JUST PERFECT. The colours are rich and vibrant and just as I wanted them. The paper, the texture, the size and weight of the book combine to be a sensuous feast. There’s no bleed-through, none! It’s just small and light enough to hold comfortably while still being substantial and delicious.

I cried. Eight years in the making and at last I could hold it in my hands. It struck me that if I had never seen this book before, I would be so blown away that I would have to cancel my entire life for a month in order to absorb all that beautiful art. I truly did create the book I wanted to read, look at, have and hold.

I hope you’ll love it too. It’s available here if you’re in Australia, and here if you’re in North America

Learn Auslan – Asking questions

In Auslan, there are three types of questions that are asked.

• Yes/No questions – “Are you a teacher?”
• Information questions – “Where do you live?”
• Rhetorical questions – to break up information.

There are rules for the manner in which the questions are asked.

Yes/No Questions:

• Body leans forward
• Eyebrows are raised
• Eyes opened wide

Information Questions:

• Body leans back
• Eyebrows are low
• Eyes squint

Rhetorical Questions:

These are usually used when a speaker is giving a long block of information. It breaks it up and becomes easier to follow. In this situation the speaker asks a question and then answers it themselves immediately. There are no rules for facial expression and body position when using rhetorical questions.

In the video, I give an example of each type of question:

• Yes/No questions – “Are you a teacher?” (TEACHER YOU?)
• Information questions – “Where do you live?” (YOU LIVE WHERE?)
• Rhetorical questions – to break up information. (I LOVE SWIMMING WHY? TO BECOME STRONG AND FIT – GOOD) In this example I should really have signed ‘SWIMMING I LOVE’ because the topic is supposed to go first.

Learn Auslan – Space

The use of space is very important in Auslan. The key point to using space effectively, is to remember where you put things, and leave them there. Famous mime artists, when playing with an imaginary mouse, will always put the mouse back in their pocket when they have finished – they never let go of it mid-air. In Auslan the same concept is applied with space.

In conversation, when talking about a person who is not present, locate them somewhere in space, identify them, and from then on point to that location when referring to them. You need only say the person’s name once, when first identifying them. Replace the use of “he”, “she” with pointing to the location where you have placed that person. Be very careful that you leave the person in one spot. If you begin talking about another person, locate them somewhere else, to avoid confusion, and remember to point to the correct location.

Space is also important when describing physical layout. Practise describing

• The layout of your kitchen
• The layout of your house
• The layout of this room and the people in it
• A dinner plate of different food, showing where and how much of each item is on the plate.

Transposition: space is to be described according to how YOU (the signer) see things. The other person must transpose the image to visualize it correctly.

Try drawing on paper the position of hills and a farmhouse on a landscape, according to how someone has described it for you.

(Sorry, there’s no video yet to show signs describing objects and their arrangement in space. I hope to make one later.)

Learn Auslan – Depicting Signs

Depicting signs are a linguistic concept that are not used in English. Other foreign languages use them, however, a foreign language which lacks a word for oven may use depicting words to describe it: “The hot box with the door in front.”

Auslan uses depicting signs frequently. They are known as CL (fingerspelled) for short. There are two types of depicting signs – proform and descriptive.

Descriptive depicting signs use the hands and face to show what things look like. Try signing:

• Various objects around the room
• A dog
• A man you know
• A pattern

Try drawing on paper shapes that are described in the air. Think about showing proportion and distance, by leaving one hand to show the location of the last element you described.

(Sorry, there’s no video yet to show descriptive depicting signs. I hope to make one later.)

Proform depicting signs are used for people, animals and vehicles. Unlike descriptive depicting signs, they are predefined and must be learnt like vocab. They are used to show how people, animals and vehicles interact with each other and the world around them. In this video, I show you the depicting signs for people, animals and vehicles:

Proform depicting signs:

• Person (the area of your pointer finger from which you would take a fingerprint is considered the face of the person, and the fingernail area is considered to be the back of the head. In this video the person is facing sideways.)
• Animal (the fingertip is considered to be the head of the animal).
• Vehicle (car, truck, bike, motorbike. Again, the fingertips represent the front of the vehicle.)

I also show you how you might use these depicting signs to depict:

• A car crash (sorry, my signing here is a bit fractured)
• A woman walking her dog (you can see by my facial expression that the dog wasn’t meant to run ahead!)
• A motorbike stopping suddenly
• Two people meeting

When a depicting sign is used, it is important to identify what you are talking about first. You can’t hold up one finger and have the other person assume it is a person – you must first say who the person is.

Practise signing with proform and descriptive depicting signs, to show:

• two animals playing together
• two people talking and someone going off in a huff
• two cars racing, one sometimes getting ahead, and then the other

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Fingerspelling patterns

For this lesson, read the text before you watch the video!

People learning to fingerspell usually read one letter at a time, and at the end of each word they try to mentally put the letters together to understand the word. However, when reading they will be able to glance at a word on the page and know it from the shape – there is no need to read it letter by letter.

Reading fingerspelling can be the same. Rather than concentrating on each individual letter, concentrate on the handshape the word makes. Notice the first letter, the last letter, one or two key letters in the middle of the word, the approximate length of the word, then use this information to work out what the word is. Context is very important, so factor in what you are talking about. A long word that is fingerspelled will often be spelled slowly the first time in conversation, and then for the remainder of the conversation, signed very fast. Think about what you are talking about and what the word could possibly be.

Try fingerspelling your name, looking for patterns and handshapes. Try finding patterns for these words:

• Cream
• Program
• Out
• How
• Rice
• Bus

Now watch the video – I sign these words, showing you the rhythm I use that adds flow to the word. Many words that are routinely fingerspelled have a particular flow and shape that makes them easy to identify, even if you can’t distinguish each letter. You learn those flow-shapes, just as you learn specific signs.

What’s wrong with big corporations?

Beware - the big corporation

In my book, Future Girl (in Australia) and The Words in My Hands (in North America), one of the key subtexts is the idea that big corporations are dangerous to us.  This is something I feel very strongly about. I created this painting to express my outrage at the central place that big corporations occupy in our society, and their irresponsible, harmful behaviour.

So what’s wrong with big corporations?

You could say that we are the new serfs, with big corporations as our lords, regulating every aspect of our existence and requiring our servitude.  Is this really so?  Are big corporations actually bad, and if so, why?  I’ve done some research to try and understand the ways in which big corporations impact and shape our society.

The thing about big corporations is that they are just that: big.  They rake in the bucks, and as a result, have enormous spending power.  Since the ethos that underpins most big corporations is the aim to increase profits, values such as quality and meaning of life, job satisfaction and health are often cast aside in pursuit of the dollar.  But surely we, as individuals, have the power to make our own choices about how we live, how we bring meaning to our lives, and to look after our own health?  The reading I’ve done suggests that no, actually, we are dominated in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways by the corporate monoliths that surround us.

How did we come to need them?

Let’s take the fast food industry as a general example, and look at McDonald’s in particular.  Since 1973, once adjusted for inflation, the hourly wage of the average worker has declined.  These days it’s very hard to run a household on one income, and with two adults out at work, there’s a need for some of the domestic tasks that used to be performed by women at home (such as food shopping, cooking and washing up) to be outsourced.  McDonald’s is just one large corporation that has stepped up to the task.  The company is the largest owner of retail property in the world, America’s largest purchaser of beef, pork and potatoes, and an estimated one in eight workers in the US has at some point been employed by McDonald’s.  The company has the world’s largest marketing budget, and even operates the most playgrounds and distributes more toys than any other brand.

Targeting our children

With playgrounds and toys, McDonald’s is very appealing to young children, a deliberate part of their marketing strategy.  Not only will children bring in extra customers in the form of parents and grandparents, but their ‘pester power’ can be harnessed to increase sales.  ‘Cradle-to-grave’ advertising strategies involve getting young children to see a company as being like a beloved family member, allied with good values such as health and patriotism, and the aim is life-long brand loyalty.  Young children are mainly reached via television, and studies have showed that most cannot distinguish between programmes and advertisements.  While McDonald’s and Disney pioneered the targeting of children in marketing, it is so effective that these days it is a standard part of the long term selling-strategy for most large corporations.  The result is that many youngsters today grow up with an overall feeling that their favourite brands know and care about them.

Fast food companies extend their marketing reaches into schools, knowing that children are still establishing their tastes and habits, and have many years of purchasing ahead of them.  Schools on tight budgets often accept lucrative advertising packages offered by large corporations, justifying that this increases their revenue and allows them to expand what they offer to students.  It is not just food companies that employ this technique.  Corporate-sponsored teaching materials have now become commonplace, and in 1998 a study in the US by the Consumers Union found that 80 percent were biased.  For example, they would teach that logging was good for the environment or that fossil fuels created few environmental problems.

Walt Disney has hosted numerous ‘entertainment’ broadcasts which are really propraganda, such as “Our Friend The Atom”, sponsored by a manufacturer of nuclear reactors, which makes nuclear fission sound fun instead of terrifying.  By reaching our children through television programmes and commercials, schools and prominent billboards, big corporations have significant power to shape the values and messages our children grow up with.

Exploiting vulnerable workers for cheap labour

Teenagers, too, are targeted by big corporations, and often used for cheap labour.  The two brothers who opened the first McDonald’s restaurant quickly tired of having to retrain staff when they left.  They created an innovative solution that has since been replicated by large, profit-seeking companies everywhere.  They restructured the workplace to an assembly-line format, where each worker contributes only a single, small skill.  A staff member might spend, for example, an entire eight hour shift just flipping burgers.  If that worker leaves, it doesn’t take long to train the replacement in burger-flipping.

With the de-skilling of jobs, corporations are able to hire unskilled workers who will accept low pay, often teenagers and migrants who are also easier to control, and less aware of unions and fair work standards.  They can be manipulated into working long hours, without overtime pay, by managers whose annual bonuses depend on them increasing profits and reducing costs.  While an after-school job has been shown to be good for children, studies have shown that when kids work long hours in addition to schooling, and when the job is boring, overly regimented or meaningless, it can create a lifelong aversion to work.

For teenagers, working at a fast food outlet can be surprisingly dangerous.  The injury rate for them is about twice as high as that of adult wokers in the United States.  With a high staff turn-over, many disgruntled ex-employees return to rob their former workplaces, sometimes resulting in violent crime and murder.  While being a manager at McDonald’s is a far more interesting and rewarding job than lower positions, and even includes training at McDonald’s ‘university’, managers are most often targeted in violent crimes by ex-employees.  In America, four or five fast food workers are murdered on the job every month, making it more dangerous than to be a police officer!

Fast food restaurant chains use their buying power to keep the minimum wage as low as possible.  For example, the Nixon administration received $250,000 in donations from the head of McDonald’s franchising, and in the same year supported a bill to reduce the minimum wage from $1.60 to $1.28 per hour – the bill was even known, informally, as the ‘McDonald’s bill’.  Meanwhile, the income of the company CEOs has consistently risen.

Side-stepping regulations

The Fair Labour Standards Act was designed to prevent unfairness, danger and injury to our workers, and unions aim to enforce these laws.  However, McDonald’s and other large corporations use their immense purchasing power to sidestep regulations.  When workers attempt to join unions or fight for fairer conditions, McDonald’s will simply close down the restaurant and fire all its staff, reopening new premises nearby.  When re-hiring, they avoid all staff who have previously signed union cards.

Franchise risks

Workers higher up the chain in the fast food restaurant business also face challenges.  For example, franchise owners absorb all the risk involved in starting a new branch, often legally waiving their right to file complaints, while the corporation maintains control, forcing them to buy from certain suppliers and follow fixed price schedules.  Corporations often practise “encroachment” – placing new franchises close to existing franchises, driving down the sales of the established buisness.  As with the minimum wage, large corporations use their significant financial power to lobby the government to thwart regulation of franchising.

Forcing suppliers to cut corners

As well as negatively impacting the lives of our children, vulnerable workers and franchise owners, large corporations often impose stringent requirements on their suppliers, forcing them to run manufacturing premises which are both dangerous and unpleasant for workers.  It is common for the few buyers of a single product (say, potatoes, used for chips), to band together and make a behind-the-scenes agreement about the price they are willing to pay.  Potato growers and processors cannot then turn to an alternative market for better pay, which would enable them to maintain better conditions in their plants.

Price fixing

In America, only four firms slaughter about 84 percent of the cattle (ConAgra, IBP, Excel and National Beef), and they have devised an ingenious method of price-fixing to ensure that cattle prices from independent ranchers remain low.  They buy up 20 percent of the nation’s cattle and hold them in feedlots.  Then when ranchers try to increase their prices, the meatpacking giants flood the market with their own captive supplies, forcing prices to drop.  In twenty years, the rancher’s share of the retail dollar has dropped from 63 cents to just 46 cents, forcing small farmers out of business, and forcing large enterprises to cut corners to maintain their ranches.  Ranch owners need to take second jobs or sell their cattle at break-even prices or a loss, and the suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in America is now three times higher than the national average.

In a similar fashion, chicken growers must adhere to strict feeding schedules, equipment upgrades and veterinary services, in order to sell to the meatpacking giants.  The necessary growing house, which holds 25,000 birds in overcroweded, stressed conditions, costs about $150,000, forcing the growers into significant debt before they can earn anything.  The average chicken grower in America earns just$12,000 per year, and about half of them quit after just three years, selling out or losing everything.  Growers who complain often find themselves suddenly unable to sell their birds.

Dangerous factory conditions

Like the fast food restaurants who slashed costs by creating an assembly-line format for their workers, enabling them to hire unskilled employees at minimum wage, the meatpacking giants have also restructured their plants to use assembly lines.  The meat travels on a large conveyor belt through the factory, and staff members stand in a single spot for their entire shift, making exactly the same cuts or moves over and over again.  One way for a meatpacking company to increase profits, is to run the line faster.  The same systems that once processed 50 cattle per day, have now been sped up to process 400, resulting in enormous danger to employees.  The injury rate in a meatpacking factory is about three times higher than elsewhere, and every year more than a quater of a factory’s workers are injured.  The work is heavy and repetitive, causing strain injuries, back problems and tendonitis, and lacerations are the most common form of injury.  The injury rate correlates directly with the speed of the production line.  It is common for workers to lose limbs on the job, and anecdotes in Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser suggest that these limbs, and sometimes entire people, end up ground in with our meat.

Such a high injury rate usually results in pressure from insurance companies to improve work practices, but large corporations like ConAgra and IBP are self-insured.  Like McDonald’s, they avoid unions and regulation by firing employees after an average of four months on the job, maintaining a vulnerable workforce (often of illegal migrants), and closing down plants when things get out of hand.  They also use in-house doctors to medically assess injured workers, and these doctors are under pressure to deny the existance and severity of injuries, so as to minimise compensation costs borne by the company.

Food poisoning – the spread of dangerous bacteria across the nation

Food poisoning, while rarely reported in the media, is a surprisingly common result of eating in a fast food restaurant.  In America, every day 200,000 people become sick from food poisining, 900 are hospitalised, and 14 die.  Food poisoning has been shown to have long term effects, beyond the initial gastrointestinal illness, and can herald chronic disease such as autoimmune disorders, kidney damage, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease.  In 1996, a study showed that meat samples taken from meatpacking giants had a high rate of contamination with salmonella, listeria, staphylococcus and clostridium, all of which can make people ill.  E. Coli is also frequently found in meat samples, along with faeces, hair, insects, metal shavings, urine and vomit.

The reason for this high rate of contamination relates directly to the speed of the production line.  These bacteria are found in the faeces of infected animals, and at the time the stomach, bowel and intestines are removed from the animal, great care must be taken not to spatter the carcass with their contents.  It takes a skilled butcher to do this job well, and accuracy depends on taking the time to do it properly.  With the high speed of the line, and the reduction in skill of the workers, spillage of faeces onto the meat happens in as many as one in five carcasses.  The contaminated meat remains on the production line, and is mixed with cleaner carcasses, resulting in a very wide spread of dangerous bacteria.  In pursuit of profits, the meatpacking giants are endangering the health of the entire population.  Although they claim that once cooked, the meat is safe, the reality is that by bringing contaminated meat into our kitchen, we risk the spread of dangerous bacteria onto our knives, chopping boards, into our sinks and more.  Charles Gerba, a microbiologist, discovered in a series of tests that the average American kitchen sink contains more bacteria than the average American toilet seat!

Disregard for the public and workers is endemic

While I have focussed on the fast food industry, the danger faced by workers of corporate monoliths, the disregard for the health of the population, and the pursuit of profit at the expense of all other values appears to be endemic across large corporations.  For example, as I write in 2014, Apple has fired 24 employees (leading union members) for refusing to work on public holidays.  Conditions in factories where clothing, mobile phones and other consumer goods are made are regularly reported in the media as being miserable and dangerous for workers.  Even the courts agree that big corporations often behave irresponsibly.  In a case against McDonalds, Justice Bell concluded that the company did exploit children through its advertising, endanger the health of customers who eat there several times a week, pay its restaurant workers unreasonably low wages, and bear responsibility for the cruelty inflicted upon animals by many of its suppliers.

The reality is that large corporations use their immense budgets to sidestep regulation and to lobby the government for laws that will make them richer and more profitable.

What can we do?

Is there anything we can do?  The single, most powerful act an individual can make, is to refuse to give them our money.  It is our money that makes them powerful, and by withholding it, we are one step closer to diffusing their dominance. 

Choose carefully to whom you give your dollars, and vote now, with your purse. Aim to shop at farmer’s markets, to eat out at family owned non-franchise restaurants, and to avoid mass-manufactured products. Make your own or look for similar items in second hand shops.

Choosing to spend your money ethically cannot be done in a day.  It takes time to change habits and work out a new way to provide Christmas presents, a new way to eat, a new way to do all the things we regularly rely on big corporations for.  But it can be done, one step at a time.  If you have tips or ideas for making the change, leave a note in the comments.

If you’d like to read a book that highlights where we could be going if the big corporations gain even more control than they have now, check out Future Girl (in Australia) or The Words in My Hands (in North America).

Image: Two similar book covers. On the left is Future Girl (Australian edition) and on the right is The Words in my Hands (North American edition), both by Asphyxia. They show a girl with long, black, wavy hair. She wears a gray sleeveless top and holds a magenta pencil and paint brush in her fist, with a light blue paint dripping from the brush. She has large black cross over her right ear. Her eyes are green and her lips red. The background shows drawings of buildings. The left background is green, brown and teal textured paint; the right background is teal, pink and ochre textured paint. On both covers is a review by Amie Kaufman, a New York Times bestselling author, which says, ‘Brilliantly imaginative, totally immersive…’

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Learn Auslan – Around the house

Some signs you might use around the house:

Vocab:

• House
• Home
• Door
• Window
• Bed
• Floor
• Table
• Chair
• Kitchen (KK)
• Room
• Light (this is for an electric light)
• Phone
• Mobile phone

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Hygiene

Here are some signs relating to hygiene:

Vocab:

• Water
• Clean
• Dirty
• Do the dishes
• Shower
• Bath
• Sweep
• Stink
• Wash

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Just Deaf

In the early days of a past relationship, my girlfriend accompanied me to an appointment with an audiologist. I needed new ear moulds.  Given that I’ve been deaf since the age of 3, I’ve been fitted for a great many ear moulds in my life. I know what to expect.

However, the audiologist bent over me, a bit too close to my face, saying loudly, over-enunciating his words, ‘Now, this will feel a little bit cold.’

With as much poise and dignity as I could muster, I simply nodded. I know. I was itching to grab the equipment out of his hands and squirt the stuff into my ears myself. I’ve done it countless times, back when I had an audiologist who would let me make my own moulds. But since she retired, I haven’t had that luxury. Instead, I waited as he did it for me, and then reached up to manipulate the putty so that the moulds would be just as I like them.

He slapped my hands away. ‘You mustn’t touch until they are cured,’ he scolded me, again over-enunciating every word.

I think we got half way through the appointment when my girlfriend suddenly exploded at him. ‘FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!’ she screamed. ‘SHE HAS TWO UNIVERSITY DEGREES. STOP TREATING HER LIKE SHE’S TWO YEARS OLD!!’ I don’t know what else she said, but it was said loudly and vehemently and took some time. And she said everything I’ve wanted to say, for years and years, but have politely sucked it up in order to be gracious and poised.

What stunned me though was the transformation in the man afterwards. He didn’t apologise to me. But suddenly he treated me like a normal person. Up until then I’d been telling myself I was imagining it.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of that audiologist is very common. I go to vote, and the person handing me the voting card asks whoever I’m with, ‘Can she sign her name?’  People are astonished that I have a drivers’ licence. I remember as a child, that I had written a handful of limericks, with the correct cadenza, and the visiting teacher for the Deaf was beyond amazed, stunned even, at this feat, even though other kids in my class could write rhyming poems too.

These days, it’s a little easier to break people out of this patronising way. I drop into conversation that I have six books published and am currently working on my seventh. I show them a picture of The Grimstones. I give an author talk. THEN I get respect, and people realise that I’m not as dumb as I apparently look.

But you know what really stood out for me. I went to a new hairdresser, a couple of years ago, and I had to explain to her exactly what I wanted done with my dreadlocks. This is normally an exercise in frustration as most hairdressers don’t seem to believe I could possibly know what I want done with my hair. This woman treated me with respect. She sat me down, focussed while I explained, then checked as she went that I was happy, accepting my corrections. This was a minor incident, but all this time later it still stands out in my mind. Why? Because I was treated like an intelligent human being, without having proven myself first.

If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!

If you’d like a copy, or to give one to someone for a gift, this is available as a giclee print in my shop.