Of the 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, 3.7 million are of working age (16 - 64) Have you wondered just how young deaf people manage to lead normal lives? Yes, yes you have.
I was born almost profoundly deaf, and wear two hearing aids allowing me a tiny bit of hearing. Not much, mind, and my day-to-day life can be well, trying sometimes.
Recently, having seen Obama on BBC News at the Nelson Mandela funeral, with a sign language interpreter made me exclaim "Wonderful! Isn't that nice, they've ensured it's accessible to the deaf!" to my family. However, finding out he was actually having a mental breakdown and repeatedly signing 'prawn, rocking horse' made me giggle with rather inappropriate laughter at the complete absurdity of the situation. Seems it was too good to be true! It did however make me think of all the tiny obstacles that affect deaf people as well as the biggies.
When I graduated, I entered the jobs market and had the joy of meeting the non-deaf aware. As if job hunting wasn't painful enough! Before I discovered BT Typetalk, which is where an operator listens in on your conversation and types what is being said, I had to send out CVs to potential employers without a phone number. This was met with a "Please call to discuss" email, which left me wanting to throw the ever-important phone at them. A personal favourite was sending a reply to a letter asking to "please call" and having the woman actually leave a message on the house phone, having found it in the phone book, saying "I got your letter. Could you please call to discuss?" Wow. Just wow.
Working in an office brings its challenges. Our IT helpdesk is not so helpfully based in India, and can only be contacted via internal telephone extension. With emails being my mode of communication, any Internet problem or PC lock out drops cold fear on me and makes me panic immediately as I am instantly rendered unable to do my job. I have to plead with a colleague for help to call IT, profusely apologizing for interrupting them and grovel in thanks when the issue is fixed. Nothing like envisioning being unable to work ever again because your email is broken to really get the blood pumping!
Drive throughs are a particular favourite - once the domain of the bored teenage server, in recent years this has been replaced by a machine. Discovering this for the first time meant I was so baffled, I ignored it and tried to place my order at the drive through counter, leading to confused staff and receiving the lady behind's order! A similar thing also happened when I was late for a flight at the airport. Arriving in a massive flap, trying to get into the airport's long stay carpark. I found Stansted's auto numberplate recognition for pre booked parking didn't work! I had to paw at the intercom pleading for a human being - screeching "HELP ME I AM LATE AND DEAF! DEAF AND LATE! LET ME IN! I HAVE PAID!" wasn't one of my finer moments. Would it hurt to bring back human beings instead of machines so I can lipread and beg in person when things go wrong? I'm sure hearing users of self-service checkouts in supermarkets think the same thing! (Ironically, I can hear the accusatory bellows of "UNATTENDED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA" perfectly, everytime)
Small things also bring me great joy. The invention of Apple's Facetime means that I can call people! Lipread them! Have conversations! It makes having an expensive iPhone with minutes I never use worth it. (On a side note, anyone is welcome to my 200 minutes a month. It's all yours.) However, the best invention for deaf people has to be subtitles. From the early days of BBC Ceefax (888, anybody?) to the digital Sky buttons now, subtitles bring me the joys of hours of trash TV. In the early 90's,Video Caption readers for decoding subtitles were de rigeur, and I would cart the player around like a breezeblock to friends' houses to watch a video in the VCR. Now, it's a simple button on a DVD, which is a small change but makes such a huge difference.
Perhaps in the future, the human-replacing machines will come with subtitles too. Maybe Apple will produce another game-changer. Who knows?