Thursday, 22 March 2012

POTUS Obama has impressed the deaf community...

...and myself. The video clip which has gone viral shows POTUS Obama signing "Thank you". It's one phrase but yet a powerful one. The "wow" factor comes from the fact that he was able to communicate albeit very briefly. It is like someone making an effort to learn something from your 'minority' language. I recall that he used basic sign language during his 2008 campaign trail. And FLOTUS Michelle happens to know basic ASL *nodding head in approval*

So here Is (the link to) the article from HuffingtonPost website which has the video embedded:

Lots of people get giddy following even the briefest encounters with a president. But one Washington-area college student was especially elated that President Obama understood what he was saying. Or signing.
As first reported on Distriction, Stephon, a student at Prince George Community College, was standing in line after an event on energy policy with President Obama and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, waiting for a chance to shake hands with the president. As the president was shaking hands and making his way through the crowd, he met up with Stephon, who was born deaf.
"I am proud of you," Stephon signed to the president.
Not missing a beat, President Obama signed back: "Thank you."
Another deaf student then signed to the president, "I love you." The president smiled back at her and shook her hand.
An elated Stephon later recounted his experience on YouTube via American Sign Language.
 When I got in, I took many videos. What amazed me is that it took two hours to make it just right before Obama started. I did not realize how great of seats there were for us deaf people. Right front of Obama. I sat in VIP with the Governor Martin O’Malley and many other important people. So, it started at about 11. Obama was right front of me. I was ready to jump up and walk toward him and shake his hand. Could you imagine how the Secret Service would’ve responded? When I watched Obama give his speech on the stage I thought to myself, “No way, Obama is not standing right in front of me! Wow!”
If you want to know more about what Obama’s speech was about, you can find out online. I was close enough to touch Martin O’Malley on his shoulder but I didn’t want to bother him. I regret I could have done better holding my camera while talking to Obama. The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed “I am proud of you,” and his response was “Thank u” in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing…I was just speechless. Right after he thanked me, he smiled at another deaf lady who signed “I love you.” When I shook his hand it did not feel like he was superior to me. He was just a humble man. I am just impressed by him and know that he will have my vote and he will win second term without a doubt. Yeah, I feel safe to have him for another term.

Culled from the intimateexcellent blog
from the

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Albeit late for UK residents....

Apologies for not posting this earlier. BBC1 had earlier on shown " Rita Simons: My Daughter, Deafness and Me" at 10.40pm. I had posted about Rita Simmons, an Eastenders actress recently. If you have access to iplayer, you'll be able to catch up on this particular showing.

Here is the synopsis taken from the Mirror newspaper website (  )

How do you tell your lively, beautiful five-year-old daughter that she is going to lose all her hearing?

That’s the agonising question faced by EastEnders actress Rita Simons, who plays Roxy Mitchell, and her husband Theo.

Their twin daughters were born in 2006 and while Jaimee is perfectly healthy, her sister Maiya was born with a deformity in her inner ear that has caused her hearing to deteriorate over the years.

This film follows them as they confront the decisions faced by every parent in a similar situation.
Should Maiya attend a special school for the deaf or continue at mainstream school where she is mostly happy? Should she learn sign language

But it also includes the devastating moment when Rita and Theo learn for the first time that at some point in the future Maiya will definitely lose what limited hearing she presently has.
If there was one thing that neither of them wanted to discover, this was it.

Cochlear implants offer the hope of a life with sound, but when Rita seeks some advice from the deaf community she has an unexpected and upsetting confrontation with a woman who describes cochlear implants as a form of child abuse.

Rita is shaken and understandably outraged at the idea she would do anything to harm her child.

But we also follow Theo to a lab in Oxford where he experiences a simulation of what music will sound like to Maiya if she does indeed have these implants. As Theo fights back the tears it’s obvious that this is not at all what he was expecting.
The miracle fix-it that they were both hoping for simply doesn’t exist.

Courtesy: BBC

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Blind self-made millionairess

Although this blog is mostly about deaf /hard-of-hearing people, I enjoy learning/reading about what people with other disabilities have achieved in their lives.

I am writing about Liz Jackson, a blind self-made millionairess who participated in the BBC program: The Secret Millionaire. Please see the following link:

The article says " Monday morning in an open-plan office in Basingstoke. Fifty telemarketers talk on the phone and tap away on their computers. Not maybe everyone’s idea of an exhilarating environment, but Liz Jackson, founder and Managing Director of Great Guns Marketing, is brimming with enthusiasm.

“I was a telemarketer for eight years before I started my own company, and I still love that telemarketing job, I think it’s great and I think that working with telemarketers is brilliant.”

We’re sitting in the headquarters of Great Guns Marketing where Liz has taken time out of her busy schedule of sales meetings, media interviews and conference speaking to talk. Aged 36, her company has six branches in the UK, employs around a hundred people and has an annual turn-over of £2.5 million. It’s a far cry from 1998 when Liz borrowed a few thousand pounds to launch her business to business telemarketing company in the front room of her flat.

But the fact that Liz’s company got off the ground at all is all the more impressive because she also had to deal with the sudden loss of her sight two months after the launch.

Liz’s sight had been getting worse for some time but surely her confidence and self-belief must have taken a battering?

“I don’t remember it being a blow at all and I don’t remember thinking I had anything to prove because I was blind. I’d just met my husband Ali so I was in love, I’d started my company and I’m a Christian and my faith teaches me to be thankful for what I’ve got as opposed to thinking about the things I haven’t got. I found out about the Access to Work scheme and recruited a PA to help me read, but apart from that I don’t remember feeling emotional about it or feeling down. I don’t think it really changed much.”

Liz puts her unfailing confidence down to the love and support of her family and growing up in a stable environment where none of her relations have ever divorced.

“I also think that my faith breeds confidence because I don’t think that everything is on my shoulders and that God has some responsibility too.”

Her parents fought hard to keep her in mainstream school against the wishes of the local authority who wanted to send her to a boarding school for disabled children. Nevertheless, school was tough. She was “academically rubbish” and only loved doing drama which didn’t involve sitting in a classroom.

Her experience of junior school led to her subsequently rejecting any help she could have had because of her visual impairment, like extra time for exams.

“I had to have an electric typewriter in the classroom. I was nine and typing while everyone else was writing and the typewriter was hard to use and it took me ages to cut out my work and put it in my book. The funny thing was that my handwriting wasn’t the worst in the class!”

She went to college but soon turned to her careers adviser to talk about an apprenticeship.

“She set me up with an interview with a company near Basingstoke and I got a job as an office junior. I was doing admin at first which I was rubbish at. My eye condition meant I had tunnel vision so I couldn’t read a whole word at once. My spelling was atrocious, especially because I was entering information into a PC from hand-written documents.”

Liz never disclosed her sight problem to her employer, even when things got so bad that she feared her job was in jeopardy.

“I was not interested in the idea of having bad eyesight or support for it at that time because my experience of help and support at junior school had been hideous.”

The first step in her rise from struggling office junior to successful telemarketer came when her boss heard her answering the phone one day.

“He said ‘you sound good on the phone why don’t you have a go at cold-calling?’ To be honest I think I would have done anything at that point to keep my job.”

She took to cold-calling straight away. It gave her the opportunity to exploit the talent which landed her an A for GCSE Drama.

“Every single time you pick up the phone you’ve got to put on a performance, even if you don’t feel like it. Also, it’s incredibly challenging. At 17 I was ringing managing directors of manufacturing companies which was thrilling. I was making four or five appointments for my boss a day and he was going to meetings and winning clients. Sales then became a passion and I knew I’d never do anything else in my life.”

She was promoted to become a telemarketing manager and travelled to America when she was 22 to set up a branch there.

It was the support of her boss that convinced her that she could have a stab at launching her own company.

“My boss made me believe that I could achieve. When I told him I was thinking of setting up my own business he said that he would be my first client. I had nothing to lose. I was 25 and had store card debts from buying clothes, make-up and perfume. I had no kids, husband, or mortgage to pay. I was foot-loose and fancy-free. At that age why wouldn’t I have a go?”

Her blindness has proved to be significant in generating publicity and business for Great Guns.

“It’s been an advantage for building up the business because from a PR point of view people like to write about me. There aren’t many blind women in their thirties running companies.”

The confident and self-assured Liz I meet contrasts starkly with the person who appeared the previous week on Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire. She spent time with a local talking newspaper, a social club for blind people and a sailing club for disabled people weighing up which of them to donate her money and marketing expertise to. She was rattled by the experience of coming into close proximity with disabled people, particularly blind people.

“Where it was an environment like the sailing club where I was surrounded by able-bodied people, blind and deaf people, and people with no legs or arms, I didn’t mind at all because it was just inclusion and community. But I found the environment of being surrounded by blind people very difficult and one that I wouldn’t want to repeat. It was salsa dancing which I hate anyway, so I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I was very aware of being on television and blind people were bumping into me and nudging me from either side. I was thinking that I would kill anyone if they tried to make me dance with one of the men. The scenario of what it must have looked like just freaked me out. I’ve never been around many blind people. Not because I’ve stayed away from them on purpose, I’ve just not met any blind people in my everyday life.”

She would like blind friends though and regrets not being able to tap into support from other blind mothers who could have given her tips on caring for her baby Maddy after she was born two years ago.

Was she tempted to employ any of the disabled people she met while filming?
“I would employ any disabled person who came for a job with excellent communication skills. I’ve often been asked why we don’t employ more disabled people, the answer is that they don’t come for interviews. It’s a tough job, you’re making over a hundred calls a day.”

It’s also intriguing that for all the confidence that has propelled her to success, Liz relies on her PA to escort her everywhere instead of using a guide dog or cane. But astonishingly, Liz says that it doesn’t bother her.

“Not really. I don’t see it as a failing because so many people are dependent on me. I did white stick training last year when I was working two and a half days a week and I enjoyed it. But then business got really busy and I’m not allowed the time off.”

Nevertheless Liz had been totally blind for years before she picked up a cane.

“I started not being able to move around on my own when I was 26. I was told at that time that I could go on a residential course for two weeks but I couldn’t afford the time because I was running a start-up company.”

Her business is beginning to recover from the hit it has taken from the recession so she is anticipating a return to white cane training soon. Her ambition is to master it in time to walk Maddy to school when she starts in two years.

In addition Liz is looking forward to resuming her Braille lessons which also went on the backburner since the recession took hold.

“My sighted daughter has a passion for books and I can just about read a Kipper book to her because of Braille. My real passion for learning Braille is so I can read to her. But it’s also valuable in terms of labels. Her Calpol has Braille on it so I can tell that it’s Calpol and not her vitamins.”

Liz laughs dismissively when I ask what she is doing in Basingstoke when she could be living an opulent lifestyle in London or New York instead.

“Home is where the heart is and my heart is in Basingstoke. My family is here and my husband’s family is here so my daughter gets to play with her cousins and uncles and aunts and grandparents all the time. My school friends are here and all the friends we’ve made since then; our church is here too.

“Everything that’s important is here. I can’t imagine being in some horrible place like New York just to live in a poxy penthouse. I don’t see the attraction - unless all you care about is posh jewellery and nice clothes.”

So where will Great Guns be in ten years time? Will Liz still be Managing Director? I reckon her charm and warmth would make her a great radio host. She likes the idea but it isn’t something she’s thought about seriously.

“My team is getting to the point where they are becoming strong enough to operate without me so I’m thinking what I can do aside from this. My dad and I wrote a book called Start Up, I speak at lots of conferences so I’m keen to develop that, and maybe some TV. But I would only do TV if it was like The Secret Millionaire where I could make a difference to people’s lives. But I would never give up Great Guns for anything else.”

From disabilitynow website

Very inspiring!!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Technology ...Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT)

Many thanks to Andrew W. for bringing this upcoming technology gizmo to my attention! Sometimes it is hard to catch up with the ever-evolving technological advances. But here is something worthwhile to know!

The 'Portable Sign Language Translator', as its name suggests, translates sign language to text and allows you to make use of it nearly everywhere. This device is the product of a group of scientists in Aberdeen, UK.

Here is the link to the article from the BBC website:

Technology aimed at translating sign language into text is being developed by Aberdeen scientists.

The portable sign language translator (PSLT) would use the camera on devices such as laptops and phones.

An app would then translate the movements into text which can be read by people, who may not understand sign language.

Computing scientists at Technabling, a spin-out company of the University of Aberdeen, are behind the technology.

Their signs are immediately translated into text which can be read by the person they are conversing with”

It is hoped this could transform how sign language users - from the profoundly deaf to those who have lost hearing in later life - communicate.

One of the main focuses is to help young deaf people improve employment opportunities.

Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, a lecturer in computing science at the University of Aberdeen, and founder of Technabling, said: "The aim of the technology is to empower sign language users by enabling them to overcome the communication challenges they can experience, through portable technology.

"Their signs are immediately translated into text which can be read by the person they are conversing with.

"The intent is to develop an application - an app in smart phone terms - that is easily accessible and could be used on different devices."

He added: "One of the most innovative and exciting aspects of the technology is that it allows sign language users to actually develop their own signs for concepts and terms they need to have in their vocabulary."

Sign language users have helped the development and testing of the product since its conception.

Local sign language users interested in becoming involved with the ongoing development can get in touch via

It is hoped the technology could be available as a product by 2013.

* I am still nodding my head long after I read the article* I imagine that BSL would be used in its testing but as the article states about sign language users being able to develop their own signs for concepts for their personal vocabulary, ASL and International Sign Language could be used on this app.

And for those residing around/close to Aberdeen, they are looking for volunteers to participate in their ongoing project as stated in the last paragraph in the article.

So in essence, it's time to get smart...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Happy International Women's Day!

Life cannot continue without women; let's face the fact! So women everywhere, celebrate yourselves!

Like someone said this morning at an event titled "Changing the face of disability" for today's International Women's Day, she hoped to be live in a society where she would first be treated as a woman rather than a woman with disability (WWD). I had an interesting morning.

I personally enjoyed seeing a particular weaving project coordinated by Ella Smit. This woman was the one I mentioned in my blog last year, who taught weaving to some deaf students as a fun hobby. I had a great opportunity to see the beautiful rugs/mats that people (who learnt from her) made. They are usually made by women who live with their families on an abandoned construction site in a very upscale neighborrhood in Abuja.

One of the participants, Mama Biu told us how the weaving became an income generator for her and how she was able to send her children to school and pay hospital bills. The mats/rugs are made of left-over pieces of fabric collected from various tailors.

Well done to Ella Smit who has helped to bring meaning into some people's lives through the weaving project! Here is the flyer of her weaving project:

Every mat/rug has the weaver's label attached and what you pay go directly to the weaver.

And well done to Hilary Adams of British High Commission and Regina Manietti of CBM for organising this event.

PS I must regretfully announce the sad passing of Fatima,a Sign Language Intepreter (for Northern Zone)and who was working with me on a project. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Deaf filmmaker

Wonderful how one ponders on something and "out of the blue", something interesting happens. Here in my case, I was thinking about deaf filmmakers and came across an article on Ted Evans.

Here is the link below:

A few weeks ago, deaf filmmaker Ted Evans (who made The End) was asked to contribute to a Deaf Professionals Day in a secondary school in London.

The day is set up to inspire deaf kids to aim to achieve more. He was asked to make a short film about himself, but has decided to make a short film that will show the kids about deaf people out there, and he’s looking for deaf people in and around London to be part of it.

Ted says: “When I was growing up I wish I’d had role models to look up to, who were like me. I honestly thought, until I was about 10, that me and my friends were the only deaf people in the world… I’d like to remind people these were days BEFORE the internet.”

Ted is looking for inspirational deafies to make a short film that will be inspired by internet film Life in a Day, which drew together footage of different lives to make a compelling film of one day in the world (see below).

He said: “Life in a Day is a great film (with subtitles!) and you can see how you can film a section/small part of someone’s life… in a really simple but effective way. For my film I’d just spend a few hours showing what this person does, and why they are unique and special.

I asked Ted a few more questions…

What’s your aim?

With this short film I hope to be able to put a bit of hope into young deaf people who may be feeling a little bleak and unsure about their future. At the same time I think it would be great to show the diversity and variety within the Deaf community. We are an interesting bunch of people and many of us go on to do great and interesting stuff – but these kids don’t see what we do and they struggle to find role models.

Who are you looking for?

Anyone who has a particular talent, skill or job. It could be someone running their own restaurant/business, someone who is amazingly talented at football, someone who makes beautiful bouquets of flowers, someone who can play a musical instrument , a teacher, a builder – anything!

You just have to be D/deaf.

You can be a BSL user or someone who speaks. You can be Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing or soft at hearing – whatever, it does not matter; I want to film the deaf community as a whole and we all know that it consists a wide range of versatile people with all levels of hearing.

Filming would be very short, a few hours max and you have to be based in or around London. This is because the film is voluntary at this stage and we have very limited time and resources.

What do you hope the final film will be like?

I also have been watching ‘Life in a day’ recently – an amazing film and it has been lodged in the back of my mind for a while. Obviously we can’t film deaf people all around the world, in a single day but the way it is put together and edited is just awesome. I’d love to do something like that but at the moment this is something very small and compact but you never know, we might be able to pull together some funding and develop this idea further and make a longer film, covering more people nationally.

How can people contact you?

The best way is to email me: or you can find me on Facebook or Twitter!

Please be brave and put yourself forward or nominate someone you think is unique. Cast yourself back to when you were a kid – didn’t you strive to find a role model? and wouldn’t it had been inspiring to know that people, who were deaf like yourself, were doing pretty cool things in their lives?

It’s up to us, to show the younger generation that the sky is the limit.

In other news, some students from Bath University are setting up a project and are looking for three Deaf teenagers girls to be part of the film.

The project is a 2 minute trailer for a new book being released by Templar Books called Whisper.

It’s about a teenage girl who becomes profoundly deaf and how she learns to accept herself. The ages they would be looking for are 16 year old girls, and it will be filmed mainly in Bristol and Bath.

Unfortunately it’s not paid, they can pay expenses however. The filming dates will be from the 12th – 14th of March.

You can contact the filmmakers by email:

That's really interesting and I wish Ted every success in his film project which I hope will inspire those not only in the UK but in the developing world as well.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

I had a second encounter with the Central Bank Governor at the meeting held at CBN earlier on. I was impressed. Erudite, yes! I was able to lipread him well enough. But what got me was that he is really disability-friendly!

You may recall from my post on the AIT interview that the CBN governor had formulated an employment policy for People With Disabilities before that interview. I was impressed then and I am still impressed now. During the meeting, he reiterated how CBN had directed banks in major locations to have at least 1 disability-friendly branch ie with wheelchair access.
Someone raised the issue of statements in Braille for those who are visually impaired (and I was dismayed to learn that blind people get short-changed by unscrupulous people. Especially as they cannot differentiate between bank notes-waow,  another insight into the world of visual impairment). The issue of the use of Sign Language Intepreters in banks was something that Sanusi appreciated. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to explain that not all deaf people use sign language -and the use of telecoil (but how many deaf people wear hearing-aids in Nigeria? And how many have the T-function?). Not to worry, I met the Head of HR dept and I will be contacting her to inform her of the different groups of deaf people.
I never paid much attention to the 'retrenchment of PWDs' from the industry until someone brought it up. I understand that this happens a lot with mobility-challenged people. I am, however, very curious to know if a deaf person has been retrenched. Sanusi gave us a touching story of how he offered a job to a bright United Nations employee whose two legs got blown off during the fateful United Nations bombing in Abuja last year. It is very interesting to note that about 6 wheelchair users are employed by CBN and officially no deaf.
However when I got to speak with the head of HRdepartment, Ms. Mojekwu, I had a clearer picture of the situation. She explained that she needs deaf people to come in to teach them (smart lady!). Obviously, it is going to be difficult to recruit deaf people if one has no idea what to expect and how to treat them decently. So I expect that very soon, their disability-friendship will include deaf people. Yay! Banks are public places and I think that it would be a good thing if disability desks are rolled into many banks. Good publicity initiative for PWDs. And good disability-awareness for disability-naive people.

Sanusi has done very well! He even talked about the strategies of encouraging married women spend more time with their families by....working from home. You all know that I don't get impressed that easily... Cool and from what I have seen so far, he a mere talker. He also talked about service as he was taught in a Catholic school. See, I really was paying attention! So I hope that I am forgiven for not informing him that not all deaf use sign language as a means of communicating.

So bank customers in Nigeria, do me a favor and let me know which bank is the first to be disability/deaf-friendly! I'll take it upon myself to ensure that deaf people patronise it. So bring it on!

And someone made my day by informing me that her friend is going to address NASS....with sign language. I'd love to be there to see their reactions.

PS..... I I owe you guys those from last week. I am expecting a copy of the group photo taken at CBN so that goes up when I receive it.