Invited to go on IG LIVE with Ngee Ann Polytechnic Hi! Club

Grateful to Ngee Ann Polytechnic Hi! Club for putting in efforts in promoting Deaf awareness:
1) Invited me to go on Instagram Live and share the topic on cultural appropriation
2) Engaging voluntary sign language interpretation service for the voice-over conversation
3) Captioning the video
4) Allowing the video to be shared on public social media channels

In summary, issues are highlighted in point form:
+ main target audience: Hearing/mainstreamed
+ saviour complex is developed, while aligning with the charity model.
+ encouraging hearing people to join deaf-led groups as many as you can: Deaf Hangout, Deaf Hiking Singapore, Deaf Singapore, EOH-OHANA, Sign With Us Club Singapore, and Singapore Deaf Gain.
+ encouraging them to learn Sign Language from deaf people (best recommended: those who know deaf studies and sign linguistics). Learning in the classroom-setting is not enough.

How to Support the Deaf Community

Today is the International Volunteer Day! We thank every volunteer for their valuable and great effort put in towards helping D/deaf and Hard of hearing.

However, we would like to share our advice to those hearing people who wish to volunteer for and/or with Deaf for the first time. Also, those who wish to form an interest group as a means to help D/deaf. This could be possibly challenging for them. Sometimes, they might not grasp the implications (such as cultural appropriation, disrespect) of their choices when they start volunteering.

What is volunteerism to you? Volunteerism is defined as providing time and skills for the benefit of other people and causes, rather than for financial benefit. However, this is more than just volunteering as deafness does not mean a hearing disability alone. Unfortunately, many of you think that it needs to be fixed or compensated, as in accordance to the medical model of disability.

You have to be an ALLY with Deaf; there is a way of supporting the Deaf Community. You need to be aware of Singapore Sign Language by listening and learning about Deaf culture and their histories, as well as sign languages.

+ Empower Deaf people by giving them opportunities
+ Recommend Deaf artists, content creators, entrepreneurs, media producers, and writers, to your companies
+ Support and/or buy from Deaf artists, business owners and entrepreneurs
+ Getting the Deaf person to be part of your work

Cultural appropriation defines as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand and respect this culture”. Its examples (of Deaf-Culturally appropriating) include:

– Create Sign Language art
– Teach Sign Language (for your own benefit)
– Buy products (such as the “I-LOVE-YOU” sign products or sign language art) from hearing business owners
*Video clips are attached for your better understanding:

Cultural Appropriation of Sign Language for the Game show
Cultural Appropriation of Auslan in Song-Signing for the Voice
Cultural Appropriation of Sign Language Art

Deaf-Cultural appropriation could be avoided:
“Is the business deaf-owned? If not, who created those Deaf culture products?”
“Is the artist deaf or hearing? Did they pay them? Is the hearing artist involved in the deaf community?”
“Will the profits from those products be donated to the Deaf or deaf community? How much?”

With the kind intention of helping deaf people by creating Deaf culture products or other avenues, you inadvertently harm the deaf community. This approach includes making resources without checking to see what kind of resources the deaf community already has. Also, the deaf community’s input on their works is not considered valuable because they feel that they know the best for them. Lastly, spreading information about Deaf culture without knowing, understanding and respecting cultures & languages adds insult to the injury (due to the oppression the D/deaf have experienced for centuries).

We, Deaf, do not need to be saved.
Please support our Deaf ecosystem. Just acknowledge our abilities beyond our deafness.

Lived Intersections #1 @A Good Space

Grateful to A Good Space for the opportunity to let us share and explore mental health with the participants who had joined us on 31 October 2020.

Representing the Deaf Community, I shared my thoughts, opinions and feelings in light of COVID-19. Not only me, but there are other 6 speakers concerning migrant workers, environmental concerns, the trans community, and invisible conditions. You can take a look at the key insights from this link.

If you have anything to contribute, you can drop us an email at Alternatively, you can check us out at our Facebook Page.

Best Approaches to Communicate with Deaf when using the ZOOM platform

It is ideal to use a desktop computer or laptop with a webcam and strong internet connection.

Your phone or tablet can work, but they are limited to a certain number of video windows. They may not have all the same functions that are available on a computer or laptop.
Make sure that you are in “GALLERY VIEW”. In the upper right corner, there is a button for “SPEAKER VIEW” or “GALLERY VIEW”.

Try familiarize yourself with the ZOOM functions and their locations on your screen.
Having the virtual background may blur your signing, so it is advisable to turn it off for easy viewing for Deaf.

Mirroring the video will confuse you if you are learning Sign Language online. So, please disable the mirror effect.
Deaf and hard of hearing rely on sign language and visual cues that is normally shown on the face and body.

So, avoid having the lights behind your back. Also avoid sitting your back to the window. The “SHADY FACE” will be formed, that is, half of their face is shaded or blocked in some way.

Recommended having one steady lamp, directly by your face, for even, steady lighting.
When using Sign Language or interpreters, you are strongly encouraged to turn off autofocus on your webcam.
Sign Language does not focus on hands only. This has its different components; they are seen on the face and body.

So, please reframe yourself from the head to the waist. Also, ensure that your face, hands and body can be seen in the video box/window.
When reframing yourself in the video window, please try keeping an appropriate distance between the computer/laptop and your body.
If you do not know Sign Language, you can use the ZOOM Chat to message the users (publicly) so that Deaf and hard of hearing can be part of the conversations. #inclusivity
Closed captioning for Deaf on the ZOOM platform is not as what you think.

It requires you to type, or to assign someone to type for Deaf, especially when you have more than 2 hearing persons in the meeting.

OR you can engage the paid third-party captioning services. Please check for more details from…/207279736-Closed-Captioning

UPDATED (8 SEP 2020):
New Accessibility features in Zoom for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing users!

1. Multi-pin and multi-spotlight (on Windows & macOS)
With host permission, users will now be able to pin up to 9 participants on their end. The host can also spotlight up to 9 participants for everyone in the meeting.

2. Custom gallery view organization (on Windows & macOS)
Host and co-host can now re-order the gallery view to suit their needs, and choose whether to deploy this view to participants, or allow participants to create their own custom views. Simply click and drag videos to the position you want them in gallery view, and this layout will remain in place until released.

Learn more at…/360048388632-New-Updates-for…

COVID-19 – a Blessing in Disguise

We can say, this is really a blessing in disguise for ExtraOrdinary Horizons!

Since the Singapore Circuit Breaker (CB) – Phase 1 started on 7 April 2020, the short-term future for ExtraOrdinary Horizons was bleak. This set uncertainty for the gig economy. I was part of it.

Everyone had to comply with the face mask rule, so we live in this masked world. Therefore, I turned to online learning technology, such as Edmodo, Kahoot, Nearpod, ZOOM, so on…
To understand ExtraOrdinary Horizons better, here its profile is below:
“Founded in 2011, ExtraOrdinary Horizons is solely run by Deaf as a niche business, to support employment & entrepreneurship, as well as Deaf Art & Music. At this moment, it is by one-person operation. Our main source of income comes from the public; mostly who learnt Sign Language from us. Since 2011, we’ve brought the social impact to 55,800+ people by promoting deaf awareness to them. Approximately 650 students managed to complete their VGC & Basic Communication Level 1 (in Singapore Sign Language); 230+ students at Level 2, and 34 students at Level 3 (till 2019).”

The challenge I faced is the mask rule that made teaching Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) (when students wear face masks) impossible. The face masks have obstructed most of the learning tasks that revolve around facial expressions in the application of SL syntax.
Initially, I had not tried online learning technology before. I decided to try the (basic) ZOOM tool to conduct my ten-plus free lessons for the public. In the meantime, this helped me better understand the strengths and pitfalls of using ZOOM for my lessons in Singapore Sign Language. Now, I’m really grateful to my student-friends for giving me their utmost faith & support in me.

Then, I decided to pay the one-year licence to use the ZOOM technology for my classes. I opened classes from June to mid-November. Also, I received several requests for private lessons. Yeah, my business became better this time, compared to the previous years.

However, I need to consider my self-care period. I also need to revise and improvise my lesson/content delivery because of the COVID-19 period, and partly thanks to the ACLP program that I applied for this year. I hope to complete this program before CNY 2021.

Now, I hope you can continue giving me your support all the way.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

JUN-JUL 2020: Basic Communication Level 2 (TUESDAY)

The Pitch

A HUGE APPLAUSE to this great collaboration among the three big-time theatre companies! 👏🏻👏👏🏿👏🏽👏🏼

Great story! I saw many efforts put in this short film! However, I wish there could be captions for the background song at the end credits!

After Adrian sang in his full emotions, I could feel my love going out all to this collaboration. Then, the end credits arrived with the song that I couldn’t “hear” fully. No captions…!If only this part got captions, I could possibly cry out my heart to everyone who makes art in a variety of forms.

The Covid-19 situation has affected many of us – artists, musicians, theatre creators, so on… BUT what about d/Deaf and Disabled artists in Singapore? We’re also affected – we’re considered as the “non-essential” artists. Even lower than those mainstreamed artists; perhaps at the bottom line.

Pardon me for my poor or lacking writing skills; I wish I could express myself in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL). Not many hearing people know SgSL. I’m accommodating myself to this mainstreamed society in Singapore, just for a little “pitch” for faith.

I wonder why Singapore couldn’t create grants specially designed for d/Deaf and Disabled artists who might be much affected by the Covid-19 situation. Possible to make the application process sweet, short and simple for us?

Many asked us to go try Very Special Arts Singapore. Why? We are often seen as a symbol of charity, just because of our disability. Sign Language is definitely not part of charity. You can’t treat it as your part of your “circus act” – song-signing!

I repeat, what is song-signing? Clearly, this is in support for ableism. Many hearing signers often transliterate words that are sung, into sign vocabulary. More of representing the English structure, without understanding the Deaf culture. Many people see this act by hearing signers, and they applaud their “lousy” signing unknowingly and blindly. Often associated with their “entertaining efforts in helping Deaf”. Are they sincere in “helping Deaf” just with their stupid song-signing?

“No, no! I just practice my signing skills with songs!”

“You should not create and publish those videos, just for your practice! You are entertaining in a WRONG way! You’re murdering the Deaf culture! Also, making the Deaf people divide! That’s not inclusivity that you promote for!”

Another example of culture appropriation in music is demonstrated in this link. Andy Dexterity adopted sign language in his performance for the Voice Australia 2020. What he did on television had angered the Deaf community in Australia. His intention was misled, with the words, “accessible” and “hear your favourite song” as he had failed to understand the heart of Deaf culture. Obviously, it is merely for his own gain – to become popular among his society!

I advocate for Deaf music, that has its continuum in interpreting music and songs in Deaf way. This form of art is led by the Deaf musicians (or music practitioners) around the world. They know their language, community and culture the best. Music has silence, music has noise, music has off-beat notes, music has sign language – self-expression in Deaf way… Deaf music is all about the art of making music in Deaf way. It is not necessarily beautiful, but also it could be ugly! Silent, but noisy. Rhythmatic, but off-beat…

900-Strong Singapore Virtual Choir sings Home (Dick Lee)

Last April, at a short notice, I was asked to participate in this project by Voices of Singapore. You can see me standing out with a green background, and I wear the black top. Anyway, I was delighted to be part of this initiative, and I could represent the Deaf community in Singapore. Also, this could be another platform to show the Deaf music to the public.

Stay At Home, Singapore (Kids’ Edition) | The Straits Times

Impressed by this video. My Deaf music is seen between 0.34 sec and 0.39 sec. Only for 5 seconds. With captions in English, you could feel it better, and it is including more hearing people to appreciate it that way.

Please do not compare me with other big-time musicians, such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Dame Evelyn Glennie. We have experienced deafness at a different time. Dame Evelyn became deaf at her age of 12, and Beethoven started having his hearing problems at around his age of 28. My deafness is discovered when I was two. Our musicality is different; we have acquired music at a different time, too. We have our different music journey.

Ken Kwek has come up with his story, “The Pitch” for three “giant” theatre companies, SRT, Pangdemonium, and WILD RICE. This evoked many thoughts and feelings from me, so I wrote them here as the Deaf art and music practitioner. I have neglected this art & passion of mine for some time, and due to the Covid-19 situation, I resorted to earning enough money from teaching sign language online – my only income source.

Covid-19 has impacted many of us in positive and negative ways. It has taught us many things about life. With making art, will we emerge to succeed better or go down like a good-for-nothing? Do we need collaborations for better support? What kind of collaborations? What will you see yourself in the next 3-5 years, including the toxic Covid-19 period?

We just need a little “pitch” for faith from you all. With this, we will become more resilient and adaptable.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.


Continued from my blog entry dated on 23 November 2018.

With permission from the students who wish to do their school project related to Deafness in Singapore, I decided to publish my answers to the list of common questions, which I needed to tweak here.

*Can you share your story with us? What is a day in your life like?
It is just a typical day of a part-time student, and a freelancer; achieving work tasks in the daytime, while attending classes in the evening. Occasionally, I teach sign language 2-3 times a week. I also perform upon the requests.

*Discussing employment issues that the Deaf community faces, what difficulties do you face when communicating with a hearing person?
I think deaf people should not face such difficulties in communicating with a hearing person. It is all because the mainstreamed society still lacks an awareness about deaf people. Partly, attitudinal barriers and communication systems could be another possible reason. It is not our fault as being Deaf (in the first place) to have such problems with them.

There are various ways of communicating; namely pen & paper, communication technology, sign language interpreting services, note-taking services, video relay services, etc. We keep on finding ways to communicate with people, but we all need patience and understanding from them.

Whether socialising, networking or working, I mostly communicate with hearing persons by writing on paper. If the hearing person knows Sign Language, I will be more than glad to communicate with this person.
If the hearing person meets me for the first time, and does not know how to approach me, I will guide him/her. In the meantime, I self-advocate.

I really admit here; I am much fortunate to be very proficient in English Language and Singapore Sign Language. So far, I face less difficulties in communicating. When I attend lectures, I need to have the sign language interpreter and/or note-taker with me. When they are not available, I will use the app, and this might be the last resort that I gotta turn to.

*The (research) studies have found that only one in 10 employers surveyed have positive attitudes towards hiring deaf people, and one in two admit they have no intention to do so. Have you personally experienced such prejudices, or have you heard of others being a victim of these prejudices?
I understand that prejudice is defined as perceived, biased opinions. Due to my deafness that could be a blessing in disguise, I couldn’t hear anyone who might say bad things behind my back. Unless someone is willing to interpret what’s going on, I will never have any knowledge. However, discriminatory behaviours could be seen, such as not using sign language or pen/paper (other communication modes) on purpose, setting a low wage (as an act of unfair treatment, merely for ‘compensation’), and shouting for a few times (even after having a better clarification at the first approach), or refusing to accommodate to our needs.

*What would you like to say to hearing people about such prejudices?
Hearing people often see us as “people who live in silence”, “people who are often lonely or depressed”, “people who are unable to hear” or “people who cannot speak”. The medical and charity models of deafness are adopted by these people to perceive us in a such way to compensate for hearing loss or deficiency.

This time, we need to reframe ‘hearing loss’ to ‘Deaf Gain’ as in the social model of deafness. The term, “Deaf Gain” was coined in 2005 to challenge those derogatory perceptions by the hearing people, as well as. Proposed by Dr. H-Dirksen Bauman and Dr. Joseph Murray, this notion “presents a response to contemporary waves of normalization that threaten the signing deaf community” (Legg & Sok, 2012), so it calls for an exploration of what it means to be human for equality and diversity. In other words, it reframes the idea of deafness into something positive, offering a diversity of experiences and perspectives that can benefit everyone (whether hearing or d/Deaf). Its examples are demonstrated in the provision of captions/subtitles, and baby signs for hearing mothers and their babies. Knowing Sign Language can be useful when communicating in a quiet place, like a library. Or signers can communicate with one another in far distances without having to raise their voices and disturb other people.

We are not here to be fixed by hearing people. It’s now a time for the hearing people to listen to us with their eyes and hearts, to embrace what we are in their lives, and to figure out ways to accommodate to one another in every environment. In a such way, prejudices could be possibly removed while making judgements about us.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Introduction to Participatory Arts & Inclusive Classroom Pedagogies (Nov-Dec 2019)

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: “My back is aching!” Lily Goh and Alicia acted out that thought. Alicia’s left hand is on the back-hip, while Lily Goh’s right hand crosses over her shoulder-back.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: 14 adults stand in a circle.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Two rows of people pose for the group photo. The standing row holds a string of blue and yellow flags.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lily Goh poses beside Jodi-Alissa Bickerton who is the Creative Learning Director from Graeae Theatre Company.

Grateful to the Access Path Productions for giving me opportunities to learn more about participatory arts, as well as different perspectives from teachers, social-service workers, museum professionals and other leaders. Also learnt about creative access.

The inaugural Theatre for Development (TfD) programme is a participatory arts practice that allows communities to tell their stories, using drama & storytelling techniques. It lasted for 6 weeks.

I’m pleased to have shared some of the Visual-Gestural Communication activities with the teachers and social-service workers, so that they could improvise their pedagogies for future, inclusive classroom. Not only me, but there are other artists, like Kaite O’Reilly and Wheelsmith who offered their insights into their craft.

Led by Jodi-Alissa, she got us to come up with our final product this week. I have tried to invite a few of my deaf friends to watch it yesterday, but all of them couldn’t make it. Alright.

One of my few biggest wishes is to see our local Deaf theatrical scene becoming alive once again, just like the Hi! Theatre so happening in the 1990s. This could be my vision as I have been exploring different crafts of storytelling (since late-2016), and almost all of them are led by Hearing. However, it is really hard for me to apply to what I have learnt from them. At this moment, I have been figuring out how to continue applying my learning, and take a lead for Deaf Singapore Theatre once again.

Looking back to my past memories when I spent together with my former voluntary group, XTOMIC that was under SADeaf, I had been a volunteer for many years (since I started in 1999). I had performed with Deaf & Hearing volunteers. We promoted deaf awareness through our performances, mostly literal song-signing and musicals. Moulin Rouge, KFC Christmas. With ExtraOrdinary Horizons, I continued to present our debut gigs, such as Amazing Deaf Production @Esplanade (2011), Chai Tao Kway

I have shared the above links here with you here to understand better about Deaf and Disabled Arts.

Someone told me, “You’re already out there knocking on doors. It’s Singapore that is failing you, not recognising your talent and putting you on bigger platforms”. Yeah, I have many bad days in my life. Quite tiring to keep on telling the public that Deaf people are capable of doing everything, except hear. But I never give up. Persist all the way. I really hope the world can wake up to us at last, and give us boundless opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Deaf people, as a whole, are good lipreaders.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.

Lipreading is not an effective skill. It is not suitable for the faster mode of communication. Some words look the same on the lips/mouth, for example, MAN, BAN, PAN… Another example is I-LOVE-YOU, that might be possibly misread as COLOURFUL.

Let’s SUBSCRIBE to the Telegram Channel!

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: If a deaf person is having difficulty understanding you, talking louder helps.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Shouting at anyone is considered rude; talking louder to a deaf person is no different. Find other ways to communicate with the deaf; writing helps. Hmm, learning sign language could be fun, and it will bring you unique experiences when interacting with Deaf.

Let’s SUBSCRIBE to the Telegram Channel!

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Is Sign Language universal (the same in every country)?

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Yeah, Singapore has its own Sign Language. It’s called Singapore Sign Language. In short form, it is SgSL, not SSL (Shanghainese Sign Language). There is no official definition, unlike ASL’s. We still wait for our national body to make an announcement about its official definition. We had our community discussion in early 2019.

American Sign Language has its over 200 years of history. Our SgSL is established and developed since the early 1950s. It had its influences from SSL, ASL and SEE2 (Signing Exact English 2) because of national education policies and language policies. Now we develop our locally generated sign vocabulary for our local culture and food.

Let’s SUBSCRIBE to the Telegram Channel!

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

My First-time Experiences with the SSO National Day Concert (2019)


Grateful to the SSO for giving this opportunity to d/Deaf to enjoy the National Day celebrations at Esplanade Concert Hall, especially when the interpretation in Singapore Sign Language was provided for us last Saturday.

I decided to write this blog about my experiences attending this concert for the first time this year. My opinions are different from those of my Deaf peers who attended it.

The first half of the concert was complex for me to listen, partly because of my profound deafness. I know that Jeremy Monterio is renowned for his jazz piano music. It’s really hard for me to follow this kind of tempo and rhythm. Even if I play this kind of song, it is really very challenging for me. Well, many see me as the Deaf musician in Singapore. Sometimes, they mention that I remind them of Evelyn Glennie, who is a famous world-class percussionist. I actually do not like to be the subject of comparison, based on musicality. Yes, I am different from other deaf musicians, like Dr. Azariah Tan, and Ron Tan. Although I had obtained the certificates in ABRSM Percussion (Grade 6 & 8 with Merit), I may not play great as you think.

When I watched Jeremy Monteiro Jazz Trio (namely, Jeremy Monteiro (piano), Tamagoh (drums) & Christy Smith (bass)) perform with the orchestra, it was really intriguing or fascinating to look at them. However, it was tough to listen (even if the sign language interpreter tried her best interpreting their music).

During their music playing, I then remembered about my ReSound multi-mic. I quickly connected it to my hearing aids, and the sounds became clearer (with less noise, which is cut off from the (open) environment). But still, there was no difference.

The second half was more enjoyable for my peers and me. We shared their feedback with one another. The interpretation quality of this year was better than the previous one as she tried her best to allow us to resonate our deaf, visual minds (based on musicality) to the music & songs, such as Kampong Overture, the Awakening, March On, Our Singapore Dream and Home, with her interpretation. It would be better and more powerful to have conceptual interpretation and representation by Deaf.

Not only having the interpretation for Deaf, but also feeling music (through air-filled balloons) is another alternative for music appreciation. There are many other ways for us to enjoy arts and music, and it could be the efforts of promoting inclusion.

Now, I remember why I started learning percussion music. Again, thanks to the SYNC SINGAPORE programme (that was conducted by Jo & Sarah, and organised by VSA Singapore), I am able to make my ideas happen, and I am working very hard on them. My ultimate goal is to let Deaf know more about music, and let them be more included in music. Lastly, I hope to see more of their Deaf music where they can express themselves, whether playing, or telling stories in the form of song-signing or writing.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Commentary: Power In Our Hands

One of the video trailers published online.

‘In Our Hands’ traces the changes and growth of the Deaf Community in the UK from the early 1900s to the present day. The documentary looks less at what it means to be deaf and instead looks more at how social groups and movements have supported the community over the decades. The documentary is comprised of a collection of interviews interspersed  with footage uncovered from the British Deaf Association (BDA) archives.

The documentary traces the development of the BDA and the Deaf community in the UK from a close but disperse set of individuals who meet occasionally for sporting events through the them becoming a very structured and politicized group in the early 2000s. It looks at how the community has flourished and their pride and sense of identity has grown of the years, as well as their struggle their journey away from reliance on hearing individuals into becoming a self-governing association.

A key change in the community is their sense of self-pride, spurred by a boost in confidence and belief in their own identity and abilities. The documentary suggests that in the early part of the century deaf individuals were often poorly educated and were often reliant on hearing ‘missionaries’ for jobs and for instructions in their day to day lives. They were reluctant to sign in public for feel of ridicule and instead their social lives revolved around local Deaf clubs and associations.  These clubs arranged sporting events around the country and it’s clear that the competitors and their communities prided themselves on achieving high levels of competence in their chosen sport. These events served as a meeting place for people to socialise, broaden their networks and provided a platform for political ideas to spread and grow.

The documentary then goes on to show how various key individuals within the BDA started to help shift the mindset of the community by helping to showcase the achievements of individuals in the workplace, providing more educational support and by encouraging people to start believing that they are worthy of such rights and opportunities. These changes started a shift away away from the community relying-upon and accepting the instructions and beliefs of the hearing community and instead a focus on inspiring deaf individuals to move into leadership positions. This happened gradually with the first step being the existing ‘missionaries’ being replaced by leaders who were Children of Deaf Adults (CoFA) into BDA leadership positions (they were considered to understand the community better than external missionaries). This then led the way for deaf leadership.

Along the way the BDA encouraged film as a key medium by which groups and individuals could document their culture and language – something not possible in written form or via photographs. The BDA also championed and supported researching into signing and were part of the discovery that it is in fact a language which they then christened British Sign Language (BSL) and have been campaigning ever since for it to be recognized as an official language. The documentary challenged the audience to think about the importance of community support and the importance of having an understanding of the communities culture and history, and that this support and teaching come from within the Deaf community rather than an external reliance on the hearing.

Something that wasn’t touched upon within the documentary was the evolution of BSL itself, however the fact that it has evolved quite significantly within the last century was very apparent from the footage itself. The earliest footage suggested a very heavy reliance on finger spelling. Perhaps this may be because other signs weren’t as established, or perhaps because individuals had signs that they used among their own friends/family but which weren’t standardized across the whole community and hence spelling was the back-up. I do not know. As the footage rolled forward in years it was notable to see the proportion of spelling vs. gesturing changes significantly suggesting both a more standardized and comprehensive language system.

The documentary is educational, inspirational and stands with integrity: there is no spoken language during the show except for some of the old footage which had an original spoken translation accompanying it. I’d certainly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in Sign Language, Deaf Culture and also to anyone who’s interested in seeing social-change in action. 

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

9th International Deaf Academics & Researchers Conference (11-13 May 2019)

THEME: “Deaf academics across disciplines and generations”

This event took place in Iceland. It is supported by Supported by Málvísindastofnun Center for Sign Language Research, University of Iceland. You can check it out at

Since I was unable to attend it this year (because of my school exams), I would like to keep the list of presentations that I wish to look out in the future. I obtained it from my subscription:

  • Pre-conference workshop: International Sign (Ramon Wolfe)
  • Session theme: Deaf academics – who we are and how do we contribute?
    • Opening Lecture: Waves of interdisciplinary science can make global change (Barbara Spiecker, Camille Ollier, Caroline Solomon, Linda M. Campbell)
    • Workshop 1: Can critical disability studies benefit research into deaf people’s everyday experience? (Mette Sommer, Octavian Robinson, Hilde Haualand)
    • Workshop 2: Researchers as mixologists: Selecting suitable ethnographic research methods (Erin Moriarty Harrelson, Steve Emery, Annelies Kusters)
  • Session theme: Reading & writing skilla
    • Presentation: Deaf academic knowledge production: The role of reading groups (Annelies Kusters, Erin Moriarty Harrelson, Steve Emery, Sanchayeeta Iyer)
    • Workshop 3: Writing tactics, tips and hacks – smart strategies for academic writing (Maartje De Meulder, Annelies Kuster, Joseph Murray)
  • Session theme: Careers and strategies
    • Presentation: Deaf academics across disciplines and generations (Cathy Chovaz, Kristin Snoddon, Linda Campbell, Veronique Leduc, Kathryn Woodcock)
    • Workshop 6: Reaching the top of the mountain: navigating the tenure track process as a deaf faculty member (Christopher Kurz and Jordan T. Eickman)
    • Workshop 7: Mapping deaf academics’ places and spaces in academia (Dai O’Brien)

This earlier format is more of reporting here. Anyway, I understand that there are a very few deaf researchers in Asia. This road to become the researchers is really tough because of lack of financial support, accessibility and other unforeseen circumstances. In my personal opinion, it is very challenging for me this time because of my present/current situation. Maybe, I try opening doors for the future generations. No guarantee here…

Alright, I have been following DAC2019’s tweets. Also, I could see the efforts from deaf researchers to stay connected with one another around the world to improve empowerment and representation in deaf academia. Some websites, such as are not updated, perhaps because of lack of support or resources. 

Now, I understand that these conferences are held every two years since 2002:

11th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Vienna, Austria ● 2023

10th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Montreal, Canada ● 2021

9th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Reykjavík, Iceland ● 2019

8th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Copenhagen, Denmark ● 2017

7th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Leuven, Belgium ● 2015

6th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Lisbon, Portugal ● 2013

5th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Florianópolis, Brazil ● 2010

4th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Dublin, Ireland ● 2008

3rd International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Stockholm, Sweden ● 2006

2nd International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference
Washington, DC, USA ● 2004

Deaf in Academia Workshop
Austin, Texas, USA ● 2002

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.