Jen Dodds: Things I am pleased, and not so pleased about, this Christmas

Posted on December 20, 2013

So, it’s that time of year again.

We’re ordering food weeks in advance, wondering whether greetings cards (yes, actual cards, on actual paper) are still the “in thing” or not, and trawling the internet for hard-to-find Lego.

Life suddenly seems more complicated, with more parts than usual. It must be Christmas!

This year has been particularly interesting because my wife and I were conned – in the nicest possible way – into teaching our son’s entire primary school how to sign Silent Night.

I’m usually up for a challenge, but I’m not a BSL teacher, so standing in front of assembly and teaching a load of kids how to sign “Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia…” is not something I’d ever planned to do.

Funny, that.

I’m so glad we did it, though, because the kids were enthusiastic and really good, and I know from some parents that it sparked up lots of Deaf/BSL related conversations at home.

This came just after a recent House of Commons “discussion” in which MPs refused to consider putting BSL on the national curriculum because it doesn’t have a written form. What a rubbish excuse! They could sort it out if they really wanted to. Nothing’s impossible.

It was obvious at my son’s school nativity play that their tiny amount of BSL tuition had made an impact; quite a few of the kids tried copying the interpreter throughout.

And, after they’d all signed Silent Night, one boy carried on signing bits of it at random intervals, with a big smile on his face.

I was struck by how natural he was, and my heart broke a bit when I realised it was all the BSL he knew. For now, anyway.

Nothing like a bit of seasonal politics to get me going!

And talking of silly governmental policies, it was nice to see Access to Work announce that they’ve set aside £2 million to help disabled people take up work placements.

Is that really silly? No, but I do wonder where the money came from.

In a giant sized coincidence, January is going to be a challenging month for lots of Deaf people who are advertising for in-house interpreters to start then, because Access to Work have told them to avoid booking freelancers… to save money.

As I understand it, there haven’t been many applications for these posts, probably because they’re underpaid, unsupported and just basically wrong.

Sickeningly, some Deaf workers are being asked to have “non communication days”, when, er, they don’t communicate with people. Er, hello. Isn’t this a breach of their human rights?!

Indeed, as the Stop Changes to Access to Work Campaign Group point out, deaf people often need more hours of AtW support than other AtW users do… yet, the government’s own definition of discrimination states that “You can discriminate indirectly with working conditions or rules that disadvantage one group of people more than another.”

Oops! The government might like to have a good think about that, then? Bit embarrassing.

I can think of many reasons why the “non communication days” are wrong, even if they save loads and loads of money.

Mostly, though, I’m having unpleasant Scrooge-style visions of Deaf people in workhouses, staring miserably at walls while everyone around them is jolly and full of Christmas spirit.

On a more serious note, a Deaf manager whose high level job is being affected by the decision said, “Sometimes urgent decisions need to be made; without support, these are often taken over by other members of staff. As a manager, this leaves you feeling powerless and that you have lost control.”

Gee thanks, Access to Work, and a merry Christmas to you too!

So if you haven’t already, sign the Stop Changes to Access to Work Campaign petition – click here to add your name.

And while you’re in the petition mood, let’s not forget that all Stephanie McDermid and nearly 12,000 other people want for Christmas is a few subtitles – click here to sign that one too!

But, all is not lost. I can guarantee that Claire, the most famous 5 year old with Deaf parents, is going to cheer you up after my Christmassy rant (sorry, folks, but I don’t make the news!)…

A merry Christmas and a happy and accessible 2014 to you all!

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (

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