Deaf journalist and documentary maker Cathy Heffernan was the producer behind an item on Channel 4 news about communication with Deaf children.
The item was split into two videos by a member of her team, and they went viral on social media. One was about the difficulty that parents of Deaf children face being able to learn BSL, and the other about a school in Manchester where all children are learning BSL in order to include deaf pupils.
We asked her about making the original item and what is next for her.
What is your role on the items you’ve been making for C4 news?
I was a producer on the original item (which was later split into two videos for social media) working with the C4 News Film Fund team who commission items for the No Go Britain series.
How long have you been working on them?
I started developing ideas for the series back in March and among them was something looking at how there’s a postcode lottery when it comes to funding to help parents of deaf children to learn sign language. While I started researching in March I didn’t started on the story properly until April.
How many items have you made?
Just the one. The No Go Britain series is running all year though and looks at a range of issues around disability. Hopefully I’ll do something else for them later this year!
What has your experience of making them been like?
It’s been a exciting and refreshing experience – I was working with people who had very little or no idea about deafness, sign language, how polemic the whole issue of CIs and oralism vs sign language is and so on – but they really got to grips with the issues.
So we were able to work together to simplify the story so that a mainstream audience would be able to understand the issues without going so far that we missed the point.
There was a respect among those I worked with – from the freelance shooting director and editor to the Film Fund team and Jackie Long, C4 News social affairs editor who did the voice over – for the issues, an understanding that it couldn’t be boiled down to “all deaf children must sign”, that it is more complex than that. And that was really good to see.
I also made contact with many parents of deaf children during my research for this story and hearing their stories has been fascinating. it was both inspiring and depressing to see how much work they are doing to ensure that their children get the best start in life – it’s great that they are doing this but it goes to show how lacking the services that are supposed to be supporting them are.
The item has been widely shared in two videos on social media, what kind of response have you noticed?
I’m not really on Facebook these days after going cold turkey in January (only have a dummy account for work purposes!) so I haven’t really seen the response there but it’s got good feedback on Twitter – one thing that seems to come up is how people say BSL should be a school subject available to everyone. With some schools piloting a GCSE in BSL at the moment, could that become a reality soon?
What’s up next for you?
I received some funding from the Mary Raftery Fund in Ireland to do an investigation for an article – which I’m now working on… then it’s back to looking for the next freelance gig!
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out 7 things deaf people want you to know!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- BSL Zone: TV programmes in BSL for the Deaf community
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Hearing Choices: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people