Emily Howlett: Modern technology is great for deaf folk, but old stuff is great too (BSL)

Posted on December 4, 2017

You know what? I really love technology. It doesn’t always love me (trying to add a picture to a MS Word document without destroying the layout, computer screen and several nearby houses is beyond me).

To watch Emily’s article signed in BSL by Helen Foulkes, press play below, or scroll down to continue in written English!

But my life, as a Deafie, is inarguably so much easier and happier with a bit of modern tech.

Back in the dark past, when I was a youth, if I wanted to phone a friend, I couldn’t. In slightly later years, a minicom arrived. I still couldn’t use a phone for spoken conversation, but I could laboriously type out shortened sentences on a Stone Age typewriter and wait half an hour for the reply. It felt like the best thing in the world.

How easily pleased I was back then…

If I wanted to go shopping, I had to go to the actual real shops and try to communicate with actual real hearing people. I hated it; I always used to try and make sure I had £5 or £10 notes to pay for everything so I didn’t have to ask what the price was and find the right coins – tills didn’t have digital displays back then.

Shopping was just hideous. Especially for clothes… Being a Deaf teenager and having a bra fitting with someone talking to your back or, worse yet, your boobs, is even less fun than you might imagine.

And yet, it was fine. There wasn’t really any other option than to just get on with it. The world wasn’t made equal for everyone, and that’s just how it was. Suck it up. Keep calm and carry on.

Except, it’s all changing now. The world, and how we communicate, how we live, is changing so fast that, according to science, our brains literally can’t keep up with it. And the playing field is levelling (slowly).

Nowadays, it’s all online. It’s all on my laptop and in my phone. Everything.

Phone calls? Well, it’s hard to choose between Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp Video, Glide… There’s even live video links for interpreters when you need to talk to some pesky hearing person rather than a fellow Deafie. Phone calls are no trouble to a Deafie with tech.

Shopping? All online, my friends. There’s a website for everything and anything. You can even upload your measurements and get a perfectly fitted bra delivered to your door, with nobody talking pointlessly at any part of your anatomy. Apparently.

The modern, technology-based approach to life admin really is great. Having a proper keyboard and screen to talk in real time with Access To Work doesn’t make the actual conversation any more fun (or any less infuriating) but it does make a practical difference.

Being able to text friends and family instead of traipsing the streets trying to find their house to talk in person is also wonderful (I used to wear my trainers out faster than even the kids in the running club did).

Only thing is… This last week was a bit hard. Everyone has times like that, it’s the way life works. Suck it up. Keep calm and carry on.

Over the last few days, I received quite a lot of supportive texts. A few emails. They are so hugely appreciated. Honestly.

But I also got some hand-delivered flowers. I got a hand-written postcard. And I got one or two real live hands to hold, and have real life hand-signed conversations with, attached to one or two real live people.

Modern technology is BRILLIANT. I’ve just been reminded that, alongside the awesomeness, the old, prehistoric parts of my brain really love some good old-fashioned stuff too.

And in time, when all the things fade, I know which I’ll remember.



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