Mike Fahey: How my local auction house gave me full access… accidentally

Posted on February 6, 2018


A long time ago I visited a car auction house to see if I could get a cheap car, I viewed the cars a day or so before the actual auction, picked out two cars I liked, decided on the price I wanted to pay, and then asked my mother-in-laws partner Alan to come along and be “my ears” on the day.

I was totally shocked by the noise generated by this massive crowd of mostly men and roaring car engines and struggled to distinguish any usable sound whatsoever, relying on my lipreading skills to manage the experience. My two powerful hearing aids were soon switched off to prevent a massive headache starting.

I had a clear view of the auctioneer mouthing total gibberish as he went through the lots at unbelievable speed, the hammer banging down every few minutes being my only way of knowing that cars where selling fast and furiously.

Soon, Alan tapped me on the arm and nodded “your car is next” he mouthed. All senses alert to the auctioneer as I bid at the low point and Alan tapped me every time I needed to bid again. When my price was reached he made a cut throat sign and shook his head “No”

On the second car I was successful and came away with a decent car for a few hundred quid so I was quite pleased.

The point is that the whole experience was nothing less than trauma inducing… the only way I managed was with Alan at my side making sure everything ran smoothly. I came away a bit of a wreck!

So jump forward around 25 years and the news that we have a new local Auction House opening in my home town. I’m a much more relaxed type of guy these days so my wife and I decided we would go and have a look on one of the viewing days… just for fun! I mean we all love these Antique road show programmes that are on every time you put the telly on don’t we?

So we are looking around at all the items for auction (mostly junk) and I try a pair of steel ethnic drums which sound pretty good with my cochlear implant, lovely deep ringing boooom sound and the resulting vibration through my fingertips makes my face light up (according to my wife) shortly after this I also spot a beautiful set of Chinese calligraphy brushes which I just like the look of, and I would use in my painting…

As we are walking around we are approached by a member of staff and asked if we are okay. I ask about accessibility on the day, thinking back to the first car auction, and she says you can bid online if that’s better, but otherwise Nigel (the auctioneer) has a very loud voice and I should be able to hear him. I could also ask my hearing wife Sara to bid for me on the day! She was so apologetic I just smiled and said I would be fine.

So… the big day arrives and we turn up just after the bids start, stand at the back of the crowd observing… and straight away I notice the auctioneer up on his podium, his partner sat beside him typing away at a laptop, and… a big wide screen TV on the wall with a photo of the item being auctioned, a Lot number, and the bids constantly updating as people in the room and online bid for things… in other words… accessibility!

My jaw dropped, realising that I could take part in this auction was a big thing for me, most people take stuff like this for granted, but for once I was in there following every step of the way! I bid on the drums and stopped when it went over my price, then bid and won the brushes.

Well pleased with how things had gone I stood up to pay and the lady we had spoken to at the viewing day came over to ask how it had gone… I beamed and said yes it was great! She was very puzzled at my exhilaration until I pointed to the TV, and then she got it… the auction was totally accessible to a deaf person and they had not even tried to make it so.

I said the only way they could make it more accessible is to have BSL interpreters, but really they were very much within their right to promote their auction as an accessible event. Even BSL users would be able to follow the auction with ease. (not sure if BSL users would agree though?)

It turns out that she was part owner of the family business and is now making sure to spread the word in auction circles that accessibility for the deaf need not be something that costs the earth, something they are already doing is helping to make people’s lives easier.

If only more organisations would have accidents like this.

Mike is a semi retired Fine artist working from his Home studio in Lancashire. He attended University as a mature student, gaining his BA and a Masters degree in Fine Art. He displays his work in exhibitions around the UK and abroad.  As a profoundly deaf lip reader, he is just one of a large family with a genetic history of deafness. Mike is married to Sara (who is hearing) and is father to a son Jonathan (hearing) and a daughter Katherine (deaf on one side) In October 2014 Mike underwent surgery to have a Cochlear implant fitted and is presently enjoying learning to hear again. The implant has been good for him, but, as he is constantly reminding people, he still considers himself a profoundly deaf lip reader… “The CI is really good and certain people think it’s a miracle cure for deafness but no… I still need to focus really hard on lip reading and communication in daily life… and when I take the processor off… its quite a blissful sensation, the quietness.”

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