Tuesday, 20 March 2012

An apology from Richer Sounds

I have received an apology from the Customer Service Manager of Richer Sounds, he has spoken at length with the assistant who shouted at me. I greatly appreciate the fact they have been able to look into this and resolve it so quickly. The sales assistant genuinely thought he was trying to help me by raising his voice and has apologised for causing me distress. I’ve had people raising their voice at me before, it’s the shock that, despite telling the person I was deaf several times, they kept shouting at me, whereas others in the past have understood straight away. This to me this is still ignorance and as a result I won’t be returning to their store.

The Customer Service Manager has explained that Richer Sounds take equal opportunities very seriously and are also the founding members of an Employers' Forum on Disability (although I’ve just done a quick Google search and couldn’t see any details so it’s quite possibly an in-house thing, I don’t know without delving further). I have also been told that they actively work with a number of charities supporting a wide range of disabilities, including those who are deaf & hard of hearing…. further Google searching has revealed this: http://www.richersounds.com/information/friends which shows that they support the RNID, now known as ‘Action on Hearing Loss’. Which is actually very good to know.

I have accepted their apology having been reassured that the sales assistant will receive further diversity awareness training. For me however, well it has made me look inwards at how I interact with shop staff, my confidence has taken a hit, I’m concerned about my lip-reading and indeed my voice….and I hate my voice, it goes all over the place. If I can speak more clearly and more precisely then hopefully things like this won’t happen again.

This shouldn't have happened the way it did though.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Equality, 2012 style!

I wanted to type something happy and cheerful with my new blog update as lots of things are happening at the moment that is putting a smile on the old face. That all crashed and burned today though, I’m sorry.

Being deaf in a hearing world is difficult, having any disability in an able-whatever world is difficult but you learn to take most of it on the chin, you know, the famous ‘British Stiff Upper Lip’ and all that. Just because I use an artificial cochlear implant does not mean I have 100% percent hearing as detailed elsewhere on my blog. I will never attain that (although would dearly love to) and in the same breath my hearing is very different from an able-hearing person’s. Remember, they have millions of nerve endings whereas CI users have a string of 16 electrodes working in unison, which equals a BIG difference. And then we don’t always wear the implants 24/7, you see there’s no rule book, there’s no finger pointing, it’s down to us when we wear them. Today I wasn’t wearing mine …..having said I really don’t think it would have made a difference either way, I’ll explain…..

I have been on the look out for some speaker stands and other bits and bobs that will make my access to music and films better so with that in mind I popped to Richer Sounds at London Bridge. Had a look around the shop, no stands on display were suitable so I asked an assistant for help. The first thing I said was that I was deaf and that I lip-read so he started shouting on tip-toe towards my left ear. Now I’ve had this before so I repeated that I was deaf, that I lip-read and there was no need for him to shout! He responded by continuing to shout towards my right ear! Can I just point out that when you’re shouting your lip movements are exaggerated so it doesn’t help regardless. I told him again in a more abrupt manner that I was deaf, I lip-read and for him to stop shouting at me…. He continued to shout into my face! I just said ‘Stop!’, by this time several customers in the shop were watching and I was feeling about 3 inches tall. I told him there was no need to shout, I was deaf and that no matter how much he raised his voice I wouldn’t be able to hear him. By this time the adrenaline had kicked in, I was quite honestly riled with a bemused smile on my face whilst my brain is going “OK, what the hell am I supposed to do now, cos I can’t lip-read in this state”…. I told him promptly to write down what he was saying and on seeing his illegible handwriting just said I’d order online, smiled, turned heel and left the shop! If I stayed I would have said something I’d have regretted, I have a very sharp tongue….. but this time, and it doesn’t happen often, I was left completely dumb-founded. More dumb-founded than disgusted, I mean that has to rank as one of most belittling situations I’ve been in. I was saying to myself straight afterwards ‘Did that really just happen’?

This incident has made me question myself, and of course the companies we (the deaf) deal with daily… How often do the deaf get the ‘rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights’ look when you tell a cashier (as an example) you’re deaf and you lip-read? How many deaf people prefer to make payments by card so they don’t have to worry about lip-reading at the cashiers, just pay and go, or go to the self-service tills to avoid a possible embarrassing lip-reading fail altogether? My guess would be quite a lot of you!

Now, I’ve had a reply on Twitter from Richer Sounds to say they’re going to look into this and that they take it very seriously, but do they? Call me cynical, time and again you’ll get an auto-response, an apology, an ‘it won’t happen again’ – the fact is it DOES happen again! It’s diversity awareness and its impact in the work force, if the staff are not made aware they don’t/won’t know. Although that is still no excuse for what happened today however, it was just out and out pure ignorance. That person really shouldn’t be part of the shop’s customer-facing team, end of!

Fast-forward a little bit further. On my way back to the office I grabbed some lunch from Tesco, and took my place in the queue at the cigarette counter with it being shorter than the others. Bear in mind I was still angry about what had just happened. The cashier was one of those ‘bunny-in-the-headlights’, you tell them (politely, I add!) that you’re deaf, you lip-read and for them to speak clearly… suddenly they just go wide-eyed and gawp mouthed, you can literally see their brain clanking over with the ‘..what am I to do, what am I to do?..’ … here’s a little hint, just speak, just speak normally! I lip-read, it’s part and parcel of me being deaf, if I can’t lip-read you I will ask you to repeat what you’ve said or show me the price display, don’t get frustrated, don’t shout, don’t mumble, don’t be angry, don’t be shocked, just repeat what you’ve just said in a calm manner….. It doesn’t work though, so I just, as usual, used my card to make the payment, didn’t bother with a thank you, and left.

Interactions such as the one in Tesco are normally a daily occurrence, you’re pretty much prepared for it, you take the embarrassment, you’re used to it and you shrug it off, and because it’s an almost daily occurrence…you grow a thicker skin. Sometimes you lash out, but it’s not very often ….best to smile, wave and walk away.

I took a long walk back to the office, my head was in a state of turmoil, I mean what else can we do? I had a cochlear implant to help me ‘fit in’ to the hearing world (and don’t regret having that for a moment, read ‘my music stuff!’). In a way I wear headphones with my implant ‘cos the able-hearing do that too, it becomes part of my camouflage I suppose. My wanting to fit in, to be accepted and treated normally, like everyone else.

Back at the office I couldn’t really concentrate on the work in hand, my head a whirl with ‘what else am I supposed to do’?

I had one more run-in, bad luck comes in threes they say. This time with a lawyer who had been sat on a file all day, I needed to sort it out for tomorrow’s court…. Went over to see her, asked her if the case was ready and she just, without even facing me, mumbled a response. I’ve told her several times that….yes, you guessed it, I’m deaf and lip-read, by this point I really couldn’t have given a shit. Didn’t even respond to her, turned heel, spoke about what had happened with my line manager, told her that she needed to deal with it and that I was going home! And that was the end of my day.

It's bloody hard work!

I’m now sat here with a large Bacardi and coke to take the edge off!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Things to do before I die....

Mountain bike around the following areas:
Canadian Rockies, Yellowstone, Durango, Whistler & Yosemite.

Design and produce at least three styles of mountain bike frame whether for retail or just for close friends, the team and family under my own brand name.

Visit San Francisco, LA, New York, Sydney for the Mardi Gras, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Ayres Rock, head back to the French Alps, pop across to Aussie to see my other sister and her family.

Design a small run of apparel using my own brand name.

Support and encourage as many talented mountain bike riders from the North East as I possibly can with my bike team.

To invest in the maintenance of the bike trails at Hamsterley Forest, County Durham.

I would love to be able to run my bike team at world cup levels full time (my ideal job).

To support my family as much as I am able to.

There will be more to follow but this will do for now.....

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cochlear Implants, Music and Other Things in Between....

This has been on my mind for a while but I haven't found the time to sit and type, in a nutshell I'm knackered with the day job and usually collapse in a mess on the sofa once I get home!

I know a few of you have read the intro to the blog down the right hand side, it's time to give this an update. Along with the bikes, music is a big big big big love of mine and it is by and largely the reason why I went for the cochlear implant. My eldest sister ensured that I never, ever, gave up with music and I owe her a hell of a lot for that.

Now, before I get into all of this update I want to point something out... cochlear implants take a lot of work, time and effort, it's a different way of hearing. Quite a few people who go for the implants expect too much at first, or at least that's how I've seen it/read about it. You really MUST stick it out and be prepared for hard work. The garbled 'noise' at first, when it's first switched on, can be very daunting, but give it time and the whole world opens up for you. It really, really, is an amazing piece of technowizardry, it will assist your lip reading no end, that's for sure. You will learn to differentiate between male and female voices, you will recognise different members of family and friends from the sound of their speech pattern alone. It's absolutely bloody amazing! Granted a few of the people who have been implanted out there have not and never will get on with their adaptation, I also appreciate and respect that too. It's each to their own, everyone is different.

Now... I spoke with my audiologists about how I, well, let's say 'appreciate' music.

When on the move, day to day it's via my iPod Touch (another gadget I wholeheartedly recommend to deaf people out there who use a CI or normal hearing aids). I use this in two ways. The main one is via headphones of which I currently have two pairs; one a pair of large Technics DH1200 DJ headphones and the other a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ES7's. The second way is via a direct connect wire that connects directly into the behind the ear CI processor unit with the other end into the iPod. (Please note; where any prices have been stated on the links above, you can get them far cheaper by shopping around).

Now, each is with its pro's and con's. I have had recent volume problems with my music files, I use recorded performances which have been subtitled. Being a bad workman I blamed my iPod straight away however as a process of elimination this didn't seem to be the case. Phil had a listen to some of my new music and said that it was fine, however when we're using the iPod in the car hooked into the stereo system and me using my normal CI ear hook he puts the volume up on the new stuff....!!! Hmmmmm *strokes chin*. So anyway... I'm waiting for another re-tune, it's due regardless as I like to keep on top of things.

Now, whilst working all of these things out I used my 'direct connect' cable. *Deep breath*..... I'm going to try to explain the 'hearing' with this, which is difficult.... OK, by using the direct connect cable it gives a full range of beats, pitches, tones and rhythms, although it can be quite 'tinny' at times. It's that tinny bit that is off putting, having said that, once you've had your iPod (or whatever music source) playing this way you get used to it and the brain, or in my case anyway, switches the tinnyness 'off'. The big downside of the direct connect cable, and I don't want to make any enemies at Advanced Bionics by saying this, is that the quality of the direct connect cable, is, well, pretty shit to be honest. I have had to have the lower thicker cable replaced, ooooh, once every two months, that's not very good. I'm also concerned about the thinner upper cable too, it's something that Advanced Bionics really need to look into and develop further. When I'm listening to my iPod on the move using the direct connect there is only so long you can take the screeching feedback of the cable when it's reaching the end of its life, which is often!

This details the direct connect wire, it connects half way down to a thicker cable before going into the music source.

This moves me onto the headphones.... first up are the Technics DJ ones, I got these because of the size of the cups, they will fit over the external behind the ear implant parts and I wanted to push the bass of my music. They're very comfortable to use, I use these with both the iPod and the Mac system, using a custom DAC amplifier with the computer set up. I did a LOT of research before putting the cash down for these, I knew I wanted big cups to fit over the implant parts and DJ cans were ideal. Sound-wise they're bloody good headphones, assisted by 50mm driver units so they give you some serious wallop.....at the expense of low range frequencies. Remember that DJ headphones are designed for use in loud night clubs. So, with this in mind I set off to find a second pair of 'phones and opted for the Audio-Technica ATH-ES7's. I tried a few on, I was looking mainly at the Grado range, but they're open-back headphones meaning anyone would be able to hear what I was listening to...... which is not a very good idea when commuting! The Audio Technica's are much smaller 'on the ear' headphones but they offer a greater depth of sound, they don't fit over the implant parts either, merely resting on them.... something I am very wary about when travelling in case of sound leakage.

This details the front headphone microphone, there are several interchangeable parts for the CI to make it as versatile as possible.

Technics DJ headphones, note how they sit over the implant parts comfortably.

Audio Technica headphones, don't offer the same coverage as the Technics ones but offer a greater depth of sound. This photo also shows the processing unit's switch, where you switch between each hearing map program (there's more on this further down), and the volume dial above that.

Even with the Audio-Technica cans I'm still not picking up the very low range when compared to the direct connect cable. However these headphones give me a really warm sound, a 'fuller' sound than the cable does. And it's this I wish to work on with the next re-tune. Another thing about wearing headphones with the CI is that I personally feel, how do I say this, hmmmmm, that I am more part of the "mainstream world" as opposed to a "deaf person", I'm more part of the world I used to be living in pre-1985. That makes me feel really good. I mean, look, lost my hearing at ten years of age, followed by 19 years of silence and then 'BANG', get my hearing back, albiet in a slightly different way. That's absolutely flabbergasting in my books, I'm often struck with a sense of personal disbelief that I can 'hear' again, it's amazing. I just 'hear' in a different way. It's also amusing when taking the headphones off and telling whoever you're speaking to that you're deaf, the looks on their faces are hilarious!

I have three programmes installed on my processing unit, the top is day to day speech and direct connect cable, the second is the headphone setting and the third was the supposed 'updated' headphone setting but it sounds bloody awful, the tuning session was rushed sadly. Without getting too technical, the processing unit can be set with percentages per connection and internal microphone, so with the headphones I think it's set at 20% internal microphone with 80% going through the front headphone 'piece'. (The 20% is so I can hear any sirens or alarms in the environment etc).

As for the hearing itself, although I slated electronic music in my blog intro this was soon after the switch-on and I was still growing accustomed to it all. I now have to say that I LOVE electronic music; Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, John Foxx, Gary Numan, the more contemporary ones being Calvin Harris, La Roux and Robyn as examples. I reckon I cover the whole 'pop' spectrum from the mainstays of Madonna and Kylie (yes, camp as tits pop!) through to Hurts and The Drums, onwards through the alternative with Radiohead, Portished and beyond. Rock wise, as anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows, I am a huge, huge, HUGE Skunk Anansie fanboy alongside Marilyn Manson and Garbage. I pretty much like most genres. I feel life is too short to be discriminative with music! (I still hate Haircut 100 though, that won't ever change!)

Moving on to how I have my iPod set up, I have two 'areas' as such; the first is the whole lot of subtitled music performances, (well not the whole lot as I have several thousand on my iTunes but they won't all fit onto the iPod sadly *very sad face*), the second is a selection of tracks that I can follow without having to look at the screen, my 'Travelling Tunes' playlist!

Now, it may seem easy enough to read, however I must point out that a LOT of time has been spent listening and watching the tracks with the subtitles in place to match the sounds to the lyrics. BUT some singers are very clear when they sing, step forwards Pete Burns from Dead or Alive, yes really! Same with Skin from Skunk Anansie (but then I would say that wouldn't I!). Due to having the implant for so many years, it's a continuous learning curve, it won't end. I can work out specific words by sound alone, obviously not as fluently as an able-hearing person can, but for me this is magical. As I said before the CI is an amazing tool to assist with lip-reading, and indeed your own speech and pronunciation because you hear yourself back and not just with the 'sound' in your own head.

What I would like to see happen now is for Advanced Bionics to collaborate with a audio company, I reckon that by sharing their knowledge it would push the CI so much further with music reception. I feel the CI could be a lot smaller too, and indeed the direct connect cable issue really needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later as it's letting the whole system down.

On other notes I use the normal ear hook for concerts, cinema, TV, music via a sound system etc, it's very liberating. Having as I've said before it also takes 'work' on the recipient's part, and you do grow tired of using the implant, you do get sick of garbled noise (I really don't recommend busy pedestrian areas with implants, it will drive you NUTS!). I don't wear my implant all of the time, right now whilst typing this I'm sat in silence. I use it mainly with music, on my commute with the headphones on, at home with a subtitled DVD playing, at the cinema (when combined with subtitles) and the theatres (when combined with Stagetext/in house captioning). All other times it's rare I wear it. I am using it more now to assist with my lip-reading, in the old office there was a lot of background noise, it's much less so in the new one which makes it easier for me. It still takes 'work', people need to realise that.

I don't have hearing like an able-hearing person has, I never will have hearing like an able-hearing person, unless there's a huge advance in the technology available! But the hearing I have I treasure, I feel very lucky and very privileged to have had the opportunity with my cochlear implant. Sure, I'd love my hearing restored, show me a person who has become deaf later in life that doesn't, there won't be any! And yes, I do get very depressed, I do get very down, I do miss my hearing a great deal, to listen to music again in its full entirety remains a dream but in the same breath I also feel very lucky to be where I am today.

So there you have it the latest installment of how my hearing works!

Hope all goes well for you out there, will blog again soon!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Going back to my roots.....

It's a labourious task looking through the job vacancy listings and not being able to see the wood for the trees, it all seems to merged into a grey splodge on the screen that you can no longer focus on! You eventually find positions you know you can do but are no-longer 'qualified' for; times have moved on, procedures have changed, technology has advanced and you're left up a certain creek without a paddle! Times they are a-changing as the saying goes..... So I'm going back into education, it will cost a small fortune but it's in subjects I've wanted to do for years yet haven't got around to; Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Dreamweaver, AKA the Adobe Creative Suite. I'm not getting any younger either!

All the way through my teens and early 20's I was forever armed with my camera, snapping away all over the dales, forests, fields, towns and cities. I was once part of the Barnard Castle Photography Club and made some great friends there, we also had full access to the awesome Darlington Media Workshop which is still run today by Paul Dillon, an all round good chap. What he and his posse don't know about photography isn't worth knowing! So I learned how to develop and process my own film and photographic prints, one thing lead to another and I ended up at the University of Northumbria studying for a Contemporary Photography Degree. Then I left education, struggled to find full time employment with photography (let's face it I was in the arse-end of the country as far as 'proper' work was concerned) and upped sticks to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Once there I stumbled into the job I'm still (swearing and grudgingly) still doing ten years to the day, argh! Needless to say the cameras had been put down and left to gather dust. I know full well that I have completely and utterly let my family down by doing this, such was their support and encouragement for me over the previous years, and I'm very sorry.

I have found getting back into photography very, very, very intimidating, it's all down to technology you see, I never trained with digital. Ironically it came in just as I was leaving University, damn it! It actually scares me. Well until now, I really MUST do something, I'm bored to tears with the day job, sick of dealing with the same people's shit each and every day!

Being in London there is ample access to photography exhibition upon photography exhibition upon photography exhibition and these have re-ignited the old juices to get back into 'the death of a moment' again. So..... cue: signing up for adult education very soon, currently emailing back and forth to sort out my disability support, alas they can't afford a note-taker but I reckon with my implant assisting my lip-reading it will be fine. I need to reply to their latest email with regards to meeting the head of the course and discussing things face to face, which will be being done as soon as I finish this blog update!

I have been slowly re-arming myself with photography gear, at the moment it's all 35mm based around a Pentax ME Super. These cameras are built like tanks and give great pictures, I can't ever see me using a different type of 35mm camera. Lenses are being picked up for next to nothing now and again off eBay as was a Manfrotto tripod which I got for peanuts. As far as digital goes however the boat will be being pushed out as soon as funds allow for probably a Canon 7D, a rather pricey bit of kit (and again another reason why I am so intimidated by digital).

So this ball is now officially rolling, I've always been a creative, I inherited my father's genes (by the way, he'll deny he's a creative, yet he does carpentry, 'nuff said!). When you're in full time office based employment (or at least it seems in my case) you have your soul completely destroyed and everything goes stale. You need to wake yourself back up, rein yourself back in and take stock, i.e. kick yourself up the arse and tell yourself to stop moping, which is actually easier said than done I add!

On the look out for a good, higher end, Plustek film scanner at the moment, that way I can get my 'back catalogue' of negatives scanned properly ready for digital manipulation, and hoping that they haven't been too damaged over time..... *gulps*. The rest of the creative suite is a natural progression. Have wanted to learn to build websites (Dreamweaver) since goodness knows when, this will all tie in nicely with video editing (Premiere Pro) and graphic illustration (illustrator) ..... so here goes!

Will keep you all in the loop, Lee x

Friday, 2 September 2011

That Sideways Glance.....

That sideways glance that always gets you and triggers the old memory box. Driving around the countryside, sat in the passenger seat of the car and each time when passing a cyclist, wham……..

Suddenly you’re riding out of Barney, up past the Glaxo factory, you know the hills ahead, you count them down. Up towards Egglestone, passing the Moss Mire telecoms mast on Windy Hill keeping the cadence going, back in the days when you were actually fit. Suddenly the sweeping Upper Teesdale panorama opens out in front of you, the meandering River Tees at the bottom of the valley framed by the rugged stonewalled fields. Plunging down Folly Top and taking the right after the garage at the junction below in the shadow of the wooded Stobb Green, you can smell the pine filling the air, you smile. It was a brief respite, past the old houses and The Three Tuns Inn, around the large broad leafed tree and soon climbing again, you can see the Moorcock Inn up on high ahead, hit with more memories of good times spent there with friends. But today it’s just you and the road …..and the sweat. It’s a relief to pass the Inn, the last hill short but steep, out of breath you keep on, down and around the road’s tight hairpin, over the almost Guinness stained beck, climbing slightly again where you’re offered a choice.

Do you lead off through the right side gate taking the fire tracks up over the windswept Egglestone Moor? The long and twisting jagged climb, you know it well. Knowing that the pain in your legs pushing you further on will reward you not only with panoramas of breath taking, literally, natural beauty but also the swooping (and whooping) singletrack through the purple heather before Hamsterley Forest looms up ahead, all dark and foreboding, yet exciting all the same?

Or do you stick to the road ahead knowing that you will soon be up on the windswept Stanhope Road. The open road with rarely a passing car, just you on your pedal-driven machine with Mother Nature for company? The sweeping stonewall-quilted emerald green moorland enveloping you. Pushing ever further upwards knowing that your reward will be riding down the old tin mine track, your old friend, leading on to the fire roads of the forest?

Then the snap, it’s just you in the passenger seat of the car, that sideways glance that triggers the old memory box……

Friday, 8 July 2011

Plagiarisation and pulling your pants up!

I've been working voluntarily as a mountain bike racing team manager since the early 90's, Development Racing, it's something I thoroughly enjoy, it's challenging, emotive, rewarding and I still hold great enthusiasm for it. During the later 90's, I managed to score one of my team riders at the time a small frame and forks sponsorship with an American so-called boutique brand. I knew their UK distributor at the time was struggling so set about putting a business plan together with the help of the local Business Link, which took me quite some time as I had never done anything like that before. The end result was a pretty much water tight plan. So, faxed it over to the American manufacturer, ......who in turn faxed it to their then UK distributor and they saw their UK sales take off using my ideas. That was very nice of them wasn't it..... it was sheer naivety on my part, but, what can you do?!

So onwards I trundled..... moved down to London in 2006 and have been trying to get myself into the broadcast music industry. I have worked on my own programme synopsis to open popular music up further to the deaf and hard of hearing. Thus I have been busy plugging away to various sections of the industry, the production teams, the channels et al. On receiving a reply from the UK's (possibly global?) leading music channel in regards to a meeting with two of their senior executives I jumped at it. It was suddenly all very exciting. So I arrived all eager, was introduced to the execs and had a rather interesting meeting. I gave my 'sales piece' at it were and no sooner had I mentioned the eternal catchphrase ....'...to increase target audience access to music...'... they went off on one giving me various percentages being met and further targets for the coming year in regards to each of their channels' subtitling output. Completely and utterly missing my point! I tried three or four times to get the conversation back on track to no avail I was being drowned out by the numbers and percentages being thrown at me, so admitted defeat and left them to it. Interestingly though, they have no deaf staff from what I am aware of!

Moving on, a further opportunity arose for me to meet the senior exec of a production company that produce music shows for a mainstream TV channel. The meeting was fantastic, it really was, he took what I was saying on board, we had an in depth chat and threw ideas around. Now this meeting was on a Tuesday lunchtime, their main music TV show was being broadcast that Friday night, recorded that same Tuesday evening. Lo and behold he had changed his production company's programme format using my ideas, needless to say he didn't do a good job of it mind but...... oh bloody hell!

And on I trundled......

I applied for a broadcast music based role with a mainstream TV channel. The application was successful and I was in the final 10 out of some 4,000 applicants, this was, to me, a feather in my cap as I was the only disabled person there. I fought a good fight as it were and although not selected for the job made some good contacts. I was later invited back to a disability and ethnic networking evening with the channel. The level of support they gave me at the start with access to what was being said in the auditorium was absolutely brilliant. However with the actual networking and drinks afterwards it was much more difficult. It was held in a dark on site bar which made lip-reading very very difficult, I couldn't wear my implant as there was loud music being pumped out and a lot of background noise. Although I wanted to speak to so many people there I couldn't, it was too difficult and rather than make a fool of myself by not being able to communicate properly I left the event feeling very down heartened.

Decided to have another bash at importing American bicycle frames to the UK, met with the Business Link people again about how to do it. The guy there didn't really speak to me, merely gave me internet links to look at and read and told me to set up a business bank account. Absolutely fucking pointless! I wanted to know face to face what I do about tax payments, import duties, how and when it's paid - they didn't offer any help. Needless to say this didn't get off the ground, I'm still in the process of trying to close the business bank account (yes, the bank really are that incompetent), and still paying national insurance contributions on a business that no longer exists - damnit!

I'll now skip to the fore.... most recently after a discussion via email, I was able to meet with another exec, this time from a big international music label. I thought the meeting went OK, it wasn't great as was in a coffee shop near his building with background noise playing havoc with my cochlear implant, my lip-reading wasn't too good of which I apologised for and on top of that I was very nervous as was so hoping that it would lead somewhere. I learned how the company worked, the filtering down between the various in-house labels per genre of music. It was concluded that the guy would speak to the company's HR and arrange a meeting with them for me to discuss things further. And that was the last I heard from them, despite me chasing up by email a few times.....

I laugh to myself at times. Just one little opportunity is all I ask for, one little crack in the door that will allow me to get my first foot on the ladder. Admittedly a lot of able-hearing people, from my own experience, find a deaf person who is so into music a little too quirky to comprehend, this barrier needs and must be broken down.

As a deaf person in a hearing world I feel the best way forwards is to go self employed, but this in itself throws up even more problems. Disabled people NEED support in order to do this and from what I have seen so far it's very scarce, or where it is available, it's substandard. So sick and tired of dealing with people who are all mouth and no trousers that seem so prevalent in this day and age.

Just keeping your determination and your self-worth, keeping on fighting...... after such a time you get sick of fighting though, casting your pearls before swine, and wish that some people out there would just give you a decent break.

I'll step off my soap-box now!