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Careers event at Furze Platt Senior school

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A successful Careers event

Elaine and I attended Furze Platt Senior School’s careers event on Thursday 23rd of November. A large number of Universities, Colleges and Employers were on hand. And a good number of year 9-11’s attended with their parents.

Now I had to admit, as a previous student of FP seniors, the careers advice I received certainly didn’t include working with Deaf people. Despite having passed CACDP Level 1 when I was 14, the school didn’t really nurture this interest. Which is why it is awesome to be able to go back and widen the children’s perspectives on their potential employment options!

Interactive stall

Armed with plenty of new leaflets and a big box of Cadbury’s heroes, Elaine and I sat up our stall. We took along our simi specs. These have different examples of sight loss. And we persuaded the children to try them on. We also had ear defenders. Using the simi specs of cataracts and macular degeneration proved popular. Most of the children, and a number of their parents, knew of older family members who had these sight conditions. We asked the pupils what they could and couldn’t see with these glasses on. With the macular degeneration glasses most children said they would find it difficult to leave their house, to see who they were talking to and everyday tasks such as reading would be difficult.

Then we asked them to add the ear defenders. A great number of our stall attendees at this point went rigid. “It’s horrible”, “I feel underwater and isolated”, “It’s quite scary” were a few of the comments. Some of the braver ones were willing to be guided around a very crowded library.

Future options

This evening was a great way to insert a small bit of sensory awareness training. But the aim of the evening was to provide information about the careers that are available to school leavers. As followers of Indigo Access will know, we are often looking for new staff, because of the demand on our service. But we know that as well as Communicator Guides and Communication Support Workers, there is a raft of jobs connected to Sensory needs.

So once we had captured their attention with the experiences of dual sensory loss, Elaine and I were able to tell them about the career pathways available. Social Work, Rehabilitation for people with a visual impairment, BSL-English Interpreters, Teaching Lip-reading. Moreover we also promoted the colleges and Universities that provide specialist degrees and diplomas. There is a surprising number of careers when you look into sensory needs!

We look forward to returning to next years careers event. And we’ll definitely think on how to make our stall even more interactive and fun for the next round!



Lipreading – an introduction!

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Lipreading introduction

According to Action on Hearing Loss 1 in 6 people in the UK have some form of hearing loss.

Here are our top facts about Lipreading in the UK
  • We all lipread a little bit

Most of us use lipreading skills without realising it. Being able to see someone talking helps us fill in the gaps if we can’t hear due to background noise.

  • It isn’t all about the mouth

Lipreading clearly does require the person to watch a speakers mouth. But successful lipreading also involves watching the tongue and jaw movements, follow rhythm and stress, watch facial expressions and body posture. Knowing the subject, being aware of context and using residual hearing also adds to a successful lipreading experience.

  • Only 30% of spoken English is visible on the mouth

A lot of our speech sounds made inside the mouth or at the back of the throat. You can mistake visible lipshapes too. The visible speechsound of “Fuh” (placing the top teeth on the bottom lip) looks the same as a “Vuh”. Van and Fan will look the same on the mouth.

  • Learning to lipread won’t help you become a spy!

There are many things that impact on a person’s ability to lipread another person. Accents, mumbling, speaking in a different language, facial hair, lighting all impact on the clarity. In addition being tired or hungry can reduce your ability to concentrate.

  • Learning lipreading doesn’t hinder the success of a cochlear implant

Previously cochlear implantees were advised to only build up their access to sounds through their implant. However recent research shows that using lipreading can assist in better hearing. (

Indigo Access offer private 10 week classes. Contact for more information!


Restaurant awards and noisy eateries

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The Good Food Guide 2018

No, you haven’t stumbled upon a different blog. But it started in an article in the Guardian on the 17th of August. It began by celebrating the Cornish restaurant Outlaws. This seafood restaurant is now number one in the UK according to the Good Food Guide. Previously it had been L’Enclume in Cumbria. Although partial to a nice prawn and scallop or two, I have been to neither place. And I suspect the waiting list now to get into either will be too long and deter me from trying.

However, what piqued my interest wasn’t so much the praise heaped upon the Port Isaac eatery, but the second part of the article.

Restaurant awards and noisy eateries

Aside from the restaurant awards, it also highlighted noisy eateries. According to this mainstream report “the guide says readers have complained in unprecedented numbers that UK restaurants are getting noisier. With music “played at Glastonbury force” increasingly spoiling the dining experience.” (

Since 2016 Action on Hearing Loss have been running a campaign. This campaign is called the Speak Easy campaign. I wonder if you have heard of it? Basically this charity is asking restaurants, pubs and cafes to reduce the noise in their establishments. After all, if you have a hearing loss and the music is blaring, then your hearing aids will amplify this noise. It increases your difficulty in communicating with your friends and family, colleagues and the staff. Socialising becomes increasingly stressful. And then people withdraw from these events. So you would think Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants would want to have repeat custom rather than driving people away. The power of the pound and all that!

Noisy eateries are not new news to hearing aid users. Many of my lipreading students complain of places that are noisy. Wooden floors and bare tables bounce the sound around even more.

What can I do about the noise? 

For more information and to get involved go to

Leave a review! Facebook, Twitter, Google, Trip Advisor feedback are all powerful social media routes you can take. This is useful if you have tried to explain your position to an uninterested manager.

10 million people in the UK have a hearing loss, that’s a lot of customers who are affected.

Complaints about our service

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Complaints about our service

Indigo Access welcomes feedback from our customers. We know that at the heart of great customer service is being able to put right what we have got wrong. Receiving a complaint can help us improve our services. And we appreciate it can take a huge effort for people to complain.

But often people don’t know how or where to complain. This is how to do it! The aim is to help you know where to go. When we have let you down. This blog is about Indigo Access’s complaints procedure.

To make things simple we have a 3 stage process.

Stage 1 Complaints

You tell your worker that you are unhappy about an aspect of our service no later than one month from the date of the event.

The worker will try and put right what they can.

Stage 2 Complaints

The response from the worker in Stage 1 has not fixed anything and you are still unhappy. As such we will offer you support from the company so you can contact the Director of Indigo Access. You can put your complaint in writing, on DVD or alternatively made in person.

The Director will undertake an investigation. And completes this within 14 days of the initial dispute.

The Director will email you and let you know the progress of the investigation.

Reparations will be offered when your complaint is upheld. This could be by means of an apology or by providing a service that you should have had. In addition we will review our procedures to make sure this event won’t happen again.

Stage 3 Complaints

If we cannot resolve your complaint, Indigo Access will refer you to the Local Government Ombudsman.

As a result this will complete our process, and will occur within 28 days of the initial dispute.

Deafblind Specialist Assessment

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The Deafblind Specialist Assessment – getting you the right support

It is the end of Deafblind Awareness week. For some people in the community this means that they have become more aware of their rights as deafblind people. However, it appears that there is an awfully long way to go before deafblind people get the services they need.

A starting point in England is to ask your local authority for a deafblind specialist assessment.

There is specific legislation that applies to people who have a combined sight and hearing loss. This should make the process simple. However, there are occasions when the local authority may not be up to speed on such matters.

This is information to support Advocates of people with dual sensory loss, when challenging decisions made by the local authority.

Deafblind Legislation

As an adult who has combined sight and hearing loss which impacts on access to information, communication and mobility, the overarching piece of legislation that applies in the Care Act 2014. More specifically the Care and Support for Deafblind Children and Adults Policy Guidance as issued under section 78 of the Care Act 2014.

Local authorities must follow this guidance unless they can demonstrate legally sound reasons for not doing so.

In the Executive summary it states local authorities must:

  • ensure that when an assessment of needs for care and support is carried out, this is done by a person or team that has specific training and expertise relating to Deafblind persons – in particular to assess the need for communication, one-to-one human contact, social interaction and emotional wellbeing, support with mobility assistive technology and habilitation/rehabilitation;

This is further explained in the following sections:

  1. “Any person carrying out an assessment must be appropriately trained”
  2. “Where the assessment relates to an adult who is Deafblind, it must be carried out by an assessor with specific training and expertise relating to those who are Deafblind”
  3. “Training should be of Qualifications and Credit Framework or the Open College Network level 3, or above where needs are higher or more complex”
What training qualifications?

According to the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) ( an OCN level 3 qualification meets the minimum standard for assessing people who have non complex deafblindness. Furthermore they qualify this statement with “primarily aimed at local authority social care staff responsible for the identification and assessment of older people with age-related deafblindness”.

An assessment completed by someone without the necessary expertise should warrant a complaint to the local authority.

Getting the right support

The executive summary makes it clear that local authorities must:

  • ensure services provided to Deafblind people are appropriate, recognising that they may not necessarily be able to benefit from mainstream services or those services aimed primarily at blind people or deaf people who are able to rely on their other senses;

Again, this is clarified in part 36 of the guidance.

Moreover in point 38. “Local authorities will want to ensure that they are able to access the services of specifically trained one-to-one support workers (eg: communicator guides, intevenors, language service professionals) for adults…for those people they assess as requiring one”

Challenge the local authority on this.  If they have said you would benefit from a communicator guide, make sure you are provided with one.

I need support to challenge a decision

Unfortunately we are unable to act as an advocate. Get a copy of your deafblind specialist assessment. Get a copy of the local authority decision process. Then use an advocacy service.  Follow the local authority complaints procedure. Contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, if you are still unhappy (



Age related hearing loss? You aren’t alone!

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Hearing loss occurs in 1 in 6 of the population. And over half of those over the age of 60 will develop some form of hearing loss.

Presbycusis is the name for hearing loss which occurs due to the aging process. Typically it is a slow developing condition, that if often difficult to notice and affects both ears equally.

Indicators of age related hearing loss can include:
  • Voices seeming muffled
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
  • Difficulty in understanding female voices compared to male ones
  • Hearing birdsong


Why is the loss of hearing so devastating?

The sense of hearing enables us, on a primitive level, to keep us in touch with what is going on around us. It is the ability to hear our own breath, our own footsteps, that there are people around us. Hearing provides us with a manner in which to be alerted to danger. For instance, police or ambulance sirens alert us to pull over in our cars. Smoke alarms inform us to leave a building. Most importantly hearing allows us to communicate easily with another person or gives us access to information via the television or radio.

When hearing is diminished so are our abilities to interact with the world. The psychological impact of deafness is one that infiltrates all aspects of our lives, and one that can illicit strong feelings of grief: anger, despair, bargaining, denial and depression.

Loss of employment, family breakdown, social isolation and a decline in mental health are reported side effects of becoming hard of hearing or deafened and recent research has shown that those with a hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.

Hearing loss is not simply a lessening of volume, it can affect certain specific frequencies. Which can lead to accusations of “selective hearing” from friends and relatives. Why else could you hear your male friend ask if you would like to go to the pub, but not your wife ask you if you would like a cup of tea? It might be a case of the higher frequency and tones found in female voices are now the speech sounds that have been lost.

Audiologists agree that the sooner you take steps to address your hearing loss, the better.

What are your experiences of acquired hearing loss? Leave a comment as we’d like to know!






Old £5 notes and missing information

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The old £5 notes in the UK cease to be legal tender on the 5th of May

There is nearly £165 million old £5 notes in circulation, or hiding in piggy banks. But as of midnight on Friday the 5th of May 2017, you won’t be able to buy anything with them. So what happens if you have a stash of old money? The clock is ticking to spend them in shops or restaurants. And what happens if you get one in your change today? It turns out that your bank is not legally obliged to exchange them. However, the Bank of England notes never lose their face value and they will exchange them. So if you find an old £5 note down the sofa next week, you can always get your money back.

Information about the old notes going out of circulation can be found on tv, online and in newspapers. But what happens if your first language isn’t English?

A tale of missed information

Back in 1997, as a new assistant social worker, I was working with an older British Sign Language user. He was a dapper chap, and in his late 80’s. And had asked me, because we did that sort of thing then, to support him to access his local shop. He wanted to buy a new blazer. Marks and Spencer’s was the choice of the day. So before setting off I asked him if he had enough money for the outing.

He taps his jacket pocket and signs “plenty”, with a big smile on his face. So we headed off. Using me to facilitate communication, he was able to ask the shop assistant a variety of questions about the cut, cloth, make of the blazer. And he found one that he liked so decided to buy it. The cashier ran the item through the till. At which point Dapper Chap pulls out a wad of old money. A range of £1, £5, £10 and £20 notes.

Old money!

Now, the notes he had with him went out of circulation between 1988 and 1994. Here we were many years later. The shop assistant looked at him, them and me. “I can’t take those”. Dapper Chap was crestfallen. So to try and rectify the situation we marched, well walked quite slowly, to Dapper Chap’s bank. Who, with a bit more communication support, were able to understand the problem.

Why the problem had happened was due to a lack of access to information. BSL has a different grammar, so newspapers were not accessible as he didn’t understand English grammar. There were no signed news programmes available to him. Subtitles on the news were too quick and too complicated for him to understand.

The wallet of expired notes were exchanged. And Dapper Chap went off to buy the blazer.

The suitcase

We returned home and I went over the information that had been given; jokingly I said “no more old money?”. His face cracked into the broadest grin and he walked me to his wardrobe. From the depths of the cupboard he pulled out a suitcase. And he opened the suitcase. “Plenty” he signed.

British Sign Language – an introduction

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Sign Language awareness week March 13th to 18th

According to the British Deaf Association there are approximately 87,000 Deaf British Sign Language users in England. Another 64,000 people use British Sign Language. These might be parents, grandparents or children of deaf people.

Here are our top facts about British Sign Language

  • It’s not the same as English

British Sign Language is a visual language with a grammar structure distinct from English. Instead of “What is your name” in English, a BSL user would sign “Name you, What?”.

  • It isn’t all about the hands

BSL does clearly use hand shapes. But it also requires facial expressions, eye gaze and body posture. This adds depth and meaning to the language.

  • What do you mean it’s not the same all around the world?

Sign languages develop within deaf communities naturally. They develop out of groups of people interacting with each other. They create a system and then hone it and regulate it. This was observed in 1980 in Nicaragua.

  • British Sign Language is visual

Before you go “D’uh!” what we want to say is…there is no written equivalent. Therefore Deaf BSL users who are writing in English are doing so in their second language. For some deaf BSL users their English literacy levels are much lower than the average non-deaf UK school leaver. Written information is often complex and may not be easily accessible for a person whose preferred language is a visual–spatial language.

  • Learning BSL as a baby does not hinder the learning of spoken language

Babies acquire signs before the ability to articulate spoken words. Therefore they can learn to communicate their needs to care givers at a quicker developmental stage. Babies who are deaf and use their residual hearing, can do this too. For more information on the arguments supporting signing and speech go to

Indigo Access are looking forward to celebrating Sign Language Awareness week!

Royal Berkshire Fire Service

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Fire service visitor badgeFree Home Fire Safety Check

If you meet the following criteria, you are eligible for a free home fire safety check. An Officer from the Royal Berkshire Fire Service will visit you in your home. They will identify how to make you safe in your home and reduce the risk of fire.

Royal Berkshire Fire Service have recorded 0 accidental fire deaths this year. This is due to the work across their Prevention, Protection and Response departments.

Berkshire Fire Safety criteria
  1. Over 65 years of age
  2. Restricted mobility
  3. Impaired sight / hearing
  4. Drugs / alcohol dependency
  5. Mental health issues
  6. Learning disability
Sight and hearing loss

This is the reason why I went to the training day today. I wanted to know more about how we can make referrals to this service. Moreover I wanted to find out about what equipment the fire service provide. It turns out it depends upon which unitary authority you live in.

Everyone who has difficulty hearing or seeing (or hearing and seeing) across the county can request a Berkshire Fire Safety check. You can do it yourself online at Or by email at Alternatively you can phone on 0800 587 6679.

The fire service have specially trained crew to visit people with sensory needs. They will check your home for fire risks. They will also deliver information on kitchen and electrical safety. Additionally they will provide smoke alarms where necessary. Importantly for people with hearing loss, these will use a strobe light and vibrating pads. The Berkshire Fire Safety check can also provide a coloured cover for your smoke alarms, to improve contrast,. This can help people with a sight loss. They also give great advice on using bump-ons. As they help visually impaired people know when appliances are switched off.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a rented property or own your home. The Berkshire Fire Service safety check is for everyone who meets the criteria.

Don’t delay, contact them today!

Online: Email: Phone: 0800 587 6679

Deaf Awareness training at Bracknell Forest Homes

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The challenge was to provide 60 minutes of Deaf Awareness, to be delivered in a lunchtime session at Bracknell Forest Homes.

Being biased, but we smashed it!  Feedback included: “Josie was excellent”, “enjoyed the course, very interesting and helpful” and “Could be longer”.

Unlike other providers of Deaf Awareness, our session concentrated on the needs of the customers who have an acquired hearing loss. With 1 in 6 of the population having some form of hearing loss, the need for good communication skills are always relevant.

Tip 1: Get their attention

Make sure the person with a hearing loss is watching you. Eye contact is crucial. You might need to touch them on the arm to get their focus.

Tip 2: Introduce the topic

Context is crucial and we have a tendency to waffle before getting to the point. Letting the deaf person know “We are talking about this….” gives them a head start and cuts out the amount of concentration and processing they will spend on lip-reading information that isn’t needed.

Tip 3: Repeat, Rephrase, Write it Down

There is only so many times a person will feel comfortable in asking for you to repeat something. So, before everyone feels really awkward, repeat what you’ve said once. Then think of a different way to say it. If your message hasn’t been understood then write it down, using key words.

What do you think of our top tips? Are there others that you think are useful?