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DefBird's Say!


At the opening session of our 14th International SHHH Convention in New Orleans this past June, we had the pleasure of hearing The Rt. Hon Lord Ashley of Stoke, C.H. He spoke about his service in Parliament, his struggles with his hearing loss, and how he overcame the limits imposed by his deafness and continued to serve his constituents. I was very impressed with this man and inspired by his speech. Lord Ashley kindly gave me permission to publish the keynote address on my web site so that those not present at the convention can read it and enjoy it and perhaps, benefit from it.



Brenda Battat's Introduction:

IT'S NOW TIME TO INTRODUCE OUR KEYNOTE SPEAKER FOR THIS AFTERNOON.

HEARING LOSS IS GLOBAL.  PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES ARE FACING THE SAME ISSUES RELATED TO HEARING LOSS AND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO COPE WITH IT.

HERE AT THE CONVENTION, WE HAVE ATTENDEES FROM SIX DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, AND IT'S THEREFORE VERY FITTING THAT WE HAVE AS OUR KEYNOTE SPEAKER LORD ASHLEY FROM ENGLAND.  HE BRINGS AN INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE THAT EXTENDS OUR UNDERSTANDING.

LORD ASHLEY WAS BORN IN 1922, AND HE'S HAD A VERY INTERESTING PAST. AFTER  LEAVING SCHOOL AT AGE 14, HE WORKED AS A FACTORY LABORER, FURNACE MAN AND CRANE DRIVER FOR EIGHT YEARS. HE RECEIVED SCHOLARSHIPS TO OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE  UNIVERSITIES AND WAS FOR A TIME A BBC RADIO PRODUCER.

 HIS CAREER IN POLITICS STARTED IN 1966 WHEN HE BECAME A  LABOR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT.
 HE HELD THE POSTS  OF PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC  AFFAIRS AND  THE SECRETARY OF STATE  FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY.

 IN 1992, HE WAS CREATED A LIFE PEER, AND HE IS TODAY A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.

 IN 1967, LORD ASHLEY LOST MOST OF HIS HEARING  THROUGH A SURGICAL PROCEDURE THAT WENT WRONG.  HE  SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED GIVING UP POLITICS BUT HE WAS  ENCOURAGED TO STAY ON BY HIS CONSTITUENTS AND BY HIS   PARLIAMENTARY COLLEAGUES. HE WAS ABLE TO CONTINUE THROUGH LIPREADING AND OTHER  MEASURES, IN PARTICULAR, THE SUPPORT OF HIS WIFE,   PAULINE, WHO IS ALSO WITH HIM HERE AT THE CONVENTION.

IT'S MY PLEASURE TO WELCOME AND INTRODUCE LORD ASHLEY. AND, OF COURSE, I'M PARTICULARLY DELIGHTED, BECAUSE HE  IS A FELLOW COUNTRYMAN.  WE DO HAVE THE SAME ACCENT, ALMOST.

 SO, LORD ASHLEY, PLEASE COME UP AND WE'D LIKE TO HEAR YOU   NOW.   COME UP, LORD ASHLEY.

Lord Ashley's Address:

WELL, THANK YOU FOR THAT VERY KIND INTRODUCTION WHICH IS WARMLY APPRECIATED.
IT WAS RATHER TOO KIND, REALLY, BUT I DO APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH. MY WIFE, PAULINE, AND I APPRECIATE THE INVITATION TO ATTEND THIS GREAT CONVENTION.

WE HAD HEARD OF SHHH SOME MANY YEARS AGO, AND WE HEARD IT  FROM AN AMERICAN FRIEND OF OURS WHO SEEMED TO UNDERSTAND  THE ORGANIZATION VERY WELL INDEED.   AS WE GOT TO KNOW HIM BETTER ,IT TURNED OUT THAT HE WAS  MORE THAN A WELL INFORMED PERSON ABOUT THIS CONVENTION,  AND,  ABOUT THIS ORGANIZATION.  IT TURNED OUT THAT HE WAS  WISE, DEDICATED,  ENTHUSIASTIC, BRILLIANT, PERCEPTIVE, PRACTICAL AND  IDEALISTIC.

HE ALSO HAD A GREAT VISION FOR THE FUTURE, AND HE WAS ALSO A LOVELY GUY  AND HIS NAME WAS ROCKY STONE.

THIS ORGANIZATION THAT ROCKY FOUNDED HAS BEEN MAKING A REALLY SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THE LIVES OF SO MANY  OF YOU INTHE UNITED STATES AND ITS INFLUENCE  ABROAD HAS HELPED MANY PEOPLE IN MANY COUNTRIES, AND I  THINK THAT'S A VERY CONSIDERABLE ACHIEVEMENT.

IT'S BEEN CHANGING THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CLIMATES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF MANY, MANY PEOPLE. FROM THE REPORTS I RECEIVED, BOTH FROM READING THE   JOURNAL AND FROM INDIVIDUALS, THE ORGANIZATION IS IN  GREAT FETTLE AT THE MOMENT, AND EVEN INCREASING ITS STATURE. SO PAULINE AND I ARE VERY HAPPY AND, INDEED, DELIGHTED TO BE JOINING YOU AT THIS GREAT CONVENTION, AND WE LOOK  FORWARD TO TAKING PART IN THE WORKSHOPS, ALTHOUGH WE WON'T BE SAYING VERY MUCH. WE'VE COME TO LEARN AND LISTEN.

THE FACT IS THAT ALL OF US HAVE A GREAT DEAL IN COMMON, EITHER BECAUSE WE HAVE A HEARING LOSS OR BECAUSE WE  ARE MEMBERS OF A FAMILY  WHICH HAS BEEN  AFFECTED BY HEARING LOSS--- IT'S A KIND OF FELLOWSHIP OF DEAFNESS, AND   EACH ONE HAS THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE OF THAT KIND OF  HEARING LOSS.

THAT HAS PROFOUND RAMIFICATIONS IN UNDERSTANDING THE DISABILITY, BUT IT'S STILL VERY WIDELY MISUNDERSTOOD.  IT'S A VERY FAMILIAR STORY OF THE HEARING LOSS BEING  INVISIBLE SO  PEOPLE, THE PUBLIC,  GET CONFUSED ABOUT WHO  CAN'T HEAR AND WHAT THEY CAN'T HEAR.

AND I THINK THIS MISUNDERSTANDING IS HIGHLIGHTED BY THE PERSON I HEARD ABOUT IN SCOTLAND, AN OLD LADY  IN SCOTLAND, AND THE MYTH IN BRITAIN IS THAT SCOTTISH PEOPLE
ARE MEAN WITH THE MONEY.   IT IS A MYTH, REALLY, BUT, HUMOROUS.

THIS OLD LADY WAS APPROACHED BY A MAN WHO MENTIONED TWO TOWNS.  HE SAID, I'M FROM ABROTH AND KILCUDDY BRASS BAND RENEWAL ASSOCIATION, AND I WOULD WELCOME A DONATION FROM YOU.

AND THE OLD LADY SAID, I'M AFRAID I CAN'T HEAR YOU. SO IN A LOUDER VOICE, HE SAID, I AM FROM THE ABROTH AND  KILCUDDY BRASS BAND RENEWAL ASSOCIATION, AND I WOULD        APPRECIATE A DONATION FROM YOU.

 SHE SAID, I'M AFRAID I STILL CAN'T HEAR YOU.

SO, AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE, HE SHOUTED THIS MESSAGE AND ASKED FOR A DONATION.

SHE SAID, I STILL CAN'T HEAR YOU.

AND SO HE TURNED ON HIS HEEL AND WALKED AWAY.

WHEN HE GOT SOME TEN YARDS AWAY, HE MUTTERED UNDER HIS BREATH, "TO HELL WITH YOU."

AND THE OLD LADY CALLED AFTER HIM, "AND TO HELL WITH YOU, TOO."

AND, THEN  SHE SAID, "TO HELL WITH THE BRASS BAND RENEWAL  ASSOCIATION."

SO THAT REALLY MAKES IT RATHER DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND WHO CAN'T HEAR AND WHAT THEY CAN'T HEAR WHEN YOU GET THIS KIND OF EXCHANGE BETWEEN PEOPLE, EITHER PLAYING THE GAME OR NOT PLAYING THE GAME.

EACH ONE OF US HAS OUR OWN ATTITUDES ABOUT THE DISABILITY OF A HEARING LOSS, WHETHER IT IS GREAT OR  SMALL.  AND I THINK THAT THERE'S A GREAT DEAL OF CONFUSION AND A GREAT DEAL OF IGNORANCE, AND I'M AFRAID  IN SOME CASES, EVEN A GREAT DEAL OF SCORN  ABOUT HEARING LOSS. IT'S A FINE POINT, BUT, THIS IS A DISABILITY ITSELF, THE  PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE DISABILITY, WHICH CREATES MORE  DAMAGE.

NOW, WHEN I FIRST BECAME DEAF, I DIDN'T BECOME PARTIALLY DEAF, I DIDN'T LOSE SOME OF MY HEARING, I LOST ALL OF MY  HEARING. SO,  I WAS UNABLE TO HEAR MY OWN VOICE OR EVEN IF   A BOMB WENT OFF, TOTAL DEAFNESS.   WHEN THAT SORT OF DEAFNESS CAME UPON ME, I BECAME
FAMILIAR WITH THE EMPTY SMILE AND WITH THE KIND OF AVERTED GAZE AND THE CHEERFUL WELCOME  WITH A VERY QUICK  HELLO. AND,  I NOTICED PEOPLE HASTENING BY TO A DESTINATION THAT ALL OF A SUDDEN WOULD HAVE BECOME MORE  URGENT THAN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HAD I NOT LOST MY  HEARING.

THESE ARE THE KIND OF PRICKS THAT AFFLICT EVERYBODY WHO HAS A HEARING LOSS.
I  THINK THAT EVEN TODAY, THAT WAS 30 YEARS AGO, AND EVEN  TODAY, WITH THE GREAT CHANGES IN ATTITUDE TOWARD  DEAFNESS, ANYONE WHO LOSES THEIR HEARING  OR PARTS OF IT,  IS THROWN INTO ACUTE, CONFUSING MAELSTROM;  RESPONSES WHICH DO INFLICT PAIN AND SADNESS, THE SLIGHTS  AND INSULTS AND THE ISOLATION AND THE EXCLUSIONS, AND THOSE ARE THE REALITIES OF SEVERE HEARING LOSS WHICH ALL OF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED.

BUT WHEN I LOST MY HEARING, I WAS AGE 46 AND I HAD ALREADY BEEN A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR SOME 18 MONTHS,  AND AT THAT TIME, BECAUSE OF MY EXPERIENCE, I WAS A
FRIEND AND A COLLEAGUE OF MANY POLITICIANS, MANY MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, INCLUDING GOVERNMENT MINISTERS AND,  INDEED, THE PRIME MINISTER.  BUT SOME OF THEM WONDERED HOW A TOTALLY DEAF PERSON COULD HOLD ONTO A JOB AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, WIN    ELECTIONS AND FIGHT VIGOROUS CAMPAIGNS.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, I WONDERED MYSELF IF IT COULD BE DONE AND HOW IT COULD BE DONE.
AND MY RESIGNATION SEEMED INEVITABLE. BUT SINCE, AS YOU'VE JUST HEARD, MY COLLEAGUES VERY KINDLY, AND THE  CONSTITUENCY, MY CONSTITUENTS AND MY PARLIAMENTARY         COLLEAGUES, PERSUADED ME TO STAY ON.

I THINK, QUITE HONESTLY, THEY DIDN'T REALLY REALIZE HOW TOTAL AND PROFOUND MY HEARING LOSS WAS BECAUSE THE PERSON WHO WAS PERSUADED MOST OF ALL WAS PAULINE, AND,  GIVEN THESE KIND OF PRESSURES, I AGREED TO PRESS ON.

SO I STAYED ON IN PARLIAMENT, FIGHTING AND WINNING SIX MORE ELECTIONS, IN THE NEXT 24 YEARS, BEFORE RETIRING  FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, AND BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE
HOUSE OF LORDS.

NOW, WHEN I WAS IN PARLIAMENT, I DIDN'T COURT PUBLICITY  AS A DEAF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, NOR DID I FOCUS ENTIRELY  UPON DEAFNESS AND DISABILITY ISSUES.  I THINK MY MOST FAMOUS CAMPAIGN WAS THE THALIDOMIDE  CAMPAIGN.  AND THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE HEARD ABOUT IT OR  KNOW OF IT WILL KNOW THIS IS A DRUG TAKEN BY PREGNANT  WOMEN, AND THEIR CHILDREN WERE BORN DEFORMED WITH NO  ARMS AND NO LEGS, AND IN SOME CASES,  NO PELVIC GIRDLES, SOME WERE  BLIND AND DEAF FROM THE AFFECTS OF THE DRUG AND THE FIRM REFUSED TO PAY  COMPENSATION.

SO WE BEGAN A GREAT BATTLE IN BRITAIN AGAINST THIS FIRM AND EVENTUALLY WE MANAGED TO WIN IT AND WON COMPENSATION  FOR THE CHILDREN.

AND OTHER ISSUES I PURSUED WERE VACCINE DAMAGE. IN SOME CASES,  CHILDREN WERE DAMAGED BY THE VACCINES.  THERE WAS ABUSE  IN THE BRITISH ARMY AND BATTERED             WOMEN, THE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

ALL OF THESE WERE THE KINDS OF CAMPAIGNS WHICH I INITIATED IN PARLIAMENT, AND THEY WERE IMPORTANT IN  THEMSELVES, AND THEY AROUSED PUBLIC OPINION BOTH IN  PARLIAMENT AND OUTSIDE. BUT, IN ADDITION, TO MY RAISING THEM AS ISSUES  THEMSELVES, THERE WAS GREAT PUBLIC INTEREST IN THE FACT  THAT THEY WERE RAISED BY SOMEONE WHO CAN HEAR NOTHING AT  ALL, NOT EVEN HIS OWN VOICE, AND THE FACT THAT I WAS  CAMPAIGNING, DOING THESE THINGS NATURALLY, ATTRACTED FAR MORE ATTENTION THAN I OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE DONE.

WELL, ALL OF THESE CAMPAIGNS WERE SUCCESSFUL IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, WHICH WAS VERY REWARDING FOR THE PEOPLE   INVOLVED, ALTHOUGH NOT SO REWARDING FOR OUR OPPONENTS,  THE PEOPLE WE WERE FIGHTING. BUT THE POINT FOR THIS CONVENTION I WANT TO MAKE IS  THIS:  IS THAT BY ACHIEVING SUCCESS, I CREATED, I THINK,  AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN HELPING TO PERSUADE THE PUBLIC  TO LOOK UPON DEAF PEOPLE IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT TO WHAT
THEY HAD DONE FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

IT MEANT MAKING A VITAL SHIFT IN MANKIND'S HISTORIC RESPONSE TO DEAFNESS, AND THIS IS AN HISTORIC RESPONSE  WHICH ALLOF YOU WILL BE AWARE OF, AND IT'S ONE WHICH  CREATES AS MUCH DAMAGE TO PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS AS  ANY OTHER SINGLE THING.

I THINK IT EMBODIES LACK OF INTEREST, LACK OF CONCERN AND LACK OF UNDERSTANDING.  AND, UNDER THESE SORT OF FUNDAMENTAL SHORTCOMINGS, THERE DEVELOPS A KIND OF         HOSTILITY AMONG  HEARING PEOPLE AND A RESENTMENT  THAT PEOPLE WITH  A HEARING LOSS CAN'T EASILY COMPREHEND WHAT IS SAID TO THEM, AND IT REQUIRES MORE PATIENCE AND MORE EFFORT THAN SOME HEARING PEOPLE ARE PREPARED TO GIVE.

WELL, OF COURSE, YOU'VE SEEN TREMENDOUS CHANGES IN THE PAST 20 YEARS OR SO, AND THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE CERTAINLY  VARIES ACCORDING TO THE DEGREES OF DEAFNESS. THIS IS AN ISSUE WHICH HAS TO BE ADDRESSED  TIME AND TIME  AND TIME AGAIN.

I MUST SAY THAT,  ALTHOUGH I SAID A MOMENT AGO THAT I DIDN'T DEVOTE MYSELF ENTIRELY TO QUESTIONS OF DEAFNESS  AND HEARING LOSS IN PARLIAMENT, I DID IN FACT DO A GREAT
DEAL ON THEM, AND THE ISSUES FAMILIAR TO THAT WILL BE FAMILIAR TO ALL OF YOU, ISSUES LIKE INTRODUCING BILLS  AND AMENDMENTS TO LEGISLATION ON COCHLEAR IMPLANTS AND      SUB TITLES ON TELEVISION, AND ON IMPROVEMENTS TO HEARING  AIDS.

AND THIS MEANT TAKING DEPOSITIONS TO GOVERNMENT MINISTERS AND PRESSING ISSUES IN PARLIAMENT BY EVERY  MEANS I COULD, PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS, PARLIAMENTARY             SPEECHES, MOTIONS AND ALL KINDS OF MEANS OF EXERTING  PRESSURE.

AND I BELIEVE IT'S THIS COMBINATION, THE COMBINATION OF THE EFFORTS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS, AND IN YOUR CASE, SENATORS AND           CONGRESSMEN, AND  OF THE VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS AND OF DEAF PEOPLE THEMSELVES THAT REALLY SECURES ENORMOUS  FUNDAMENTAL  CHANGES IN PROVISIONS, AND I'VE BEEN
PRIVILEGED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM TO LEAD MANY OF THESE CAMPAIGNS.

BUT IF YOU ASK HOW A TOTALLY DEAF PERSON CAN BE AN MP WHEN HE'S GOT TO REPRESENT 100,000 CONSTITUENTS OR SO,  TALK TO THEM VERY REGULARLY AT BUREAUS, ATTEND MANY
MEETINGS IN PARLIAMENT AND OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT, AND PARTICIPATES IN DEBATES, WELL, ALL I CAN SAY IS, IT'S A  SECRET. BUT, A  SECRET I'M PREPARED TO DISCLOSE TO YOU THIS  AFTERNOON AS A VERY SPECIAL CONCESSION TO THIS CONVENTION.

 THE SECRET I CAN DISCLOSE IS THIS:  I'M SORRY THAT THE  SECRET IS NOT AVAILABLE TO OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS  CONVENTION, AND CERTAINLY NOT TO THE MEN IN THIS  CONVENTION.  THE SECRET IS TO BE MARRIED TO A WOMAN LIKE PAULINE.

AND IF YOU CAN DO THAT, THEN YOU'RE GUARANTEED TO BE AT LEAST HALFWAY THERE, AND PROBABLY MOST OF THE WAY THERE

BECAUSE I'VE FOUND THAT WHAT SHE WAS DOING WAS NOT ONLY WORKING WITH ME ON ISSUES, SHE WAS ACTUALLY HELPING TO  PREPARE MY SPEECHES,  SUGGEST IDEAS, AND I FOUND, ABLE TO LEAD ME TO ASK THE MOST DIFFICULT PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS.  AND I GOT THE CREDIT FOR THESE VERY DIFFICULT AWKWARD  QUESTIONS.

MPS WOULD SAY TO ME, "YOU CERTAINLY PUT THEM ON THE SPOT WITH THOSE QUESTIONS" AND I WOULD SORT OF BLOW MY  NOSE AND SAY, "THANK YOU VERY MUCH."

THIS IS THE WAY WE'VE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER IN EVERY SENSE, A PARTNERSHIP, AS ROCKY AND AHME HAVE FOUND OUT.  AND I THINK THAT THAT'S BEEN THE SECRET OF MY KEEPING MY  JOB AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT DESPITE TOTAL DEAFNESS.

 OF COURSE, IT WASN'T ALL SUGAR AND ROSES BECAUSE SHE WOULD SOMETIMES GET VERY ANGRY WITH ME. WHAT I FOUND WAS A WAY OF ATTACKING ME  IF I  ANNOYED HER BY NOT DOING THE SHOPPING OR NOT WASHING THE DISHES, SHE WOULD CALL ME A POLITICIAN.

IF SHE WAS  PLEASED WITH ME, AND I WAS IN HER FAVOR BY  DOING THE SHOPPING OR WASHING THE DISHES AT  HOME, PAULINE WOULD CALL ME A PARLIAMENTARIAN.

THIS IS HER WAY OF GETTING AT ME, SO TO KEEP ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HER, IN ORDER THAT WE COULD REALLY KEEP WORKING TOGETHER. I WAS DETERMINED IN PARLIAMENT THAT DEAFNESS WOULD NOT  STOP ME. AND THE PARLIAMENTARY PATH I CHOSE ALL THOSE YEARS AGO  WITH DEAFNESS MEANT THERE WERE MANY DIFFICULTIES IN THE   HOUSE OF COMMONS.

AND OF COURSE I WON'T PRETEND IT WAS EASY.  PAULINE WAS UNABLE TO COME TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, ALTHOUGH SHE DID COME TO THE CONSTITUENCY.  SHE COULDN'T COME TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS BECAUSE WE THEN HAD THREE YOUNG CHILDREN, SO WHAT I FOUND IS THAT I HAD MANY GOOD FRIENDS IN HOUSE OF COMMONS.  BUT, I MUST  SAY THIS, THAT I LOST NONE OF MY FRIENDS WHEN I BECAME  DEAF.

BUT, IT WAS NOT UNTIL I BECAME DEAF THAT I KNEW WHO WERE MY FRIENDS.  AND I FOUND THAT INVITATIONS TO DINNER AND TO PARTIES FELL OFF VERY DRAMATICALLY WHEN I LOST MY HEARING AND  THE TELEPHONE FELL SILENT, FOR TWO REASONS.  ONE, BECAUSE I COULDN'T HEAR IT, NATURALLY, AND THE  OTHER ONE WAS BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE STOPPED TELEPHONING.

THIS IS THE KIND OF EXPERIENCE THAT MANY OF YOU WILL HAVE  HAD IN THE COURSE OF YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES.  BUT IN THE CHAMBER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, WITHOUT  PAULINE, I FOUND PARLIAMENTARY COLLEAGUES WILLING TO  MAKE NOTES FOR ME, AND THESE NOTES WERE A VERY GREAT  HELP.

THEY WEREN'T INFALLIBLE, AND SOMETIMES THEY COULD MAKE MISTAKES BUT THEY DID HELP ME TO FOLLOW THE PROCEEDINGS  IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. AFTER EIGHT YEARS OF LIPREADING BY MYSELF, THEY GAVE ME A STENOGRAPHER AND THE VISUAL DISPLAY UNIT, SO THIS WAS  A MAJOR ADVANTAGE TO ME.  IT MADE A VERY BIG DIFFERENCE TO ME  IN COMPREHENSION OF THE  PROCEEDINGS IN PARLIAMENT.

BUT SO MUCH FOR MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO IS TO STAND BACK FOR A MOMENT AND TAKE A BROAD PERSPECTIVE WHICH IS SO VERY NECESSARY  FOR REALISM AND SEE THAT THERE HAVE BEEN MAJOR CHANGES TO THE PERCEPTIONS OF AND THE PROVISIONS FOR HARD OF  HEARING PEOPLE IN BRITAIN IN THE LAST20 OR 30 YEARS OR  SO.

I THINK DISABILITY NOW HAS A PERMANENT AND AN IMPORTANT PLACE ON THE POLITICAL AGENDA.  THAT REALLY IS A VERY SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN EVENTS,  BECAUSE IN PARLIAMENT, WHEN I ENTERED SOME 30 YEARS AGO,  DISABILITY WAS VERY RARELY DISCUSSED.  IT WAS BRUSHED AS IDEAS AN ISSUE, AND ANY DISABLED M.P.  HAD TO GET BY WITH VIRTUALLY NO HELP. I  MEAN, TODAY, DISABLED M.P.S ARE RIGHTLY GIVEN EVERY FACILITY.  BLIND M.P.-- WE HAVE A BLIND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION, AND DAVID RIGHTLY IS GIVEN EVERY FACILITY.  WE HAVE PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS IN BOTH THE HOUSE OF  COMMONS AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS, RIGHTLY GIVEN EVERY FACILITY.

THIS, IF I MAY SAY SO, IS THE PRODUCT OF THE EFFORTS OF MYSELF AND MY COLLEAGUES WHO FOUGHT TO GET DISABILITY  AND DEAFNESS ON THE MAP IN PARLIAMENT.

 NOW, LEGISLATION SUCH AS YOUR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT AND THE EQUIVALENCE IN BRITAIN, OUR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT, ARE CRUCIAL TO PROGRESS.  BUT VERY OFTEN, WE CAN MAKE ADVANCES ON SPECIFIC ISSUES  WITHOUT LEGISLATION.

FOR EXAMPLE, IN BRITAIN, IN 1990, VERY FEW PEOPLE HAD  COCHLEAR IMPLANTS, ALMOST NOBODY HAD COCHLEAR IMPLANTS  IN BRITAIN THEN. AND, THERE WAS NO STATE FUNDING FOR THEM.

AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, UNDER OUR NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE,  ALL HEALTH TREATMENT IS FREE.  BUT FOR MANY YEARS, ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY WAS ALLOCATED BY THE STATE FOR COCHLEAR IMPLANTS.   SO BRITAIN WAS VERY SLOW COMPARED WITH THE UNITED STATES AND AUSTRALIA IN WORKING ON COCHLEAR IMPLANTS, AND I   REGRET THAT.   BUT IT WAS JUST A FACT OF LIFE.

IN THE 1980S, A FEW VERY DISTINGUISHED SURGEONS WERE PERFORMING CI SURGERY AND THE IMPLANTS WERE PAID FOR BY  CHARITIES.  BUT LACK OF FUNDING HAMPERED THE THE IMPLEMENTATION EVEN  THOUGH THE SUCCESS WAS NOT  QUESTIONED.

SO I DECIDED TO TAKE A DEPUTATION AND LOOK FOR FUNDING FOR SIX COCHLEAR IMPLANT CENTERS IN BRITAIN.  ON THAT DEPUTATION, IT WAS PAULINE, A FEW OTHER MEMBERS  OF PARLIAMENT WHO I HAD INVITED, A LEADING SURGEON AND A  WOMAN WHO WAS PROFOUNDLY DEAF BUT DID HAVE AN IMPLANT.

AND THE MINISTER WAS OBVIOUSLY VERY SKEPTICAL ABOUT THIS NEW INVENTION, BUT WE ALL SPOKE AND TRIED TO PERSUADE  HIM IN THAT THIS IMPLANT EXPERIMENT, AS IT WAS THEN,  NEEDED FUNDING.

THE MINISTER LISTENED TO ALL OF US, BUT THEN SAID, I WANT TO SPEAK TO THIS WOMAN.  AND ACROSS THE TABLE, HE SPOKE TO THE WOMAN WITH THE   COCHLEAR IMPLANT.  AND WE HELD OUR BREATH.  BUT THE CONVERSATION WENT VERY WELL INDEED.  THIS MINISTER, HE WAS THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH,  WAS SUITABLY IMPRESSED.

AFTER THAT MEETING, HE SAID TO ME, JACK, YOU'LL GET YOUR MONEY, AND WITHIN A FEW MONTHS' TIME, THE GOVERNMENT  ALLOCATED THREE MILLION POUNDS, THAT'S ABOUT $5 MILLION DOLLARS,  FOR SIX COCHLEAR IMPLANT CENTERS IN BRITAIN, AND THAT  WAS THE BEGINNING OF A MAJOR COCHLEAR IMPLANT PROGRAM IN BRITAIN.

UP TO THIS  DATE, THEY HAVE DONE 1,000 COCHLEAR IMPLANTS  ON ADULTS, OVER A THOUSAND COCHLEAR IMPLANTS ON   CHILDREN, AND THE COCHLEAR IMPLANTS OF 300 PER YEAR,  WHICH I THINK IS NOT BAD GOING AT ALL.

NOW, WHEN I TOOK THAT DEPUTATION TO THE MINISTER, I DID NOT HAVE AN IMPLANT AND HAD NO INTENTION OF HAVING ONE,  BECAUSE I WAS UNHAPPY ABOUT HAVING ANOTHER OPERATION. I'D HAD ONE WHICH HAD TURNED OUT TO BE A TOTAL DISASTER,   AND I DIDN'T MYSELF, INTEND TOHAVE A DOUBLE DISASTER,   ALTHOUGH ON REFLEX, I THOUGHT THERE'S REALLY NOTHING TO  LOSE.

 SO I WENT AHEAD AND HAD A FURTHER ASSESSMENT AND THEN  DECIDED TO HAVE AN OPERATION. IN FACT, IT WAS A KIND OF DISASTER, BECAUSE AFTER THREE  DAYS, THIS IMPLANT FAILED. THOSE PEOPLE FROM THE IMPLANT MANUFACTURING FIRMS THAT  ARE HERE KNOW HOW VERY RARE THAT IS, IT MUST BE ONE IN A THOUSAND OR ONE IN A MILLION, BUT IT HAPPENED TO HAPPEN  TO ME.

THE SURGEON THEN SAID TO ME, WELL, I'M SORRY ABOUT THIS, IT'S VERY, VERY RARE.  I'M PREPARED TO HAVE ANOTHER GO WITH ANOTHER OPERATION,  AND PAULINE AND I CONSIDERED AND WE TALKED ABOUT IT AND SAID, OKAY, GO AHEAD.

AND I HAD ANOTHER OPERATION. IT WAS A VERY GREAT SUCCESS.

NOW, WHEN I DO A FEW CONJURING TRICKS FOR MY  GRANDCHILDREN, I CALL THEM MAGIC., I SAY, WHAT YOU MUST DO BEFORE I DO ANY MORE TRICKS IS  SAY THE MAGIC WORDS, AND MY YOUNG GRANDCHILDREN, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX YEARS OLD, DUTIFULLY SAY ABRADABCRA, OR
IZZY, LET'S GET BUSY.  AND THEN I DO THE TRICKS.

MY OWN MAGIC WORDS ARE COCHLEAR IMPLANTS, AND TO ME, THEY REALLY ARE PURE MAGIC, BECAUSE THE CHANGE FROM DEAFNESS TO BE ABLE TO HEAR ALL THE NORMAL, NATURAL  SOUNDS OF LIFE IS A MIRACLE.  AS  SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD AS THAT, AN ABSOLUTE MIRACLE.

 AND I MUST SAY THAT BEING ABLE TO CONVERSE WITHOUT EXCESSIVE OR WITHOUT TOTAL RELIANCE ON LIPREADING REALLY  IS A MODERN MIRACLE.  SO, THIS  REALLY HAS  MEANT A GREAT  DEAL OF CHANGE IN MY LIFE, AND, OF COURSE, IN PAULINE'S  LIFE, BECAUSE WE'RE ALL PART OF A FAMILY.  DISABILITY, AND CERTAINLY THE DISABILITY OF HEARING LOSS,  REALLY DOES AFFECT THE FAMILY.

WELL, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, FOR MANY PEOPLE WITH A HEARING LOSS, THE PAST HAS BEEN VERY PAINFUL AND THEY HAVE BEEN  DENIED THEIR RIGHTS AND DEPRIVED OF THEIR DUE. THAT GOES FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WITH A HEARING LOSS ALL  OVER THE WORLD.  AND THE EXTENT OF THAT DEPRIVATION HAS REALLY BEEN  INCALCULABLE.

TODAY, THE PICTURE HAS CHANGED OUT OF ALL RECOGNITION, AND THE PROSPECTS FOR PEOPLE WITH A HEARING LOSS ARE  SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED.  DESPITE THE HANDICAP, THEY'RE MOVING NOW INTO A WORLD OF FULL HUMAN RIGHTS.  WHAT WE CAN SEE NOW, VERY CLEARLY, IS THAT THE MARCH OF  SCIENCE IS ON THEIR SIDE BECAUSE WITH TECHNOLOGICAL EVENTS AND THE IMMINENCE OF TRANSLATING THE SPOKEN WORD INTO TEXT, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE GREATER  RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL, PROGRESS WILL BE FASTER THAN AT ANY TIME IN HISTORY, AND I THINK THAT IS A MARVELOUS PROSPECT TO LOOK FORWARD TO.

I BELIEVE THE SCENE IS NOW SET FOR A TRANSFORMATION IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH A HEARING LOSS.  AND IN YOUR COUNTRY, AND IN MINE, THEY'VE GOT THE LAW ON  THEIR SIDE.

THEY'VE GOT THE TIDE OF PUBLIC OPINION ON THEIR SIDE, AND THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE THEIR LIVES AS FULLY AND  AS FRUITFULLY AS ANYBODY ELSE.

AND I THINK THAT TRULY IS A WONDERFUL THING, AND TOGETHER ALL OF US IN THIS ORGANIZATION, AND IN BRITAIN, CAN HELP TO MAKE THOSE THINGS A GREAT REALITY.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED.

THANK YOU.


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