I Sign. I Wander.

Developing our brain through language

Whilst browsing Facebook this morning, I came across this poster:


I frowned. I did not know how I truly felt about this.

As you are aware that I have nothing against cochlear implants. I’ve always seen them as powerful hearing aids. Like the poster said, they will allow the implantee to whisper secrets with their friends, enjoy music and listen to their teachers.

However, deeming the cochlear implant as a brain development device is rather misleading.

This poster is one of many examples I have come across that have failed to mention the importance of language. Most importantly, sign language doesn’t get a mention in this poster and in many other advertising materials.

Language is critical to brain development, especially in early childhood. According to Shiver (2001), the development of the brain through language and communication is an instinctive process.

“The reason language is instinctive is because it is, to a large extent, hard-wired in the brain. Just as we evolve neural circuits for eating and seeing, so has our brain, together with a sophisticated vocal apparatus, evolved a complex neural circuit for rapidly perceiving, analyzing, composing, and producing language” – Eliot, 1999.

Sign language is an essential brain development device for deaf people, especially children. Deaf children should be exposed to sign language from an early age.

“The development of language is essential for the cognitive and social development of all children, including, of course, those children who are deaf” – Madden, 2008.

It doesn’t matter if we wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, it is crucial that we have access to sign language. Having access to sign language will unlock our potential and the world around us.

Sign language is also an empowering tool. That said, language empowers people.

“Deaf people feel empowered when they realise their ability to access information and education in sign language, thus they become equipped with knowledge and tools in order to survive in the dominant society” – Beaver, 2015.

All in all, language is a crucial brain development and empowerment tool.

An advertisement should be created with this quote:

‘Sign language is my brain development device. It is my key to unrestricted language access, to sharing secrets through a window, to enjoying signed poetry, to enhancing my visual-spatial skills, and my ticket to a unique global culture and community’ – Adam Schembri.

Sign language deserves more recognition in the wider community – it’s an utmost issue in the Deaf community and one we’ve been advocating for since Milan.

Let’s get together and advocate for more recognition of sign language as a brain development device!

S x

Beaver, S. 2015. How Sign Language Empowers The Deaf Community. Deakin University.

Eliot, L. 1999. What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Madden, M. 2008. Early exposure to sign language: an advantage to parents and children. Retrieved from Aussie Deaf Kids on 24 June 2015.
Shiver, E. 2001. Brain Development and Mastery of Language in the Early Childhood Years. Retrieved from Intercultural Development Research Association on 24 June 2015.




Melbourne: Lessons in love

It has been a year since I left Sydney to begin a new chapter in Melbourne.

In a year, I have learnt so much about myself and the world around me.

However, one lesson that stood out the most is about love.

Love is an incredibly powerful emotion and should be experienced on all levels.

Since moving here, I’ve fallen in love with myself and it is incredible.

I’ve become comfortable in my own skin and I haven’t felt that way before. It is so important to be at ease with yourself and to feel comfortable in your own skin. I’m a lot happier – a lot more than I was this time last year.

My mental health is much better than it was when I was living in Sydney. I used to get anxiety whenever I attended an event – and it actually got to the point where I became a hermit and chose to hang out in a small group setting or one-on-one. It wasn’t healthy and I hated that.

I attended a friend’s farewell a month after I moved here, and I was quite anxious. But alas, 5 minutes after arriving at the party, Anxiety bidded farewell to me and went on its merry way. I haven’t felt anxious in a year, and because of that, I am now comfortable no matter what situation it is – be it big or small.

I’ve embraced myself for who I am. I have realised my potential. I’ve allowed myself to flourish and because of this, opportunities have come my way. Suffice to say, I have broken through that brick wall that was standing in front of me prior to moving here.

I am so in love with myself, and I am going to continue loving myself.

I have fallen in love with Melbourne. I have found home.

Before moving here, I never thought it was possible to fall in love with a city. But it IS possible.

Melbourne is constantly full of surprises. People here are so warm and welcoming, no matter how cold or hot the weather is. It’s full of delicious smells and breathtakingly beautiful sights, be it in Northcote, Footscray, Bayswater or Prahan.

Funnily enough, I remember telling someone during M2005 Deaflympics that I would never move here. 10 years later, I’m a full-fledged Melbourne resident! Essentially, I’ve eaten my words 😉 Moral of this is: never say never.

I’ve become a massive foodie and coffee addict since moving here, and it’s a complete surprise I haven’t piled on 100kgs…! Maybe it’s because I play netball once a week on Thursday nights with an amazing group of ladies.

It’s hard to be bored in Melbourne, and I love it. There’s always something happening every weekend. If I find myself without any plans one weekend, I know I would be happy staying home and binge watching Criminal Minds on Netflix. No matter what I do, I am happy as long as I am in Melbourne.

I’ve fallen in love with my family and friends. 

Since moving here, I have developed a better appreciation for my family and friends. These people are so incredibly important to me, and I am so glad to have them in my life. They may be all over the world, but they mean so much to me – a lot more than they will ever know.

I’ve made new friends since moving here, and they have become a huge part of my life. I cannot imagine my life with those incredible people, no matter how long I have known them.

I’ve had to let some people go since moving here. There are some people who once meant so much to me, but they do not nowadays because we have drifted apart. We’ve all changed over the last decade. It’s never a good idea to hold onto people for so long, especially to the point when they become smudgy ink and things become blurred between you two.

However, it is important to stick with those who have stuck with you through thick and thin. Those who you know you can trust, no matter what happens. Friendships were re-kindled after a few years of absence thus becoming closer than before. Friends you never knew you would have.

I’ve fallen in love.

At some point over the last 12 months, I found myself on the floor. Completely in love.

It unexpectedly hit me. That moment I realised, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.


I felt like I was swimming in a sea of emotions. I was barely keeping myself afloat because I did not know how to deal with it.

It was crazy. I lost my appetite and couldn’t eat properly for about a week or so. I couldn’t sleep.

At the same time, I wanted to yell from the rooftops but I couldn’t.

The last time I fell in love, I kept it to myself and it did my head in. This time, I found the courage to tell my friends so I could vent and get advice I needed. I’ve gotten all that, and I am incredibly grateful.

I never thought it was possible to love someone so much. Overwhelming, it was. It actually blew my mind.

The most important lesson about falling in love is letting go. I’ve listened to my gut instincts and I’ve decided to let that person go. Essentially, I’m not ready for that person but I do know that I am ready to let myself be loved.

All in all, love is an important aspect of our lives and we learn to love in so many different ways. There’s many other types of love I am yet to experience and I am looking forward to that as I continue living my life.

Melbourne, thank you for teaching me so much about life and most importantly, love. I look to learning more from you.

To everyone in my life who has been there for me, I love you.

S xox

Hearing aids, cochlear implants…and prawns?

For the last month, Victorian Hearing ran a rather distasteful advertising campaign for invisible hearing aids.


They had the audacity to label hearing aids as ugly and compare them to prawns. You’re probably thinking “what the heck?!”. Your thoughts would resonate with 100+ people in Victoria – that includes deaf and hard of hearing people, parents of deaf/HoH children, people who work with deaf/HoH, members of the Deaf community and so many more.

Apparently they’ve been running the campaign for THREE YEARS. Three sodding years and the poster has been spotted on trams and buses all over Melbourne…yet we did not learn of it until about 24 hours ago. Something’s amiss about this.

When the advertisement came to light 24 hours ago, people took it upon themselves to post their feelings and thoughts on Victorian Hearing’s Facebook. The advertisement was shared multiple times – they have since taken it offline and the campaign ended yesterday, so the posters should be taken off trams and buses this week.

Channel 7 Melbourne picked up on it and will be running a segment tonight. They have interviewed parents of deaf/HoH children and members of the Deaf community. They have also interviewed Victorian Hearing.

Edan Chapman, a super talented Deafblind photographer, quickly put together a response with help from the staff at Vicdeaf… a truly brilliant comeback!

hearingaidsarethenewblack1 hearingaidsarethenewblack2 hearingaidsarethenewblack3 hearingaidsarethenewblack4

It’s yet another proof that a marketing team has failed to consult with the community before releasing such advertising campaign. Remember NSW Labor’s political campaign poster targeted at the disabled population in NSW where they used ASL fingerspelling instead of Auslan? I wrote about this earlier this year.


I’ll have you know that I LOVE prawns and I would have them all year around. Especially on a hot summer day with some wine.

Prawns. Yum.

I’ve worn hearing aids before. I wore them for the majority of my childhood and teen years. I stopped wearing them because it stopped working in my right ear and I did not see the point. I’ve worn a hearing aid in my left ear sporadically throughout my twenties, but right now, I cannot be bothered. I’ve actually considered getting tested to see if I am eligible for a cochlear implant on my right ear, but it’s not a priority at this stage.

That said, I don’t have anything against hearing aids and cochlear implants – visible or invisible.


There’s no need to be embarrassed while wearing your hearing aid/s and cochlear implants. In fact, you can jazz them up with skins/colours/stickers/etc.


Limping Chicken has a brilliant article about pimping your hearing aids with photos of pretty (yes, that’s right, NOT UGLY) hearing aids.

Cochlear implants also now come in various colours, and apparently you can get skins for them too.

I’d advise against putting Edward Cullen on your cochlear implant.
Skins for cochlear implants

If you’ve got the goods, flaunt ’em! 😉

Yours in awesome and pimped hearing aids and cochlear implants!

S xo

The Roaring Twenties: A Reflection.

In less than 2 months time, I will have stepped outside the roaring twenties and embraced the thriving thirties.

The question here is…what does it really mean to be a twenty-something? For me, at least.

I’ll be honest with you here. My twenties felt like I was sitting in a mess hall and moving to different tables as I progressed through life, either getting involved or dodging food fights as well as trying almost everything from the buffet table.

As a kid, I thought turning 20 would be a huge bang and I would be seen as a proper adult. I was excited about it.

When I actually turned 20, I thought to myself “Is this it?” It didn’t seem quite exciting as I imagined it to be. 2005 was when I came to realise that I needed to get my life back on track and actually do something about my future.

I was living in Toowoomba with my partner at the time, and I was in a rut. I didn’t know what to do next…only to keep on searching and applying for jobs. An opportunity came for me to participate in a hospitality course that was fully funded by TAFE. I thought I would just do it in order to make myself more employable.

I hated every moment of it. I hated the idea of myself standing in a kitchen and chopping onions all day. I hated the idea of washing dishes all day. I only lasted around 4 weeks in the course. The careers advisor at TAFE suggested for me to look into doing a tertiary preparation course at the University of Southern Queensland.

The tertiary preparation course was perfect as I did not complete Year 12 two years earlier, and it only went for a semester. I needed to pass English and Maths in order to get into an undergraduate course. I got accepted into the said tertiary preparation course and I studied throughout Christmas and New Year so I could start my undergraduate course in Semester 1, 2006.

As soon as I completed the course, I was accepted into Bachelor of Education.

Why B.Ed? At the time, I wanted to become a Teacher of the Deaf. I was deadset on the notion of improving education for Deaf and HoH children based on my experiences in mainstream education.

2006, the year I turned 21, was a particularly difficult year for me. It was also an emotional year.

I did the first semester at USQ and whilst I enjoyed it, I felt I did not fit in. I still felt lost and I really did not have anyone to guide me.

That was around the same time I started to re-assess my life and my relationship. I told my partner about my goals and what I wanted to do once I finished university. I asked him if he would join me and/or support me. I wasn’t surprised when he said no to everything. That made me question everything. I knew right there and then that I couldn’t fathom spending the rest of my life with him, but I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. We had already been together for two years at that point, so you can imagine how difficult it was for me.

At the same time, I realised I didn’t love him. Heck, I didn’t know and understand love at the time.

We split in June 2006, and looking back on it – it was one of the best decisions I made. We’re on good terms, but we don’t talk much nowadays. He’s happy with his partner and their two children. That’s all that matters – his happiness, and of course, my happiness.

After the split, I moved back to Brisbane and lived there for 3 years. I transferred to Griffith University to continue my studies. The thing was… I was still in a rut. I just could not seem to get ahead in life. I felt like something was holding me back, but I did not know what it was.

Two months before I turned 21, I got in touch with my father and his family for the first time in 18 years. It was emotional yet a mess. Whilst the relatives on the Beaver side were excited to have me back in the fold, my father was…I don’t know how to explain this…at times skeptical or just holding back, you know? His wife was rather reserved about it – she hated the idea of me back in her husband’s life. I was angry most of the time – mainly because I still did not understand why they, especially my father, failed to contact me for 18 years. I still don’t.

Whilst I will never understand my father and his family, I am perfectly happy with my family – the one I grew up with. I don’t talk to my father anymore and I don’t really keep in touch with the Beavers. I tried for a while after I moved back to Sydney, but it felt like a one-way street most of the time, so I stopped because I didn’t see the point of continuing. Essentially, I’m the black sheep of the family…and you know what? I love it because I’m different. I’m radical.

During my time in Brisbane, I felt incredibly lost. I failed half of the course. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like a hollow vessel of a human being, and I only felt complete and happy whilst drunk.

After I moved back to Sydney in 2009, I started finding myself…slowly. I was still figuring out the meaning of life, but I was starting to feel me again. Actually, for the first half of my twenties, I was struggling to find myself. I had no idea who I was as a person.

What happened with B.Ed? I quit it. My heart wasn’t in it, and I didn’t have the passion for teaching. I could never seem to apply myself seriously to the concept of teaching.

I changed degrees and universities when I moved to Sydney. Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree has allowed me to broaden my horizons and discover my passion and talent. I found my passion in advocating and writing, and I still have that today for which I am incredibly grateful.

Would I ever consider finishing my teaching degree? I doubt it. Whilst I love kids, I cannot see myself working with them on a daily basis.

My 25th year was when things started changing, especially with my first overseas trip to Samoa.

I felt a lot more confident than I did at 20. I was starting to discover myself.

But it was not until 26 when I started to figure out my sexuality. That was one helluva confusing year. I turned into a hormonal teenager when I discovered I was attracted to women. The way I was around males prior to that suddenly made a lot more sense. I also learnt more about love and what it really meant. I’m still learning to this day.

I remember at 17, I told Mama that I would have my first kid at the age of 25. That never happened, and I find it hilarious. In my early 20s, I thought it would be awesome to get married and have a kid by 30.

But now? I’m nearly 30 and still single…and you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s better being single rather than dating a bunch of shitheads 😉

I don’t know if I’ll ever get married and/or have kids. The thing is that I am perfectly okay with it because I know I have my family and friends in my life, and that’s all I need. I do know that I would like a kid or two at some point although I am leaning towards adopting – after all, there are kids who desperately need a loving home and family. Whatever happens, happens…right?

At this stage, I am content with borrowing other people’s kids because when they start becoming dirty and/or smelly, I can simply hand them back 😉

Over the course of my twenties, I discovered who my true friends were – although, it’s everlasting because you have no idea who you will be able to trust and you still discover who your true friends are as you go through each stage of life, be it a new relationship, a relocation, a life-changing experience, an illness and so on. These people who have stuck with you through thick and thin, no matter what happens, are the ones to keep in your life forever.

I spent the latter half of my twenties by being me. I did not want to adhere to norms of the society, so I started caring less about what others thought of me. If they did not like me or what I was doing with my life, then they can simply get fucked. I am not living my life based on others’ standards. Instead, I am living on MY own standards. I am living for me and me only. Basically, I have learnt to be selfish. I learnt to put myself first before others.

In this half, I have also learnt to let myself go. Simply love. Be free. Step outside my comfort zone. Speak my own mind. Be me.

My European trip in 2013 was a life changing experience. It forced me to step outside my comfort zone. As a result of that, I became more confident with a better outlook on life. This was exactly what I needed, especially after going through a dark period of depression in the latter half of 2012 after graduating from university.

All in all, my twenties was all about discovering myself. Exploring myself and the world around me. Figuring out the meaning of life.

Does this mean I’ve finally figured out who I am? What will I be doing next?

The answer to both is a resounding no.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing this time next year. I don’t know where I’ll be living in 5 years time.

I don’t know when I’ll start my PhD, but I do know that I would like to work for a while and gain more life experience when I finish my Masters at the end of next year.

I’m not the same person as I was at 20. I can say that I’ve grown a lot as a person, and I’m humbly proud of who I have become today.

All I know is that I’ll be going into my thirties with no set plans for the next 5 years and still figuring out the meaning of life. I’m going to continue living for me and heed the advice someone wise recently wrote: just be.

I am very much done with my twenties and absolutely ready to embrace the thirties – be it flirty and/or thriving :)

Here’s to a new era!

S xo

Gift of Language

The other day TODAY ran a short segment about “Gift of Hearing”, which shows a family with two deaf boys who have received cochlear implants and are going through speech therapy. The clip can be viewed here – it’s not captioned, but you can get the gist of what it is all about.

I don’t have any qualms about parents choosing to give their deaf child cochlear implants and speech therapy. I understand that parents mean well and want the best for their deaf child.

I want to touch on the issue of media glorifying cochlear implants and speech therapy, be it for both adults and children. We’re all aware there are videos going viral about people hearing for the first time and their emotional reactions after getting a cochlear implant.

I am saddened by the fact that people, especially the media, have forgotten about the gift of language. It’s saddening that sign language doesn’t get much exposure in the media. It breaks my heart.

I touched on the importance of language late last year however I want to focus on the exposure of sign language in media and in the public.

Since earlier this year, Auslan has seen a lot of exposure in the media and public. It’s supposed to be the Year of Auslan. Or has that quickly faded out…? Keep in mind that a lot more people are now aware of Auslan compared to 10 years ago, so that’s a progress nonetheless.

Lilit Marcus, a CODA (Child/ren of Deaf Adult/s) wrote a fantastic article in response to those videos like the one TODAY showed – have a read here.

These “inspiring” videos continue to push one of the most problematic narratives in the history of the Deaf community: that deaf people are broken and therefore need to be “fixed.”

Yep. We are not broken. We do not need to be “fixed.” We do not need to be made “normal.” There’s no cure for deafness.

I’m thrilled when people read an article about people in the Deaf community or see a cool video in American Sign Language and think to send it to me. It means that I’m making a difference, however small, in helping to educate people about the Deaf community.

I can resonate with that. I am beyond stoked when I see an article or a video about the Deaf community, Auslan and sign languages. It really does make a difference to us when the public and the media make an effort to capture our community and sign language.

We are a collective. We need to work together to keep reminding that language is a gift for deaf people. We need to show the public that having access to both sign language and English is a gift. We need to show that bilingualism is a gift.

Sign language empowers deaf and HoH people, especially children. Having access to both sign language and English empowers deaf/HoH children in both worlds and ensures they are better equipped for their future.

It’s not all about hearing aids, cochlear implants and speech therapy. It’s all about empowering deaf/HoH children with language. Language is a gift that can be given to anyone.

We don’t have to force deaf/HoH people to be a part of the Deaf community. Instead, we can teach them about our language and culture. They can choose if they want to join us or not. The ball is in their court.

There are deaf and HoH people who move in between deaf and hearing worlds, and that’s perfectly fine. After all, 90% of deaf/HoH children come from hearing parents.

We can show them that deaf and HoH people are capable of leading normal (what is normal these days!?) and successful lives. Even these who use sign language 24/7.

Essentially, we keep on educating the public and the media…even if they continue being biased about the gift of hearing.

All in all, language – both sign language and written and/or spoken English – is the BEST gift you can give your deaf/HoH child.

Deaf children have a right to a quality education, like all other children, in a language and environment that maximizes their potential.

Human Rights Watch, 2013.

And I leave you here with this amazing yet thought provoking video…

S xo

Mama is 50!

9th May 1965.

It was a gorgeous May day in Penang, Malaysia. A beautiful little girl was welcomed into the world.

mama and grandmama
Mama and her mama.

It’s been 50 years since Mama came into this world, and she’s certainly had an interesting life.

I have decided to dedicate this post to Mama. She was the one who encouraged me to start a blog, and she supported the idea of I Sign. I Wander. She bought me my first ever URL and because of her, this blog is still up and running.

She’s lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, England and now Australia. She’s been all over the world – you can see where my love for travel comes from 😉

Everything I know about her amazes me and it still does to this day.

If it was not for her and my grandmama, I would not be here today. My siblings wouldn’t be here either.

She shared a tale with me last year, and it definitely gave me goosebumps when I think about it.

In late 1977, Mama was visiting her grandparents in Penang for a week, She was booked to fly back to Singapore on 4th December 1977 with Malaysia Airlines. The night before she was to leave, her mother called and asked if she would like to extend her stay to another week. Mama thought this was odd because Grandmama, being a strict woman, almost never changes plans once they are made, but she accepted the offer to stay another week.

The flight Mama was supposed to go on (MH653) met its fate in Johor, Malaysia. All crew and passengers did not survive. That was the first fatal air crash for Malaysia Airlines. The flight was apparently hijacked, but no further evidence was found.

Imagine this… if Mama was on that particular flight, my siblings and I would not be here today. The lesson here is…listen to your gut instincts.

mama with doll

Mama has been living in Australia for 30 years now. At the age of 12, she knew she wanted 4 kids. She also knew at some stage that she would live overseas, away from her family.

the fammy
Mama and her 4 gorgeous kids – yes I am biased, but look at how cute I was as a 11yo! Mama, Joel, Alexandra, Jaymee and Sherrie.

Mama gave up so much for us, and she wanted the best for us. She raised us into strong & individual adults we are today. She was strict, but she meant well. She was watching out for our best interests.

Now that we’re all grown up, she now has the freedom to live her life the way she wants to – especially after 24 years of raising kids.

Because I am the person I am today, it’s all because of Mama. She sacrificed a lot so I had access to quality education. She put a lot of work into looking for schools for me. She made sure I had full access in education. She encouraged me to achieve my dreams, and most importantly, she taught me not to let my deafness stop me from succeeding.

Remember when I wrote a post about Springsure? That was one of Mama’s most defining moments as my mother – ensuring I was included and capable of getting equal education, especially in a small town.

She didn’t see me as a disabled child. Instead, she saw me as a person with another language. She emphasised on the importance of communication and sign language, and because of her, my siblings and family members have been able to communicate with me.

mama and baby shezzahead
Mama and me. I think I was a week old.

She also made sure I was able to communicate in both sign language and English. She came from a bilingual background, so she understood the importance of being bilingual. Before I started school, she gave up a lot of her free time to teach me how to read and write – mainly because she was worried about my literacy skills once when I started school as she had heard stories of Deaf people being neglected in that area and she did not want that to happen to me. I thought it was quite amazing, considering English is her second language…and it is my second language as well. She bought me more books than toys! I remember growing up with at least two bookcases full of books – novels and picture books – and it was shared amongst my siblings. She always stressed on the importance of reading when we were little.

Whilst growing up, she encouraged me to embrace my Deaf identity. Apparently I went to my first Deaf party at 4 weeks old! She would, most of the time, allow me to go to Deaf camps, Deaf events, school trips to Brisbane for Deafness Awareness Week, and so much more whenever the Deaf community came together.

Sometime in 1994, Bobbie Blackson and Carol-Lee Aquiline came to Bundaberg and Mama was excited to go to their presentation. There, she learnt about DeafLink (before it became Australian Communications Exchange – now Conexu Foundation and National Relay Service respectively), Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia) and quite a lot more. Mama always made sure she was updated on information concerning myself and the Deaf community – services, opportunities and whatnot.

I remember when I was 15 and walking to Aldi with Mama, and I said to that I wanted to work with Deaf people. Mama said “That would be great, but I would recommend you to work with hearing people for a bit first so you have a better appreciation of what it’s like to work in a Deaf organisation”. Looking back on it, she was right. She always made sure I grew up in a diverse background with an open mind. She did not hide me from anything, so I really appreciate that.



Throughout my teen years, we didn’t have the best mother and daughter relationship. We fought. We screamed at each other. We made each other cry. I’m pretty sure I was a difficult teen back then 😛

We’ve only had two HUGE fights, resulting in months of silent treatment. After the last time we fought, the 6 months of not being able to contact her was one of the most difficult months I experienced. There were times I needed Mama, but at the same time, I had to respect her wishes because she asked me not to contact her at all. Ever since after we made up, our relationship has become stronger and stronger. I appreciate her more now than I did 10 years ago.

I’m sorry Mama for being a shithead back then. Know that I appreciate you so much <3 mama hat

Mama is in Hawaii at the moment with her best friend, Rick. She has always wanted to go there. I remember Mama telling me 17 years ago that it was one of her dreams to go to Hawaii. I am so glad she is finally there – especially for her special milestone birthday.

mama rick in hawaii

Happy 50th birthday Mama! I hope it is everything you have dreamt of and so much more.

I love you so very much!

S xoxo

Posses and University

It wasn’t anything like that Christmas performance The Plastics put on for their school’s talent concert, mind you. But we were a lot more awesome! 😉

Since I started university, I’ve always had a posse. Me and my group of Auslan interpreters. I’ve had a posse since Day 1…starting at the University of Southern Queensland. How they managed to find 3 interpreters (albeit one not accredited by NAATI – now that’s another story) in the small town of Toowoomba, I’ll never know.

Students and teaching staff quickly figured out if the interpreters weren’t in the room, that meant I wouldn’t be attending. It’s funny when you think about it. Students have commented how entertaining interpreters are – they pay more attention when there are interpreters! Heck, if a lecture consisted of sexual and inappropriate words, everyone would pay 100% attention to interpreters and try to pick up on “dirty” signs.

Throughout my undergraduate (and one postgrad semester) career, I’ve worked with numerous interpreters. They come from all walks of life. They came with varying life experiences. They made my university experience a lot better.

They’ve seen me succeed and fail. They’ve seen me fuck up. They’ve seen me make a fool out of myself. They’ve seen emotions coursing through my facial expressions and signing. They’ve gotten to know the real me. They’ve invited me into their lives. They’ve loved me. They’ve hated me. They’ve laughed at and/or with me. They’ve shared their stories with me. They’ve shared their wisdom with me.

I’ve shared my life with them. I’ve trusted them with my whole life. I’ve put them into sugar comas. I’ve made them angry. I’ve made them laugh. I teased them. I smiled at them. I encouraged them. I told them not to worry if they were doing a shitty job because I still understood them. I’ve held their babies. I’ve swapped books with them. I’ve partied with them. I’ve graduated with them.

When you work with interpreters for so long, they become a huge part of your life and you cannot imagine living your life without them.

Now that I’m an off-campus student…it feels so weird. Instead of Auslan interpreters, I now have a posse of captioners. I don’t know what they look like. I don’t know their life stories. I don’t know if they’re a hippie or a bogan. I don’t know if they’re young or old. All I know is that they’re sitting in front of their computer screens, wearing a headset and listening to the lecturer so they can live caption for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I think they’re awesome, especially for giving up their nights to caption online tutorials and I’ll be forever grateful.

Without interpreters, I feel naked. I’ve become too attached to my interpreters…is that worrying? I think I should be worried, but then again, I’m Deaf and I need interpreters! Haha.

The other night, I was typing my answer during an online tutorial…and I had the whole answer mapped out in my head, but I felt stuck. I wanted to sign it out, but alas, no interpreter so I had this daunting task of translating it into English and hoped everyone would understand what I was talking about. Lucky for me, they did…but it wasn’t the same, you know?

You see Kermit up there? Yeah, I’d be like that and my interpreters would understand exactly what I was talking about 😉

When you’re a student at TAFE, college or university, be grateful you have your own posse, be it of interpreters or captioners. They’ll become a huge part of your life before you realise it.

It beats being Regina George and The Plastics. Heck, we would be able to pull off that hole in shirts prank a lot better…!

Over and out,

S x

Deaf people and the community.

In the early 1990s, my family settled in a small town in Central Queensland, called Springsure. It had a population of approximately 900 people. Springsure was chosen as a place to settle after 2-3 years of travelling throughout the Outback because I was due to start school.

We got into Springsure in late 1989, and I was enrolled at Springsure State School to start preschool in the new year. Being 4 years old, I had no idea what was going on. All I knew that I would be starting school and I would be making new friends. I do remember being excited about it.

By some magic, my teachers could sign. The kids in my class were taught to sign. All posters – alphabet, numbers, nursery rhymes, etc – had both written English and Signed English printed. I loved preschool.

1991 rolled around, and I was eager to start Grade 1. Again, my classroom was accessible. My teacher could sign. I had a teacher aide who “interpreted” for me. All of my classmates could sign. This was the same in Grade 2.

I had no idea about what happened behind the doors to make the school inclusive. Absolutely NO idea at all.

One day, I decided to ask Mum how it happened. What she told me completely blew my mind.

As soon as I was enrolled to start school, Mum took it upon herself to ask the Queensland Department of Education to provide me with a teacher aide who would be able to interpret and to provide resources so I would be on par with my peers.

The Department of Education said they could only provide 4 HOURS of assistance/interpreting PER WEEK.

4 HOURS?!?!

I would be going to school from 9am to 3pm, 5 days a week. 4 hours of assistance was simply not enough.

Mum was outraged, and so was the school.

They found it difficult to navigate through the red tapes and bureaucracies of the Department. Mum said it was a long and tiring fight for my access and inclusion.

The community of Springsure decided to rally together and raise funds to cover the costs of a teacher aide full time and used the remaining money to purchase resources for me. Resources such as storybooks in English and Signed English, videos of popular children’s stories being signed in Auslan (remember those big ass coloured folders the videos came in? Anyone?), copies of Signed English dictionaries and so much more. I’m quite sure Springsure State School still has those.

A teacher aide was employed. Teachers gave up their holidays and weekends to go up to Rockhampton (the nearest big city) to learn sign so they could communicate with me.

I remember Mum selling those signed alphabet tea towels made by the Queensland Deaf Society (now known as Deaf Services Queensland), and Signed English dictionaries. I also remember everyone in the town buying those. I remember Sarah coming up to me and signing “My mum bought the signing dictionary!!!!” and she was so excited about it. I remember everyone in my family buying those as well.

Mum told me last night about how the Springsure community got together to put up posters with signs relevant to their businesses – the local newsagent, video store, bank, etc and learnt basic signs in the lead up to Deafness Awareness Week.

Wow. I had NO idea. I just thought how cool it was at the time that everyone could communicate with me. This blew my mind.

Nowadays, it’s rare as hens teeth to find a community like Springsure willing to make sure everyone feels included.

You may have seen the advertisement made by Samsung Turkey that’s currently going viral on the Internet. It’s incredibly heartwarming, and it definitely reminds you there’s still faith in humanity.

Samsung Turkey created this advertisement for their new video calling centre for deaf people.

I was mainly concerned with their use of “hearing impairment” rather than “deaf”, but then again, this is Turkey we’re talking about. There’s still work to be done in regards to teaching media, companies and the wider community with using the correct terminology when Deaf people are involved.

Still, it was very touching, especially where everyone was taught basic sign language. It did make me tear up a little :)

Just one day where a Deaf person feels included in their hometown. It mattered so much to the Deaf man in the advertisement, but I wonder how he felt every day afterwards? Did people involved stop signing? Did they keep it up?

Jesse, a Deaf guy from USA, created a vlog in response to the said advertisement.

He does have valid points.

However, Samsung Turkey meant well. Mum reckons it’s possible they’re preparing the Turkish community in the lead up to the XVII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf to be held in July 2015. Digital Synopsis, Buzzfeed and other mainstream media picked up on it and there have been positive responses from people all over the world.

You know, in the last 48 months, there has been a truckload of videos, advertisements, articles and whatnot consisting of sign language, deaf people and the Deaf community being shared on all social media platforms.

Remember the #fakeinterpreter debacle? As a result of that, people have become a lot more aware of the importance of accredited and qualified sign language interpreters. The #signguy craze also has had a positive impact.

Social media is amazing. What’s more amazing is that the wider community becomes a lot more visible on social media, thus we’re exposed to a lot more other communities online hence more awareness and whatnot!

I’m pretty sure there has been an increase in enrolments for sign language classes all over the world. More and more people are now becoming more aware of the Deaf community and sign language. It’s just incredible. None of this would have happened 10 years ago.

It’s amazing when the community gets together and includes deaf people by doing something small yet meaningful, such as learning sign language, participating in the National Week of Deaf People and/or International Day of Deaf People, and so much more.

If communities took a page out of Springsure’s book, then the world would be a better place for not only Deaf & hard of hearing people, but everyone else. It benefits everyone. No one is left out. Like Jesse said, barriers would be taken down if the wider community got together to make deaf people feel included, no matter where we are in the world.

Yours in community spirit.

S x

Future of Deaf academia and research in Australia

During the closing remarks of last year’s 4th Deaf Studies and Research Symposium, Dr. Breda Carty commented about how there was not enough support for Deaf researchers in the Oceania region. She also mentioned that we need more Deaf researchers, especially in Australia and New Zealand.

At that very moment, I knew I had chosen the right path to becoming a Deaf researcher. I was sitting next to my friend, Josh who is also on his way to becoming a Deaf researcher. A question hovered over our heads: will there be more young Deaf people with an ambition to become a researcher?

A week prior to the symposium, I had gotten approval from Deakin University to transfer from Master of Communication to Master of International & Community Development with a PhD pathway. The course will officially start on Monday, and I am incredibly excited!

I learnt this week that I will have to start preparing a research proposal for my dissertation and to secure a supervisor for next year. It’s going to be a long and difficult journey, but one that will benefit me and the Deaf community in the near future. I am actually looking forward to it because it’s what I’ve wanted for so long.

I’ll be honest here. I originally wanted to pursue a Master of Arts with a major in Deaf Studies at La Trobe University. As soon as I completed my undergraduate degree at University of Western Sydney in June 2012, I learnt that La Trobe would not be offering the said postgraduate course and the National Institute for Deaf Studies and Sign Language at La Trobe would be closed down. I was rather disappointed, and I had no idea where I would go next. The future of Deaf Studies in Australia wasn’t looking bright, and there is a small number of academics with a specialist research interest in Deaf studies here in Australia.

Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States has an amazing support network for Deaf academics. There’s a fantastic Listserv list for Deaf academics, and I constantly get emails from various Deaf people who work in universities as professors, lecturers and researchers all over the world. Belgium hosted the 7th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference in early February 2015. The theme was Deaf Ethnographies & Deaf Politics. 

The 8th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference will be held in Aarhus, Denmark during 2017. This will be perfect timing for me, as I will have completed my dissertation by then. 

The question that remains is…

What does the future hold for Deaf academics and researchers in Australia and New Zealand?

I hope to start my PhD candidature in 2017 or 2018. Ideally, I would like to do my PhD right at home in Australia, however, I am prepared to relocate overseas in order to pursue my long term goal. Gallaudet University would be ideal, but I have no idea if they offer PhD candidacy in Deaf Studies. I’ll have to contact them sometime soon to find out.

I’ll be blogging about my academic journey over the next few years, so keep an eye on this space!


The Future Dr. Beaver.


The Year of Auslan

In the early weeks of 2015, we saw Drisana Levitzke-Gray being awarded Young Australian of the Year during the Australia Day ceremony in Canberra. This gave Auslan a new spotlight in the public.

This was the start.

Ever since then, there has been more awareness about Auslan in the public through media – interviews, news articles and whatnot.

Two more significant things happened:

Last week, NSW Labor made a mistake when they uploaded this particular campaign poster…

American Sign Language? It’s clear that their graphic designer used stock photography.

Whilst they meant well, no research was done and no consultation was made with the Deaf community in NSW. I think the poster is fantastic, but it would have been better if Auslan was used.

The poster was created as part of NSW Labor’s campaign for the upcoming NSW State Election to be held in late March. Deaf people do vote too. After all, they want an inclusive NSW!

Just tonight, there was a segment on Channel 7 News in Sydney about this issue. Alastair McEwin, President of Deaf Society of New South Wales was interviewed.

Colin Allen (WFD President) recorded the news segment and uploaded it to his Facebook for everyone to see – thank you!

23 February 2015 – UPDATE: Deaf Society of New South Wales has recorded and uploaded the interview with Channel 7 News:

I was disappointed. It didn’t give Auslan a positive portrayal.
Even the news anchor had the audacity to say “deaf people cannot speak”, in which made me feel appalled. She also mentioned that we couldn’t understand the sign language used. We could understand it alright – in fact, we recognised it as American Sign Language. We wanted to see the correct sign language being used – that is, Auslan (Australian Sign Language).

It focused too much on the “voice” part, and not much about Auslan. Alastair only appeared twice for a short time. There was only 5 second flashes of Auslan interpreters at various events.
The truth is that we weren’t offended about the use of “voice” in the said poster. We were actually expressing our concerns about the use of ASL rather than Auslan, and we were commenting on their Facebook page. Unfortunately, they took it offline.

Essentially, it was a terrible and poorly researched piece of journalism. They did not get the point. They did not focus on the criticism on the stuff up of ASL and Auslan by NSW Labor. Instead, it was a bashing of the said political party. Not good, especially with the upcoming state election in NSW.

My friend, Rachael created this fantastic response to NSW Labor’s mistake:

To date, they still haven’t made a public apology to the NSW Deaf community and come up with a revised version of the poster. We’re still waiting, NSW Labor.

Now, onto the next newsworthy piece…

You’re all aware that Queensland is currently being battered by the lovely Tropical Cyclone Marcia.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Sorry. I couldn’t help but make a Brady Bunch reference 😉

Anyways, since the 2010/2011 Queensland floods, Auslan interpreters have been interpreting alongside with the Premiers (Anna Bligh, Campbell Newman and now Annastacia Palaszczuk) during their emergency media briefings. People have been alerted to the importance of the use of Auslan interpreters to convey messages to the Deaf community during emergencies. All other states in Australia have followed suit, which is fantastic! Other countries have also followed suit – for example; Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand and Hurricane Sandy in New York, USA.

#SignGuy is currently trending on Twitter.

Who is #SignGuy?
Mark Cave, one of staff interpreters for Deaf Services Queensland, has been interpreting all emergency media briefings since yesterday. People have been saying that they’ve been mesmerised by his signing, hence the hashtag #signguy. News articles have been popping up all over the Internet about him.

There has been a lot of positive comments about the use of an Auslan interpreter – a lot better than what it would have been 5 years ago! So glad to see the public becoming more aware nowadays.

There has been a few negative and uneducated comments in regards to the importance of Auslan, and the use of facial expressions. Some of us (Deaf people and Auslan interpreters) took upon ourselves to educate those people about how it is important for facial expressions whilst using Auslan. And we’ve had positive responses from those people thus far.

Education is important.

I said this on Facebook today:

In the light of raising awareness of Auslan and sign language interpreting, it’s completely on us as the Deaf community to share information and teach the public about our beautiful language, and the importance of Auslan interpreting. There has been a few negative comments floating around on social media, but this is our opportunity to educate others and most importantly, to raise awareness. Let’s all work together by responding to comments made by the public and educating them!

We need to remind ourselves that we should keep a sense of humour whilst educating the public about Auslan and the importance of sign language interpreters. Publicity is good for Auslan and the Deaf community, be it negative or positive because at the end of the day, it’s all about educating the public.

On a final note, I want to say that Auslan interpreters are a crucial part of the Deaf community. They are the bridges between Deaf community and the public.

Buzzfeed nailed this:

Cave. The name’s Mark Cave.

However, I want to say that ALL sign language interpreters are the James Bonds of the Deaf community. Rain, hail, earthquakes, floods, cyclones or whatever Australia can throw at us, they will be there!

If you’re a sign language interpreter reading this post, I would like to say a big THANK YOU for all you have done for the Deaf community. You’re our James Bond.

Let’s work together to educate the public about our beautiful language and the importance of sign language interpreters!

S x