What an ill chicken tells us about deaf access to universities and colleges

Sorry, I didn’t do a blog yesterday, my chicken was ill.

If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, then clearly you haven’t yet watched the BBC3 documentary, Deaf Teens: Hearing World, nor been aware of how a sequence involving a notetaker explaining she couldn’t support a deaf student for a whole 2 hours because her chicken was ill exploded onto the deaf community’s consciousness. Charlie Swinbourne’s blog explains how this quickly went viral, with a Facebook group attracting 1000 members in less than 24 hours and tweets abound using the #deafteens hashtag.

How did it pick up so much attention? Well, frankly it’s the most ridiculous (and hilarious) excuse I’ve ever come across for communication support failing to come through. Secondly, behind every brilliant joke is a regrettable knowing truth. In this case, that knowing truth is that deaf young people are rarely in control of their communication support at college and universities and too often are left to fend for themselves. The sequence hit a real nerve.

On the programme, this was the deaf teen’s first day at university and somehow they still managed to cock up (no pun intended) her communication support by not checking whether her notetaker could stay for the full 2 hours. Not exactly an auspicious start. In a further epic fail, another student on the programme at a different university on her first week was forced to lipread a lecturer in a dark room. My own experiences at university weren’t much better – I had to arrange my own provision and my “communication support” were often other students trying to make a quick buck. It also took around 9 months for my council to sort out my Disabled Students Allowance.

I’m sure there are a lot of good intentions out there. But a lot needs to change before deaf young people can be confident they’ll get the help they need at colleges and universities, without having to rely on the good health of chickens or other random occurrences.

The documentary, by the way, was brilliant and must-see viewing for anyone wanting to understand the experiences of deaf young people.


6 thoughts on “What an ill chicken tells us about deaf access to universities and colleges

  1. agree it was a very good insight into deaf young people’s lives. 2 meetings held today in Leeds and Sheffield with hearing providers of the National Citizen Service to young people (who have been convinced by NDCS to include deaf young people). I had emailed them yesterday to watch the programme, and by heck it really made the meeting intelligent and straight fwd!

  2. I watched the programme with my husband (ex-PHU), and after his initial unease at ‘oral deaf’ during the first few minutes, we were both engrossed at the way the programme was done – making those Deaf Teens large as life within our consciousness. It was clever to include Sencity as an amazing place for all of the Deaf Teens to meet up.
    For me, it was a kind of vindication of our lifelong Deaf-led resilience within the large clamorous’d world.
    Great Deaf Studies resource.

  3. Did. You remember jake lamb?!

    Yeah I felt disgusted by that program , felt it was too patronising but a real eye opener

    • Hi, yes, I remember! Are you still campaigning?!

      What do you think was patronising? The people making the programme? Or the people in it? Be good to hear your thoughts



  4. lol i remember that day!! just watched all my deaf friends on facebook do status updates on the ridiculousness of an ill chicken. i cracked up and am glad my note-taker has a valid excuse when she needs to miss.

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