I’m three months into my part-time lipspeaking career and it’s pretty obvious that most people don’t have a clue what I do. In simple terms, I make myself easier to lipread – check out how here). I decided to train as a lipspeaker because my other half, Tim Reedy, is deaf and has used lipspeakers for 20 years.
It can be difficult for people to understand that not all deaf people use sign language but many don’t. Tim was born hearing, to hearing parents, went deaf from meningitis as a child, and attended a deaf school that at the time didn’t encourage sign language. Tim lipreads (although he has some sign, having learnt it in his 30s) and he lipreads so well that some people assume he can hear (cue their shouting) and some even refuse to believe he can’t hear (cue their patronising).
Tim manages very well day to day but lipreading is tiring, is by no means foolproof, and you can’t lipread lots of people at the same time (or even one person if they mumble, have a strong accent or a crazy moustache). We have lots of funny anecdotes (such as him mistaking a friend’s comment, ‘I love my bone china’ for ‘I love my vagina’ over a nice cuppa) but there are also serious ramifications.
He’s had experiences in work settings when his performance, productivity and confidence have suffered as he can’t follow what’s going on. If he used sign language, an interpreter would be there and without it, no-one would expect him to do his job. As he can ‘cope’ alone, these concessions aren’t always made.
I was booked to lipspeak for a deaf woman who had never used professional communication support before as she was a ‘good enough’ lipreader to get by. But at the age of 34, she was still attending appointments and interviews with her mother in tow. She hadn’t realised she had just as much right to communication support as a sign-language user.
If you used a wheelchair, you wouldn’t be expected to ascend three flights of stairs to attend an office, classroom or doctor’s surgery but if you ‘only’ had crutches, you might, even if it left you in agony.
If you or someone you know is deaf or hard-of-hearing and relies on lipreading, it is your/their legal right to have communication support at medical appointments, in education and work settings, and in any legal domain. Got a car theory test? You can request communication support. Got a parents evening? Ditto. A meeting with the bank manager? Yes. You don’t pay for it.
If you need to book a lipspeaker, I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me here.