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The unofficial BDA Congress 2007 report


I generally put my money where my mouth is, so went along to the first day of this year's BDA Congress in Southport yesterday to show my support etc. Unfortunately I can't go today, but hope this post gives readers some idea of what it was like. The theme focussed on education and our rights through language and cultural equality.

bda2As someone who's been to about 10 BDA Conferences / Congresses throughout my life, I was saddened to see only about 70 people were there. However, this actually made the whole thing feel more intimate - when Dr Paddy Ladd got up on stage for his paper, he said it was a shame there were so few of us, but that meant each of us was "doubly important" - cool way of looking at it!

Indeed, I didn't realise at first, but there was a definite air of informality about the whole thing; there were NO suits, NO grand speeches with flashy PowerPoints and NO BDA staff rushing around with clipboards. In fact, I don't think I saw any BDA staff at all, except one. It seemed to be being run by volunteers, which kind of brought the BDA back to its roots, perhaps. The atmosphere was humble and almost apologetic; new BDA Chair, Francis Murphy was open and honest throughout, and kept apologising for the lack of publicity and countless other things.

I have to say I enjoyed the day I spent at the Congress - the BDA deserves to be praised for managing to pull it off despite the hard time they are going through right now.

David Muir - Doncaster School for the Deaf and a father

bda3The first paper, Bilingual Education: Why it's the best option and how it can be improved, was by David Muir, who is a father of two Deaf girls and works at Doncaster School for the Deaf. David made it clear he was speaking in a personal capacity and his paper was generally good and informative and very PRO 'proper' bilingualism (not just pretend bilingualism where teachers can't sign fluently etc), but went on rather too long, I am afraid.

The main points David made were that the three main problems with Deaf education are that it leads to the high possibility of mental health problems, low achievement and low self esteem and self confidence. Notably, he said, Deaf people should control Deaf education. Finally! A hearing educator finally said that in public!

bda8     bda9

Dr Paddy Ladd

Next up was Dr Paddy Ladd, with a paper on Deaf Culture, Deafhood and Deaf Education. Watching Paddy made me feel more politically motivated than I have in a long time! It's just a shame there weren't more people there to watch him, because God knows, the UK Deaf community could do with a dose of political motivation at the moment. That and a kick up the arse!

bda4Paddy talked about the disastrous effects of colonalism, and how Deaf people's identities would be stronger if young Deaf people's education introduced them to Deaf culture, thus developing their Deafhood at an earlier age than now. He discussed how Deaf educators are more likely to use Cultural Holism when teaching Deaf kids, treating them as whole people, and acknowledging how the Deaf and hearing worlds are different, explaining what it means, how to live and how they have a place in the world.

Paddy said we need to be stronger and work with our hearing allies without being mistrustful of them taking over. He also said we need more hearing allies - largely hearing parents (90% of us have them, anyway!) - the media is far more likely to listen to radical hearing parents than Deafies having a demo! We need more action, a BDA education campaign group, youth camps and youth leadership programmes, volunteers and so on. We need many things!

I hope the BDA listens to Paddy because he signed a lot of sense.

bda14    bda10

Professor Bencie Woll

After lunch, I missed the first part of Bencie Woll's paper on bilingualism - I also missed the title because it wasn't in the programme, but it seemed to be a linguistic perspective. Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid, as I'm not really a linguistic person and Bencie was a bit academic, talking about the brain and stuff!

bda5However, I was really pleased to see Bencie signing for herself, which is sadly a rare thing for hearing people do to... that was cool. In summary, she talked about how people in the Deaf community are bilingual even though they think they aren't, and gave some facts about language acquisition and the education of Deaf children, including how BSL actually helps English literacy, not the opposite, as the oralists claim. In conclusion, Bencie said that Deaf people should have the opportunity to be bilingual. Too right!

bda11   bda12

bda13    bda6


Last off, I went to Paddy's workshop on Deafhood (the other one was on linguistics) which was quite interesting, with people talking about how the DDA is actually rather crap - some people said they liked it but I am not one of them! - and discussing how the BDA could offer more support for parents of Deaf children.

BDA involvement with UKCoD

The only thing that pissed me off all day was when Francis mentioned that the BDA is thinking about re-joining the chocolate teapot of British deaf organisations, UKCoD. Yes, I know many people would agree with this, but again I am not one of them, and I stood up to tell Francis that. Apparently UKCoD is desperate to have more "Deaf" input - how very funny since they stole our BSL recognition campaign(!) - and have begged (??) the BDA to reconsider. However Francis said they will make sure they have more teeth this time round and I sincerely hope so because UKCoD has a big jawline. AGH.

Whatever. The BDA needs support at the moment and I hope that there are more than 70 people there today. Wish I could be one of them but I cannot. And I really wish more people would do more supportive things for the BDA rather than sit on their arses and slag them off! They need us now, probably more than ever before. As the late great Dorothy Miles said, and was quoted many times yesterday;

The BDA is you and me, and together we will fight for equality!

Coming very soon:

* An exclusive BSL statement from Francis Murphy, BDA Chair (shame on See Hear for not going up to film!!)
* An interview with the magnificient Dr Paddy Ladd, also brought to you on video.



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Comments (38)

Brilliant write up...

reading this will want me to come to the next one

Wow! Great writing, Jen!!! You are the new Elisa eh! No excuse but I am feeling like a Deaf-impaired t**t for not going!

"Deaf people should control Deaf education. Finally! A hearing educator finally said that in public!"

I am so amazed with David Muir's speech who was ex headteacher of Thorn Park for the Deaf wheresa I worked as a Support Assistant 4 years ago.

Keep updating, Jen!

Thanks for the report.

Look forward to the next report on Congress.

Many Thanks


Hi Jen

I can't thank you enough for giving us this report on the BDA congress, as would have loved to go, only 16 miles away from me, a short trip on the bus, but really am not feeling too well at the moment. I do try to go to BDA events as much as I can.
I'm looking forward to watching the videos.
Thank you so very much!
All the best


Good report Jen, and stuff like this we need. Reach out and make people want to be there.

See Hear probably wasn't there ... because from September the programme is supposed to be watered down to make it more attractive for hearies / the mainstream right? Deaf programme now - its not.

Re UKCoD - I think they need to make a few apologies in the first instance. The apathetic-ness did not come from nowhere. There also needs to be reassurances that it won't happen again. As I've said in previous posts, the very set up and nature of UKCoD removes Deaf involvement, and a very real lack of ownership. Is involvement going to be token, and a way to make the organisation stronger: we represent everyone, thus sit down and do as you are told. We've been there before.

Compromises - I don't want compromises when it comes to campaigning for BSL recognition, a watered down approach so we can please the medical organisations. What we got in 2003, did we campaign for? It feels a bit like it went ahead with no consultation.

To add further injury, they told e.g hearing CEOs of deaf organisations nationally *before* the official announcement (days). Expecting hard core activists who organised BSL marches to find out last. Hello? There needs to be some re-examination of the effects of this behaviour before anyone moves forward, i.e. don't repeat. :-|

Thanks for that Jen. I too would have loved to have gone on the Thursday, or in fact any day. Sadly both funds and health have got in the way as being in Manchester I am not too far away. I hope the BDA will do another event soon in the North West, but then I guess that wouldn't be fair on those in other parts:-(

Good legwork, Jen, and reporting from the frontline too. I am gonna subscribe with BDA. Is it also back to basics as well as back to the roots?

I am pleased that Francis recognise the communications between the org and its member and the public at large have been lacking lately. If they are gonna make strides to restore public confidence in them, this is certainly a key area.

I would like to see more BDA presence in Derby and East Midlands area. Just take a look at people attending Rammies pub do and the amount of BSL users in Derby and their families too. In recent years, I feel BDA is more aligned to the North West. Derby is smack bang in middle of England with great transport links and an airport. Comments that Derby hold the largest signing community outside London have been bandied around but never officially confirmed. We also have Nottingham up the road too. Ok that's my Derby plug finished. :-)

@ Ashton, don't think Jen is anything but new, nevermind "Elisa" (no offence to Jen, re sounding old).

Jen of course worked as a reporter on BDN since 1994 until 2001(?), has been Editor of more than one magazine plus academic journal (BDN, Deaf Arts UK for Shape, Deaf Worlds Journal),. Was an Editor for the BBC Ceefax Read Hear for more years than I care to remember. Wrote at the Voice and did some editing etc. She's blogged for 3 years now (not necessarily here), and of course has written chapters for published books.

Her writing style is somewhat well polished, through the tons of experience she has. Think its a bit patronising to suggest otherwise?

However, I agree with all comments, its good to read a journalistic post: more posts from J! :)

Great write up!

I'm curious about the bit about Deaf education causing mental health problems; did he say what the cause was or what Deaf should do about it if they controlled education?

I thought the UKCoD was an 'umbrella' organization, just serves as a centralizing point for the deaf and HI community groups ? It used to consist only of the 'big 4' (Remember that ?), I recall they always moaned the Deaf just never turned up, only now the BDA is re-considering saying something there ? A bit too late I would have thought and, as the RNID still call all the shots, and turn up at every meeting the BDA would have their work cut out, with much diminished representation, and membership. Their problem is still nil bums on seats...

I also recall UKCoD's Ms Myers (?) saying at one point "Only the RNID count, if they pull out, the UKCoD will fold...", No bad thing ! what DO they actually do anyway ? I recall no such mention of the BDA, or knew they had left, the fact few noticed said volumes..... I'm still staggered at Mr Ladd's ramblings about colonism etc (He reads deafread too much !), this is meaningless to British deaf whose main issue is what it always was basic access....

I can't see they have time for debating academic buzz wording...or inventing Milan II, Francis got one thing right, until they get off their bums nothing is going to happen... Go political ? I thought the Deaf did nil else....the problem is acting on it, not talking about it... will they scrap that 1 in 7 copy of a magazine ?

I don't usually feed trolls, but feel compelled to correct the wrong-as-is-frequently-MM, who said "I'm still staggered at Mr Ladd's ramblings about colonism etc (He reads deafread too much !)" ... ha ha, DOCTOR Ladd is very unlikely to read Deafread, trust me. He doesn't really do blogs. It is actually the other way around and Deafread have read HIS book!

Dale: I'm finding it impossible to answer your question because the answer is HUGE and I cannot fit it all in one comment. Can anyone else who was there (or possibly David Muir himself?) sum it up?! However it is a well known fact that lack of communication, sense of identity and self-esteem leads to mental health issues. It is logical, even.

May I recommend that both of you read this book?

Reccomend away, there's little likelyhood... I don't buy deaf propoganda...

I really wouldn't mind reading that book, if only a) I had the time, and b) I had the money...

You can borrow it FREE via the inter-library network. Time? I guarantee once you start reading it, you'll be up for two nights, to finish it!

Here's the Amazon UK link for Paddy's book (Jen gave the .com link). You might be able to pick the book up via an inter library loan, or at a push bag a second hand version somewhere (some ex-student might want to sell).

MM, just stop cheapening everybody's efforts pls. If the recommended reading is what you call Deaf propaganda, would you care to elaborate as why? You are amongst intelligent people here @ GOD, and whom I'm sure can would love to indulge in a wee bit of intellectaul and intelligent banter with you!

So the question for you MM

The question is MM, why is Paddy's book propaganda?

It's obvious innit?

The answer to that, is that MM hates being deaf, wants to be cured.....its a case of 'I'm in agony, so you ought to be".....he has never been able to come to terms with, live with and accept his deafness - to him the concept of 'Deafhood' is simply 'Propaganda'.

It is his (MM's) perception deafness as a disease that makes him search for the miracle of a cure, as we know, finding 'miraculous cures' are the 'Holy Grail' of science. It will never happen for him, not in this lifetime, so he takes it out on Deaf people who seek to retain their cultural heritage and identity.

In his book, Paddy Ladd he talks about Deafhood. He also talks about the effects of 'oralism' upon Deaf people, upon their education, rights and so on.

There is also the fear that Deaf people, their cultural roots, identity and heritage will be lost and destroyed as mankind speeds into a 'brave new scientific' world, an era where science and medicine threaten to eliminate deafness through intervention. The history of Deaf people has struggled and fought against the effects of intervention: and also struggles in the age of science.

Paddy Ladd's a campaigner as well as an academic isn't he? It makes him a target for MM.

Actually 'propaganda' is the very reason Paddy wrote the book, it is challenging the implicit propaganda created by society. Every time a child leaves school without being provided the opportunity to learn sign language is an imposition of society's values on that child. In Paddy's book, this mainstream propaganda is more accurately defined as 'hegemony', or consequently 'post-colonialism'.

If MM has the opportunity to sit back and recite his own life history and place it in the context of deaf people as a whole, MM will start to understand that he is part of a higher 'process' of which he has little control over.

This prompts the political need to re-assert that balance and allow Deaf people to define themselves.

Good write up Jen - I have put in a number 10 petition for a BSL Bill following the UN Convention of Human Rights for people with disabilities at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/BSL-human-rights/

I also have an appointment with my MP next month to see how this can be promoted, perhaps the BDA would like to get on board?

Alison, I respect your opinion.. I know that Jen is a well-known Deaf writer but whoever aren't there at any special event, just wanted to know what news. So someone report the updates like Elisa did Gallaudet issue for the Deaf world. Of course Jen is not like that but I just said that sarcastically.. in a good way!

MM... cheer up, it may never happens.

John - I agree with your comments re propaganda.

You have got to keep on campaigning, especially for the children of future generations.

Like Dorothy Miles said, it is you, and the BDA who holds the torch - keep it burning!!!

Jen - a fabulous contribution - great to see how things work over there.
MM and others - Deaf culture should spring from those born into Deaf families but all the writings are done by D/deaf of hearing especially those from mainstream background who are angry about being conned that they can integrate in their early years and decide to spend the rest of their lives trying to be 'right on'? Why are you angry, MM?
Where are the Deaf of Deaf in the UK - are they contented and look on those who are fighting the results of being conned when they were younger?

I don't need patronisation from other deaf thanks ! I've had it from experts... deaf schools ? what are they ? there's 31 left and 25% under closure notice as we write... if we follow your premise on 'what is culture and who is cultural', then the next generation won't have any bona-fide members... so the sooner you engage the rest of us the better I would think..... the writing is on the wall, if you prefer not to read it it, it doesn't change anything.

No one remotely realist at the BDA or anywhere else will convince us with seriously depleted membership, falling numbers of deaf clubs, and many school closures on the table, it's going to be an easy ride...... the BDA HAS to get out of the rut it is in, to put all your eggs in one basket like they do, was always dependent, on continuing high support from its 'community support, today it hasn't got that support... so shoot the messenger.

C'mon, deny this... the BDA doesn't. The RNID has had NO depletion of membership by comparison.... I just cannot see what the cultural sector has to gain by playing Greta Garbo, past glory counts for zilch sadly, I don't see the BDA making any impression on education either until they sort out the BSL recogntion thing.. Of course even IF they make some inroads there aren't the teachers... Do they every work things out first ?

Like inventing the train but not tracks to run them on....

The last time I went to Deaf pub, 200 people turned up. I don't get the impression that any community is disappearing anywhere, it has just moved out of enclosed Deaf clubs and into the wider community, and be visible.

Over 15 marches were organised across the country and attended in their thousands, that doesn't strike a community without political affiliations.

Deaf schools are not closed by Deaf people; they are closed by Education Authorities, by parents, by governers and by inclusion experts who are not Deaf.

RNID's members has depleted; mostly of Deaf people who use BSL. RNID is vision-less and dominated by the hard of hearing agenda - it is trying to encompass all views with staff who are mostly hearing. Deaf and hard of hearing staff do not progress into management positions; there are fundamental issues at RNID they have yet to resolve.

The BDA has, in my view, lost its way. It went down a dangerous road of isolation and disenfranchising their position as a political organisation. BDA needs support and lead a positive campaign. Baby signs, makaton and sign language classes are all dominating the agenda on sign language - the BDA needs to place a larger footprint and influence the agenda. The result of this is a tangible legislation and BDA needs to lead the way - or lose out.


You still haven't answered the question [as usual] as to why Paddy Ladd's books is propaganda.

Secondly, you really have a habit of sticking, no HANGING, around cultural Deaf space, inspite of all that you believe, Whatever that is.

Besides, you have such a negative view of Deafness. If I subscrbed to your view [been there, done that], I would wanna kill myself.

Thank God for culture, something to aspire to.

Typical of MMarvin the Paranoid Android. Whenever he comes into the "room", I feel depressed and pity for the man. He simply unable to subscribe to the idea of the Deaf Culture and have nothing to contribute here. Clearly Deaf Culture is not his bag but yet he cannot unhook himself from our Deaf space, which only telling. He is either a troll or a very confused nihilist - a closet Deaf culturist fighting his audist demons?

@ DeafofDeaf - Surely Deaf culture is based on identity and common aspirations. Saying that Deaf Culture should derive from the 10% of the community who happened to have Deaf genetic lineage/heritage is factious. Why aren't they writing? or even vlogging? To me, those who do write have passion and this should be harnessed, across the board, and consolidated into a people movement we should be looking for. Enough of the infighting. I will warmly welcome their views and input.

BDA also used to have great youth-led projects and services. This is a good springboard to politically motivate future members of BDA and make them into tomorrow's leaders.

Whatever happened to FYD concept since it got merged with NDCS?

Can we stroke your hands to cheer you up? I am sure you need some love, MM.

Jen you wrote"
BDA involvement with UKCoD
Apparently UKCoD is desperate to have more "Deaf" input - how very funny since they stole our BSL recognition campaign(!) - and have begged (??) the BDA to reconsider. However Francis said they will make sure they have more teeth this time round and I sincerely hope so because UKCoD has a big jawline. AGH."

Can you or somone else tell us what UKCoD done to BSL recognition campain.
Is there a link or some write up about this?

The UKCoD has done nothing basically, allt hey did is take the credit for BSL and other campaigns. The UKCoD is NOT, a deaf group as you know it, merely an 'umbrella' group where various deaf and Hi groups gather (So they tell us !). It is said they lost interest and patience with the BDA for consistently failing to turn up and put the 'Deaf' side. It is the UKCod now....I liken the UKCoD to the RNID, and the current Labour party, whereby they steal the best ideas and campaigns from other people, and then, re-brand them as theirs. The BDA should have been more forceful there, they did what the deaf groups seem fond of doing, i.e. opting out of everything. In retrospect the BDA had the right idea, because the UKCoD stands for nothing anyway.... it hasn't since the RNID took over.... they say jump, you all have to ask how high. The UKCOD is a 'deaf/hi' Quango, totally uneccesary.... since the polarisation of Deaf and deaf/HI has rendered it useless years ago...

Not that the BDA takes any advice from me :-), but forget it..... there's no advantage for Deaf to join this 'group'. I still think the ideal situation is for the BDA to attempt amalgamation with the RNID, surely the most logical approach ? the cash freedom and national support base the RNID can command,, and the dedication to 'Deaf' access the BDA is so good at, and who despite everything are more able campaigners than the RNID will ever be... Be a learning curve for both of them.


You still haven't answered the question, WHY IS PADDY LADD'S BOOK PROPAGANDA?

Maybe MM is pretending to try to hear you...

Ruth: You can borrow it [Paddy Ladd's _Understanding Deaf Culture_] FREE via the inter-library network. Time? I guarantee once you start reading it, you'll be up for two nights, to finish it!

Two nights? It's a weighty academic tome! Anyway, I got the book bought, I'll see about reading it sometime this year... looks interesting.


I will be getting the book soon,all I need to do now is fill in some surveys to get amazon vouchers and it will be spent on that book :-)

Paddy Paddy Paddy! Oi Oi Oi!

When are you going to put up the interview with him?


P.S. Dale, don't forget to renew your library loan :-)

"ASAP" - keep your eyes on this space!

I totally agree with Tony B; wha's da holdup?!

Right, it only took me over five months, but I've finally finished Paddy's book (up two nights indeed lol). Even that was only really a superficial reading, and I wasn't really able to absorb much of the heavier stuff, but I have written up my initial impression -- it is at http://tribalvillages.org/deaf/Paddy-Ladd.html .

I have to say it has been quite an eye-opener for me, prompting me to sign up for a BSL course (I start tomorrow). MM, Fintan, I make suggestions in my review how you can get straight to the interesting part of the book without having to wade through the academic stuff. I would highly recommend reading the book in the order I suggest -- I guarantee you will learn something about yourself, and it won't take you five months nor even a headache to absorb the good stuff.

I do understand now how education has been so psychologically damaging to some people. I have to say that I think the solution is to move the Deaf schools into mainstream schools, rather than just increasing the isolation by maintaining (reinstating) the old ones but without the Oralist oppression, as Paddy seems want to do. Embedding schools within schools and teaching Deaf subjects in there is a more accurate mirror of the real world, where Deaf society is embedded in the hearing society. Such an arrangement I think would produce far more balanced school leavers (both hearing and Deaf), and would lessen psychological trauma suffered by the young Deaf people.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

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