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Interview: Dr Paddy Ladd

Recently we promised an interview with Dr Paddy Ladd. Hooray, here it is now:

UPDATE: Can't see the video in Internet Explorer? Download Firefox here and try that instead!

We are hoping to do more interviews in future. Please subscribe to our RSS feed, to make sure you don't miss these. (What is RSS?)

English translation for non-BSL users below:


BSL interview with Paddy Ladd at BDA conference 2007, later translated into English by Alison Bryan/Jen Dodds. Any mistakes are our own.

Jen: [looks at camera] Right, then!

Paddy: What are you doing in the picture, what are you standing there for?

Jen: Well, I thought if I asked you questions, you could answer them.

Paddy: Can’t you film it separately, then edit it later? Oh, you don’t want to edit, right. ... I don't have my glasses on. Oh, OK.

Jen: I'm not See Hear! This is a cheap one-camera budget... with no money. Alright?

Paddy: [laughs, blows kisses]

Jen: [laughs, faces camera] Hello! This is Paddy Ladd here with me. You all know Paddy! I'm going to do a brief interview with him now. We aren’t paying him anything, how very nice of him (!)

Paddy: OK!

Jen: Can I ask you about Deafhood? It seems to be growing and getting stronger in America, but British Deaf people are apathetic. Why do you think that is?

Paddy: Well, you are the first person to ask me that, I...

Jen: The first?!

Paddy: Yes. It’s been at the back of my mind and I have thought about it. But, at the same time, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. So, whatever. Really, at the start, about 4 years ago, when my book was launched, people kept asking me when it was going to be translated and put on DVD. I know it should have been done, but I've been really busy and time has gone so fast. Then out of the blue last year, 3 Americans did it – 3 really nice people – do you know their names?

Jen: Which people?

Paddy: Genie Gertz, Ella Lentz, and the third person, who really set it up - sign name DE - his name is David E____, I've forgotten, real sorry. The three of them wanted to set up a Deafhood network etc focusing on the USA. Have you seen Signcasts?

Jen: No not yet.

Paddy: It’s on the web in ASL and everything.

Jen: In full?

Paddy: Oh yes, full ASL, explaining Deafhood and some related things. It’s all up and running. I was very moved when I saw it; thought it was very nice. Then they said we wanted to try to raise some money to translate the book and put it on DVD and everything, and I thought “Well of course..! That’s it!” Why was I beating myself up and feeling guilty; I wrote 520 pages, and you can't expect me to do everything! The British expected me to raise money, film it and translate it by myself, while the Americans were much more positive and just went for it. British people have a different attitude to progress. So that was one thing.

In America, the concept of Deafhood really took off thanks to those three beautiful people. And then there were the Gallaudet protests – those three flew out to Gallaudet and ran packed Deafhood workshops. Then they flew over again in October for the protests and ran workshops for about 2 days, attracting 800 people.

Jen: Wow.

Paddy: Yes, 800 people. They also went to the NAD conference and ran workshops on 5 different Deafhood-related subjects – like history, politics, etc. They wrote the material themselves and sent me the PowerPoints; I read them, and just said fine, go for it! It was incredible to see it happening. But then again, my expectations are lower because of British Deaf, so I was slightly taken aback that it really took off like that. Then what happened? Someone from Germany contacted me wanting to set up a workshop on Deafhood because they thought it was important to discuss it and what it means. They also wondered how to translate 'Deafhood' into German - lots of discussion followed! Then it happened in Belgium, in Holland and a bit in Denmark with the Frontrunners European Deaf youth group. Then in Japan and places.

Jen: What about China?

Paddy: No, nothing.

Jen: Just the one other country then (!)

Paddy: Some Chinese people approached me recently. From their signing, I thought they were Japanese, and was embarrassed to be told they were Chinese... oops. However, thinking about British Deaf people, when I look back, I can see that there’s been the same problem for years, interestingly enough. Back in 1987, when the film Pictures in the Mind was released on television, it was broadcast at 8pm at night because we lobbied Channel 4, and everything, but British Deaf people were apathetic again. Afterwards, I went to Australia, to find that the Deaf people there got really excited about it and wanted a copy! (laughs) They wanted to set up workshops so that people could watch the film, and to charge money. That was the first impact it made at that time. ... Then in 1999, there was a video of the blue ribbon ceremony; it was filmed, everything. It was beautiful, and got the same “wow” reaction, but British Deaf people still weren’t impressed and had a “couldn’t care less” attitude. And then, thirdly, there was Deafhood for them not to be bothered about.

Jen: But why?

Paddy: I don’t know - I think sometimes its British culture - but at the same time we led the way with BSL marches, which were positive, and on the other hand, we have apathy. Perhaps it is because only a few people in the UK are prepared to roll up their sleeves and put in the work, like organising the marches and leading. Because of this, those few people were depended on and are finished from burnout (in the UK). I don’t know.

Jen: Who knows.

Paddy: I don't know. The BDA haven’t asked me to give a workshop on Deafhood.

Jen: Nothing?

Paddy: Nothing.

Jen: Nothing? [to camera] BDA, please take note!

Paddy: And WFD was the same; nothing. I spoke at WFD recently, and everyone was asking if I would be covering Deafhood, but I had to say I was sorry but I wouldn’t be because I wasn’t asked to talk about it. People were disappointed, as it’s such a hot topic. So, really it’s not only the BDA that’s slow, WFD is slow as well. I think there is a need to explore why different countries have different attitudes.

Jen: Maybe it’s down to cultural differences between countries..?

Paddy: Yes I think Deaf culture differs between individual countries, which is why some countries are better than – no, not better than... more, more proactive? At the same time it makes me think about deaf associations in respective countries. The BDA has had problems but it’s not only the BDA. If you look at the WFD Board and the delegates on it, they must all be from deaf associations, officially, you cannot have individual membership; you have to represent your nation. I appreciate that...

Jen: Do you have to be a ‘suit’, then?

Paddy: Well, ha, not all of them are, but that’s exactly it. That’s part of the problem that arose ... I could see that WFD is not moving fast enough because it is stuck at membership level, and because you could say that the best Deaf people don’t work for deaf associations. That is something I want to see research into! But, you can also look at the Irish – they’re wonderful – I love the IDS and totally take my hat off to their work. I also realise they only started in 1981, which was quite recent, and is different from an organisation which has long been set up and might be stuck in history and tradition. Maybe organisations which are newer tend to have a more proactive take on things. I don’t know.

Jen: Hmm. I think you’ve responded to my question! Thank you. So, maybe now the BDA, or any British Deaf people, really, will ask you to do a workshop. Would you?

Paddy: Hold on...

[Someone walks in front of the camera]

Jen: Well, would you?

Paddy: Of course, I think it’s important... [to person off-camera] off you go, then...

[Someone else walks in front of the camera]

Paddy: [to camera] Hearing people! Anyway! The important thing is that the BDA is ours. It doesn't matter if you set up organisations like FDP, the NUD or DLF – they are important too, but the BDA is ours. If the BDA goes downhill, we have a responsibility to save it. We have to be responsible for our Deaf things. Yes, criticise the BDA, but get involved and help it to grow again.

Jen: I agree. OK, great.

[Both smile]


Comments (28)

I know I saw this ages ago, but still fab to see it up. Great to see two old activists and friends together, makes it really natural. :)

Looking forward to other interviews.

I have never met Paddy Ladd, but when he said "If the BDA goes downhill, we have a responsibility to save it"

He is so spot on, feel I have learnt something here :-)

About frigging time, that it shown nationally for 'our' eyes to see that 'we' all DO have responsibility to save and support 'our' organisations.

The video will not work??? I do not use rss so can you make it accessible for us all?

Try viewing it in Firefox. Its nothing to do with RSS, I think its a flash compatibility issue that needs to be resolved.

Perhaps the Brits are not so gullible and buzz-word oriented as the Americans ? The corner stone and main issue about everything in our respective deaf worlds is the fact that the 'concept' of whatever deafhood is supposed to be, is not followed by those who are obssessed about it. Deafhood could have been summed up without any bull or book written, all he said in a sentence was "We should all accept each other, regardless of mode, background or lifestyle' there you go, deafhood in 12 words. That the Americans turned this into some academic definitive deaf tome' defies rationale frankly. At least the Brits put it into perspective. The Americans have almost turned it into a religion...

*sigh* MM, do you ever have your facts straight? A very simple mistake this time. The Americans did not turn Deafhood into "some academic definitive deaf tome". PADDY LADD [who is British] WROTE ABOUT DEAFHOOD FOR HIS PHD THESIS, which became his book. The Americans liked this book very much. Clear?!

Paddy and Jen,

Thank you for making your best effort to put our viewers to witness your topic discussion, "Deafhood". I truly appreciated your sharing concept of this topic. This topic discussion which is based on deafhood essentially to exposure our increment knowledge and instincts in our international deaf and hard of hearing community and boost our self-esteem. We have the same experience journey of deafhood. I have not read Paddy's book yet. I have heard the great positive reviews from my sources which gave me ideas of how complex Paddy shared in the book to read. Read this book can be over and over until you reach the top of light that you finally understand. I have not read this book; however, I gave it to my mother in a year ago on winter holiday gift. She is currently a professional sign language interpreter in Southern California.
I am proud to attend the workshop at Gallaudet University to listen three wonderful presenters, Genie Gertz, Ella Lentz, and David Eberwin to share the simple concept of the whole content powerpoint presentation to discuss this topic essentially. This discussion was very powerful effect and awareness of our personal experience through the deafhood journey since our childhood ages. I certainly hope the three people will develop DVD and textbooks for Deaf Studies at any colleges and universities to share the classroom discussion and in order to increase the powerful knowledge and instinct of being DEAF.
Surprisingly enough, The Deaf Britions are apathetically know about your book. Why didn't BDA stand firmly to serve the deaf community and to preserve your deaf and hard of hearing citizens for culture and language including deafhood? Why didn't you share the brief discussion on SEE AND HEAR series to educate the community? Do your country provide deaf expositions or festivals to continue the share spirits of deaf culture and language?
Please continue the best effort to keep deafhood internationally and increase the awareness of our culture and language. Thank you.

Nick Vera

The British do not SUPPORT or care about deafhood, it's an American thing, there has been NOTHING written about it of note in the UK deaf world apart from Grumpy and 2 others, and frankly it is unlikely to be, they didn't know what Audism was either.... Brits write these things,but it seems only Americans read them !

MM, prove your thesis. You won't. So why don't you stop making such unsubstantiated comments?

Thank you for transcription, so I can read what Paddy says because I don't understand BSL ;-)

MM...you know...it might help if you *actually* read the book before waffling on pretending you know this or that...then you could argue from a stronger point of view instead of turning it into a "USA vs Brits" thing.

Paddy Ladd - if you read the comments - thanks for taking the time to do an interview - finally put a "sign" to your name/face - ie see how you sign etc - that only a video could capture for those that wasn't there.

It is NOT for me to prove the British aversion of deahood or audism, but YOU to prove I am wrong. SEE HEAR put it on screen perhaps you didn't see it ? If it helps I found at last googly search 956 comments in the UK regarding Deafhood and 536 regarding audism, (it was quite difficult sorting out NON british comment and bulll from psuedo academics of the deaf ilk, and some very obscure parroting from hearing !), most were from Grumpy and people like you ! (Australians don't count). The most accurate assessment of 'deafhood' is via the reactions of those on the receiving end of it, try looking at deaf.read to see quite a few there.... emperor's new clothes...

Продаю персональный сертификат WebMoney за $99.
Можете проверить: WMID 322973398779 Redfern
Всё чисто, не одной жалоб. Сделан на утерянные документы. Всё законно.
Если нужно, то есть сертификаты ещё.
Стучацо в личную почту на Вебмани.

Это не спам. Не пишите на мой WMID жалобы в арбитраж Вебмани.

MM, classic avoidance tactic:" It is NOT for me to prove the British aversion of deahood or audism, but YOU to prove I am wrong." But what we would like to know is, why are you here on apro-deaf and pro-BSL blog? Do you hope to change a few people's minds with your intellectaul rigeur? I guess you don't care about debate, arguing, verifying, credibility, proving, illustrating, but that you can huff and puff [that is, have your say]... why don't you talk about washing machines? You will still have the same effect on debate. That is avoiding real engagment with this discussion.

Grumpy Old Deafies,

Thank you for posting this! It's always good to see Paddy in person, online, in print, etc.

That aside, I'm often surprised when people try to make it a "American vs. British" thing, as if Deafhood is tied to a country per se. While Dr. Ladd posits that each country's culture might have an influence on individual & community Deafhood processes- the Deafhood concept is universal, really.

One of my best and most clear Deafhood experiences would have to be at the Rome Deaflympics-- at nighttime, at the Center where thousands of Deaf would from different countries would socialize... we all had different Sign Languages, came from different countries, but... we were united in our Deafhood. Universal, indeed.

trying to see Paddy and I loaded firefox and nowt working ...help pleaseeeeee.................

It's nice to finally put the face with the name. I have read Paddy Ladd's book and we have had many discussion about the concept of Deafhood here in Northern California. His work is hugely inspiring. Heartfelt thanks for sharing this interview and the English transcript for us Americans who don't know BSL.

~ LaRonda

I have not had much luck Downloaded the flashPlayer? and i see seeing the box black with "loading" and not able to activate it. As least I can guess form the transcript but just lourve to see the face/sign thanks for trying

Excellent stuff. More please.

I totally agree that the UK Deaf community is extremely apathetic, and that we should be working hard to save the BDA from financial oblivion, and to ensure that it regains its focus and is able to do what it should be doing, campaign for change on behalf of the Deaf community.

What I want to know, however, is WHY the British Deaf community are so apathetic? The interview brought up British culture; but British culture is traditionally that of trade unionism.

You just need to look at all the strikes in the 1960s and 1970s, and it's sitll around; the Royal Mail workers have currently gone on strike for 6 days! Plus there was the petrol prices furore a few years ago when the price of petrol went up so much that people were protesting on the roads and boycotting petrol distribution).

So I'm not sure that it's British culture that makes the UK Deaf community apathetic.

Personally, I think it's more of a "what's the point?" attitude, or "oh someone else will take up the cause". Also, all the BSL marches etc. resulted in the DWP recognising BSL, but since then, the Government hasn't done anything to raise the profile of BSL.

The fact that mainstreaming is becoming more common means that the Deaf community is going be become defragmentated in the future, so action needs to be taken NOW.

It's a sad state of affairs, and I'd like to know how to rejuvenate the Deaf community. I wonder if Paddy has any ideas?

Mr Ladd has no basis to appeal to the majority of deaf that's the truth of it, he's an acquired taste. He'd be more likely to get opposition than support, not everyone is as enchanted by deafhood as he is, and I see desperation amongst the few BSL advocates here too..... I BLAME deafhood for huge divisions in the deaf world, because they cherry pick the bits they liked and left the rest. The mythical 'deaf ID' defined, is it ? Cue for lengthy diatribes over which version of D you should be using...

The BDA is on the skids here everyone knows this, because members voted with their feet so don't blame anyone else, and why, should the GOVERNMENT push BSL ? that's the users job surely ? they are just sitting on their arse expecting everyone to accommodate them, and it isn't going to happen, while the UK pubs are open. You want an insight into UK BSL deaf ? that's it.......... (Present company excepted), all talk....

MM, once again PROVE your fucking point. Show us some references that PROVE what you say. BACK UP what you say. It's not that you won't. It's that you can't. Intellectually you are a fool [and I am being polite here].

We are DEAF. We are HERE. We are NOT GOING AWAY. llok on in stuperfaction while we CREATE, LEAD merry lives, and DO GOOD WORKS.

So suck on it, and may you get jaw ache!

Boys, boys, PACK IT IN! You are doing my head in. Seriously. (I don't care if that was your aim, BTW - if so, you are sad!) This is OUR blog and we work hard to try and keep this blog and its comments constructive and interesting. To that end, I've been meaning to reply to some of the Americans' questions etc, but they keep getting flooded by your slanging match... PLEASE try and keep comments constructive! You argue all over the internet anyway, so why don't you just go back to the SH messageboard or wherever you usually poke each other, and stay there? Thank you!

@ M Williams - Google - firefox flash plugin - to see if that gives you any luck. Sorry we can't upload the video elsewhere / third party site, as the conditions we were allowed to publish it in the first place, was it remained on this site only.

@ Jen - sorry Jen. You are right!

Now, what’s this business about You Have to Use a Certain Browser to View Our Content?

Web standards and accessibility, anyone?

@ Joe, if you want to volunteer to fix it for us, please go ahead. We don't know how to fix the flash code, and don't have any money to pay anyone to do it. Its flash / MT platform. If you can do this, please e mail us - address is in left margin on front page, that would be cool.

The only conditions we were allowed to show this video, it was not meant to have the ability to be embedded elsewhere.

Otherwise its available via an English transcript, poor substitute we know.

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