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Friday, 5 February 2016

BSL In Sherlock

2016 started off with a very special occasion for the Deaf community, BSL made its way into BBC’s Sherlock New Year’s Day special ‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’. (Now we at terptree believe it it should be the norm, but at least it’s a start!)

Over 8.4 million people tuned in to watch Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and profoundly Deaf actor Tim Barlow use British Sign Language (BSL). In July 2008, Tim Barlow had a cochlear implant that allowed him to hear for the 1st time in over 50 years.

People were sceptical about whether the BSL was ‘legitimate’ but anyone in the Deaf community knows it was 100% real British Sign Language. It’s quite sad actually that people have to question whether it’s real when there should be enough exposure that ensures BSL is treated with respect and acknowledged by many as the fabulous language it is.

Also with the Sherlock series being set in the present day and seamlessly jumping back to Victorian times (with the original novels being set between 1880 – 1914) people also were asking themselves ‘was sign language around then?’

BSL Origins

As British Sign Language (BSL) is an visual language, its early history is poorly understood and documented. However, records exist of a Sign Language (not necessarily BSL) existing within Deaf communities as far back as 1570. As all languages do, British Sign Language has evolved from these, possible origins, by invention, modification, importation and the need to keep up with modern society.

An Edinburgh teacher, by the name Thomas Braidwood, founded ‘Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb’ (we know that we do not use this terminology but at the time this was common place), in 1760 it is recognised as the 1st school for deaf children in Britain. An early form of what we know today as British Sign Language was used here.
Another teacher of the deaf, trained by Thomas Braidwood, named Joseph Watson left the school in 1792 to become the headmaster of the 1st public school for the deaf in Britain ‘London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb’ in Bermondsey.

Until the 1940s sign language skills were passed on unofficially between deaf people often living in residential institutions. Signing was actively discouraged in schools by punishment and the emphasis in education was on deaf children learning to lip read and fingerspell. From the 1970s onwards there was an increasing tolerance and instruction in BSL in schools.

An example of these teachings and ideologies can be seen in this historical drama, made by the extremely talented people over at BSL Zone, giving us an insight as to what it was like to be deaf back then

BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Welsh and was finally recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18th March 2003, but it has no legal protection. There is however legislation requiring the provision of interpreters such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Equality Act 2010.

Although the UK and the USA share English as their predominant oral language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from its counterpart American Sign Language (ASL). Only 31% of the signs are identical and only 44% have the same linguistic derivation.. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is also visibly distinct from BSL and is actually more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL.

Sri Lanka’s Sign Language is also similar to BSL despite their oral language not being English. Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is also very closely related due to the history of colonisation. Identifying a clear distinction between Spoken Languages and Sign Languages.

Back To Sherlock

Now that we have recognised that the BSL in Sherlock is legitimate, how did it come around?

Through connections in the Deaf community, a BSL tutor, Jill, at Hearing Dogs for Deaf people, received an e-mail from Tim Barlow saying how he’d gained a small role as a Deaf person with 6 lines of BSL in Sherlock and was wondering if she could teach him the necessary signs.

Just before Christmas, Jill, received a follow-up email from the production assistant of Sherlock, then a date and time was arranged for Jill to meet at Benedict Cumberbatch’s house for her to teach him his BSL lines. Then it was time to meet the man himself and begin the teaching.

“Benedict was suffering from a bad cold, but he sat down and got straight on with it. He was really interested in BSL and asked intelligent questions about how signs are created and about people signing the wrong thing by mistake”. A few weeks later it was Martin Freeman’s turn.

“It was a very frosty morning and his children were running in and out with pieces of ice and frosted leaves to show him. It was so normal and homely. Martin picked up BSL remarkably quickly, unlike his character Dr Watson”.

Jill discussed her experiences on set “The BSL scene is a very short one, but it took five hours to film. I thought they’d set up cameras at different angles but they filmed it over and over again from different points to get close-ups of the actors’ faces and hands. It was an education in itself watching the actors performing the same scene again and again, trying to get everything the same each time.”

“It was very interesting working with actors. Facial expressions are very important in BSL as they replace tones of voice. Most people loathe role-play in BSL classes but actors aren’t afraid of expressions and they don’t feel shy, these people got straight on with it, it’s their day job”.

You can see the hilarious BSL clips here (Part 2 follows after):

The terptree team hope you have enjoyed this post spotlighting BSL in Sherlock and a brief look at the language and its origins. We look forward to seeing you again for another post real soon! :) 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Donating Interpreter Education to Developing Countries rocks!

We have reccently offered Communication Professionals to help us donate Interpreter Education to Developing countries and one of these countries was Burundi.

What a surprise to receive an email from Wendy Everingham telling us about the time she spent volunteering in Burundi within the local deaf community!
She first went out there in 2011 accompanying a deaf person visiting from the UK and volunteering as an Interpreter.
The deaf person had escaped Burundi after experiencing a 10 year war and spending considerable time in refugee camps.  He eventually settled in the UK and continued his education to University level and beyond.. 
After returning in 2007 to Burundi, he quickly realised that life for the Deaf community had not improved at all since he had left.  He decided to establish the charity Aurora Deaf Aid Africa

Wendy told us “I always had a burning passion to go to Africa and when the opportunity arose to go to Burundi with the Charity, I readily put my name forward, even though I had never heard of the country.” 

Wendy has since become a Trustee of this deaf led charity and went on to explain “At that time(2011) there were two interpreters in the country, but now there is only one as one has moved to the US. In Burundi the main spoken language is Kirundi, with until recently the main second spoken language French.   but they are starting to teach more English in schools now.  Deaf people and interpreters use an old version of ASL.

There is no government funding for interpreters and anyone learning to interpret is self taught and they often work long hours without breaks for very little or no money. 

There is no access to face to face training, no resource available and even online learning can be an issue as the internet access there can be problematic.”   

During her time there, Wendy spent time going through the NRCPD codes of conduct and telling the interpreters that she met about the training the UK-based Sign Language Interpreters undertake. 

Wendy told us “we would like to get more face to face training and support out there to the interpreters, but the Foreign Office are currently advising against foreign nationals travelling to Burundi due to the political climate.”  Until such a time that the face to face support  can happen she believes our donation will be a great resource to them and said  “this is a fantastic  way of getting valuable information to them that they would otherwise not have access to”.  She went on to tell us that this will give them tools to be able to learn more and think more for themselves, rather than solely depending on the little resource that there is currently available.

We are delighted that our story has provoked this response and look forward to working further with Wendy in supporting interpreters in Burundi, as well as the rest of the developing world.  For more information about Aurora Deaf Aid Africa you can go to their website

If, like Wendy, you have any stories you want to share with us regarding your experiences working or volunteering as an interpreter in a developing country, we would love to hear from you at 

Premium Online Audio Package Expert Trainers Bio's

Here is a run through all of our Expert Interpreter Trainers who feature on our Premium Audio Package:

Interpreter Trainer: Gill Behenna 
Session: Religion

Gill has worked in religious settings for over 30 years and her knowledge and expertise is unparalleled. For over 18 years she worked as an administrator for Signs Of God a Christian organisation who offer professional training for Sign Language Interpreters in a religious setting. For example:

-          Weddings
-          Funerals
-          Baptisms

Jill is a registered BSL Sign Language Interpreter and has worked in numerous religious settings in her time. She lists the importance of:

-          Preparation
-          Reading the religious work of a faith you will be Interpreting for
-          Asking for permission about where you should stand and be wary of    processions

If you have ever interpreted at a religious event or wanted some guidance before taking on a booking in this domain, our host Gill has the answers for you in this training session.

Interpreter Trainer: Anthony Mitchell 
Session: TV


Anthony is a Registered British Sign Language Interpreter and has worked in the Deaf community for over 25 years. The domains of Business and media are where he has the most experience but he is also experienced in health, education, community, politics and law.

After studying and qualifying with CITISERVICES and the University of Bristol, Anthony began a career in interpreting within the Deaf Community.

He previously worked as a fundraiser for the charity ‘Breakthrough’ where he gained a great amount of knowledge, history and understanding of the Deaf community, the language and the culture.
Anthony’s mentor and boss, David Hyslop, was the best beginning he could have hoped for. David was intelligent, witty and generous in sharing with Anthony what was culturally appropriate to do and say.

Under his watchful eye Anthony gained qualifications in British Sign Language before embarking on the first ‘Communicator’ course to be established in the UK in 1986. This venture was administered by the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf (BID) and Bourneville College of further education. Anthony became a member of the register for sign language interpreters in 1990.

He started to work as a ‘live news interpreter’ in the early 1990’s before the BBC News Channel came into being. The BBC back then would show a simultaneous transmission of their BBC1 8am news programme, Breakfast on BBC2 for just 15 minutes each weekday morning with an interpreter in vision, Anthony was one of those interpreters. This opportunity came his way because of the work he was already doing on the BBC’s then flagship programme for Deaf and hard of hearing people, SeeHear.
Interpreter Trainer: Helen Fuller
Session: Online Interpreting

Working as a BSL/English Interpreter since 1992, Helen qualified in 1996 and has a broad range of interpreting experience.

Helen is a qualified assessor, internal and external verifier.

Since 2010 she has worked at the leading VRS (Video Relay Services) provider in the UK, with responsibility for training.

Together with colleagues Helen has delivered seminars on Video Interpreting at the ASLI conference in 2012 and at EFSLI 2013. Helen is registered with NRCPD (qualified) and a member of the Chartered Management Institute.

Interpreter Trainer: Jackie Griffiths
Session: Health and Social Services

Jackie began her freelance interpreting career in 1987; she has since worked as an interpreter for London borough council and a large national charity, working her way up to senior interpreter where she supervised junior colleagues who are now prominent and respected members of our profession.

She was a lecturer at the University of Bristol during 2003 - 2005 and again in 2008 -2009, is an ASLI trained mentor, A1 assessor and trainer. Jackie enjoys attending training and is an active member of ASLI, including being National Chair from 2005- 2007.She believes that to support students and colleagues through training and assessment is a reward in itself and often says that she will share her experiences and in return asks them to gift their skills to another colleague, thus we become a supportive profession. Jackie is proud to call herself a community interpreter but also enjoys the variety of interpreting work in more specialist domains.

Interpreter Trainer: Paul Michaels  
Session: Leisure

Paul started to learn British Sign Language (BSL) in 2001 after his niece was diagnosed as profoundly Deaf. He completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting with the Deaf Community at Durham University (2009) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting and Translation at UCLan via SLI (2011).

He is a member of ASLI, EFSLI and WASLI. He completed a MARes at Durham University examining the identity, culture and language of the Deaf gay male community. He then conducted doctoral research focusing on the characteristics and disposition that gives rise to a greater number of females and gay men entering the sign language interpreting profession.

Since registering as an interpreter in 2009, he has undertaken numerous assignments within the social domain including weddings and christenings, sports events, the arts, social networking, and various ceremonies including a Mayoral Robing!

Interpreter Trainer: Jill Henshaw
Session: Higher Education/Further Education

Jill is an interpreter based in Derby. As well as working as a Registered Interpreter (RSLI), Jill runs Deaf Matters Training CIC, which provides training for CSWs and Interpreters. Jill worked for many years as a Communication Support Worker (CSW) as well as an interpreter in Higher Education settings. Her knowledge of educational interpreting combined with her passion for raising standards has led Jill to offer training in this area.

She is also a former National Chair of the Association of Communication Support Workers (ACSW) - (Now Adept), the former Continuous Professional Officer at NATED, the founder and Chair or Derby BSL Practice Group and a CSW for Deaf Access at Derby College.

Jill was involved in the development of the new CSW qualification and now provides training through Signature for those who wish to teach the new Signature 'Level 3 Certificate in Learning Support (Communication Support Worker)' qualification.

Interpreter Trainer: Karl Llorca
Session: Special Educational Needs 

Karl began life in the Deaf Community in 2001 working as a PCA (Personal Communication Assistant) for a senior manager in a Deaf organisation. Progressing into the Interpreting team after completing the Post Graduate Diploma in BSL/English Interpreting at UCLan in 2006. Karl remained a staff interpreter until 2009 at which point he became freelance. Since then Karl has completed his A1 Assessor qualification and now assess for a variety of centres around the UK. Prior to finding the Deaf Community Karl had a series of jobs after graduating from MMU with a BA (Hons) in Applied Social Studies by Independent Study; a modular based degree in which Karl studied Special Educational Needs, Severe and Complex Needs and Psychology.

During his career Karl has been a very active member of the interpreting community, starting off as Regional Chair in the North West for ASLI until eventually becoming National Vice Chair. Karl also held the role of Membership Secretary for WASLI (the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters) and enjoys attending efsli (the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters).

You can often find Karl lurking around a theatre as that is a passion of his, both to interpret and to be a spectator of. Karl has also done some sign performance work both here in the UK and further afield in Europe. All domains of interpreting interest Karl, however his main passions have to be theatre and mental health.

Interpreter Trainer: Esther Thomas
Session: Professional Services/Mental Health 


Esther Rose Thomas is a freelance interpreter. She has worked for over 24 years and has specialised in Mental Health since 2002. A qualified ASLI mentor, Esther is especially concerned with the impact the field of Mental Health has on interpreters and the impact that we make, just by being in the room.

Previously editor of Newsli, ASLI's magazine and currently volunteering with homeless people. Esther has travelled to over 50 countries and has a passion for those that don't have it as good as we do.

Originally from Australia she has settled now in London. She now trains and mentors BSL interpreters who are interested in working in the field of Mental Health.

Interpreter Trainer: Jeni Draper
Session: Theatre and Arts 

Jeni trained as an actress, toured theatre productions nationally and internationally, small film roles and bits of TV such as Eastenders the vet for Wellard the dog, which she says ages her! She got a bit bored decided to learn a language and picked BSL because Jeni thought it might be interesting. She says this was the best move she ever made. When she went to register for a BSL course she was rejected by the Deaf interviewer on the grounds that as an actress she would be off on the road and wouldn’t stay the course. Jeni was incensed knowing how little acting work there was for her, so waited for him to finish all the other interviews (72 of them) and then she accosted him in the corridor with his interpreter and told him it was a huge mistake he’d made. Next day she received a phone call saying she was in.  Her tenacity paid off and a new career took off!

Jeni Worked at RNID (Now Action on Hearing Loss) to learn more about the Deaf community whilst training through the NVQ system.

Jeni now works 50% in community 50% and in the Arts.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

5 Influential Deaf Actors

In every walk of life, we all need someone to lookup to, inspire us and show us there truly are no barriers to what we want to achieve in life!

So where better to look than on TV, so many people idolise actors and with modern technology it’s so easily accessible, no matter where you are or what time of day, to see those people who inspire you.

You may think that as a deaf person and with a real lack of deaf programmes, that acting is not a possible career route.

Well worry no more, because we have compiled a list of some of the most famous deaf actors around:

Sophie Stone

Sophie Leigh Stone has appeared in many popular shows such as: 
  •  Doctor Who
  • Casualty
  •  Holby City
  • Midsummer Murders
 Did You Know?

- She was the 1st deaf person to win a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
- She was the 1st deaf actress to appear on Doctor Who.
- She has also appeared in a Coca-Cola advert.
- She is a founding member of The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble (A group of deaf and hearing actors, directors, theatre makers, writers, artists, musicians and dancers who come together to tell each other stories. Their work is a mix of BSL, spoken English, projection, movement, mime, music and soundscapes).

She acts without use of her hearing aid, using visual cues to keep her in the zone.

She also, along with her co-actor, had to invent signs for certain words in Doctor Who, there’s currently no sign for the word ‘prototype’ so she developed her own. Not only is she an inspirational deaf actor but she is leading the Deaf community forward by continuing the natural development of British Sign Language!

She has a 4 year old daughter and has had to bring her up all on her own and she has a glistening acting career ahead of her too. She truly is a role model.

When she was growing up Sophie felt embarrassed to ask for help or ask people to repeat themselves, but now she has accepted it as part of her life.

"I always worry that I am holding other people back, but now I have learnt that I just have to learn to live with it”. We think you’re amazing Sophie, keep doing what you’re doing!

Take a look at her in this Doctor Who Extra:

Katie Leclerc

Katie Leclerc is an American actress. Incorporating an American, the 1st in our list, gives greater exposure to the wide variety of sign languages and Deaf culture.

She started learning American Sign Language at 17, before she found out she had a disorder which included hearing loss. She has an older sister that also teaches ASL. At age 20, Katie was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, a degenerative inner ear disorder, the symptoms of which include fluctuating hearing loss and vertigo.

But if you thought that was enough to stop her from achieving her dreams, you’d be sadly mistaken. Nothing stops someone truly determined from achieving their goals, once they’ve started they simply strive for even greater accomplishments.

She has starred in numerous series and films such as:
  • The Confession
  • Switched at Birth (A terptree favourite!)
  • Veronica Mars
  •  The Big Bang Theory
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Did You Know?

- She was nominated for the Teen Choice Award for Choice Breakout Star.
- And won the TwoCents TV Award for Drama Queens (Both for her role in Switched at Birth)
- She has 112,000 followers on Twitter.
- She has featured in adverts for:

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Beth Matlin is another American Actress. She has been deaf since she was just 18 months old. She is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf and the Deaf community around the world.

In her autobiography ‘I'll Scream Later’, she suggests that her hearing loss may have been due to a genetically malformed cochlea.

Matlin is actively involved with a number of charitable organizations including:

-          Easter Seals (where she was appointed an Honorary Board Member)
-          The Children Affected by AIDS Foundation
-          Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
-          VSA Arts (An International organisation on arts, education and disability)
-           The Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet

Did You Know?

She received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Gallaudet University in 1987.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Children of a Lesser God (1986), and is both the only deaf performer to win the award, and, at 21, the youngest to date.

She has starred in numerous films and television shows, such as:

  •  The One I Love
  •  Hear No Evil
  • My Name Is Earl
  • Glee
  • Switched at Birth

She opens up about her personal life in her autobiography about drug abuse, sexual abuse and more. This not only shows that she is a truly remarkable member of the Deaf community but she is extremely down to earth.

Not only that but she has a good sense of humour about being deaf "Often I’m talking to people through my speaker phone, and after 10 minutes or so they say, 'Wait a minute, Marlee, how can you hear me?' They forget I have an interpreter there who is signing to me as they talk. So I say, 'You know what? I can hear on Wednesdays!'"

William Shatner

William Shatner has notched up an impressive 50+ years in front of the camera, most known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek.
William suffers from tinnitus when he was stood too close to a special effects explosion on the set of Star Trek the TV series. However he didn’t suffer from it until more than 20 years later.

"There were days when I didn't know whether I would survive, I was so tormented by the screeching in my head” Said the actor in a public service video for the American Tinnitus Association.

The constant ringing in ones ear(s) must be truly unbearable but Mr Shatner and others like him have fought through and continue to defy belief by accomplishing more than most people could ever dream of.

Let’s take a look at William’s achievements:

·         2 Time Emmy Award winner
·         2005 Golden Globe Award winner
·         Television Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 2006)
·         Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
·         Star on Canada's Walk of Fame

Not only is he an actor but he’s also been a successful:

-          Author
-          Producer
-          Director
-          Comedian
-          Singer

Having such a highly recognised and appreciated star discuss their fears and suffering at the hands of tinnitus, really helps to bring awareness to the wider population.

Now an advocate for the American Tinnitus Association, Mr Shatner can only help to increase the exposure and knowledge of tinnitus and how people suffering can be supported. He is a truly remarkable role model showing that there’s always going to be something that tries to bring even the best of us down but there’s nothing more powerful than the strength of the human spirit.

Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe is an American actor that due to a virus during infancy is deaf in his right ear. Doctors believe it was a complication from undiagnosed mumps Lowe may have had as an infant.
"I don't know any differently. It's funny as I get older, it's harder and harder to be in, really loud restaurants. They drive me ballistic. That's really tough for me".

He has appeared in a number of successful films and TV shows such as: 
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Californication
  • The Christmas Shoes

The American actor has won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for his work in ‘The West Wing’ in 2001/2002.

One thing you’ll find with these successful actors is, unless asked about it, they rarely mention their deafness. That’s just who they are and a part of what makes them unique. They don’t find it as a reason for a lack of achievements or recognition and they certainly don’t seek ‘special treatment’, they just go after what they set their mind to and they get it!

All the people included in our list are truly inspirational and there are a lot more actors we could’ve included as well as amazing deaf leading figures etc. Who knows, maybe we’ll have some more stories coming up? ;)

It’s all about mindset. If you think you can do it, then you can do it!
After being told you can’t do something, because of whatever factor that is supposedly holding you back, nothing is sweeter in life than going on your own journey and accomplishing it anyway! The doubt simply adds more fuel to the fire burning in someone’s heart to go out and achieve it!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Deaf Dream Team

Sport, we either love it or hate it. We’re either gripped by every single moment of action or we couldn’t care less. Some feel that many athletes are overpaid for their profession and cannot wait to knock them off their pedestal.

We are not here to start a debate of who deserves this and who doesn’t deserve that. We believe that we are all masters of our own destiny and we all have a choice to work hard and earn a decent living! (Not forgetting that all of us face challenges in life, that are not always known to the general public)

Whether you love sports or not, I’m sure we can agree that sport puts a lot of physical and emotional strain on the human body. The hard work and sheer determination needed to make it as a professional and to reach the very top is not in question.

The harder I practice, the luckier I get” as the famous golfer Gary Player once said. 

So what does it take to become a great athlete? What qualities are required to reach your goals? (And anything in life in fact) Here are some must have attributes:

-          Drive - You have to always strive for greater results each time and not be content with past achievements.
-          Discipline - You must follow strict dietary and training requirements.
-          Self-confidence - You have to always have faith in yourself and believe you can do it against all the odds.
-          Commitment – You either put every last fibre of your being into making it or you will simply fall short.
-          Tolerance – You’re going to physically feel your progress and need to always keep your mind clear.
-          Adaptability – You need to adapt to the ever changing environment and scenarios that will try to derail you, keep focused, prepare well and tackle it head on.
-          Emotional Maturity – You can’t let your emotions take control, you can’t let them faze you.

So How Does That Relate To Us?

It can be hard whatever your circumstances, to keep the fire burning inside you to keep going. We all at times need that extra fuel to keep us pushing through hard times and achieve our goals.
That’s why here at terptree we have compiled a list of 5 inspirational and determined deaf athletes who didn’t let anything stand in their way and simply did not take no for an answer!

Daniel Ailey

Now he’s not exactly a household British name, he is only semi-professional after all, but Daniel Ailey is truly fitting of this list. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone more determined than him!

Using BSL as his main source of communication, Daniel has to make vocal noises to attract the attention of his teammates.
During a game when Daniel’s Potters Bar Town came up against Grays Athletic, these vocal sounds were mocked by the opposing fans and the referee halted the game whilst the police were called in.

Now if you thought some close-minded, goby, simpletons were going to cause Daniel to quit then you’re sadly mistaken!
He didn’t quit, when he was rejected by Doncaster Rovers as a youngster.
He didn’t quit, when he missed a year out injured with a broken leg.
Daniel is too determined and focused to let anything stop him. Being Deaf is of no concern to him, it’s a part of who he is.

Physically and emotionally warn out, it doesn’t matter, give him a football and he’ll let his feet do the talking!

I can only imagine how it must’ve felt to suffer such abuse and have little way to combat it directly but fair play to Daniel, he got on with life and tackled it the best way he knows how. By continuing to play the sport he loves, with not a care in the world.

Ailey has been abused on the pitch before. "A defender I played against once took the piss out of me. But I let my feet do the talking. I have a strong mind. I keep going".

Daniel Ailey takes the 1st spot in our Deaf Dream Team.

Did You Know?

-     Daniel does welding work to supplement his wages.
-     He has represented the Great Britain Deaf football team.
-     Ailey holds the FDFC (Fulham Deaf Football Club) record of most goals scored in a season. 47 in the 2009/2010 season.

Ben Cohen

Oh how I’m sure the England rugby team wishes they had a player like him now. After a disappointing World Cup last year, crashing out in the group stage, it’s nice to look back on past glories that the likes of Ben Cohen brought England.

With roughly 30-33% hearing loss that has now worsened to 50% and having tinnitus, his achievements in rugby cannot be overlooked and he is one of the greatest English players of recent generations.

Has been involved in efforts to make rugby more accessible to young deaf players, making him the perfect role model in the sporting world. We at terptree, and I’m sure you’ll also agree, want a player of his calibre back in the England team!

Early 2004, barely months after lifting the World Cup with England, Ben found out he was losing his hearing. He may be an England Rugby legend but even the mighty need help at times. Even the big, strong, tough are human underneath it all, and Ben would refuse to wear a hearing aid.

It wasn’t until another inspirational member of the Deaf community rang him up that Ben started to make positive change.

This Guy

Yes that’s right, Elton John rang Ben and said, “I hear you’re deaf. I love the work you’re doing and I’d love to help you. When you’re next in America I’m going to send you over to Starkey and fit you out with new state-of-the-art hearing aids. While you’re there you might as well see the head guy, the owner.”

Since retiring from rugby Ben has set up a charity to tackle issues with bullying and in particular homophobia. This in turn led to the charity and its work catching the attention of Sir Elton John. He is an ambassador for the Starkey Hearing Foundation, a charity that helps children who suffer hearing loss in 3rd World countries get access to better education and treatment.

“I’m into the profound hearing loss category. I’m going Deaf” says Ben. “Certain sounds, such as the letters T and K, I can’t really hear at all. But my new hearing aids are directional, so they pick up the sound in front of me, like the person I’m talking to, more than background noise.

“I’ve got a remote control with it that can muffle the sound in, say, a crowded bar, so it’s not too intense. They also gave me headphones that fit into your ear that I can link up to the TV.”

Did You Know?

-         Cohen is the 10th-highest point scorer in England rugby history and 3rd behind Rory Underwood and Will Greenwood in the list of all time England try scorers.
-         Despite being straight, the former rugby star has become an international gay icon, helping thousands of homosexuals and transgender people break boundaries both on and off the sports field.
-         He started ‘The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation’ to combat bullying after his dad was killed standing up against bullies.
-         Cohen also appeared in the 11th series of the celebrity dancing contest Strictly Come Dancing. He was the 8th celebrity to leave.

Matt Hamill “The Hammer”

Not one to mess with. Born Deaf, Matt Hamill is an American mixed martial artist and wrestler who last competed in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He actually attended the Rochester Institute of Technology that we discussed in a previous post. Click here to read our post on the Rochester Institute of Technology

He can’t hear the crowd cheering, his entrance music or his corner giving him instructions but once he’s in the octagon his eyes are focused and locked onto his opponent, ready to show the world what he’s got.

He’s an inspirational figure to Deaf athletes and the Deaf community around the world because he represents its people. Every time he enters the cage, he becomes a unifying figure of perseverance for thousands of people across the globe.

"I'm more like a bastion in the Deaf community around the world," he says. "I travel for promotional opportunities and speak in front of 8,000 people. They call it Deaf Nation. Now I am getting more Deaf fans. I'm getting 3,000 emails every week. My Facebook's blowing up, and I can't keep up, with different languages such as Portuguese, Russian and Swedish. The Deaf community is very important to me."
The “hammer” sign has become a signature notion for the Deaf community that supports him.

“It's never been easy, through childhood, thinking of who I am. By the time I got older, I knew who I was and I am happy with whom I am. Being born Deaf, thinking I might have a good gift. Maybe I'd rather not hear."

Hamill went on the reality show ‘The Ultimate Fighter 3’ and was instantly made fun of. Solely because he was Deaf they underestimated his wrestling ability. He’s not fussed about what label is placed upon him, he’ll just brush it off, work hard and show the world what he’s got. Even in the face of adversary, he is an optimist.

Hamill also travels the United States, visiting Deaf schools, speaking about his experiences and inspiring generations of deaf and hearing children.

Matt has shown us how to triumph over the doubters, showing us all, as members of the Deaf community, we can achieve our goals and desires no matter the challenge.

Did You Know?

-          Hamill has a silver medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling from the           2001 Summer Deaflympics.
-          He is the only man to defeat (on a disqualification) the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and           former #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Jon Jones.
-          Is the subject of a movie about his life entitled ‘The Hammer’ which is also his in ring nickname.

Terence Parkin

Now we have a South African Olympian, earning the silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in the 200 metres breaststroke at the age of just 20 years old. Terence Parkin has also competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

He uses sign language to communicate with his coach. About his trip to the Olympics, Parkin said "I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the Deaf can do anything. They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there are opportunities for the Deaf."

In the Deaflympics there simply is no better athlete, having acquired more medals, including more gold medals, than his Olympic counterpart Michael Phelps.

Parkin once used waterproof hearing aids when competing, but all the crowd noise disturbed him and made him nervous. He found it hard to ‘focus’. Now, without the aids, there is a quiet atmosphere for the swimmer. Parkin is able to concentrate without audible interference and can focus on his goals for the race.

Terence doesn’t get the recognition he deserves and even in the country he represents he isn’t widely celebrated. Having been Deaf nearly all his life and to win a silver medal against hearing opponents at the age of just 20 is an outstanding achievement and is a true inspiration for the Deaf community. Like the others in our deaf dream team, showing no obstacle is too big to stop you from acquiring greatness.

Did You Know?

-          Terence Parkin is the most successful athlete in the history of the Deaflympics.
-          In 2011, Parkin saved a young boy from drowning.
-          At one point he held every single Deaflympic record in short course swimming.
-          He also competes in cycling events.
-          His nickname is ‘The Silent Tornado’.

Marsha Wetzel

Not typically what you’d think of when you say ‘athlete’ but nonetheless being a referee still requires physical and mental strength, maybe even more so with some of the abuse that gets directed their way.

Introducing Marsha Wetzel, the first woman to referee in the history of NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division 1 women's basketball. She is an instructor from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). She works with RIT's 1,100 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and supports those who are involved in RIT's intercollegiate athletic and intramural programs. Like we said in our post about RIT, it is the place to be for deaf people.

Her responsibilities include teaching Wellness for Life and Wellness Activity classes to Deaf students, including basketball officiating. Wetzel also provides support to Deaf and hard-of-hearing intramural teams and officials, and serves as student club advisor for RIT's Deaf Basketball Association.

Her inclusion of officiating in the league has had a positive impact on both the league and Deaf community, promoting equal opportunity and diversity. As well as being a great role model for deaf people.

She has earned her status and role purely on merit and it is credit to her hard work and determination that she is where she is today.

Of course one of the toughest elements of any referees job is the abuse from the fans and coaches but Wetzel simply states “The best way to deal with the coaches is to avoid making bad calls.” She has her mind focused on the game at hand and being Deaf is of no drawback to her.

Wetzel wants to help more Deaf people become referees and is working on a basketball videotape in ASL (Which will help instruct Deaf people how/when to make calls and how to handle themselves and others on the basketball court). What a brilliant idea to allow access for Deaf people. It is pioneers like this that we need in the Deaf community, in order to inspire and show what’s possible!

“There are communication barriers when not with an interpreter. It requires strong will, faith and a desire and determination," she said.

"Marsha is an exemplary role model for all of our students at RIT," said Robert R. Davila, CEO of NTID and vice president at RIT. "She proves that education, hard work and commitment eliminate any obstacles people think they have toward realizing their dreams."

Did You Know?

-   Wetzel represented the United States at two Deaflympics, playing on the USA Women Basketball teams        in 1985 in Los Angeles, CA and in 1989 in New Zealand.
-    She earned Coach of the Year Award after just 1 year of coaching girls’ varsity basketball at the Model       Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., from the International Association of Approved           Basketball Officials.
-   Wetzel is close friends with Dee Kantner, who was the first female referee in the NBA.

You Can Do It

I hope you have enjoyed reading about terptree’s inspirational Deaf Dream Team today. As you can see from the list of just a handful of outstanding Deaf athletes, they come in many shapes, sizes and backgrounds.

It just shows that we should never judge a book by its cover, or even assume that dreams can’t be realised. All these athletes went through the pain and suffering needed to make it. This is a set of highly motivated and determined deaf individuals that wouldn’t let anything get in the way of their goals and you shouldn’t either.

The next time someone treats you different or says you can’t do something simply because you’re Deaf, show them what you’ve got!

If you can think of anyone other Deaf athletes or topics we could discuss then feel free to comment and let us know. We love interacting with you all here at terptree, we don’t bite. We just play hard and work harder.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see one of you on a list like this in the future…..