Ammy's Abstracts

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The End. Or the Beginning?

Off the top of my head, I will attempt to summarise the last few weeks.

On the 2nd of December, Frontrunners gave a short presentation in honour of Dr Liisa Kauppinen, as part of her receiving the Castberg Award for her work with the Deaf community.

The next day, we gave a workshop for the Nordic Council of the Deaf (Dövas Nordiska Råd, DNR) and the Nordic Youth Council of the Deaf (Dövas Nordiska Ungdomsråd, DNUR). We debated the terms “Genocide, Ethnocide and Linguicide.” The question was whether we could pick ONE of these terms to advance our ‘cause.’ It was a real privilege to work alongside Deaf Nordic Leaders such as Markku Jokinen, Liisa Kauppinen, Lars Ake Wikstrom and Asger Bergmann.

In the afternoon, two further workshops were held with the DNUR. One, on the future of the Nordic Deaf Youth Camps and Two, on Activism techniques. Check out a more detailed report at[1].pdf

The last week or so was spent working 14 hour days, finishing off projects and loose ends and developing resource material we can use back in our own countries. It was very hard to say goodbye to the people I had spent the last three and a half months with.

Jerome with his quiet passion…Gordon with his razor sharp business brain… Thomas with his ferret-like research skills…Sigrid with her bravery…
Christophe with his explosive metaphors…Ronan with his bursting enthusiasm…Sarah with her teacher objectives…Jerry with his cynicism…Filip with his demands for proof…Minna with her determination…Ole with his antecodes…Vivien with her encouragement and Katrina with her dead on aim.

With agonising certainty, we knew the time had come. Drinking Glogg or Mulled Red Wine did little to diminish the pain. Ha ha. Seriously, it has been a huge privilege to spend the time I did with this incredible group of people.

It is almost certain that we will have Frontrunners Two. The details are still being worked out, but keep your eyes open. But I am pleased to announce that the World Federation of the Deaf approved the Frontrunners project at the very last moment.

This website will be continuing up until the next Frontrunners programme. In the meantime, I hope we can entertain you with what we have been up to in our own countries. Do keep checking from time to time. Our ultimate aim is to reassemble during the WFD Congress in Madrid, 2007, to assess progress and to share information.

The last couple of weeks have involved eating greasy black pudding in the chip shop wrapper strewn Glasgow, peeling my mouth off the gravel after seeing the almost palatial Donaldsons College in Edinburgh, sampling whisky on the Isle of Arran, holding a sweet family Xmas in Birmingham, tobogganing in Vienna and eating Mozart’s balls in Salzburg.

Have a good long look at this picture. A snapshot of days long gone by? This ‘palace’ is being sold for 20 million pounds, and Deaf students are being relocated to a new building in another area. A one-bedroomed unit in the new development at the college will cost approximately 400,000 pounds. While this may very well be progress, and considered moooooving with the times, is it so wrong to pine, to lament about the days where more than two hundred Deaf students ran amok on the grounds…. ?

We are in a new era. We have technology and science on one side, and cultural values, sociology and ethics on the other.

I will leave you with this famous quote.

“You can take the man out of Yorkshire, but you cannot take the Yorkshire out of the man.”

How astutely we can apply this to us.

“You can take a person out of the Deaf World, but you cannot take the Deaf out of the person.”


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Some Light Entertainment

Frontrunner Workshop in Copenhagen

We had a workshop in Copenhagen on the weekend of 18-20 Nov. In the harsh light of the day, we slogged it out with fiery debates on whether the Deaf are an alien race, or fully functional human beings. One group also debated issues in relation to developing countries. In the evening, we mutated to glittery party creatures and breathed foreign life into Copenhagen Deaf Club.

See a summary at Page 9 of this link

Photos of the workshop at

Pictures of the Frontrunners International Party

Tivoli Christmas Lights

The gardens are open for a short time this time of the year. We watched the Christmas lights being turned on, and it certainly was a winter wonderland…I now understand the magic of Christmas in Europe…! Yes, I know we Downunders think we have it good, BBQ’s, swims at the beach, Santa in shorts, but you don’t completely understand a traditional Xmas until you have seen it! Nup Nup Nuppity Noo, believe me.

Snow at Castberggård

Its official. The 25th of November 2005 was the first day of real snow at Castberggaard. Basically, I went mental. Need I say more? NB: the snow was gone the next day *disappointed sigh* Dont worry, Mr Snowman and his Snow Angels are on the way...

Eugenics, Sterilization and Genetics

Kia Ora! (Maori for Hello) Last week, we were very fortunate to have the company of Mr Joe Murray, the former President of the WFD Youth Section, currently on the WFD Board and now slogging out his PhD on Deaf – Deaf Marriages in Norway. Our minds were expanded in ways that contradict with the making of the world’s largest Roti. I have bunged together some of the topics we talked about.... apologies for topic hopping!

History lesson
Signtalk was centred on one of the wonderful figures in our history, ooh la la the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. Even I thought he was so wonderful, I featured in a movie about his life when I was er 10.

Bell advocated for legislation restricting marriage among the Deaf, as he was concerned that a "deaf variety of the human race" was being created. This idea of Eugenics was one of several similar concepts circulating the globe in the 1800’s. Through a chain of people and ideas, this would have snowballed to Hitler writing his beloved Mein Kampf, and gleefully eradicating seven million Jews. Och, Bell did not directly hand Hitler the idea of “off with the Deaf” on a silver platter, but STILL!

Sterilization of the Deaf originated in the United States of America with multiple trickle effects. I have bundled together some facts on Sterilization of the Deaf by Horst Biesold – see

  • 17,000 Deaf out of the 45,000 Deaf in Germany had been sterilized BEFORE World War II began.
  • No anaesthetic was used.
  • 33 percent of those Deaf were under age 18 and 20 percent were under age 16.
  • In 9 percent of the cases, women who were sterilized also underwent forced abortion, most beyond their fifth month of pregnancy.
  • Biesold's research has shown that about 37 percent of the deaf people sterilized in Germany were turned in by teachers or schools for the deaf, and another 47 percent by the public health office.
  • A deaf Nazi organization, the Reichs Federation of Deaf, was established, and called for deaf people to sacrifice themselves for the Fatherland by being sterilized.

Chilling. I also saw a theatre directed by Tomato Lichy about a Deaf womans experience of not being able to have children. Heart wrenching.

While Sterilization is a thing of the past, (me hopes so) here are some facts on genetics.

Genetic bits and DNA pieces…

  • Ooh! Along with 6300 special individuals who have already done so, you can donate your temporal bone for scientific research at Basically, this website says that if you have hearing loss, a balance problem, or facial nerve paralysis, you can help find new treatments and cures for ear problems by donating.
  • Deaf Mice have had their deaf gene removed, but unfortunately this type of gene had a dangerous, tentacle-like attachment to the gene that affects balance. So these now hearing mice ran around in mad, dizzying circles for the rest of their life. There’s something about “going around in circles” that has an uncanny association with the physical malformations of these mice. Are we destined to go around in circles? First this schmuck with Eugenics…then Oralism, now Genetics? All coming back to the same point. *imitates machine gun*
  • Have you ever Googled “Genetics and Deafness” ? If not, try it! You wouldn’t believe the amount of information or conferences or thesises that are out there… also have a look at

Political Lies

A discussion was had on how we could ‘save’ the Deaf community aka political arguments for why we should continue to exist.

We could say that we are an endangered species…(idea canvassed by the Australian)
Look at the Panda or the Orangutan. So much attention, for a worthy cause. Just bung a Deaf person or two into cast iron cages and get people to pay to echo cries of sympathy. Instant economic stability for those struggling Deaf organisations.
Hell, we even have an affinity with those Orangutans who sign. Did you know that 98% of our genes are the same as those of an Orangutans’, a specie of the Great Ape group? Points finger at Deaf. Points to Ape. Points to Deaf again. Points to Ape – Deaf – Ape – Deaf – Ape – Hearing – Ape – Hearing… aren’t we all the same? *belly laughs*

Picture: Mr Ape. Ooh you cuddly thing you little wee you! Cuddly pictures…the animal activist groups have mastered this art of sympathy down to every last detail.

Affiliation with the Church (idea canvassed by the New Zealander)
If Abortion is OK for some people, i.e. 15 year old girls, then how can genetically modifying the Deaf gene for some parents who do not want to see their child ‘suffer,’ not be okay? I know! Lets join forces with the Church! Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church would be our new best friend. Technically, we have a strong ally here.


We split into 3 groups to annihilate one academic article each. My group’s article focused on whether we could use the disability movement to boost our cause.

You can see a summary of the Douglas Baynton, “Beyond Culture: Deaf studies and the Deaf body”, 2004 article at page 4 of

One group’s article was on the Deaf as an Ethnic group and this group was conveniently picked to pitch their case against us in a class debate. There were valid points from both articles, but one thing was misunderstood. The other group thought we were saying that we accepted the Deaf being labelled as a disability group. But what the Douglas Baynton article really said was that being disabled is a “product of social oppression.” This means:

“According to the social model of disability, deaf and Deaf people are disabled not because they do not hear, but because society is structured and everyday business is conducted in ways that exclude them…”

Hmm.. valid point. But why shouldn’t we just accept that we ARE disabled and be done with it? Ha ha ha. Woops perhaps Im taking this cynicism too far *smiles*

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Return of Ammy

After a long two week study siesta, I am back.
The picture shows Klassekolade 1, my adopted home for those two weeks. I was reduced to incoherent sign babbling and saying “whaaa? what?” someone asked me a question. I had a bad hair day, every day. I had violent dreams about missing exam papers being hidden in the safe of a mythical Deaf organisation, and being guarded by breathy Oralist Tongues in lawyer wigs. Now I have newly manufactured concave lenses, so I can see clearly again.

But I DID squeeze in two days in Copenhagen with everyone else, and this included visiting Dovefilm, Danish Deaf TV and the Danish Deaf Association (DDL).

Come on! Be brave and find a computer with a broadband internet connection. *crawls on ground begging you* See the weekly reports at

One issue that exploded on the NZ media scene recently piqued my interest. It has a link to the DDL visit, so I will explain it briefly.

The parents of a deaf South African girl allegedly murdered by her father in Auckland, were told by the Immigration Service the child and her deaf sister were a potential "burden on the state," as in a burden on health services. What is this burden? Ah. *clears throat*

Apparently immigration authorities assumed she might need a cochlear implant if she was granted permanent residence + she would cost the government. Thus she is a burden. So no permanent residence for this family. The father was under stress because of this, and he drove her and her sister off a mountain. The girl died.

See further information about this issue at,2106,3453385a10,00.html

The Danish Deaf Association (DDL) has formed a working party to focus on the issue of Cochlear implantation only, call this a bio-technology working party if you will. But what the DDL have not done yet, is approach Cochlear Implant doctors to find out more about facts. So when we had an interview with an audiologist from the CI industry in Denmark, the DDL "congratulated" Frontrunners for scoring this interview. A very good interview t’was, with questions across the board.

It is important to KNOW what are the facts. Its no use mouthing off that Cochlear Implants are 'destroying' Deaf Culture when we dont know HOW they work etc. We need to have substance to our arguments. For example, one fact Frontrunners found out is that the implant itself only costs 60,000 Kroner, that is about $13,000NZD. It’s the process that is expensive. The operation, the follow up visits etc cost approx $500,000DKK ($115,000NZD) (including the implant) So, maybe the doctors pocket a lot of the money (disclaimer inserted here).

So why is it an old argument of the Deaf Community that Cochlear Implants are expensive when they really are not, compared to the cost of Sign Language Interpreters, Services, and the total funds needed for a Deaf person to participate in the Deaf Culture and Community. That is why the government thinks its "cheaper" to get a Cochlear Implant….

We are a minority group with rights. Some may argue that we are not comparative to traditional definitions of a minority group, but I am not going to go into this…!

The Govt don’t understand about Deaf Culture, so the Govt don’t see it as ‘destroying’ it. They think they are helping Deaf. No one is bothering to correct them. When we do correct them, we are seen as ‘weird’ and wanting to hold on to something that they don’t understand. We don’t have convincing arguments about our lingual rights. We say it is bloody expensive to get a Cochlear implant, and that the money could be spent on better things. But…there is a catch. To the Govt, getting a cochlear implant is cheaper than spending money on participation in the Deaf community. But at the same time, they are denying immigrants the right to become a citizen of New Zealand because they would be a burden on the state. Because they think this immigrant would get an cochlear implant, and that is oh so bloody expensive! I cant get my head around this stuff.

But one good thing about the DDL's working party is that:

The DDL are acknowledging that CI’s are a real issue,

They know its something the Association needs to focus on, rather than have a heavy focus on service provision. There has been a recent call in New Zealand for a separate advocacy sector to our Deaf Association. Rather, associations need to be representative of their ‘consumers.’ So issues like this can be focused on!

I don’t have a big problem with CI's, but what i do have a problem with is the way the media portrays them. The media makes them out to be something that makes a Deaf person totally hearing and totally normal. Where it’s really a very complicated progress, from implantation to learning how to use them etc. The implanted deaf person is still d/Deaf with needs.

One thing a possible ‘advocacy’ sector could focus on is arming ourselves with the CORRECT facts.
Understand both sides of the story. Make sure the NZ Immigration Department does not discriminate against Deaf who want to live in NZ. Make sure that it is NOT assumed that all Deaf individuals who enter the country would want a Cochlear Implant…. see?

NZ Immigration spokeswoman Mary Anne Thompson has said; a guideline had been established under which somebody who was likely to cost the health system $25,000 or more over four years would probably be rejected for permanent entry to NZ as being a burden on the health system.

Frankly, my pet peeve is the fact that this guideline was established without Deaf organisations jumping in and going hey hey!

Jumping to this week -

The great debate: Sociology vs Philosophy?

In the last two days we had Patrik Nordell from Sweden and Mette Sommer from Danmark. We were exposed to philosophy (positivism vs postmodernism) by Patrik, and we had an insight into the Deaf Studies Unit at Bristol University in the UK (Mette) Two individuals at the opposite end of the spectrum….

Ok ok i admit it, there wasnt really a controversy about which approach to take, philosophy or sociology. I was just twisting things to make it more interesting. But one thing we gained from these presentations was that the translation from Deaf to Theoretical Deaf needs to be made. And that we need more Deaf researchers out there...

P.S As to my comment about missing ever-oh-so beautiful Piha Beach in my hometown, if you are going to Auckland, New Zealand this Xmas Holidays there is a Deaf Tour Company who can take you around. See

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mass apology

I have done a very bad thing. I have not been posting entries into my blog. For that, i am sorry. Completely and utterly sorry. *cowers, dont hit me! dont hit me!*
But for that, I have a good reason. I am in the middle of Uni exams because I am taking two law papers at the same time as Frontrunners. Insane i know. But as of Saturday the 5th of November, I am free as a bird (in a cage).

As of next week, the other Frontrunners should be entertaining you plenty with stories of their trip to Copenhagen, so read their blogs!
For those who are holding their breath until my next entry, its okay. You can breathe now. I give you my permission *smiles*

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cavemen and Culture

The setting of the scene: A cave in pre-historic times.

Filthy cavemen arrive home with their prize. The head of the dead saber tooth tiger lolls precariously on the slab of rock it has been set on, with thick clotted blood dribbling down its sharp teeth. They are greeted by their wife cavewomen. Pandemonium arises, and the clan of cavemen smile devilshy through their rotting yellow teeth. Only one caveman is not smiling. That caveman is deaf. Through his sharp eyes, he had seen the Tiger first. He had planned to silently creep up to the animal. He told his hearing neighbour of his plan through gestures. But the hearing caveman had been too excited at the prospect of a decent dinner, and grunted loudly in a series of rapid gurgles. Thus, the whole clan complete with clubs, had descended upon the animal, in a cloud of reddish brown dust. Now, the successful hunters were being revered, as if the grunt of the caveman had communicated one resounding theme. That Hearing is important.

Our right to culture

This was my train of thought as Yerker Andersson, the former President of the WFD (1983-95) explained the Medical model that had persisted in the WFD Board until 1979. It seemed that Deaf dreams and aims been engulfed by the historic and always-important position of being ‘hearing.’

Photo: Of Yerker Andersson and his wife

Lars Ake Wikstrom, the current President of the Swedish Deaf Association ‘shook’ everyone at the WFD Congress in 1979 when he said it was not Deaf people with ‘problems,’ but that hearing people viewed us as having problems. This was the breaking point. The Social (or Cultural Model) evolved from this point, or rather in Scandinavia, with other parts of the world following later on. This can be seen as running in tandem with other movements around the world, including Black Civil Rights and gender consciousness. Just how important Hearing is can be compared with the social model. Society needs to start seeing us through the social model. I dont just mean see us, we really HAVE to be SEEN!

The Blacks have successfully convinced us of their right to equality.

We can convince society of our right to our culture.

Looking back on this blog, I may be rabbiting on a bit about manipulative techniques, how to convince convince and convince. I think I have made my point now. Perhaps its time to move onto a new theme…. a new pet obsession…

As we are on the topic of culture… I may as well inform you that we had a fast and furious debate this week regarding definitions of the Deaf Community, Deaf Culture and the Deaf World…my head is still reeling…. it seems that we are no closer to a nice and neat boxing up of these terms, complete with a nice, neat red ribbon on top. Or are we?

According to Hilde Haualand, a social anthropologist from Norway (btw, a brilliant presentation with us Frontrunners), cultures happen between people. We are not born with it, but rather realise and develop it in continual interaction with others.

So, if we have a right to culture, it is important for us to be ALLOWED to develop our cultural identity. Deaf children have to be given opportunties to see it with their own wee eyes, to socialise, to be educated in, to drink in Deaf culture.

In legal terms, one way our right to culture can be achieved, is through sign language recognition. What i really mean is that through sign language recognition, a Deaf child can access his or her culture through being educated in sign language.... Now, perhaps THAT can be my new pet obsession...hmmm.... should i start? Should i just not go there?

P.S. I just had to say this. Oh God! I miss Piha Beach!
Photo: Piha Beach, New Zealand

Saturday, October 08, 2005



The forum is up and running now!
Just click on “Debate Forum” at and register as a member. You can post your thoughts / comments under the different topics. You can also post comments here in my personal blog. Thanks to those who have already commented! Aka James, Dax, Jason, Ryan, Kim and Shane.

Limping along as disabled…. ?

Overall, the theme of the WFD conference had a large focus on Human Rights in relation to the disability arena. This leads to the question, are we gradually accepting our label as disabled to get what we want? (I refer to the Frontrunner discussion document on Are we Deaf or Disabled? Check out the main website for this.)

Helga Stevens, the President of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) compiled a list of points which I have laid down on an altar, and surrounded with candles and the waft of myrrh.

1) Deaf People have to learn how to network.

In her very words:

“in black and white: all those people who campaign for minority and disability rights are hearing people. They speak with other hearing people. Thus they can speak directly with them. Perhaps they need to use another language, but they can still speak directly to/with them. They can understand each other easily. They do not need to “drag” sign language interpreters along to get their point across. So compared to them, we start our discussion with, I quote, a “handicap.”

So the point is, we need to get our feelers out there and start schmoozing the crowd. Grease, Grease, flash that Hollywood smile!

2) Deaf advocacy and awareness raising are important

Helga says: “we need to have reliable documentation resources available and to be able to pass on information in a clear and well-structured manner.”

How many times have we been hindered by the lack of statistics, research to support our case? On the other hand, there is a huge amount of information out there, but no one is paid well enough to want to collate this information.

I recently saw a brochure on Cochlear Implantation in Denmark. This brochure was really flash and well presented. the layout was one of the best I have ever seen with soft and muted colours. It appears to have been designed by someone with an intricate knowledge of marketing techniques. It had images of smiling white Danish mothers and fathers playing on the beach with their children, and eating at the family dinner table. You could not tell who was deaf. Another magazine I picked up was by the Vestdansk Center for Cochlear Implantation. Eloquent words were used to describe doctor’s disbelief at the Deaf community’s inability to accept the transferring of deaf individuals into majority society….

This made me think. The power of
1) visual images
2) words
The power of these are being used to convince society of what is “right and just.”

We can beat them at their own game, if I may be so candid. We definitely can use our strengths, visual techniques. Pictures, Art, Deaf TV programmes…and show the positiveness of Deaf Culture. However, words are also very important. We must construct well defined arguments and disseminate this through the mass media….
Some may argue that NZ IS growing in this area. We have better websites, a short film competition with quality films, a whole new generation of Deaf Graphic designers and some positive coverage in the media. However remember this,


Will full understanding of our Deaf Culture happen BEFORE Doctors find a cure for deafness?

3) Partners in lobbying

Helga says: Join hands with “language experts, parents, Deaf institutions supporting the use of sign language, National Disability Councils. Minority language groups, hard of hearing organisations…find broad public support to help us strengthen our case and to stand a better chance of convincing our government.”

Its simple. The more numbers we have, the better!

Another random thought: We have one Deaf Female African as a member of Parliament in South Africa. Her name is Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen. How did she get in? South Africa must have 5 disabled people in Parliament, as part of a quota system. (However this is not set in concrete.)

I know that Don Brash of the National party (the biggest opposition political party in NZ) may kick up a fuss about the concept of a quota system. He likes to think we all should be ‘one people.’ And not have special entrance for Maori, for Disabled people. Okay. But think about it, if there were at least some ‘disabled’ members in Parliament, we would get a lot of power… hmmm… *looks up at sky*

P.S. The photo is of the Frontrunners team and friends playing Kubb, a Danish Viking version of the game Pentaque. Half of us were sore losers, im sure you can work out who *smiles*

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Where I was last week: The International Conference of the WFD:
Focus: Human Rights

Now, now my friends. You have waited long enough. Now is time. I shall tell you about the spectacle that occurred at last weeks International Conference of the WFD. We Frontrunners marched up to centre stage dressed in garish costumes and headpieces. Others slowly descended from the ceiling, twirling. To the tune of “Oklahoma” we signed, “It ain't too early and it ain't too late... Brand new state!” The room erupted with cheers and splattered tomatoes…

What REALLY happened was that at 9.30am, on Friday the 30th of September 2005, we handed out flyers on Genocide. This was to warm up our audience for our main presentation later on. You can see the layout of this flyer on the main website as well as the video of this presentation.

Our aim: to start people thinking about the issue of Genocide. Many people think it means the killing of a race as in the Holocaust or Rwanda. But there are many definitions of Genocide, and Cultural Genocide is one of them. This cultural genocide is happening in two ways:

1) Linguistic Oppression
2) Genetic Engineering

It is a fact that it is a desire to better people, to make them as “normal” as possible. This means doctors are trying to find a cure for deafness whether we like it or not.

Will it be a matter of time before doctors find this cure? Can we convince the world of our true status as a community before this happens?

Time is of the essence. Time. Trailing along at a snails pace, thinking that things will improve slightly “next year” or in the “next five years” will not help us win the race. We have to stop that shark. This may be naïve thinking…

However, there’s nothing wrong with taking a boat out to sea... stocked with various kinds
of explosives. Pop a large firecracker in the cavernous chasm of our friend Jaws. Hope for the best. Have Jaws pursuing us relentlessly, even after chunks of flesh have been blown off his back. After countless attempts, our goals will be achieved. We gotta try.