CN: discussions of lockdown, interpreters, new diagnosis, having a Hearing family
Jazzy Whipps is Deaf with BSL as her first language. She runs a YouTube channel with 205K followers; her aim was to bring Deaf Awareness to the general public and is now a prevalent Deaf role model.
So, you run a YouTube channel, I think I started following you from your BSL tutorials actually – you’re a true icon! Could you tell me a bit about why you started a YouTube channel and what you wanted to achieve from it?
That's cool that you started following my channel from my BSL tutorials [link]! I decided to set up my YouTube Channel because I hadn't seen many Deaf influencers, so one day, I decided that I needed to do something for the world and for the Deaf community. Once I filmed a video, I got addicted to making more! It's important to have a positive Deaf role model, as there are lots of Deaf people out there who are not ready to show their identity. I want to make Deaf people feel comfortable about themselves and to help them accept being Deaf. I come from a Hearing family so I understand how it can be a struggle for some Deaf people in this situation.
At the moment, a lot has moved online, especially to Zoom. How have you found that?
During the Coronovirus pandemic, everything changed suddenly and it was strange for me at first, as I didn't have my interpreter next to me physically to translate what everyone's speaking. It can be tiring and difficult sometimes; if my interpreter freezes the communication breaks down. I once went on Zoom with 20 people, it was very frustrating for me as everyone was speaking at once so my interpreter couldn't translate for everyone, so I decided never to go back on Zoom with a large number group again! I think having under 5 people on Zoom is very helpful as it's easier for me to look at each person at once and my interpreter signs smoothly. As I work at a Deaf company, Deafinitely Theatre [link], I'm very lucky to have Deaf access.
I think often, especially online videos, there has been a lot of breakdown with communication and confidence for Deaf people in doing video calls. This happens especially when there are people talking over each other, or not signing. What can Hearing people do to try and make video calls, whether that social or for work, more accessible to Deaf friends and colleagues?
It's important to provide an interpreter on video calls if Hearing people don't know how to sign. It's best to have a small number on video calls so the Deaf person can focus on what people are saying, rather than getting frustrated and looking at lots of people talking at once. I haven't tried the subtitles on Zoom yet, but one of my Deaf friends has tried it and they recommended it so we can feel more included with what people are saying, rather than missing out on things.
For Deaf people who are in lockdown, maybe living with a friend, partner or family, who don’t sign or there’s a communication barrier – what would you suggest?
Lots of Deaf people's family don't sign, so I can imagine it's very difficult during the lockdown, having a communication barrier. Since the lockdown, there are lots of Deaf creators joining YouTube that are making lots of interesting videos, so it's great for the Deaf community to make them feel included with our world more in social media. Since a lot has moved to online which includes British Sign Language courses, I would recommend people who don't have Deaf knowledge or don't know how to sign to start there.
How have you found lockdown? Have there been any communication barriers, for example with access to guidance information, watching films, videos online and healthcare – for example with lack of interpreters?
At first, the lockdown was difficult for me as I find video calls at work all day quite tiring and difficult as the internet is not always great. Now I feel like I'm starting to get to used to it as I'm learning every day. As I have bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis) it's very hard to make an appointment with my doctors or ask them something as I can't talk on the phone. They are closed unless there’s an emergency and they are very busy with Coronavirus. We have all have faced some difficulties in lockdown as this is something that has never happened in our lives, but we are learning new things every day and I feel like we are more used to technology now.
Let’s talk a bit about experiences with interpreters – when did you first start using and know it was time to start using an interpreter?
I went to mainstream schools, so all my life I have interpreters but it's different when I left school; I feel much more independent and I meet lots of new interpreters, learning about their experience being CODA, or in the Deaf community. I have had both good and bad experiences with my interpreters, but it takes time until you find the right interpreter that matches your need. I have recently started using Access To Work [link] interpreters, it's massively different to my interpreters at school, their BSL is at the highest qualification and I get to work with lots of different interpreters which is interesting. When I was younger, I didn't know that I could have interpreters with me in the future, I thought it was only for school as I never learnt about Access To Work.
I know I’ve had both my fair share of bad experience with the interpreters themselves and where I need the interpreter for! What advice would you give to someone who is new to using an interpreter?
I had such a bad experience with an interpreter at my hospital appointment which put me off with booking an interpreter for my future appointments! I was young and as I said earlier, I was new to it, so I thought all the interpreters were the same but thankfully I was wrong. My advice is work with lots of interpreters even though you may have mixed experiences with them, so you know what's best for you in the future, and what interpreter matches your need.
At the moment, there has recently been announced that masks are going to be compulsory on public transport and shops. How has that made you feel? Why is this an issue for Deaf people and what can be done (while sticking to guidance and keeping people safe) to help Deaf people not feel so isolated?
I know our health comes first, which is absolutely understandable but in my experience, I have faced struggles communicating with a face mask on. It was frustrating to understand them as some of them refused to write things down, they just carried on talking to me - even when I told them that I'm Deaf and I can't lipread them. But some people are lovely and respectful; they have written down on paper or typed on the phone to communicate, I really hope lots of people are like that. It's going to be a big struggle for the Deaf community, but we will always find other ways.
Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to a newly diagnosed Deaf person, what would that be?
My advice to newly diagnosed Deaf people is that it's okay to be afraid of joining the Deaf community as it's very new, but our Deaf community is very welcoming. Maybe watch a few YouTube videos of other Deaf creators, so you can learn a bit more about the Deaf community. Hopefully, it will gain your confidence in your identity.
You can follow Jazzy on twitter @jazzywhipps & subscribe to her YouTube channel here [link].