News16th May 2015

Bridgend Council Wins Gold at Gala Dinner

Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards recognised the work of a small number of organisations to become more deaf friendly

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

Amongst the glitz and glamour of the Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Gala Dinner last night, we had the serious issue of finding out which of the short-listed nominees would win this year’s gold award. Attending as a guest of an ambitious team from the Principality Building Society, it was pleasing to see a range of businesses from across Wales supporting the event.

Held at the Hilton in Cardiff, the event was superbly hosted by the ever-young and beautiful Beverley Humphries. With two experienced English/BSL interpreters on hand provided for people like me and a palantypist producing speech to text for others, I was looking forward to a lovely evening. 

Arriving early for the event to ensure the evening was stress free, I had the pleasure of watching a stream of dashing gentlemen arrive in their dinner jackets and tuxedos along with a host of beautiful ladies who had relished the opportunity to dress up for the night. Gathering for pre-event drinks upon arrival, I was delighted to chat to Bev Davies and Paul Williams from Bridgend County Council who were one of the nominated organisations on the short list. Having worked with them on some of their deaf friendly programmes, I secretly hoped that the evening would be a success for them.

Recognising other familiar faces in the growing throng of people, I would have liked to say "hi" to lots of people, but sadly, I didn’t get around to it. Called into the ballroom for the start of the formalities, I made my way with my hosts to Table 6, which we were sharing with a team from the North Wales Fire Service who were also on the shortlist for an award. With no seating plan for the table, they were already in their chairs facing the stage, leaving me and my group to sit with our backs to the speakers.

Sitting down and signing to the people with me, I waited a few moments before reluctantly asking the fire officers and their partners if they would mind swapping seats, explaining that I needed line of sight to the interpreters who would be standing on the stage where all BSL users could see them. A quick game of musical chairs and we there, ready for the formalities to begin.

Within minutes of taking our seats, the wonderful Beverley had us all pouring £5 notes into an envelope to kick off the fund raising, with everyone in the room playing a game of chance using two different coloured cards. Through a process of elimination with Beverley holding up only one of the coloured cards, the audience was soon whittled down to one lady, who claimed the prize.

Setting out the importance of the work Action on Hearing Loss does, Richard Williams kicked us off with a warm bilingual welcome in English and Welsh, and he was duly followed throughout the evening by other gentlemen talking about and promoting the excellent research work and services of AoHL. Further important fund raising took place with a high quality raffle and an even higher quality auction with some brilliant items donated by Joe Allen, the Liverpool midfielder and AoHL Cymru ambassador, with his brother again in attendance to support the event.

Before the award announcements we were treated to some musical entertainment, well actually we all took part in it by forming a percussion band. A young man provided everyone with plastic tubes of various lengths and colours. Groups gathered with other people holding the same colour and length, and at the band masters beckoning each group tapped out a different rhythm by hitting the palm of one hand with the plastic tube. Judging by the smiles on people’s faces, the sound must have been  impressive, but as I couldn’t hear, I wont swear to that.

That led us to the exciting part of the evening, the business excellence awards. The following seven organisations made it to the shortlist, each one presented to the audience setting out some of the small but important steps they had taken to become more deaf friendly before the final results were announced.

  • Bridgend County Borough Council
  • North Wales Fire and Rescue Service
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Wales Ambulance Service Trust
  • Taking Flight Theatre Company
  • Vision Products
  • Western Power Distribution

Describing practices such as having hearing loops and checking them regularly, providing BSL translation and deaf friendly equipment, along with better access, the results were read out by the chair of the group who judged the entries.

Winning the Bronze Award was Western Power Distribution. In second place and taking away the Silver Award was The National Assembly for Wales. Taking top honours, and in recognition of their spread of activities that have improved service and information provision to people with mild deafness all the way through to Deaf BSL users, the Gold Award went to Bridgend County Borough Council.

With the formalities complete, I took the opportunity to mingle and chat to some of the other Deaf BSL users who were present. This included Harry Allen, brother of Joe, who also happens to be a rather talented footballer himself and is a previous Captain of the GB Deaf team. Looking dashing, Harry told me how pleased he was to be named in the GB Deaf Football Squad and how much he was looking forward to the forthcoming European Deaf Football Championships in Germany. 

With the evening drawing to a close, I reflected on how important events such as this are, highlighting the initial steps taken by a small number of public and private sector organisations in Wales to be more caring and considerate towards deaf people. I commend everyone at Bridgend County Council for their efforts in winning the award, but especially the tireless, determined work of Bev and Paul, and I hope they are recognised for their efforts by the council itself.

However, it also left me wanting more. Where are the big supermarkets, insurers, retailers? What are they doing to become deaf friendly. Already working with some other organisations myself through my own Deaf Friendly Business Solutions to help improve knowledge and understanding of deaf people’s needs, my ambition is that evenings like this trigger an acceleration in the rate of change, developing passionate leaders and firm commitments to introduce widespread thought and compassion for deaf people.

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Community / News

16th May 2015