Day Trips2nd April 2014

Crufts and Deaf Accessibility

Crufts is hugely popular and watched by millions of people but is it deaf friendly

by Wendy Bebb

Crufts is a hugely popular annual event, in fact it is the biggest dog show in the world. For a huge number of people involved in this pastime, the aim is ‘to qualify a dog for Crufts’. Achieving that ambition is usually the culmination of a year of dog showing, all over the country, indeed, with the relaxation of quarantine regulations, exhibitor come from all over the world.

This year some 22,500 dogs were exhibited at Crufts, including our very own Field Spaniel, Sonnetend Gentle Touch Cochen, known to us as Teisen. Our day started at the very early time of 4.30 am, with Teisen already fed and exercised, we set off from home at 6 o'clock on the journey to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham. Car parked, we then joined the other exhibitors making our way to the hall for our specific breed.

What I fail to mention is, I am profoundly deaf and have been since an accident at the age of sixteen. This year at Crufts, I made it my mission to find out just what provision or services are available at this great event for the deaf, after all, here in the UK we have 10 million people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. I have attended Crufts for some twenty-five years and am ashamed to admit I have always relied on hearing people to find information for me.

Well this time was to be different! The first part of the day was easy, we had written directions guiding us to where we would exhibit our dog. We were delighted when Teisen was awarded second place in her class, thus qualifying her for next year's Crufts.

Excitement over, I set about looking for the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf display. I signed I am deaf and in fairness a young lady with the hearing dogs team managed a few signs and pointed to a notice informing everyone of a puppy training display for later that day, with an interpreter called Tom. Well done Hearing Dogs. I returned to watch a very interesting display, with a signer to assist deaf spectators.

Crufts is hosted by the Kennel Club and throughout the NEC there are various stands dealing with dog issues, so I thought this would be a great starting point for accessibility for either deaf dog show exhibitors, or the general public who flock to the NEC in droves for this prestigious event.  Hmmmmm, after trying unsuccessfully at two different Kennel Club information areas, I was advised to contact them at a later date.

So, for the 2014 Crufts, I was unable to discover whether the Kennel Club will stop and think about deaf people in the future. There is no reduction in entrance fees for deaf spectators or exhibitors and whilst personally, I dont think there should be, BUT come on the Kennel Club, provide the service of a signer to give deaf people an equal standing with your hearing audience. Most of us will have access to subtitled television, however, wouldn't it be great if group judging, for all breed winners, which is watched worldwide, could have a signer, just so the information on each competitor is available for both deaf and hearing. 

Crufts is what all of us dog show folks aim for, but it is also an expensive day, isn't it only fair that I am as aware of information on different dogs e.g. their ages, if they have won anything in the past. I intend to badger the Kennel Club, as Crufts generates huge sums of money, so I would like them to seriously consider the issues I raise, in the hope that next year's Crufts will be far more deaf friendly.

Watch this space ..............

Article by Wendy Bebb

posted in Entertainment / Day Trips

2nd April 2014