There’s a worrying domino effect impacting deaf young people’s education – it must be stopped | Liam O’Dell

As MPs debate deaf children’s services in Parliament later today, it’s time to introduce more equality into our education system and address this problem at its core.

A series of continuous barriers in education are preventing deaf young people from achieving their full potential. Without the right support, these issues can only worsen as the individual progresses through the system.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has done some incredible work in establishing the issues present throughout a deaf young person’s journey through the education system. Their research has revealed that councils in England are planning £4 million worth of cuts to services for disabled children and young people; that just nine per cent of deaf young people attended a Russell Group university in the 2015/16 academic year (compared to 17% of all students) and now, that over half of deaf students in England in 2017 failed to achieve more than one A-Level before reading 19 years of age. The exact figure, 58.8%, is the highest rate since 2012, The Independent reports.

All of this points to a wider domino effect at play in our education system which sets deaf young people down a path where they are unable to achieve the results of which they are capable. The cuts to deaf services mean that deaf pupils are not as supported by Teachers of the Deaf and other professionals as they should be.

As such, these individuals fail to receive full access to an education in the classroom, which could explain why we’re currently seeing a rise in the number of deaf young people failing to achieve more than one A-Level. This then impacts their chances of entering Russell Group universities. It shouldn’t be allowed to snowball like this.

While all this unfolds, the Government is making slow progress on introducing a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) – a qualification which would not only help to break down communication barriers between deaf pupils, their peers and their tutors, but also greatly improve their access to education.

Education is as much about support networks as it is learning. These cuts should not only be stopped, but more work must be done to establish connections between parents, students and teachers.

Having on individual who can understand a child’s needs in an educational environment can help a lot with navigating through education. At present, the cuts to deaf services are so significant that while I received support from a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, not every deaf child is so lucky.

With so many barriers facing deaf children in education, it can feel isolating and confusing. Transitions between school can only exacerbate the obstacles if strong communication networks are established. We must not only challenge the damaging cuts proposed, but work to improve connections so deaf children are supported as much as possible.

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To meme or not to meme? Thoughts on the EU Commission’s Article 13 copyright directive | Liam O’Dell

Try to regulate the Internet, and you will get memed.

In the middle of a controversial debate around net neutrality in the United States, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai tried to win support with a cringeworthy promotional video. In addition to the strong opposition to the new plans, the video was repeatedly mocked and parodied by Internet creators around the world.

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Next in line to propose new regulations on the Internet is the European Commission, who, through a new copyright directive known as Article 13, want to “[improve] the position of rightholders to negotiate and be remunerated for the exploitation of their content by online services giving access to user-uploaded content” and make sure that “authors and rightholders receive a fair share of the value that is generated by the use of their works and other subject-matter”.

The concern comes from campaign groups such as Save Your Internet, who argue that websites will have to “implement complex and expensive filtering systems and will be held liable for copyright infringement, potentially incurring fines that threaten their economic viability”.

“The days of communicating through gifs and memes, listening to our favourite remixes online or sharing videos of our friends singing at karaoke might be coming to an end,” it goes on to add. It was these specific concerns about memes which made the headlines in media organisations such as BBC News and Sky News, and led to many young and witty remainers to joke that they now support the vote to leave the EU in 2016’s referendum.

As with most policies, there is a degree of ambiguity and over-the-top formality in the EU Commission’s proposal, but campaigners are right to voice concerns about Article 13 affecting memes. In the UK, there’s certain instances where duplicates of copyrighted work such as photos and videos can be monetised – provided the new version is transformative. In other words, creative forms such as reviews and parodies are covered under fair use or fair dealing because they bring new ideas to the table, and thus don’t infringe upon the market of the original work.

Before I elaborate, I should stress and issue a disclaimer that I am not a legal expert or lawyer, and so my knowledge of copyright and fair use comes from my time on YouTube and as a journalism student whose dabbled a little bit in media law.

Upon hearing this news for the first time, I was curious to know how such a proposal – if fully backed and passed within the different organisations within the EU – would be enforced. However, after seeing the term “recognition technologies” within the document, it’s clear that we’re talking about systems similar to YouTube’s Content ID function. Yet, even that has its problems…

With any legislation – especially those regarding any form of expression (e.g. free speech laws or copyright laws) – it’s important that it allows for context. On a site like YouTube, for example, video game cutscenes may be flagged for copyright infringement when they may be a part of a play through by a games reviewer. YouTube film critics face issues around copyrighted movie footage which, for a video-sharing site, is essential for illustrating their review. In all of these instances a computer system may struggle to understand the underlying context in which the copyrighted content is placed. Searches for matching content can be easily coded and incorporated into an algorithm – context cannot.

Therefore, I am mainly sceptical of this proposal, but that’s not to say that I don’t see where the EU Commission is coming from. Whilst the possible restriction on memes is ridiculous and nonsensical and falls under transformative fair use, I do believe that more adequate protection needs to be put in place for talented artists who may find companies using their drawings and illustrations online without credit.

Although, this brings me to another issue with this policy. Whilst legislation can be a blanket law to address a rare event or a small instance, group etc., on this occasion, using algorithms to scan whole websites for this one specific issue may actually do more harm than good. We have to protect artists and illustrators who are having their content duplicated without no transformative element, but a dragnet algorithm is not the right way. Instead, much like some sites already have flagging and reporting systems, each platform should have a report button which allows creators to request to have the duplicate taken down.

As much as we should be concerned about what Article 13 means for memes, we should also question what alternative laws there needs to be to protect artists’ work.

Introducing ‘The Impaired Judgement Podcast’

There’s hosting a radio show, then there’s creating a podcast. The former, I have done now, on-and-off, for around two years. When it comes to the latter, despite my presenting experience, was all very new to me – that is, until today.


At 5pm, the very first episode of Impaired Judgement – my podcast which sees me and other disabled people cast a critical eye over the latest disability news – went live on YouTube (and soon, it will be available on iTunes). Despite being in front of a microphone many times before, I still struggled to find the right place to start – although I did have a detailed plan of things to discuss.

Thankfully, I had my good friend Connor to discuss things with, as he was my first guest on the podcast. Reaching the 30-40 minute target was easy. However, coming up with the name was particularly tricky (an earlier idea was Sign of the Times, before I realised that Harry Styles may have a few words). The great thing was that this new name contained a similar level of wordplay – ‘impaired judgement’ being a common phrase, but it also nicely sums up a podcast which sees disabled people discuss the latest news.

Looking ahead, the aim is to build up my ability to improvise when thinking (I often rely on scripts when on radio), and hopefully have at least one guest on per episode. How frequent the podcasts will be is something I still need to figure out, but I hope to keep a regular flow going for as long as possible.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in hearing myself and Connor discuss noisy restaurants, the latest MMR vaccine statistics and schizophrenia, then you can give the first episode of the podcast a listen on YouTube.

A New Adventure…

This has been an exciting one. Monday saw me visit Go Ape for a fun day out with a friend, and Wednesday saw me go to London to see a live recording of The Russell Howard Hour (more on that soon). It was also on Wednesday that I received another bit of good news.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’d know that I went to Summer in the City last month – a UK convention dedicated to YouTube and online video. It was there that I met the team from the YouTube magazine TenEighty, and naturally, I asked about writing for them.

A few weeks later and after a fun application process, an email landed in my inbox saying that I can join the team, and I was over the moon.

I already have two articles up on the website so far, including one on disabled YouTubers having their videos demonetised, and asdfmovie creator TomSka announcing the end of his vlog series, Last Week. I look forward to writing even more articles for TenEighty in the future.


A Thousand Words: Persistence and an attention to detail

It’s been a fun week of journalism this week, as I went to the for work experience whilst also receiving some exciting news about an application I submitted last month. Both situations reminded me of the two skills mentioned in the title of this blog post – skills that are essential for a career in journalism.

Thank you to the team at the i for a great week of work experience. Here’s yesterday’s issue of the paper, which featured a couple of pieces from yours truly.

One thing I have always admired about the is its focus on concise, to-the-point news stories. Page two of their paper sees a ‘matrix’ of short, 50-word articles summarising news from a variety of different areas – be it foreign affairs, politics or something else.

The short pieces, known as nibs or ‘news in briefs’ present a fun challenge to the typical journalist. With the right story, reporters have quotes, statistics (of sorts), backstory and facts to hand, which they then need to squeeze into such a tight word count. It’s a case of prioritisation and they have to ask themselves: what is the most important information which needs to be included?

It was a craft I was able to hone throughout my week at the i. Alongside an exciting visit to the Saatchi Gallery to help out a press photographer, writing some business nibs and writing a short piece for the arts section, most of my week was spent assisting the Foreign Editor with articles. Every day I had the opportunity to write up about five or six stories to go in the aforementioned ‘matrix’. Some could quite easily be summarised in such a limit, but others proved more of a challenge. Nevertheless, it helped build upon my love of the news form and my attention to detail. It was great to get some editorial insight into the style of the i too.

Then there’s persistence – that came during one particular lunch break. After spotting a message from Sky’s Early Careers department in my voicemail, I was quick to return the call when I had a minute spare. It was about my application for a placement at Sky News under their Diversity Scheme, and it was third time lucky. I had been offered a place!

I fell in love with Sky HQ – based in Osterley – last year, when I was offered two weeks’ work experience at the firm’s Product and Brand PR team. A vibrant atmosphere complete with a just as positive work ethic meant I had to get a placement at Sky News, and return to Sky Central once more. Now, that day has come. Well, in November, to be exact.

I can’t wait. Bring it on!

Thoughts on Future News Worldwide 2017

There’s something extremely humbling about Scotland: a sense of community, of collaboration, and of life just getting on.

Group photo of delegates from Future News Worldwide.
The 100 delegates from over 40 countries who were selected to be a part of Future News Worldwide 2017. Photo: British Council

I was in Edinburgh this weekend for Future News Worldwide 2017 – an international conference where 100 student journalists from across the world gathered in the Scottish Parliament to talk all things news with media professionals. After visiting Glasgow in May, it was great to be back on Scottish soil so soon.

The adventure began on Wednesday. After landing arriving at Edinburgh Airport, I was quick to jump on a bus – along with fellow delegate, Veronika – straight to our accommodation for the week: Brae House.

The room was by no means unfamiliar to me. As a student accommodation block (run by a company which used to be the landlord for my flat in Lincoln) it was a pleasant environment to call home for the next 5 days.

Scottish Parliament
One of my favourite photos from my time in Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament hosted us for our conference this week.

Bags were unpacked, then it wasn’t long before we all made the short walk towards the Scottish Parliament for drinks and networking. Nestled under the shadow of King Arthur’s Seat, the very post-modern building was such an amazing venue for the conference. Also, as a devout political nerd, stepping foot in the place responsible for Scottish democracy left me buzzing throughout the event. It’s needless to say that I was quick to take up the offer of a free tour when that became available on Friday…

A quick change of clothes and I had another opportunity to get to know some of the other 100 delegates (chosen out of over 2,000 applicants) that won the competition. It was a night filled with drinks, good music, and good company.

Then came the two days of the conference, which were so jam-packed full of insightful talks that this post would become an essay if I mentioned them all in detail. Journalists from The Sunday Times, The Economist and BBC World Service were just some of the people to speak to us – highlights included an interview session with an award-winning BBC documentary maker, a data report from the Reuters Institute and workshops with Google and Facebook.

The conference ended with plenty of new business cards, two new tote bags (which I just managed to squeeze into my suitcase), plenty of new friendships and some opportunities to pursue in the future.

After two days of receiving a lot of information from media professionals, a day of tourism yesterday offered some respite. It started with a walking tour of the city, stopping off on The Royal Mile, Parliament House, and a graveyard which inspired famous Harry Potter characters. I spent the whole of yesterday and Friday with Neil, a good friend of mine who I rarely get to see because of long distance.

Sadly, I couldn’t make it out for one last party with everyone, but I still had time for some celebrations on the Friday night. I also had time to explore King Arthur’s Seat, which boasted incredible views.


As I get ready to board my flight from Edinburgh Airport, my mind flashes back to what was said during one of the opening speeches at the start of the conference about the aim of Future News Worldwide. Whilst the actual speech itself has slipped my mind, I believe the event was all about collaboration, breaking down barriers, and campaigning for change through the world of journalism.

The past two days were the start of some wonderful new friendships around the world. Looking ahead, now is the time for me to learn more about their countries, educate myself, and collaborate with others who are also passionate about reporting.

As the British Council said on Twitter: “The future of journalism is in good hands.”

At the centre of the action: thoughts on covering the general election

Journalists can have two results to the news of an election. For most of us (excluding those in Scotland) the news of a third vote in the space of three years can stir up fatigue as a voter. However, it’s the reporter within us that gets excited, knowing that UK politics is about to change once more, and we’re at the heart of the action.

My set-up for the evening, as I reported on the count in Mid Bedfordshire.

Annoyingly, with the EU referendum taking place on the week of Glastonbury, I was unable to cover it. So, naturally, when the surprise general election was announced, I was quick to ask the local media if I could help out.

This led to me working with the Broadcast Journalism Council and Radio LaB in Bedfordshire on their programme, The Vote. I was sent off to the Mid Bedfordshire count – an ultra-safe seat for the Conservatives and their candidate Nadine Dorries.

The night started with me heading into the offices of Central Bedfordshire Council, worried that a mere student reporter would be turned away by the security guard or the receptionist. Thankfully, I was quickly handed my visitors’ pass and escorted to the press room.

There’s always a sense of community that comes with hanging out with other reporters in a press room. A feeling of mutual stress (in that we are all rushing to meet deadlines) and excitement fills the air as I get settled down – laptop powered up, shorthand notebook open and mobile phone fully charged.

It was 20 minutes later that I had my first ‘two-way’ (a radio term for having a back-and-forth discussion between a reporter and presenter). I painted the scene of the constituency and gave details of some of the candidates, before it was back to work.

It wasn’t long before the Liberal Democrat candidate came in to say hello, and I had my first interview of the night. Due to the rules in place around the count, reporters weren’t able to go into the marquee where staff were counting the votes, and so a member of staff had to go in and track down candidates on our behalf.

Once the first interview was out of the way, then things started to pick up. I had to edit the recording to get a solid 30-second clip, whilst also grabbing a quick snack (a sweet chicken sandwich which sadly, wasn’t too pleasant), composing tweets for Twitter and doing the occasional two-way. Much like in a normal newsroom scenario, work was starting to pile up, and the night started to pick up pace.

The Labour candidate was next to come into the press room for interviews, and it was whilst transcribing the recording that the news came through: the result was due to be announced shortly.

Plenty of Skype calls and phone calls were made to the studio as I sprinted into the marquee. A particular highlight at this point of the night was the fact that I posted news of the result ahead of the BBC – get in!

After that, I was able to speak to two more candidates and do a final two-way before packing up for the night. On the whole, regardless of the party allegiance, everyone was up for a chat – even when a serious election was taking place.

I was in a position which was new to me. My Friday Article posts on this blog are pretty reactive to political events, and save for my work experience at the press office of the Department for Work and Pensions, everything else has seen me respond to politics, as opposed to experiencing it first hand.

Being at the centre of politics during a general election is intense, fast-paced and exciting. Given the current state of affairs and the possibility of a second election, I can’t wait to return to heart of the action again in the near future.

If you fancy a look at what I got up to on the night, you can see my tweets on my Twitter profile, and listen to interviews with some of the candidates on my Facebook page.