Case Study – Dance, Drama and Performance and Auditory Difficulties

Case study about a Media and Performance student with a hearing impairment

Information taken from (information accessed and extracted September 2008)

Lee Davis is a student with a hearing impairment on a HND Media and Performance course


Did you audition?

Yes I did. But even so, when I went for my interview to get into university I was still being watchful that they had to take into consideration that I should get the same treatment as the other people. They weren’t giving anything easy away for me. So that was a hard task. But even so I was aware of the possibility that I might not get in – but, to my surprise, I have got in. I try to go on a BA Media Performance, but I knew I did badly because I wasn’t prepared. So I ended up doing an HND, but I’m happy.

Did you disclose on the application form? Were you worried at that stage that they might say, ‘We can’t have this guy on the course, throw that application away.

No. I was happy because I was more prepared and I have had some help and I knew exactly where I was going and what I was aiming for. I was never afraid. At some point I did doubt myself and my abilities, but I kept going forward. One particular tutor, called Jeanine Lockwood told me to go to Salford because it would be the best thing for me, and do the HND. So, here I am and doing exactly what I wanted to do.

On the course

What’s your course called again?

Media and Performance.

Explain to us what that is.

Well, firstly, media is based on getting to know the camera and how the camera works. So if you wanted to become a performer as an actor, and you are acting in front of the camera, you need to know why the camera has been there and why it is taking so long before shooting the film or TV series. And you need to get the knowledge and the background. It’s also a good advantage to explore other areas of work other than just being an actor, so it can also lead you into becoming a director if you wanted to be. It’s a great opportunity to do that, you don’t have to go on HND directing course because you can then learn about probably only one thing and it goes into detail, whereas in HND in Media Performance you learn the practical sorts of things and you get your hands dirty. Once you have learned how to use a camera, you go on to the editing suite. There are two different cameras, digital and analogue. The analogue is which two monitoring screens and one machine. You slip the tape in and you work from two machines. With digital, you work from the computer, which is straightforward. I’ve only just started learning how to use the digital computer in the editing suite. It is a little bit complex but the more time I spend on it the more I will get used to it. That’s the basic outline of the media part, but it also goes into lighting and sound and other things which you call the production side of it. But the performance side is basically training you to be an actor or a singer or a dancer.

Which do you do? Are you mainly acting?

Yes, just acting. One of my weaknesses in being partially deaf is that I’m not a very good singer. I’d like to stress that more clearly actually, I like singing but singing isn’t one of my strongest … I don’t want to be a solo artist.

What sorts of support do you need in the learning environment – or don’t you need any?

At the moment, they need to be aware about deaf people. Especially in the course I’m on, they need to be aware anyway. At the moment the course co-ordinator is really, really helpful. When he received the report he gave everything to the tutor, so that they know. Then I introduced myself and told them the same things and they are aware and became more helpful. I’ve had no problem with any of the teachers in the past, so up to now I am quite happy with their support which is given to me and their patience. After all, it depends on how hard you are prepared to work to receive what you want to get. Bearing in mind, I’m not just like any other deaf person. It is better to be graded equal to anybody else, but in certain areas like me being partially deaf, or my deafness it is difficult for me when I can’t sing and when I can’t hear whether I am in tune. That will be a bit hard so the teachers will need to be more aware, especially when I go for an interview – so that they are more understanding in what they are asking. It is on the UCAS form in the small print but it is much easier if they know in advance. They have been very supportive.

There must be a lot of technical equipment like sound recording equipment. Has any of that caused difficulties?

There will be some difficulties, again, but they must be aware and some teachers don’t tend to look at the person who needs to be looked at. When I have a note taker it is important for me to concentrate on the teacher then I know what I they’re getting at. The note taker should be clear in their writing and get the full notes of what the lesson is about.

Does the note taker come with you for the whole day? How does teaching take place on your course – is it lectures …?

For example there was a lecture this morning but it was a practical, so there was really no need for him to be there. But I kept him there in case there were some notes. In the other lecture there is nothing but a lecture – no practical and so it is good for him to be there. One thing Access Summit has offered to do is have a mini-disk and a microphone. Then I can take him in, do the practical and then I can record it and take it home and listen to it and then I am more prepared.

Are there any problems with headphones?

Do you mean in the theatre, no, no problem at all. As long as I can put it in the right place. I can get some special ones for me to wear and to plug in. I can get a loop (loud background noise here) that you wear round your neck … the only disadvantage of it is that I have to keep switching it back on to M to hear in the auditorium. But I know the auditorium is fitted with the T-loop so you can actually hear what’s going on.

You mentioned about ‘deaf awareness’, people won’t know what that is. Can you just explain a bit about it?

Basically it is broad to equip teachers who have no experience of teaching deaf students. To make them be aware that a deaf person is usually a sign-language user or a deaf person like myself who can speak. It’s to be aware that the deaf person is constantly watching you and even if that person should be taking notes, he will not be taking notes but will be constantly watching you all the time. There’s an old saying that deaf people prefer watching by visual. They also teach them about not standing in front of a window and the basics of sign language. You don’t have to be perfect in sign language but they give you a basic so that if you decide to take it up it becomes really useful.

Do you sign at all?

I can sign a little, but in my case I can understand a deaf student who can sign to me. I still need to keep it up and keep going if I am going to be in the industry.

So lecturers on your course, they haven’t had a deaf awareness session or anything?

No. But It is much easier if they have the deaf awareness before the course starts. At least, even if it is only one or two weeks. There is a special training course and they need to know how to deal with deaf people and then they get told the requirment of needs a few weeks when they will get the report. Apart from that, deaf awareness is more valuable than everything else. At least they know what to expect. If a person doesn’t know anything about deaf people then the deaf person will get frustrated and they will walk out of the room and fail the course. I don’t like to see any deaf person go that way. It’s nice if they have a deaf person there to show a demonstration while they are teaching to give them information. You can’t expect all the teachers to go on the training course, but if you can get a co-ordinator to go, to overseas the course, then that would be great.

Is there a disability co-ordinator among the staff you have been assigned to, or do you have a personal tutor at all?

I just have one personal tutor throughout the course.

Is it a he or a she?

It is a he.

Is he all right?

He’s fine. He’s been the most supportive person I’ve come across at the moment, because I have explained myself and introduced myself to him and even though the report I had was late, he did say to me that if I do have any problems I should go straight to him I don’t need to book a tutorial to go and see him and he will sort things out for me. Actually, we did that last week. I was having some difficulty on the course, but that’s been sorted out now. I spoke to him last night and he explained what is going to happen, so I am quite happy with the way things are going.

Essays, written work. Have you had any extra help for English at all?

At the moment I am trying to negotiate when that is going to happen, but I have had some study skills from through the University, which every new student always gets taught. In my case, I already know that I am going to need some help, anyway. So, again, the assessor at Access Summit is already aware and is being more helpful, and the teacher who teaches study skills has been more helpful, but not exactly to the point of understanding. They need to be aware, I’m not just talking about me as a deaf person, or any deaf people, but other deaf people who happen to have dyslexia and they need that support.

Just explain; because people are not aware, why English is a difficulty for you?

Doing English is a bit hard with the grammar and structuring the essay, and putting your thoughts on paper and making sure you are getting the work done and getting somebody to proof read it for you. If you don’t know any of this it will be a waste of paper. But it is helpful for the deaf person or anybody knowing that taking up study skills will help, but you still need that help, anyway. Whether you are doing the degree or diploma, you are still going to need it. It is the hardest things on the course to get through. It is all right if you can do the practical, which is 60%, and the academic is 40% and you need to get past that. In other courses you need to get, like, 75% to achieve the mark. Apart from that, it is helpful to have the study skills to teach you what the university is looking for, because different colleges have different ways of structuring how they read it. They give a booklet out and teach you how to do the essays. They always do provide extra support when you need it.


Just explain the assessment procedures on your course, because it is probably quite different, isn’t it, from your average course? What do you get assessed on?

It’s not really been any different. It is different when you are being assessed in the BA. You get one big exam but you still get assessed individually. In the HND you don’t get any exams – you might get a little one, but you are being assessed right through the whole two years. You are graded according to different criteria. There is a fail, a referral, a pass, a merit distinction, sorry there’s five. It is slightly different, anyway, from different diplomas. They look for, for example in singing you need to be in time, be able to perform clearly and pitch the tune at the right level. As a deaf person I can’t do any of that. It would be a complete disaster.

This is really interesting because it is a situation where you get an assessment criteria for a course and one bit of it you can’t do. So how have you got round that?

I’m still being assessed for my singing, because I still need to complete it. They are going to assess me on a slightly lower criteria – on a slightly lower Diploma – I think that is what they are going to do. They are giving me a different song for me to do that is in my vocal range and I have to sing it. What they have also decided to do, after I complete this semester, and I go on to the second semester, they are going to put me on a different module to compensate for my singing. In the first year you have to do two voice-works and two movements works. One’s called movement and the other is called dancing. In voice-work its voice and speech and singing. In the second year I will be doing voice and speech again but on a one-to-one basis. I will be fitted in with the degree lesson. And we only do that for one semester until I go on the second year. Malcolm Machin said I won’t lose the full semester and both of them will carry on and I will still get a full credit.

So you still pass the course, but there is one element of it that you can’t complete, but you compensate by doing another bit?

When she turned round and told me that if I don’t get my tune right she will fail me and it hit me really bad and I was terrified of wasting four years having to come along to university and then hit that point blank and be told that if I can’t do that right then I’m going to fail. I can fail and do the year again, but I’m going to hit the same wall all over again. So, lucky for me having to notify the head tutor and saying we had to get it sorted, and the Equalities Office. It is also in good favour that the Access Summit put it in the report because it gives them an idea.

There is really a negotiation then.

At the moment I am only getting the feedback, so negotiation will be next week and Tuesday, for the singing and how well I am going to do. I still have to see Malcolm to see how I am going to go on from there.

It is unusual, isn’t it?

It is unusual for this to happen because any teacher doesn’t want to see a student try their best to get into university and then fail.

You can do the acting bit and all the camera work and the sound production, so why should you have to do the singing?

You have to do the singing because it is not about being a pop star; it’s about being able to sing on stage.

But you could go for an acting career without having to sing on stage, possibly.

But you still need it. Sometimes when you go for an audition they give you a song and you need to be prepared to sing at the audition. If I went for an audition they will say, ‘He can’t sing, we’ll give him a speaking part.’ So they’ll give me a speaking part and I can do that. But if they didn’t know that I had not done the singing, even though I passed, but they were notified that I can’t sing, even though I did it. I would be more prepared for the teachers so that when I come to finish, they will have a portfolio on me and they will pass it on to an agency and they will have to fill in all the details.

Three tips for lecturers

If you could give lecturers three tips which would make your life easier, what would they be?

Be more vocally clear. Prepare to accept whatever a deaf person answers whether it’s right or on a different track, or whether it is a spot on answer.

Can I just go back to that? Is that because you might misinterpret something?

Yes, the person might know what the question means and he may know what the answer is, but he may give the answer but not in the way it should have been said. The deaf person might not be totally clear. Not only that, but the deaf person can get nervous when they are answering a question. Thirdly, be more understanding about the pressures on any deaf student, or dyslexic student. Deaf people do get frustrated, especially in lectures or practicals – that’s where it hits them big time, because you’ve got all the students messing around with you and you are trying to concentrate and do the character and they are messing around. So, you really want to make sure that the other students are made aware as well. I can’t say you should teach normal students about deaf awareness, but it’s better if they could have a leaflet when they start the course, mentioning about deaf awareness and saying stuff about deaf awareness. It’s all right to display it on the wall, but who is going to read it. But if you send a leaflet out, then someone will read it. If you want some more information, there are two ways – they can go on a course or give them a booklet, and that will sort them out – the same would go for the teachers as well.

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you might want to tell me that could be put in information to staff.

Have more tutorials for the deaf student – that’s one of the crucial things. Possibly making the assignment brief clearer as well. Even if the students may know what it means, the deaf student might be sat there puzzling as to what is going on and what the objective is. Otherwise he will come back to you, very late, asking all kinds of questions that the tutor might not want to answer, or hasn’t got time to answer. So it would be easier if the teacher who is teaching any deaf student, one or two, it’s good advice for them to have an assignment sheet aside for that particular student to read. Even though it might have the same objective, it should be explained more clearly.

I think that’s probably good for all students, do you think?

Yes, in fairness, yes.

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