Ball, Wesley. Unheard Voices: interviews with deafened people
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The Brunsfield Hotel, Edinburgh
Ball, Wesley, 1944- (speaker, male)
Pennell, Stephanie, 1948- (speaker, female)
Allen, Lynn (Speech-To-Text Reporter - Stenographer, female)
Part 1: Wesley Garside Ball [WB], born Stoke-on-Trent 30th April 1944. Former Office Manager, Special Branch, Lothian Borders Police. Family moved to Scotland after war (WW2), WB 2 years old. Father chemist, mother died when he was 11, probably cancer. Described relationship with father; brother 18 years older than WB, now deceased; sister 14 years older has arthritis. Lived in Hartshill then Armadale, West Lothian for 62 years; described homes and growth of Armadale community. Father gained chemistry degree at Oxford, worked at Marsdens tile factory; wartime in charge of Swynnerton ammunition and bombs factory until wife’s illness and move to Scotland. [06:46] WB recalled relationship with mother and feelings on her death. Primarily interested in books; few friends but success at school, Armadale Primary then Bathgate Academy achieving 7 ‘A’ levels. Denied an army place; took MoD courses and examinations, recalling civilian life, Whitehall, world travel, auditing work. Became local Methodist preacher; Hull University for Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity, but work now prevented by deafness. Leisure spent preaching, lecturing and photography, abandoned because of deafness. [12:17] Spoke of religion and philosophy of God. Politically Liberal but concerned about current politicians. Detailed description of involvement in severe car accident December 1980 and lengthy treatment; recuperation and physiotherapy in Ayr; return to Princes Park Road (Hospital?) and major steel bones replacement operations on legs, using American plastic cement; consultant orthopaedic surgeon John Cochrane, experienced in surgery after Irish bomb blasts. Described onset and effects of Meniere’s Disease. Met wife in Blackridge, near Armadale. [20:51] Further details of Meniere’s, diagnosed May/June 2007 by friend and doctor Philip Hill; no cure or relief available. Recalled growing awareness of becoming deafened; first appointments with audiologist and doctor indicated 70% deafness, now 95/98%. Spoke of retirement from police force following two strokes in 1990 and 1992; limited ability to continue driving and DVL help. Described physical effects of a stroke; strength from religious beliefs and realisation that he must relinquish police duties, which involved guarding Royal/VIP protection. [27:36] Detailed impact of changed life, help with motorbility car, doctors and surgeons time, patience and expertise in rebuilding him; recalled incident highlighting his high pain threshold. [30:40] Describes relationship with his doctor. Cited examples of medical personnel lacking deaf awareness and understanding; positive actions by doctor and consultant to remedy problems. [36:06] Discussed hearing aids, personal loop, costs, communications and help received at St John’s Hospital, Howeden etc. [41:40] Doctor advised against cochlear implant because of existing medical conditions: metal implants, chronic asthma, diabetes and sleep apnoea. WB booked for Hearing Concern LINK residential week and relishes what it might offer. Discussed communication methods with grandchildren. Considered hearing dog for the deafened but wife opposed. [45:18] Described lip reading and sign language classes; despite his partial grant WB concerned at high cost and inequalities of charging system. [49:05] Uses computer emailing and telephone/amplifier with personal loop. Detailed thwarted attempts to obtain Deaf Action deafness equipment; long, unsatisfactory delays, despite contacting High Sheriff. Disillusioned with Deaf Action; feels many organisations pay lip service to laws but no results. Grateful for positive help from his counsellor and HCL. Described advantages of Channel 80 sub-text BBC Television News; enjoys Reuters factual information. [57:40] Described devastating effects of hearing loss on him and whole way of life, identity, feelings and reactions of others; sign language misinterpreted and deafness a disability. Cited examples of disability discrimination. [01:07:09] Met wife at 17; described relationship including her breast cancer operation and recovery at Weston General Hospital; feels neither really understands the other’s predicament; his children and friends avoid speaking to him because of deafness; better relationship with grandchildren using personal loop; hopes granddaughter picking up sign language will help when he loses hearing completely. Sadness at being avoided and all communication ceasing. [01:12:20] No pension yet; receives housing allowance, motorbility, DLA. Life restricted; no luxuries or holidays, buying food and clothes when necessary. Any additional monies to children and church. WB and wife’s funerals paid for and his religious faith strong. Reads Bible daily and theological books but discussions impossible so ‘converses’ alone on ideology. Described ‘learning to live a deaf life’. Emphasised discrimination, lack of access, paying lip service, ignoring and labelling disabled people; feels little attempt made to understand needs. [01:23:06] WB profoundly deafened for 3½ years; described drastic, life changing shock. Feels 'Unheard Voices' should help raise awareness and encourage dialogue and improvement in all walks of life.
Interviewed for the project 'Unhead Voices: Interviews With Deafened People', conducted by Hearing Link in 2008 and 2009 in partnership with the British Library, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.