Episode · 1 year ago

Mouth-Off episode 16: Technology; help or hindrance?


On today's episode of Mouth-Off, I interview children’s author, songwriter, blogger, and disability rights activist Gavin Clifton. Gavin has recently published his first children’s story MAX’S WISH. 

We talk about a range of topics from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and other assistive technologies; to songwriting,
writing and blogging. Gavin also discusses common misconceptions that people commonly make about him based on his disability. 


Theme music: Intro and Outro by Clary Saddler

Talk to me (Williams Syndrome Charity Single) - written by Gavin Clifton, Dan Curtis and Laura Curtis, performed by performed by Various Welsh Singers 

What Could be Now - written by Gavin Clifton and Al Steele, performed by Dusty Road 

Why won’t you Let me Love you - written by Gavin Clifton and Darren Parry, performed by Darren Parry 

Mama Didn’t Raise no Fool - written by Gavin Clifton and Al Steele, performed
by Kirsten Osbourne  

A World Full of Dreams - written by Gavin Clifton and Al Steele, performed by Hanna Morgan Beynon 

The Magic of Christmas (Hold me Close) - written by Gavin
Clifton and Al Steele, performed by Martin Clifton  

Gavin Clifton's Spotify playlist

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Welcome to mouth a podcast brought to you by forgetmenot productions. I'm Clarry Sadler and so far on the series I've interviewed a range of interesting individuals from all walks of life. These are individuals who were considered in some capacity to empower marginalized communities. On this episode I'll be talking to Gavin Clifton. Gavin is an author, writer, songwriter and disability blogger from new bridge in south Wales. Hi Gavin, thanks for coming on the show. So today you'll be answering the questions using your communication aid. Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what it is you do in a nutshell? Thank you for inviting me to feature on the mouth of podcast. I am honored to take part. It is a pleasure. Please go easy on me because this is the very first time I've done anything like this. Anyway, I'm gving Fifton. I am thirty eight years old. I live in a small village called penciling Mama, which is just up the road from a place called new bridge, nestled in the heart of the southeast valleys of whales. I am a children's book author, writer, Songwriter and have recently become a discibility blogger. I live in the shadows of my own certainty, as each out of these days, a slip on by silhouettes of Old Times keep on catching my eye. Yeah, they always remind me of the day I'll let you get away and we there be the it feels like I'm wrestle with my Gel. It always stuck in my mind. Is what if I told you how I feel my first love? What coping now? Forget me not productions is an inclusive arts organization that works with marginalized communities. This could include the Lgbtq community, working class communities, people with mental health issues, people from black, Asian, minority or ethnic communities, women care home residents and the disabled community. You're a disability rights activist, writing extensively on the subject in your blog. What are the most common issues you faced, both personally and through your line of work?...

Apart from being born with cerebral Paulsy, I also have a speech impediment and in my mind, I have always thought that the way I talk is awful. I hate it and I can sometimes suffer a little bit of anxiety because of it. My family and friends often say to me your speech is fine, but I think otherwise. Once you get to know me as a person, you come to understand what I'm saying a lot more straightforward, most of the time anyway. But up until now, meeting people for the very first time has been nerve racking. I would go over and over it in my head and asked myself, will we hit it off straight away, or will this person be able to understand what I'm about to see to them? It hasn't always been this way, though. Through my teens and mid twenties it didn't bother me as much, but as I have grown a little older, little things such as people not being able to understand what I'm saying to them has affected my confidence, or should I say I had let it affect my confidence all too often. When I was a teenager, I was given a device called a light writer, and this light writer was just like a mini version of a modern day laptop, but more awkward. Choose it was so time consuming. This light writer was programmed to talk for me. It's an augmentive and alternative communication software installed on it, and this software still exists today. I'm using it to record this podcast. So, as you can imagine, this device was a little bit more of a hindrance. For one, you had to carry it around with you all the time and to the keyboard on it was horrible. You needed to press the keys down on it so hard my fingers were noun by Wednesday. So back then I stopped using it because my life was so full on with school, socializing and being a typical teenager who just wanted to be one of the cool kids. My Life Writer was holding me back some Wat. Now let's fast forward to the present. A few weeks ago I was reading the lost voice guys book. If you remember, he won Britain's got talent a few years ago and in his book he writes about using augmentative and alternative communication, for these days it comes in the form of a mobile phone APP and it's much easier to carry around. So I thought that now, being a lot older and now that I am coming up to my forties, I'm in a place where I can give it another go and try and use augmentative and alternative communication again. So I downloaded it and although it's now in the form of an APP and not a bulky device, it is easier to use in that way. But the working of it is pretty much similar to how I remember it to be all those years ago, and I'm sure they're using the same voice to which tracks me up. But in my experience this technology still is very time consuming. I'm you still couldn't use it for everyday conversation, but for pre arranged conversation,...

...such as going to the farmer's tist to ask for your prescription or saying your pump number at a petrol station, it does just the job. But who knows, with technology continuously getting better, someday having an everyday conversation using this software could become a reality. So, to answer this particular question, the biggest burial or issue I have come across his communication. Frustratingly from a personal aspect and most definitely professionally, my speech has held me back a little, but hopefully, with my new APP now and with finding my confidence to take life by the horns again, I am now more determined than ever to run with the future. I was reading your blog post entitled my disability is a physical one, not a learning disability or a mental illness. Is this a common misconception then? How often is this assumption made when meeting New People? In the past, I have had. Some people assumed, from the first time they lead me that I have a learning disability or a mental illness. Personally, this is something that I feel not only in my situation, but with anyone who has a disability, whether it's a physical, learning or hidden disability. We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Certain disabilities may affect or limits someone's ability to interact, but at the end of the day, we all have our unique personalities which lie deep within they certainly do contribute to making you unique and molding you into the person you become, and to treat others equally should be something you do without even taking a second thought. I will say, though, that it's not too often I get treated in such a way. Still, misconceptions to occur and as soon as some people see me, they judge me on how I present myself physically and how I communicate, and they talk differently or a little slower and louder than they would to others. These type of situations make me feel embarrassed and are awkward situations to find yourself in. It's as if people have a big point to prove. I get the fact that there may be instances of misjudgment. But if I didn't have physical differences or a speech impediment, neither the other person or I would then be in that situation. We would naturally have a normal conversation, which, in my mind, is the correct way to approach me, just like you would talk to most people daily. So please, can I politely ask people, when they first meet me, to try not to make an instant judgment. I can communicate and I understand everything people say to me. From an academic perspective and the hearing perspective too. I am a firm believer of the term never judge a book by its cover, because until you get to know a person's capabilities from the inside out, you'll never find out how much they could educate you or even inspire you in so many different ways. Just to play devil's advocate here a moment, and as the murmur...

...of a daughter with an intellectual disability, I feel I'm allowed to. Historically, individuals with learning impairments and being marginalized even within the disabled community. I mean, it wasn't until the two thousand and twelve Olympics, but a significant number of learning disabled athletes competed. I think it was ten athletes in total, and that was in the Paralympics. Couldn't your comments be misconstrued by some as disablest to the learning disabled community? For quite a few years I had kept my experiences of living with cerebral palsy and the speech impediment, and especially my personal feelings about being disabled inside of me. I would go with the flow and to a certain degree, that my family and friends fight my battles for me. I would let them be my voice too often, and sometimes the way other people would put how I felt across wasn't really a true representation of how I was feeling. I have been writing my thoughts down in a personal diary, but up until now really used my own voice to stand up for myself. When I met Claire, my book collaborator, we spoke how about my children's Book Max and the magic wish could make a difference, bearing in mind I didn't quite realize when I wrote the story how much it reflected my true feelings, not until I send the manuscript to Claire, then told me that I needed to get my story out there. This was when I come to realize that I had to take time out and go back in time and find the person that I was back then, the person who was proud to be disabled, the person who wouldn't take no for an answer, the person who would speak out. I needed to find a way of releasing all of this frustration I had inside of me. I needed to fall in love with myself again, so clear suggested I start my own blog. This now brings me up to a few months back, when I just started to blog for the very first time. I was so nervous about the public's reaction. It has been so overwhelming. I really didn't think months later, people would start to know and see me as becoming a disability advocate. I started this blog as a personal one, as my own voice. Maybe I mistakenly didn't realize the way I have written my blogs may have inspired so many people, but I can honestly say that everything that I have written is so true and real, and to get how I feel out in the open has made me feel so much better. I have actually fallen in love with my disability again. I genuinely accept the person I am now and if this means I am becoming a role model or an activist for the disabled community in the process, I am definitely happy to stay up into this role and advocate for all the disabled people, whether the disability is a physical one, learning disability or a hidden disability, we all have a right to equality. We all have the right to be included, we all have the right to an obsessible world.

So let's do this. Let's advocate for a more inclusive society, let's push for more representation in the media. Let's be open and if my comments have been misconstrued by some, is disablest by the learning disabled community. This was far from my intention. I want all the disabled people to be treated as if they belong within society, because we all should have the right to disabled people should be allowed to choose how they want to live their lives if they are capable of doing so. Some may need more help than others, and I respect this, and they may need a little encouragement along their way. If someone chooses to become a little more independent and then becomes more successful, it is because they have the talent and desire to become that successful person despite having a disability. Nobody else just the same as others. All I ask is we celebrate the fact that disabled people have the right to become successful in this world, crying out to be heard. I'm lasting in the night, searchingly with them. My soul look the voice that I can love to way salt to me. What? What? I'll make you see, I'll make you see. You recently had your first children's book, Max's wish, published. It's a lovely story which I read to my son quite often. How much of the book is inspired by personal events? For a long while previously, I had dreamed of becoming a Children's book author and, being honest, I have been putting this off for a very long time. In the past, my mother would see to me write a children's book with your creative imagination. It'll be great, but I only plucked up the carriage to write one around two years ago. It has all happened very fast. I had written the story, edited it, Re edited it, put it all into a manuscript format, pitched my story to numerous book publishers and literary agents, found someone to believe in my vision, edited again, illustrated, finalized and then published, all in the space of a year. I know it's crazy to think, but it's all true. I had briefly met my collaborate to Claire, the music industry event, as I am also a songwriter. Still,... wasn't at that time I told Claire about my dream of becoming a children's book author. It was only by chance again that Claire and I connected on social media. This was when she said to me that she was already a published Children's book author herself and already had quite a number of books published. So I asked her if she would help me with regards to getting my story published too, and if I could send her my manuscript to read. I am glad to say now that the rest is history, because as soon as Claire Read my story, she loved what I had created and wanted to work with me and make sure my book would get our there. Everything about the book is a true story, and on the Family Holiday a long time ago, we did meet a fortune tell a whilst we were at the beach. The interesting thing is she did say to my mother back then you were going to have a writer in your family and years to come. Whether or not this influenced us, I'll let you decide. Another funny story about when we met the fortune tell her. She handed me six lottery numbers on a bit of paper, but unfortunately I lost the bit of paper quite a few you years ago, I could have made will be a lottery, we know by now, but the fact that now my dream of becoming an author has come true, that's all that matters. It is so important that children with disabilities can see themselves reflected in society, and Max is wished. That's so in such a simplistic yet very touching way, and the illustrations by Claire Thomas it just beautiful. How important is it to you that disabled people are represented more in mainstream media? Yes, I am passionate about this, and I think having more disabled people represented in the mainstream media. By this I mean disabled actors becoming more included and being seemed to have important and educational standings on our screens and also within society too, is vital, and that includes people who have physical disabilities, learning disabilities and also hidden ones. The more representation we get in the media will mean that not only today's generation will learn, I heard of a lot about the different types of disabilities, but it will also educate future generations to educating on the ways disabled people can thrive. May that be in the media, in schools, in our work places, in our offices, in our theaters and even in a social way too. I love being out socializing, May that be at the cinema, a theater or even in a nightclub. Everybody has the right to feel safe and be have be whilst interacting with the rest of society, and I feel the sooner all of this is normalized, the moral inclusive and a stronger place the world will become. Things are getting better, but a lot more needs to be dumb so that society can be accessible for all. Some examples are more accessible toilets, accessible wed rooms in places such as Jim's and leisure centers, more accessible hospitality...

...venues such as bars and restaurants, and more sensory accessible venues and events such as gigs and sporting events for people with sensory processing difficulties. Everybody should be included and be guaranteed access, along with naturally being entitled to have fun. On more representation in the media, I was so happy to see Tommy Jess to play the role of Terry boil in the recent hit drama line of duty. It was such a powerful storyline which highlighted the the exploitation of disabled people is real and the fact the role was played by a disabled actor who actually has down syndrome, just like Tommy has in real life, is a huge step in the right direction and let's hope this opens the floodgates for more opportunities for disabled roles being played by disabled actors in the mainstream media instead of able actors playing these roles. We also must not dismiss those other disabled actors who have previously or are currently featuring in our mainstream media to such as Rosie Jones, a comte in with cerebral paulsy who's getting a lot of mainstream TV work, such as her new channel for show called trip hazard. And we can't leave our Lee Ridley and his role in the radio force income called ability, which he co wrote and play the starring role in. Let's hope media representation on our TV screens continues to grow and becomes a lot more frequents. But Trust me, boy, I'm not stupid. You know I think it down is more to me than St if you want to make what has been the biggest barrier to you progress in professionally, in the field of both writing and music. I know that there may be a general theme developing for the biggest barrier for me progressing more openly than I would like in the music industry as a whole. Up until now has been my speech. This has been frustrating. I can do most of my correspondence and business, such as signing the...

...likes of Publishing and licensing deals, by email and to a certain degree, connect with people such as my fellow collaborators, songwriters and producers. But my point is these are all people who I have worked with for years and after a while of knowing me, you pick up on my speech. My biggest frustration has been not being able to connect with new people easily. For example, some producers have seen my work on social media and then ask me if I can work with them from a top lining perspective. For those who are not familiar with the term top lining, it's when you put a melody or a vocal over a track, which I can't do because of my disabilities. I am primarily a lyricist and ideas man. I'm the architect of the concept. I'm always coming up with new ideas and new lyrics. I hear someone say a cool line or see something quirking on TV and all right, the line or phrase on my phone for later on. And build a song up from scratch. Then my musician and produce friends coming to the frame and we start working musically from there. Another area within songwriting which has been a little awkward to navigate is the networking in person. As I mentioned earlier, meeting New People for the first time can be difficult. People may not know how to approach me, and I totally understand this from their side. Whenever I go to a networking event, my father always comes with me for support, so it isn't so bad. Networking events are great for building up contacts within the industry. It's great to put a name to a social media profile and it's a great feeling when respected people within the industry introduce themselves to you. It's then they truly see for themselves that I am, modesty, a disabled songwriter with the speech impediment. You can achieve success if you work hard enough, and over the years I've connected with some lovely people at these events. I am passionate about attending lots more too, and if this means I can network with like minded people and open a pathway for more disabled songwriters, the feeling included not only at these events but within the music industry in general. The will be great. Music brings people together in so many ways. I think it would be good to really let the disabled community show what they can do through music, and I know there are so many people like yourself who work with disabled people musically. There are so many fantastic charities that you but from the professionals, on writing point of view, I would love to see more disability representation at the top, which then filters through to them. Maybe you're seeing a lot more disabled pop stars in the media and public eye, and not only from a success point of view, that this would then create scope for a lot more discussion about the different types of disabilities within our society and also places such as schools, from an education perspective too. I've never...

...pushed myself to the front of the line. Really I seem to catch the flirting. I usually I am learn on a carousel of out will I always be the one left behind, left to love, to roam into the line? There one nightelst my wonted frame when you kissed me on my stone C for I you just plow as woolfall of just a wolfful of dream. Can you tell me a bit more about your creative process of the songwriter. What was the collaborative process like, for example, between you and I'll steel, and was your speech impairment the barrier to the progress of the songs when you work together? Those of us who work with the Noel Steel that are not many people who have a bad word to say about him. All is always smiling. He's more than often life and soul at the party, or should I say the recording studio, and he's very talented. He can play any instrument, he's self taught and, most importantly, he's now an adopted Welshman, previously hailing from Australia. The story goes I was looking for musicians and recording studios to work with just a few years ago. Will quite a few years ago actually, and as I was searching for both local musicians and recording studios, shabby road studios popped up, which is the studio Al is CO director of. So, to cut to the point, after emailing the studio I agreed to meet with me to discuss how he could help me get my ideas and lyrics into the form of music, and after that first meeting we agreed to arrange a writing session and I think. I remember how bringing him Rob Sherwood, who is another fantastic musician. Back that I had written some lyrics which I had an idea in my head for a Melo dramatic, Inspirational Song in the style of Michael Bolton, which to this day still hasn't been officially released. Maybe some day will. So at this first session nobody had an inclination of how it would go, but after just four hours we had written our first complete song together, called when courage shines on me, which...

...was back then recorded for me by a fantastic male vocalist called rbury Parsons. If you haven't done so already, you need to check this guy out because vocally he's superban pretty versatile to but is you can now imagine. Myself and down hit it off immediately and we now have a formidable writing partnership built up, and over the years we have co written quite a number of songs, not all of them are released, but some of them which I have been recorded by the likes of Phantom of the opera, Star Peter Carry and the forces sweetheart is ten horseborn. As for Howel and I go about our writing process, I will first work on and come up with a song concept and write the lyrics in my little writing corner at home. Then I'll go over to the studio where our more than less as a melody and song structure and his head for my concept. Even before we sit down together. It's like we have some kind of telepathic bond. It's great, may the force be with you kind of stuff, but generally after around four hours we have a high quality demos song written just like that. From a disability perspective, I know that all is as passionate as I am about using music to advocate ways, how to showcase that, despite being disabled, the concept of music is for everyone, whatever your abilities are. Our is also heavily involved in their music man project and he works with a guy called David Stanley to once a year, organize and put on a variety concert at the London palladium in the West End, which is performed by children and adults with learning disabilities who perform in front of thousands of people, showcasing how music can be used to free the constraints placed on people with learning disabilities. This concert is truly ground breaking and magical. These days, are and I are still as eager and passionate about songwriting and my mission is to continue to work together, whilst bringing other writers in on the creative process in the way of collaboration, which I believe is key within today's music industry. If anyone would like to get creative with us, please check out my social media. You keep my pus God to be Flos from. You got your baby break through your chest. Never let... down, I can't promise you. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in writing or songwriting, but fearing that their disability might be holding them back? Always be true to yourself and right from the heart, because the most important thing with writing is that what you write comes deep down from inside of you and it is seen, read and heard to be authentic and honest. Being Disabled, from my own personal experience and along with having a speech impediment, writing has given me an outlet, it has given me a voice. So use it to tell your story. With being different, it gives you an unique starting point. Keeping my feelings wrapped up personally for me was a mistake. There was no need to so, now knowing this, my advice is to use your talent of writing to create something magical. Never hold back, reach out and network with like minded people. Don't be wary of connecting with other authors or song writers. Give it you're all each time you collaborate, because, of the end of the day, your talent and willingness to communicate with others will be the only quality that people will want to see, and not your disabilities. It took me a while to trust in this process, but with a lot of patients, your true talent will eventually shine so bright you will get to a position where you will make a difference to yourself and to others too. You'll naturally grow as a creative writer or songwriter. Never Doubt Yourself, believe in your talenters and ability, and never stop trying. It is now by doing this that I am now so happy, so excited to learn what the future will bring, eager to collaborate with the next person and the next and the next. So just trust in the process, because you'll create to journeys a marathon and not a sprint. Each time I start to doubt myself again, I remind myself of my core values in life, and they are to never give up, smash through each barrier that gets in the way one at the time, and always be yourself. That's all that matters. Dreams come true. Christmas time make my dreams drone. I'd like to talk to you now about a heritage lottery...

...funded project that my company, forget me not productions are undertaking in partnership with Keygwin Special School, a special school in Cardiff. It's called I as in eyes and your head. I plus matter and will be a celebration of the history and development of assistive technology through a variety of workshops and training sessions. History starts here, is the Tagline, and that's our aim. So, through the creation of a documentary that highlights the history of the most vulnerable members of society, whose heritage is quite limited, will be shining a light on their achievements and what they can do as opposed to what they cannot. So adults with complex disabilities will be discussing how assistive technology is developed, you know, comparing it now to what it was when they were growing up. will also be using assist of technology throughout music can framework. So we'll be motivating people to tell their stories and enabling a history to unfold. This will culminate in the iplus matter festival, which will be a festival of best practice for those working in the field of inclusive arts, assistive technology and SN it will incorporate evidence from the workshops and sessions that we've been delivering, as well as short films made by the participants. These will then be interspersed with talks by guest speakers, including an AAC user who will discuss how assistive technology has benefited him. Include an a an a AC user discussing how assistive technology has benefited them. So can you answer the following questions? One, how is technology such as your communication aid helped you, both professionally and personally to Ho how does the technology you use now compare to what was available when you were younger and three? Two, what level, if any, is your own personal journey, your heritage and your history intertwined with your use of technology? As I have talked about in one of your earlier questions, I have kind of had a love and each relationship with my communication aids. For example, back in my teens and in my school years, I just couldn't bring myself to use this bulky light writer. It was more of the hindrance than an aid to be honest, and I have only just recently started to try this technology out again, and now it comes in the form of an APP, I am getting on with it a lot better. I am using it, maybe not with everyday conversation, but more with complex situations such as asking for things over the counter and paying for items. I say the word complex because they most definitely have sometimes been complex situations for me. I plan to review the APP on my blog and write about my experience with using it in a few...

...months time when I've really had the chance to use it whilst time out and about. With regards to my own personal and professional journey, I have been using computers and laptop since the very young age. Because I couldn't write fast, typing was an easier option for me all the way through school for class work. I even did all of my exams on computers. I now still use an APP doctor to all my writing, including writing of my children's books, my lyrics and Songwriting, and also most of my personal business, such as shopping and paying bills. So yes, I have a long, intertwined working and personal relationship with computers. They have made life so much easier if I had to hand write everything my life would be so much more complicated. Moving ahead, I'm looking forward the finding out in what ways new technology could make my communication and everyday life even easier. This is the first time I have done anything like this and I have enjoyed doing it very much. Maybe you have paid the way for me to do a few more in the future with my new communication that I'm a lot more confident now. That could only be a good thing. It can only be on woods and upwards from here on. Thank you so much, Gavin, for coming on the show. Thank you for asking me to feature on the Mount of podcast. I speak to you later. Join me next time when I am to the artist, filmmaker, writer and direct Kyle Lagal. My mother's a white lady, so I was writing at as De's meant to do to that, because we had a big sort of a black alliance down here in assemblies and s where with mass for a part, I think. So I grew up in that era where I was constantly making banners and matching a stuff. So, like I said, we was we was at, we was informed and going outside a big time to score. I seen the sort of extent of racism and yeah, there the indifference I felt, I suppose you carry with you, but as an adult.

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