Friday, September 12, 2014

Smile -- There Are Deaf People Nearby

"Smile!" The photographer yells just as he's going to take the shot.

"Smile," your mother says. "You look so miserable!"

"Oh, no! Here comes Ashley. Just smile and nod."

There are several different kinds of smiles and a hundred more reasons to smile. But are they real? I mean are you genuinely happy and do the sides of your mouth naturally turn up when you feel that way?

Nowadays, one can't know whether the person you're next to is actually honestly smiling or if they're faking it (or if they're constipated). And if you're "different" than the immediate crowd maybe the question shouldn't be, "Wow! I wonder what fantastic thing she's smiling about," but rather, "Why is she smiling so hard at me?" It's true!

When I walk into a place with people around, as soon as I start signing and people realize I'm deaf, they start to smile at me as they pass by. That wouldn't be such a big deal if they knew me or were just smiling naturally, but no! The people start to metamorphosis into plastics--mannequins--with, "Please don't talk to me," glaring from their eyes. It's frightening!

I guess I should be used to it after all this time, but it scares me! And this makes me have the same eyes glaring back, echoing, "Please don't talk to me!" In fact, if it's a bunch of people in the same vicinity, I might fart or something to get those terrifying faces to leave. (That DOES work, by the way.)

So here's some advice--
if you're around people, deaf or otherwise, who make you feel awkward, try not to fell obligated to smile. If you make eye contact, give them a small polite smile and then leave them alone. That's what I would prefer. Or maybe just ignore us all together. Now, if you are a skilled signer,that's different. Then by all means, approach me!

Smiles are there to help people express pleasure or happiness. Don't feel the need to do it just because you're nervous. Wait a few minutes and maybe something will happen to give you a genuine reason to smile.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Charges filed in national scam of deaf

An Ohio deaf woman in her 70s is facing charges of ripping off other elderly deaf people across the country through a lottery scam. More than 1000 people fell for the scam, which she contacted through video relay using interpreters. Read the full story in the Columbus Dispatch here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moldy Bread

Muhammad Ali once said, "If God can make penicillin out of moldy bread, he can sure make something out of me." And for me that stands true. Seems like every year or so, God sends down a true challenge for me to handle either alone or with the help of family and friends.

All three of my pregnancies brought preeclampsia. The second one brought HELLP syndrome and almost took my life. The last one took the hearing I had left and dumped it by the wayside. Permanently. True, you would think it wouldn't be a big deal since I was already hard of hearing, but what it did tore my life apart and produced the second greatest challenge of my life.

All of sudden I couldn't communicate, converse with family and friends in small talk, talk on the phone, hear my babies cry, work in customer service and so many other aspects of my life gone, gone, gone. At least that's how I felt at the time. I even had frequent moments where I begged God to kill me, Just seemed like too much to bear.

But that was then.

For a while, it was hell. I simply didn't know what to do. But God was watching. I learned of the technology available for using the phone, hearing my baby cry from the other room, and other wonderful things. I used my sign language and I met more deaf people and suddenly life didn't seem as hopeless. Now, all three kids are proud CODAs in high school; my husband uses his sign skills and Deaf Culture knowledge at work; and I accept myself as totally deaf.

So, if something major happens in your life and it feels devastating, you can always remember that, with time, God will use that challenge as something to change you for the better. Moldy bread? Bring it on!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fitting In At A Deaf Convention

I was so excited! Someone I had met out in the Deaf community mentioned a convention coming up for people who'd lost their hearing (or what was left of it) after age 18. I was thrilled! Deaf people I could sign with who remembered what things sounded like more than two decades ago. I could mingle with soon-to-be-friends and learn about how others similar to me crossed over to the Deaf culture to a degree. Yea!

Kenny (my hubby) was excited, too. We were sure some of the Deaf would bring hearing family and Kenny would be able to discuss his feelings, thoughts, and experiences with people who knew how he felt. I mean I've always been deaf to a degree, but total silence kind of snuck up on us and it was a way of life that took some major getting used to. So, it was an adventure for both of us.

However, what we envisioned was not quite what happened.

When we walked into the main room from the registration table (where Kenny had to interpret because the people there used only voice), the room was filled to the rim with people wearing CIs, all talking without signs, and lots of booths set up--all about technology that could "make you hear again."

The lectures, which waved a flag stating they were fully accessible, were only captioned (poorly) on a screen at the side of the room. And interpreter for us American Sign Language users? Nope. Apparently most late-deafened adults (as they called themselves) don't use sign language. But I was still thrilled to meet fellow signers and people from such places as Gallaudet University.

To top it all off, the last night of the convention, they had a huge karaoke party where music blasted and all were given a balloon to enjoy the beat. But see I'm totally stone deaf and didn't feel comfortable at that party. Still, I tried to enjoy what aspects of the convention I could be a part of. I even went to more than one thinking maybe the next one would relate more to me. Unfortunately, no. However, I did make a handful of new friends for which I am grateful.

Now, I don't want to seem hateful or judgmental. There were things here and there I enjoyed that didn't so much require ASL or Cultural norms and there were lots of hugs and lots of accepting each other -- no matter how you communicated. But I just don't think I'll go again unless they come to Grand Rapids, MI.

After a while, it all caused me think about my way of going about being the stone deaf person I am. For one thing, I do consider myself bi-bi (bilingual -- ASL and English, and bicultural). Most LDAs do not. I admit I did try a CI a long time ago and it was a total flop. They had to take it out later for a medical reason, so that's done. I'm happy being Deaf, too, but sometimes when I miss my show tunes, it does get me down.

I use sign to communicate. I have the world's worst lipreading skills I've ever known about and I do not like the sound of my voice -- though admittedly I do use it at appointments to make it easier on my interpreter. I like to use big words and so it's easier to make sure exactly what I want to say gets said.

The only big problem I have is I have some mental disorders that prevent me from socializing for the most part. So I haven't made it to many Deaf events and that makes me sad. I do try though. I WANT to go, so I'm working on it.

Long story short, the deaf community is truly diverse. You have to find where you fit in and go from there. You should be comfortable the way you are -- no matter how different that makes you. I'm working towards that myself.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Goodbye to A Helpful Interpreter

Have you ever noticed how, sooner or later, everybody leaves? I'm serious. Sometimes I feel as if I have a swinging door in my life. For me, I'm talking about professionals--not family. I'm very grateful for that!

I can't even tell you how many therapists I've gone through. Just when we begin to dig into the dirt, they retire...or move out to Timbuktu. It kills me every time. But one set of professionals leave the most frequently--and that's interpreters.

I have to go to my community mental health clinic up to four days a week. Sometimes I see my psychiatrist on Tuesdays, my case manager on Wednesdays, get my bi-weekly injection on Thursdays, and see my therapist on Fridays. Whew! And mental health services depend on confidentiality, so, much to my appreciation, they do their very best to have the same interpreter for all of my visits. And, at least the same interpreter for all of my therapy sessions, so not everyone knows how crazy I am. ..except the 'terp scheduled and the therapist.

But, unfortunately, just when I'm used to seeing the same 'terp week after week, they always seem to find a more steady assignment and leave me. Then a new interpreter comes in and it takes them a little while to get used to the problems I talk about. And they are very shocking, I assure you!

Recently, very recently, I lost another interpreter's devotion. She found herself an assignment that proved more steady and dependable. One day I was in therapy and my therapist ended the session with, "We have something we need to discuss." That's never good. I replied, "Just as long as you don't say you're leaving." I meant the therapist and I was speaking from my heart.

"No, I'm not leaving," was his retort.

"I am," my interpreter chimed in. After a few seconds of confusion I realized I was losing one of my closest interpreters I've ever relied on. It was devastating and I began to cry.

"Why do they always leave me?" I asked. But I knew it was the right thing for her to do. And, after coming down from that devastation, I am very happy for her. But it is rough. Luckily, I have other interpreters with experience with my craziness that I can use and I like them a lot. I'm sure, with time, the trust will be there just as equally as it was with my former 'terp.

But I'll miss my previous interpreter and I'll always appreciate her loyalty to my "cause." Good luck to you and may everything in your life go smoothly from here on out. That includes getting all three cats to use the toilet all the time. (smile)

For me, it's onward and upward. Let's see who next I can suck into my sick world. Don't worry. I'll go easy on them. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Signing Systems

There are several different kinds of sign languages used in the United States (in the world, too, for that matter). Let’s now go over the different systems so that you have a better idea of what they are.

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL, also termed AMESLAN by the late Lou Fant) uses signs, gestures, specific facial expressions, non-manual movements, and the like to express feelings, ideas, and concepts visually. It uses no voice, but does have facial grammar (non-manual markers, mouth morphemes).  It uses a completely different grammar system and sentence structure as that of spoken English. The rules of grammar, which will be discussed in a different section of this site, are clear and developed.

SEEING ESSENTIAL ENGLISH (SEE 1) and SIGNED EXACT ENGLISH (SEE II) -- The ideas behind these systems is that Deaf children will learn English better if they are exposed, visually through signs, to the grammatical features of English. The base signs are borrowed from ASL, but the various inflections are not used. A lot of initialization is used. Additionally, a lot of “grammatical markers” for numbers, person, tense, etc., are added, and strict English word order is used. Every prefix, suffix, article, conjunction, auxiliary verb, etc., is signed. Also, English homophones are represented by identical signs (i.e. the same sign is used for the noun fish and the verb fish, which have different ASL signs). The difference between the two is minor--the principle one being that in SEE II, ASL signs for compound words (like butterfly) are used, where the two signs representing the separate English words are used in SEE I (To sign “butterfly,” you would sign BUTTER and FLY, which gives a bizarre visual to the deaf child!).

LINGUISTICS OF VISUAL ENGLISH -- (L.O.V.E.)  Developed by Dennis Wampler. It has similarities to SEE II and Signed English. It is a signing system rather than language on its own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to L.O.V.E. does not provide children with the complete linguistic access that is needed to internalize whole language.

SIGNED ENGLISH -  Developed by Harry Bornstein. Similar to SEE I and SEE II, but a little simpler. It uses English word order, but fewer grammatical markers than the SEE systems--it has fourteen, based on Brown’s fourteen grammatical morphemes (e.g., plural /s/, possessive /s/, /ed/, /ly/, /er/, and so on).

The problem with the English-based systems above are that they are very slow. They are easier to learn for hearing people than ASL, but they are slower to use, because, on average, signs take twice as long as words to produce.  So the average proposition takes twice as long to express. Also, you have to be grammatically very self-aware to use them. The research shows that most parents and many teachers who are trying to use these systems, end up leaving out many of the grammatical markers and that many children exposed to them end up modifying them to more ASL-like forms.

CONTACT SIGN (Formerly called PIDGIN SIGN ENGLISH or PSE) - Ranges on a continuum, from being more “Englishy” to being more like ASL. It is what happens when adults try to learn ASL, in many situations. It is ASL and some of its grammar (how much English versus how much ASL varies from signer to signer) in English word order. Children exposed to CSL will often produce grammatically perfect ASL.

AMELISH -- Term coined by Bernard Bragg. Uses lots of ASL and fingerspelling in English word order.

CONCEPTUALLY ACCURATE SIGNED ENGLISH --  (C.A.S.E.) A signing system rather than a language on its own.  Similar to “Englishy” PSE / Contact Sign.

MANUALLY CODED ENGLISH -- (M.C.E.) Not a particular method, but a general description of all the systems that attempt to reflect English grammar, etc., on the hands.

ROCHESTER METHOD -- Every word is fingerspelled except "AND."

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Restaurant in Toronto Caters to the Deaf and Signing Community
Did you hear? Well, maybe not hear, but did you know that there is a new restaurant called
Signs" that caters to the Deaf and Signing Community? Check out the above link or read a little about this new wonderful thing!
Also visit their page on Facebook:
The dining scene in Toronto is turning the tables on hearing clientele with Signs, a deaf restaurant and bar that encourages communication solely by sign language. The first of its kind in Canada, customers are asked to order their meals by signing and the restaurant will be mostly staffed by deaf servers.
Not fluent in sign language? No problem. Customers will be given a cheat book of sorts that will contain the most popular phrases used in restaurants and instructions on how to sign the various menu options.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Anjan Manikumar, who began learning American Sign Language (ASL) when working as a manager at a Boston Pizza in Markham.
“I had a deaf customer that would come around a lot,” Manikumar told ABC News. “He wasn’t getting the service he deserved.”
After attempts to communicate with a deaf regular customer consistently resorted to a series of pointing and nodding, Manikumar decided to learn to sign.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When People Come A-Knockin'

When summer's over and school is back in session (which is coming up very soon), it seems that's when most people start walking up to my door and ringing the doorbell. I've got one of those fancy devices that throw off a strobe light whenever that happens. But I HATE it! From the moment it flashes till I actually open the door, all I can think is, "Darnit! Who is it this time?!?!?" That's because of my many experiences with answering a door while alone.

I'll be watching TV or doing the dishes and suddenly: FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! I try to peek out of the living room window first, but I can't tell who it is. I open my door and there are two people dressed in suits with huge smiles on their faces as they begin to speak.

I interrupt and point to my ears and shake my head--indicating that I'm Deaf. They begin to over-enunciate and point to their lips. "I can't lipread either," I slur. They laugh uncomfortably and start to talk to each other. "Are you Jehovah Witnesses?" I ask.

"Yes," they answer with a great amount of excitement and start talking to me again.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not interested," I say as I close the door. Whew! That was exhausting.

Sometimes people will write to me after I indicate I can't hear:

"Can you read?" No. What does this note say?
"Is there someone else I can talk to?" Nope. All alone and there will never be another person home.
"Do you read Braille?" Only in the dark.
"I can come back." Sorry, but I'll still be Deaf and uninterested.

I get all sorts of things happening after the house is empty of kids. It can be truly tiring. Some people just don't get it and I'm always amazed at the pantomime and facial expressions they'll spew off.

But I can't live in a bubble. I have to interact with other people at some points in my life. I guess that's just the way things go, but....FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! Oh, dear. Gotta run. Gotta go see what this next person has to say, sell, or perform. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Say To A Deaf Person

If you’re someone who has never been exposed to deaf culture, you may not really understand how the whole “deaf thing” works.

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Apatow Productions / Via
Shouting at a deaf person will not make them any less deaf, no matter how loud you yell or how close to their ears you get. If you are speaking to a deaf person who reads lips (not all do!), exaggerating your lip movements to “help” the deaf person read them actually makes it harder to understand. When you are unsure, the best thing to do is ask how the deaf person would prefer to communicate. Typing them a note on your phone is one easy option.

2. “Do you use Braille?”

"Do you use Braille?"
This is one of the strangest, yet most common things deaf people get asked! Let’s go over this together, shall we? Blind people use braille. Blind. Not deaf. Very big difference!

3. “Can you read and write?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
NBC / Via
Deafness is not a learning disability. Deaf people can do everything hearing people can do, except for hear. Deaf advocacy groups worldwide continue to fight for better access to education, because deaf students deserve every opportunity to excel!

4. “Why can’t you speak?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
ABC / Via
Some deaf individuals adapt by learning to read lips and speak English. Others choose to use sign language. Some can both speak and use ASL. Some deaf people have cochlear implants. Deafness is a full spectrum and every person is different! Assuming all deaf people learn spoken English comes off as ignorant.

5. “Oh, I know the alphabet in sign language!”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
It is lovely that you took an interest in sign language, it really is. But, deaf people get this one all the time! Imagine if an adult hearing person walked up to another adult hearing person and said “I know my ABCs!” Kind of awkward, right?

6. “How do you say {swear word} in ASL?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
A&M Films / Via
Again, taking an interest in sign language is super awesome! Asking a deaf person to be your personal dictionary for rude phrases is not.

7. “How can you drive?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Paramount Pictures / Via
You don’t need ears to drive, and all emergency vehicles use flashing lights. Some studies have suggested that deaf drivers actually have safer driving records than hearing people because they are more visually alert and less distracted!

8. “Can I try your hearing aides?”

10 Things You Definitely Shouldn't Say To A Deaf Person
Fox / Via
What? No. Deaf people do not want to share their medical devices with you. I get why you would be curious, but the answer is still no.

9. “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”

"Why don't you get a cochlear implant?"
In our modern medical times, deaf people have the choice to receive a cochlear implant, which allows them to hear a range of sound. Having this surgery is a very major personal decision with many factors to consider. Hearing people should not assume all deaf people want, or are able to receive, a CI just because they are available.

10. “That must really suck!”

"That must really suck!"
Being deaf does not suck. It’s just a part of life! Deaf culture is unique and diverse, and deaf people are experts at adapting to the circumstances. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this beautiful world without sound!