Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ignorance Is Bliss....To Whom???

It seems like every time I tell someone about my experiences out in the hearing world, their remark is "There's no fixing ignorance." But I thought ignorance was bliss. This confuses me. Now, I'm not saying all Hearing people are ignorant. Not by FAR. But why is it so hard for so many people to understand the concept of "I'm deaf. I cannot hear you. Could you please write that down?" It seems most only hear, "I'm death. blah blah blah blah." Yes, that's me. Just give me that sickle and I'll dress up like the Grim Reaper and be "death." But seriously, why is it so hard to understand that I cannot lipread? Especially when it's introduced with, "I can't lipread. I am deaf. I need that written down." Yet most people continue to talk on, completely unaware that they lost me at Hello. Don't understand it. What would be better? What could I possibly say or write to get them to understand? I've tried writing to them so that they "see" I'm deaf. I've tried talking to them so that they hear, "I'm deaf." I've tried acting it out in a mirage of images and mime. No luck. So, tell me. What's my next step? Holing up in my house isn't exactly working for me. I'd love to know!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Nod of Bluffing


If you're Deaf, like I am, you've experienced it. Maybe you've been trying to talt with a hearing person and they can't understand your voice. Maybe you're trying to sign with a new ASL student and they can't keep up with your signing. There's a million reasons a hearing person would use the "Nod of Comprehension" to deaf people.

But deaf people aren't immune to this either. Say you're trying to have a conversation with a sign language student and you can't understand their signs, but you don't want to hurt their feelings. Or maybe they're talking to you and you've told them numerous times that you can't lipread, so you finally just give up and start acting like you understand everything. This, by the way, can get a person in a LOT of trouble!

I remember several years ago, when I, too, was guilty of bluffing, that I decided not to smile and nod. I thought, "I think I understand what he's saying." So, after watching him closely (and, by the way, I am NOT a lipreader), I replied, "Well, it would save us on braces." I thought this person was talking about my son's teeth being knocked out. I made a joke. Problem was, the joke was on me. He turned and looked at me, completely baffled. "I just said that I think Jacob is an alcoholic." He'd been joking, too, but, with my reply to his joke, it made us laugh so hard we couldn't see straight.

Case in point? Don't bluff. If you're hearing and you can't understand the deaf person, ask for a slower repeat or find pen and paper. If you're deaf and you can't understand the hearing person, do the same.

So now I ask you, tell me about a time when you bluffed and were called on it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Deaf Stereotypes

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I know that the light in the background makes it hard to read some things. Sorry about this. I'll be extra careful with my future vlogs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You Can't Work With Us If You Don't Join Us!


It happens often. All too often. I'll get a message that someone desperately wants to learn sign language. Perhaps they have a family member who is losing their hearing, but most want to learn to see if interpreting might be a career they would be interested in pursueing. So we set up a time and day and they come and they start to learn. I mention the social opportunities of the deaf and hard of hearing population around Grand Rapids and encourage my students to go to as many of them as possible. But what inevitably comes out as a response is almost always the same: "Oh, I'm not ready to meet deaf people."

Sometimes they're scared and other times they're just not confident enough in their signing to go, but rare is the student who writes down the information and shows up at the actual event.

What I wonder is, if they're wanting to be an interpreter, shouldn't they at least MEET a deaf person first? LOL I understand that we can be very scary (file those fangs down, now), but how can a person even study to work with another culture and another language if they don't want to meet such a person?

Now, if this only happened once in a while or at the beginning of tutoring, I would surely understand. It is intimidating. I do know this. But I'm talking about people I've worked with for six months to a year and still I'm the only Deaf person they've met. It's mind-boggling.

But, perhaps, if the deaf and hard of hearing people could put their weapons and intention to destroy aside, we're a very open group. Come meet us. Talk with us. Write with us. Whatever you need to do, but BE with us. At least that's my opinion. What's yours? Are you a hearing person who is scared to meet Deaf people? If so, why? Are you a Deaf or hard of hearing person who has experienced this? Tell us about it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Size Matters


I was really excited last Monday when I was contacted by DODHH about becoming a QA Rater for the state of Michigan. It seemed it might be a great opportunity to assure that qualified interpreters were properly certified as were unqualified attempters.

The interview was going to be by Video Phone on Wednesday morning at 11:30. I got up early and drove my kids to camp so I could come home and relax a little before the interview. I tend to become very nervous, so I needed time to take a pill and vegetate.

I was all set and ready at the appropriate time. No worries...feeling pretty confident. That is, until the phone rang and I answered it. What I wasn't ready for was that it was a panel of judges/interviewers. That in itself is not a big deal, but the fact that my VP is set up on a portable television didn't help. I couldn't see these people no matter how hard I squinted. I must have looked completely inept and incapable. All I could do was ask them to repeat, again and again, until I could see it clear enough to answer all their questions.

The problem is, if they're looking for fluency and the interviewee needs repetitious questioning, it doesn't look too good for the interviewee, now, does it? LOL

Needless to say, I wasn't picked for being a QA Rater. Probably for the best. But, man, do I need a bigger VP for next time!!!! Oy vey!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Interpreter From Hell

It was a regular appointment. Well, regular to me. I'd been seeing this doctor on a regular basis since 2001 and he'd always been very good at making sure there was an interpreter present. Or maybe I should say that his nurse had been good about that.

Anyway, I went into the appointment without knowing who would be interpreting. This happens often in the Deaf world. As I entered the room, I saw an older woman sitting in a chair and she smiled and signed, "I'm Candy." (a pseudonym) I responded and we sat and waited for the doctor to arrive.

As we sat, we started chatting and I noticed that she looked quite confused when I tried to interact with her. I asked if she was OK and she nodded yes, so I didn't really worry about it.

When the doctor finally came in with his nurse, they both proceeded to ask me questions and my interpreter stumbled. She continuously asked them to repeat or slow down. And when I say "continuously," I don't mean five times. I mean almost every sentence! What's worse is when I signed back to them, she couldn't understand me. I watched her lips and, from what I could tell, they were not flapping in the right direction, if you know what I mean. I got so bad that, finally, we had to resort to actually writing back and forth with the interpreter just sitting there! I was so upset! I couldn't believe that this woman not only was certified, but that she, a QA 1, was sent to this kind of appointment to begin with!

Oh, my gosh! It was truly hell. And as we closed the appointment, I was quick to write the nurse to make sure to tell the interpreting agency to never schedule that woman to interpret for me again! Awful! Awful, awful, awful! I'm still traumatized by this and may never heal. I am victim of bad interpreting. And anyone who knows anything about the Deaf community, knows that this could very well end in years and years of laying on my back on a couch, talking about my childhood to a man who sits in a chair, smoking a pipe. My life has now been drastically changed and I will forever live in it's doom. Melodramatic? Maybe. But doesn't it make the story that much more interesting?

My Dog

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This is just a short video about my dog. I have a Beardie (short for Bearded Collie) and she's so adorable! I had wanted an Old English Sheepdog, but when I got Maggie, I was so excited!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Signs Equal Concepts Not Words

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Many people who decide to learn sign language believe that each English word has a sign for it. This is completely wrong! In American Sign Language, signs are based on what you're meaning to say, not the words itself. It's very important to remember that ASL is NOT English on the hands. It's not English in ANY way. It's a foreign language. As foreign as Japanese or German. To become fluent in ASL, it takes just as much work as any other language. About five to seven years of intensive training. This videos explains a little about how signs equal concepts and not words.

My Appearance On PBS



I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Only two people were going to be on the discussion panel (excluding the interpreter): Katie Prins (director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services) and myself (director of Deaf Expressions). It wasn't so much that I was going to be on TV. It was the fact that I would be representing a community so vast and diverse that I wanted to make sure it was fairly, objectively, and rightfully displayed as a culture and not just a bunch of people who can't accomplish anything in life because they can't hear. I knew that Katie wanted the same thing, so I was very relieved to find she'd be the second one on the panel.

I arrived early. I was the first guest there. Kenny came with me to help me feel more comfortable. That was good, because I was nervous. Soon after discussing the format with the host of the show, Katie showed up and then, finally, Mark Hall, the man who would be interpreting arrived. For a few minutes there, we were a little concerned because Mark hadn't shown up and it was five minutes till show time. But the worries were unnecessary. He was there, dressed and ready, just like the rest of us.

What was suppose to happen was that they were showing a documentary called, "Through Deaf Eyes." Every 20 minutes or so, they would stop the show and have a 15 minute panel discussion about deaf-related issues. People could call in with questions or even email them and we would answer to the best of our knowledge.

I was pleasantly relieved at how easy it was. Some of the questions were a bit odd ("How does a deaf person have a dog or cat and let them know they're deaf?") Huh??? Katie took that one. I was too boggled by the fact that it didn't seem to make sense. I mean, hey, people wonder all the time if deaf people can drive or work or communicate in other ways, but can a deaf person own a pet? Hmmmm.

But suffice it to say that that was probably the only "odd" question. The other ones were good leads into a conversation to teach those in the area all about the large deaf and hard of hearing community here in Grand Rapids.

All in all, it went well. Of course, when I got home and watched the show myself, all I could think of was "Stop babbling," "Sit up straight," "Smile, Bozo", "Dude, you look fat," and other things most people think to themselves when they see themselves on television. I'm glad I did the show. I hope you were able to watch. Which leads me with two questions:

  1. If you saw the show, what did you think?
  2. Were there any questions you have about deaf and hard of hearing people that went unanswered? I'd be happy to help answer in the best way I can.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Signed English Versus American Sign Language

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This video talks about how American Sign Language is not simply "English on the hands." ASL has its own sentence structure, grammar, syntax and register. Don't get them confused!

American Sign Language is NOT Universal

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This video explains that American Sign Language is used in America and most of Canada, but that every country, in general, has their own unique sign language. If you know ASL and you travel to, say, Britain, you will not understand their sign language, because they use British Sign Language. As such, there is Mexican Sign Language, Australian Sign Language, French Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, etc. All are different. Thus, ASL is not universal.