Wednesday, June 27, 2012


If you’re interested in an easy and enjoyable read regarding deafness in a fiction book, we have a book for you!

“Turn A Deaf Ear,” by Janet Fiore Horger & Linda Sanders, is a great story of one woman’s struggle to conquer prejudices. It’s also a courageous story of crossing barriers, and standing up to do the right thing, regardless of personal danger. The reader is given a glimpse of this woman’s experience, and flies at a breakneck pace through her first person narrative. Finally, it is a story of love, and how no obstacle is large enough to prevent true love.

I loved the story, and appreciate how she dealt with her powerful mother. I also enjoyed how she twisted some fiction into the story with a very plausible situation. As the husband of a Deaf person I can relate how living as an integrated couple, one often has opportunities to educate others in the reality of Deaf Culture, and explain how love can overcome anything. And these authors accomplish this with full impact.

If you'd like, you can read more about this book at  <> and its Amazon page: 

Michele and I definitely recommend this book to you. In fact, we have a deal for you! If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of, “Turn A Deaf Ear,” simply leave a comment below with your email address and, on July 15th, we will randomly choose one winner to receive a free copy and contact them by email! So don’t hesitate! Comment now! You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I was sitting around watching that wonderful game show, “Family Feud,” with Kenny the other day and a commercial came on that caught my eye. It was for a hearing aid apparatus that’s supposively so much better than an actual hearing aid, because everyone around you can’t see it. There was one problem with this commercial and that problem was the reason I only found one problem: It wasn’t captioned. I had no idea what they were saying, so I couldn’t point out the many other problems that I’m sure were there.

Now, how is a person who is struggling to hear supposed to appreciate a commercial that swears to help them hear better if they have no idea whatsoever what they’re talking about? This annoyed me to no end, so I went online to the website they provided to find the Customer Service email address. Wouldn’t you know? No email. Call only. Again, I ask you, how’s a person supposed to ask a question by phone if they need their apparatus to begin with? Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen (SEEN) a commercial about hearing “help” that wasn’t captioned and didn’t provide anything but a website and phone number. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I won’t even go down that road that the “apparatus” was stupid anyway. Seriously, if a person needs a hearing aid, and there’s some little doohickey that swears it can do the same thing (AND conceal it) for $29.95, who’s going to spend $200 on a hearing aid? Silly, if you ask me.

What’s my point? If you have something to tell the hard of hearing community, and you want to do it on television, uh, captioning might be something to consider. Duh!

Friday, June 15, 2012


She walked into my class. I knew her, because I’ve worked with her before. Over and over again, in fact. Even though she’s got a great amount of enthusiasm, her hands never seemed to work well with her mind. She worked hard and I admired her for that—but hard work just wasn’t seeming to be the answer for this particular student.

Still, she wanted to forge on, and, after a short hiatus, decided to take up one of my classes to get back in the signing swing of things. I was happy to see her—if not a little worried and hesitant.

One of the things I’d noticed before when working with her is that her hands would never make the correct handshape. This was probably caused by her nervousness and definitely caused a problem when she went to sign such things as SOON (which can be signed by tapping a horizontal “F” on the chin a few times) and used a vertical “B” instead (the sign for BITCH)—and other similarly confusing variations.

But there she was—the last person to enter the classroom—looking just as nervous as she had before. Oh, she tried to hide this though. As we began to introduce ourselves, everyone did a good job and allowed Kenny (my hearing husband and interpreter) relay what they were saying. Not her. When it was her turn, she smiled deviously and signed,

“Hi. I’m P-R-I-A-N-C-M…” (KRISTEN). She went on to do her last name, but it wasn’t even recognizable. That was OK for me since I already knew her name. Telling the class a little about herself, however, was quite confusing. I couldn’t understand a word she signed and kept wondering if it would be rude for me to look over at Kenny to get his interpretation when she was “signing” it herself. But when that nightmare was finished, I found myself right smack dab in the middle of another one.

“Who knows their ABC’s?” I asked the class. Three out of 18 raised their hand. “Great! Let’s have the three of you come to the front of the class and show us all how it’s done.” I wanted to encourage those who said they knew them, and show those who did not yet know that it was a conquerable feat. But as the three began to do it, Kristen wasn’t exactly setting a good example. She looked like her hand had fallen asleep and she was trying to wake it up. If she had been one to actually set the bar for the rest of the class, our game of Limbo wouldn’t have gone very far. It was scary, folks. It was clear she had a disorder—not necessarily a physical one, but a disorder in her mind that told her that she actually already knew this stuff.

But how do you approach an eager former and present student and tell them,

“Hey, I know you think you know this stuff, but…uh…you’re not even close. Seriously, if you’d been one of my interpreters here in Michigan, I would have packed my bags and moved to Spain”?

I would never want someone to give it up, but the sad fact was that she thought it important that it appear to her other classmates that she knew more than anyone else. That’s not true though. I know for a fact that her other classmates were so engrossed in learning it for themselves that they wouldn’t have cared either way.

As classes went on, I thought this would stop, since it was clear that we were getting into material way over her head. Yet it didn’t change. She didn’t want to practice in front of the others. She didn’t want to write things down as reminders. Each class period got worse and worse.

It’s a sad example of someone’s pride getting in the way of the possibility of doing something great. Really mastering something. Showing yourself that, yes, you can be successful! But that’s not what happened with Kristen. And it’s truly saddening. If she had only been open to being a “beginner”. Nope. She had to to want to look like she’d hit “advanced” from the start. Trust me, “advanced” will never be the reality for someone who doesn’t open their mind and relax a little. Unless you’re describing their level of ignorance.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


As a sign language teacher, I get contacted by many people who want to learn ASL as quickly as possible. Some want to learn just for the fun of it; others, so they can cuss out the people who make them mad without it resulting in them getting their face smashed in; still others are homeschoolers looking for a foreign language credit. But one of the most popular reasons for coming to Deaf Expressions to learn to sign is so they can become a professional interpreter.

This is a very admirable reason. The world would be a much brighter place if there were more certified sign language interpreters out there. But what most potential ‘terps don’t realize is that being an interpreter takes serious study and a good amount of time. Oh, sure—I’ve had my share of interpreters who went from knowing nothing about ASL and the Deaf Culture to trying to interpret in such places as the church service at my church in a matter of weeks or a couple of months. But trust me, these were scary experiences.

There are a lot of people who also don’t realize the difference between church interpreting—where anyone can get up there and wiggle their hands around—and professional interpreting—where you actually have to take a few challenging and in-depth exams (written and performance) and become certified before you can go out and wiggle those hands around for pay. NOTE: This blog post is not to encourage any old person to get out there and start signing sermons. The whole purpose of doing so is to attract deaf people to attend the service, not to confuse them and create a large amount of reluctance and hesitance to attend.

The thing you gotta remember is that ASL is not simply “English on the hands,” and learning ASL is not about being good at charades or mime. ASL is a foreign language—a complete language just like German or French—and is by no means easy to learn.

It’s also important to realize that, even if you do learn to sign and become pretty darn good at it, signing is by no means the same as interpreting. If you don’t quite understand my point, turn on your TV set to the local news and attempt to sign what the newscasters are saying as they are saying it. Be sure to keep up. Sign as they’re speaking and don’t fall behind. Sound easy to you? Show me. I have serious doubts, unless you’ve been signing for a long time, that this task is conquerable.

So, when people ask me if they’ll be certified to sign after my eight-week class (or even my 28-week course), it can become a little tedious to explain the path a wanna-be professional interpreter must take. I mean, really: Do you think if you took one semester of Japanese in college, you could go out and become a professional translator? Of course not.

But don’t let this stop you if ‘terping is what you want to do. We want you—we need you—but expect the road to be a bit bumpy and even winding. Expect to take your time. Expect to study for years. If you do that and you push yourself through the ups and downs, expect your career to be rewarding and fun. Adventurous even. It’s worth it. Just don’t be in such a hurry.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I like what I do. Teaching people about hearing loss and American Sign Language is a lot of fun for me. Usually I do this through three different avenues: American Sign Language and homeschooling classes, workshops of various kinds, and private or semi-private tutoring. Can’t say I prefer one above the other. The mere fact that there are people willing to pay to hear me speak amazes me to no end. Of course, I’m sure there are three times as many people out there who would pay me shut up, but I haven’t asked for them to contact me with their donation. Yet. The way our finances are, maybe that’s the avenue I should be pursuing. But to find people who’ll pay me to be quiet, I have to make a little noise first—and that’s what I did on Friday.

My youngest child’s in the 6th grade. Or at least she is for the next three days until school is out for the year. Last year, when my son was in the same 6th grade class, Kenny (who acts as my interpreter) and I went to his class to talk a little and I guess, since it’s the end of the school year and the teacher has probably run out of things to talk about, she was desperate enough to invite us back this year to talk as well.

We were scheduled to speak first thing in the morning—right after the school assembly. We went and we talked about everything from decibel levels to hearing loss to how to communicate with the deaf to what to and not to call us. When I was done, they didn’t really have a lot of questions for me. I tried showing them my cool “little ear” (actually, it’s a grotesque birth defect that I used to delight in grossing my classmates out with when I was in elementary school), but they didn’t seem too impressed. I let them try to get my attention by not throwing things in my general direction and they did come up with a few ways. So, class involvement wasn’t a total flop. But then it was time to show them a little ASL.

I showed them their ABCs and 1-2-3s and then we worked on some vocabulary and a couple of sentences. They all seemed to enjoy it. Well….not all. Some seemed rather bored throughout the whole thing. Others were only bored for parts (mainly the lecture part at the beginning). Others resorted in pelting me with the fruit snacks they brought from home for their lunch. But all in all, I’d say it was a success.

I gotta do stuff like that more often. I mainly work with teens and adults, so watching kids have fun with it was fun for me, too. I got to see some smiles. I got to watch smaller hands form the words I taught. And I got some fruit snacks to munch on on my way home.