Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas To All!

There is a video on YouTube with a young child signing, "The Night Before Christmas," in American Sign Language (subtitled for the signing impaired). Take a look and then have yourself the best two weeks of holiday you can muster.

(Don't miss out on this!)

"Night Before Christmas in ASL" -- captioned for the signing impaired. Take a look. Just clip the video above or this link: So Sweet!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

A Deaf Joke For Your Reading Pleasure...

There was deaf neat-nik, who moved into a new house where it was a dusty mess. She got out the cleaners and garbage bags and went to work. When she got to the attic, she dusted off a lamp and a genie popped out said, "Oh, master, what may I grant thee?" The deaf woman signed, "Give me hearing." The genie blinked his eyes and the woman could hear.

"This is amazing!" the woman said. "You blinked your eyes and now I can hear!" The genie replied, "Yes, that's how it works. You have 2 wishes left. What else do you want?"

The then hearing neat-nik said, "Well, you can clean the house to get rid of all this dust." Another blink and it was done. "The 3rd wish," says the hearing woman, "I will hold onto for a while."

Then BOOM!!! BANG!!! Various noises were coming from everywhere! The woman ran downstairs and her kids were fighting and yelling. They saw her and start doing the usual sign and talk, only she could hear them and it drove her batty. She decided to tell her husband, but when she walked into the room, he was screaming and yelling at the TV. The radio was blaring, too, and his friends were all there hooting and hollering. “Oh, it’s just the game, Honey,” he signed.

The next day, she went to her job and she could hear the copier, the printer, the people, the traffic, and more. She went back home and the house was a mess. She freaked out and finally told them that they didn't appreciate her. "Just once," she said, "I wish I could have a quiet and clean house!!!" All of a sudden, she saw the genie, who blinked his eyes. Instantly, she was deaf again, back in her cleaning clothes in her attic. The genie said, "Seems to me that is the only way to grant your wish." The once again deaf neat-nik says, “THANK YOU!!!!!”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fake Interpreter Discovered At Nelson Mandela's Memorial

As some of you have surely heard the ruckus about the fake sign language interpreter who interpreted at Nelson Mandela's memorial, above is a link to read more about it. 

It's a shame that these kind of things happen. This is terribly offensive to the Deaf population and swift measures should be taken to have this man barred from interpreting again. Apparently he made up his own signs and the Deaf viewers caught onto that and were furious. I, for one, was! What happens next is anyone's guess, but I hope this man is held accountable for his offensive and just plain stupid actions!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Being deaf or hard of hearing can be a challenge almost anywhere. However, traveling via airplane can up the ante even more. Sure, it seems easy enough—and to some it very well may be—but to many deaf/HOH travelers (especially the ones flying solo) the airport can seem most daunting.

As some of my readers already know, my husband, Kenny, works for TSA at the airport here in Grand Rapids, MI. He also signs rather well since he’s got to be able to communicate with me and I can ‘t lipread.  Well, for a while he started noticing that some of the people on their way in or out of the airport seemed rather confused. He decided to approach some of these people and speak and sign at the same time just to see if, maybe, those people were deaf/HOH. As it turned out, more often than not, they were and they were ecstatic to find a government employee who could help them out enormously.

The more this took place, the more often Kenny would be asked signs and etiquette questions by other TSA members. It seemed to be a real concern that most TSA workers wanted to help solve. So, what did Kenny do? Kenny created a program for workers to be able to learn signs and communicate and assist deaf/HOH travelers easier and more comfortably.

I caught up with him recently to interview him about such program (he works two jobs and naps…I never see the man…that’s why I “caught up.” Wink)

Q: Can you describe, in your own words, what exactly the program entails?
A: The program involves learning a little about Deaf Culture, such as how to get someone’s attention, points of contact, ABCs, and all basic phrases and vocabulary involved in TSA experience.

Q: And how do you think this program would help the TSA employees?
A: It allows security officers to interact with the deaf/HOH population more personally.

Q: How did you come about the decision to start this?
A: I got a lot of encouragement from my wife (SIDE NOTE: I did NOT pay him to say that). I had deaf travelers come through the airport and I was able to help, but only me. I was able to do it rather smoothly and that really impressed my team and they started asking me to please show them how to do that, too.

Q: Have you or others had any use of it so far?
A: Yes! I’ve had two officers who have had multiple experiences with deaf travelers and the deaf have told me how appreciative they are that people at the Grand Rapids airport can interact!

Q: Give me an example.
A: One time a deaf woman came through and the officer at the front knew she was deaf because she had a note pinned to her shirt: “I’m deaf. I need to go to such and such place on Delta.” The officer got my attention and, when I started to sign with her she was elated and the officer wanted to learn to be able to do that, too. In fact, there was another officer who didn’t remember all of the program, but started pointing and gesturing and writing down whatever was needed. He never forced her to lipread since she said she couldn’t.

Q: How do you know sign language?
A: My wife’s Deaf and she’s helped a lot.

Q: How long have you been signing?
A: Fifteen years.

Q: On a scale of 1- 10, how good are you?
A: I’d say I’m good. 7.

Q: Have you had any interest in the program outside of your specific airport?
A: Yes. I’ve had many people inside TSA contact me for information on Sign Language.

Q: Where? How did you respond?
A: In the West Michigan area I’ve taught people in Muskegon, Kalamazoo, and Manistee. But I’ve sent information to people in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Boston. I’ve always responded enthusiastically that I’m here and ready to help.

Q: What would you say to other TSA employees who want to learn your program?
A: The program is readily available and I’ve both a manual and a DVD instruction video that helps them understand the questions they need to ask (sign phrases) and how to interact appropriately to deaf/HOH travelers and to remember that everyone has different needs. Be open minded.

Well, I for one am most proud. Kenny’s book and DVD is wonderful and took a LOT of work. I just wish the program would start spreading over the US, helping all airports have this kind of support available. Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Living the CODA Life

Being different growing up can be a tough road to hoe. Whether it’s braces or glasses or anything to make you stand out or set apart from the usual crowd, being different can just stink. But sometimes a kid will get lucky and be able to use his “difference” for good. Being a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) is no different.

As you all may know, I’m the mother of three hearing/signing children. All three sign well and communication in the house flows pretty well. Whenever they have friends over or I’m at their school and need to talk with them in front of their peers, they all seem pretty easygoing about it. So, I decided to interview each one in private to see what they truly think…

ME: What is the best thing about being a CODA?
MOLLIE (age 17): Knowing a different language and meeting new people.
JACOB (age 15): I learned other ways to communicate and it’s fun.
NATALIE (age 13): It’s interesting to be able to sign and impress others with it.

ME: How about the worst thing?
MOLLIE: I get offended when someone talks about deafness being a bad thing.
JACOB: When I make a mistake or someone has a hard time reading my sign and I have to keep repeating myself.
NATALIE: I guess when I’m trying to talk and sign real fast and it’s easier just to talk.

ME: Are you singled out or teased at school when they find out your parent is deaf? Have you ever been?
ALL 3: No.
JACOB: The other kids think it’s cool to use my hands to talk.

ME: On a scale of 1 – 10, how well do you think you sign?
JACOB: 7.5

ME: Have you ever felt resentful that you have to sign when your mom’s around?
MOLLIE: Only when I’m trying to have a private conversation with someone else.

ME: And, finally, is there anything you’d like to say about being a CODA or having a signing deaf mother?
MOLLIE: It’s no different than having two hearing parents. I just get to be bilingual!
JACOB: Study hard and try to have fun with it.

I think the interviews went well and my kids seemed to feel comfortable being honest and open. It just goes to show all the naysayers that deafness doesn’t really affect parenting in and of itself. Just like everything else in this world—different doesn’t mean worse. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are People's Needs Being Met?

We’ve come a long way since the days of serious oppression vented toward the deaf and hard of hearing population. Things such as interpreters and phones are now readily accessible in most situations. Most. So, when I found myself a patient at a nearby mental health facility, I was quite surprised at the workers’ attitude toward me and my deafness.

I should first let you know that this specific admission was, by far, not my first time being there. Not only are accommodations the law, but these people knew me by name when I got to my unit. You’d think they’d already know about my needs. You’d think it anyway….

The first main problem I had was the fact that several of the nurses didn’t believe that I couldn’t lipread.  “All deaf people lipread. I think she’s faking for attention’s sake.” One nurse in particular took many people aside and said, “If you catch her lipreading, come tell me. I don’t believe she can’t.” Now, why would I fake something just to make my life more difficult than it already is?

After a few admissions, I think the staff finally “got it” that I need an interpreter, but in there lay another problem…cost.

Although they were usually good about calling for a ‘terp, the problem was when that ‘terp should leave. A ‘terp was scheduled from 9 till 12 and from 1 till 4 for groups, meeting with my doctor or case manager, etc. But they would often give me medicine to de-stress me and it made me unbelievably sleepy. However, when I would lay down to try to sleep it off for a half hour or so, they would send the interpreter home—saying that they didn’t want to have to pay for an interpreter if I wasn’t awake to use them.

But what about the doctor? They would send the ‘terp home and then, later, would say the doctor needs to talk with me or that group is happening and it was mandatory to go. What they didn’t understand was that ‘interpreters are paid on a two-hour basis. No matter when they actually left, the hospital would still have to pay for the full two hours at a time. So, sending them home didn’t save anyone money and it made me miss the doctor or nurse or any professional who needed to speak with me.

Another problem that was never rectified while I was in-patient, was the telephone. Technically, it would be best if they had a video phone hooked up for deaf patients to use. They said they “thought they had a TTY around here somewhere,” but, not only was it yet to be found, but no one I know has one anymore. They’re very outdated,  So I would need to have my interpreter call on a regular land line phone, tell me what the person on the other end said and then let me speak into the phone and answer them. No privacy whatsoever. It was just wrong.

While I was in there this last time, several of my interpreters commented to their agency regarding how mistreated I am as far as communication goes. When I was discharged from the hospital, I worked with the customer rights’ unit at the agency and was told that things would be different next time. Next time? I hope I don’t have a “next time,” but I guess, if I do, at least (hopefully) it will be able to meet all of my needs.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How Can I Appreciate You If You Won't Go Away?

Everyone of you must have had at least one or two experiences where you’ve been out in public and someone approaches you and starts talk with you and you haven’t the faintest clue who they are. So what do you do? Well, if you’re like most people, you smile, nod, and act like they’re one of your closest friends all the while trying to get a name out of them.

That happens to me a lot. Being Deaf, I am approached by many people of whom I haven’t any idea who they are. Could be lack of memory on my part (I would forget my name if it wasn’t written in my underwear), but usually it’s people who are learning sign language and see me using it, so they want to practice with me. It can get pretty scary. Here’s a few scenarios:

  1. Person approaches. “Hi! Blah, blah, blah!” I respond, “I’m Deaf.” They run away as quickly as they can.
  2. Person approaches: “Hi!” Then they throw their hands up and start making a crude attempt to sign with me. Since they obviously already know I’m Deaf, I attempt to make it look like I can remember them or know them, but their signing looks like a cross between two cats fighting and a seizure victim. I run away as quickly as I can.
  3. (This one happens pretty much every time I leave my house with someone and am signing.) A friend and I are signing at the store. A few people spy us signing and then stand there and watch (“It’s such a beautiful language.) This is called eavesdropping, as you may know. Next thing I know the audience approaches and starts showing me the signs they know (ABCs, numbering, NICE TO MEET YOU, “Jesus Loves Me.” –gag gag gag gag). They won’t leave, so I’m trapped trying to look polite, all the while hoping against hope that something will distract them soon and they will have to go away.

So, I’ve been asked what the proper etiquette is if you see someone signing. Do you approach? Do you wave? Do you show them the I LOVE YOU sign? (You have no idea how many people love me as soon as they find out I’m Deaf.)

To me, it’s kind of like being fluent in French and you happen to overhear some people talking in that language. You might wait for a break in the conversation and then venture over there and say, “Hello.” Short and sweet. If you’re FLUENT in American Sign Language, it’s OK to go say Hi and tell them how you started learning sign. You might find you have some of the same friends. But if you don’t know how to sign at least at an advanced level, please pass. Walk by—maybe smile and sign HELLO…and keep walking. It’s nice you appreciate their langauge, but don’t bug the deaf person. That may sound harsh, but there are exceptions to the rule. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

If Not In Name, Then In Deed

I've been teaching sign language for over a decade, but recently decided last month to stop for now. Actually, my thoughts were to give it up all together and retire. I have things in my life happening that just made my doing more than, say, existing, stressful. So, I packed up all my folders and paraphernalia into the back storage room and changed some information on my website and thought that was all I needed to do. 

Some don't know, but at the end, there wasn't a lot of interest in my classes (at that time) and tutoring students were scarce if not non-existent. Of course, the minute I announced my hiatus, I received emails specifically asking about my classes. Figures. Isn't that always the way?

What I found though is, even though I'm not having formal classes or meeting students around the city for tutoring, teaching is still taking place. Every day that I leave my house there is a at least one person who asks me a question about a sign, a class, a greeting, or whatever. Teaching didn't stop for me and I'm secretly happy about that (well, not so secretly now, huh?). Oh, sure there's times when I feel like dressing up like a ninja so no one will approach me. So far I've been lucky and no other ninja has challenged me. But even running to the gas station for my daily dose of sweet tea warrants conversation however brief (thank you, Speedway). Almost everyone there signs THANK YOU to me when I'm there and it's a great feeling. I feel welcomed. And, if anyone requested ASL tutoring at my home I'd welcome them in a second. But for now I'm on a hiatus/potential retirement. 

Doesn't matter that I say that though. If I sign in public, people watch and I know I'm teaching some of them--even if minutely.Teaching ruled! Most of the time.....more about that at another time. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Which Way Do I Look?

For those of you familiar with or living in the Deaf culture, you must already know the rules of eye contact during communication. The basic rules is to keep close eye contact with the person who is signing to you. One look away can cost you an entire conversation or, even worse, a friend.

It’s one of the rules that many hearing people break—usually unknowingly. However, it does happen when the hearing person knows the rules but doesn’t respect them closely enough. And when I first decided to use interpreters practically on a daily basis, it was very confusing to even me.

I mean, I’m suppose to remain my eye contact towards the person signing to me. That would obviously be my interpreter. At the same time, I felt rude to the person doing the talking. So, who do I look at?

I started going back and forth. When the person talking stopped moving his lips, I would watch the interpreter till she was done and then go back to staring at the talker. Is this so wrong? What exactly do you guys do or what do you experience?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Making Lemons Out of Lemonade

Many days I go about things with a bit of a wall around me. I've been known not to think my feelings as true facts. If I'm angry, I should deal with my anger. And if I'm happy, I should try to spread a little happiness. This might surprise you, but when I have negative emotions--usually due to being Deaf or mentally ill---it's very hard for me to deal with them. That's because borderlines have a hard time admitting they're wrong to feel something or feeling invalidated.

But one day, about 18 years ago, I was driving over to a friends' house. We'd made a time to hang out that day, Well, as I was on my way, I noticed a bunch of little kids selling lemonade. At first, I past by it and didn't pay much attention. But then I thought, I'm in a good mood. I want to do something nice for someone else. So, I made a U turn in my manual car and went back  to their front yard. At that time, I didn't realize I had to put the car in gear and roll my tires so they fall toward a curb. I did none  of that. All I knew was that the kids seemed very happy that I came to give them business.

I was able to communicate my want of lemonade, but within a minute, all the kids started screaming and running away. I looked over at  my car only to see it was headed for us. Not only that, but it was also headed straight to the lemonade stand. and totally demolished it.

Noone was hurt, thankfully, but I don't know if I'll ever do a u-turn for a snack every again.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Deaf Friendly "Family Feud??" Could it Be?

Yesterday evening I was sitting down to catch an hour of TV before I started dinner. My son, Jake, was sitting alone in the living room. He seemed really relaxed, and then every so often he would yell and sign, “Matches!” “A lighter!” I walked further into the room and saw what was happening. He was watching an episode of “Family Feud” and really getting into it. The question had been for them to name ways to start a fire.

The next round up, I joined him at the front as Steve Harvey asked the next question: “We asked 100 men what you would be most likely doing on your day off?” We pushed on our imaginary buzzers, but there was a problem: The captions were slow. So, by the time I yelled out, “Play golf,” Jake had already gotten the number one answer, which was “Work outside in the yard.” A few minutes later it happened again…and again…and again. This show was definitely not deaf-friendly.

During the Fast Money round, I couldn’t keep up. It was fun to try, but not realistic to think about going on the actual show.

Jake turned to me after the show. “Mom,” he said, looking disappointed, “They should have a “Deaf Family Feud” with interpreters and questions written on a screen. (Isn’t he the greatest?)

I agreed with him, of course. All game shows should show equality, don’t you think? Even the older ones should come back on and be deaf-friendly. That’s what Jake and I think, at least.

But if they ever do fix “Family Feud” to be deaf-friendly, they’d have to have a Deaf host. Not necessarily because of signing (though that’s a big part of it), but because Steve Harvey annoys every inch of my being. “We asked 100 men and women what they like about Steve Harvey as a host of “Family Feud.” The answer by a landslide was????? NOTHING!!!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Judgement is Common...Admit it!

You shouldn't judge people. It's a fact. Judging always ends in no good. But you do, don't you? Come on--admit it! There's gotta be at least one time, one type of person, or one situation where you have judged.

I've talked about "stigma" in earlier posts, but this is different than judging. With stigma, you dislike or avoid people for what they are or whatever condition they are "afflicted" with (mental illness, physical illness, whatever). With "judging" it's based on a behavior or belief of another person.

OK. With that being said......I'm guilty!!!! I admit to guiltiness (that isn't a real word, I don't think). What or whom do I judge, you ask? I have the tendency to judge my kids' school friends (or any friends, for that matter) who don't at least try to communicate with me.

I know deafness can cause nervousness, scary feelings, intimidation, etc., but I'm nice. I'm not scary. I try to chat with them, but they usually end up running for the hills when I do. Many times, the friends will ask someone from my family how to sign this or that. That's effort. I appreciate it. But it's unusual. Most are horrified. It's like that for most hearing people, but I've gotten used to it with strangers. Friends are different. 

Isn't that terrible of me? And when people judge me, I feel more and more isolated. However,  that comes with the broken ears. But, I mean they teach gorillas sign language. That's a start, I guess. Next, I think they should teach them the dance to "Thriller." But I digress.....

I don't know what that word means, but it seemed like a good ending to this blog. 

Have you experienced judgement? Were you the judgie or the judger? Tell me about it; let me know I'm not alone in this. CONFESS!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

GUEST COLUMNIST: My Daughter Mollie


So, I've been enjoying a nice vacation down in St. Louis, Missouri. We get to come down here about once a year from our humble abode in west Michigan.Its a nice time to see all the grand parents and other crazy family members that we never see otherwise. So, this morning the family and me went to a nice diner to have breakfast with my dad's parents before setting out for north again. (I'm typing this journal on my dad's phone because I was bored... and eager to share this story with you all.)

Anyways! We were seated and served juice and coffee and everything was great, the woman serving us was very amazing. I took to liking her instantly, she was very energetic and friendly and just one of those people who could make you feel like it would be a great day. 

Well, my mom, dad, and me were signing back and forth; discussing the menu and the long car trip awaiting us later in the morning. We could already see heads turning at the sight of our strange language spoken with wordless gestures and our waitress was to be included in the crowd.

She came over, serving up our drinks and giving us our menus for the meal, and after many times of saying ''You're welcome.'' To us several times, she finally asked a question we were used to hearing; '' What is the sign for...'' in this case it was for ''you're welcome''. Smiling at this polite gesture we kindly showed her and nodded with a smile when she repeated it back to us with ease.

''I used to know sign language,'' she spoke, waiting patently for my father to interpret. ''I forgot because I haven't practiced in so long.''

We all nodded in understanding.

She went on, obviously feeling that this needed more explanation. 

What she said next made us all very confused.

''I knew sign language because my niece was blind.''

I stopped breathing for a second, my brain so confused and shocked that I couldn't do anything. I could see my father pause in his signing, also confused, although he recovered much faster.

The most we could do was nod in some kind of understanding and struggle to hold our chuckles in until she was out of earshot.

A blind niece in need of a visual language? Almost as bad as going to the library and being handed a Braille book after being announced deaf (yes, that has happened.)

So while we try to work through this brainwracker, please try to make sure you don't have a blind niece trying to learn sign language, it'll be very difficult and quite useless.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Tried And I Can’t—Now Just Go Away!….Please!

I’m writing this blog as a sort of lesson to myself. See, I have a hearing husband and he is totally wonderful. He’s always trying to please me. So, in return, he ends up interpreting for me a LOT. Just in the last 5 years I’ve become pretty isolated, so he has to do all the errands and conversations and phone calls. I know it’s not OK. I know I’m taking advantage of him. But it’s not like I don’t pay in back in other ways (wink wink).

In order to free him from interpreting in times when no interpreter is expected, I thought that I would try to learn to lip read. Have you ever tried to learn to lipread? I’ve been told it can be done, but not likely for someone with absolutely no residual hearing and not a lot of practice.

Before I decided to sign up for the local community class that teaches lipreading mainly to the elderly, I decided to see if I could do it on my own. I’ve since found I can’t.

That doesn’t stop people from trying to talk to me though. Not that I don’t appreciate it, but if a person is Deaf and can’t lipread, screaming in their ear or showing us your cavities when you over-enunciate at us isn’t going to help much. Plus, it’s terribly, terribly annoying.

Now, if you’ve read my other blog posts, you might remember that I have very little capability to remember things. This can be a great thing and a not so great thing.

Standing in the hallway of a hospital, waiting to be told what to do, an elderly woman approaches me. “You deaf?????” She yelled loud enough that the veins in her face almost popped. I nodded yes and hoped she’d just go away. “I know how to do my abcs!” Oy vey, that’s the one sentence most deaf people do not want to work with. I mean, I appreciate people learning to fingerspell (or just recite the alphabet as in this case), but, God be with me, I can only have it happen so many times in a short duration before internal combustion blows me out of the way.

When this woman was done, she turned to go. I, stood silently, hoping she’d be gone soon. Oh, but that didn’t happen. No. No. I was never that lucky. So, the woman turns around and starts singing and grotesquely signing the song, “Jesus Loves Me,” Into the side of my face. Oh, gosh! Someone rescue me!!! It was over, but none too soon. Thankfully, a nurse came by and escorted this old woman away from me. And that’s all I wanted. Just for her to go away. Why can’t they all just go away??

So, lipreading is out for me. I’m OK with that. I’ve got many Deaf, HOH, and interpreter friends to chat with. I’ll keep that. That’ll satisfy me plenty.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How To Know If Your ASL Teacher Is Qualified

When a person decides that they want to learn a new skill or language, very often tutoring or a community class comes to mind—Classes of short duration where you can get a lot of information in a short amount of time. In general, people don’t want to take the time to enroll in a college program and very rarely does teaching yourself give you the skills that only another person can. Though it does happen.

In fact, finding someone willing to help you might actually seem easy. Craigslist, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social medias can put you in touch with people advertising their availability. And that might seem great. But how much do you know about them> you may even meet with then in person (be careful) and they may seem capable, but based on what? If you know nothing about the skill, wouldn’t most anyone seem knowledgeable? There are things you could look for and if the skill you’re wanting to learn is ASL, there are definitely things you’re going to want to ask and observe of this possible future teacher. Here’s a basic list to get you started.


  1. Are you deaf/HOH or is anyone in your family deaf?  It’s not a requirement, but if the teacher/tutor is deaf or HOH or if they’re a CODA (Child of Deaf Parents) or grew up in the Deaf Community, chances are good that they have a good basic knowledge (at least) of ASL.

  1. How did you learn ASL?  Again, ask them how they learned. Where and who taught them, etc. The longer they’ve known it, the more they’ve used it, the better experienced they will be.

  1. Do you teach ASL, CSL, or SE?  All three of these are different. First off, SE (Signed English) is a definite NO. It’s not based on the Deaf Culture and it’s one you should avoid. CSL is Contact Sign Language, which used to be called PSE or Pidgin Sign English. Contact sign is good for a start. You can get the basic and even intermediate vocabulary learned and then start to slowly slide over into ASL.

  1. Are you willing to teach straight ASL when we think I’m ready or do your skills not allow that?  If they’re going to use CSL, just make sure that, when the time hits to learn strong and serious ASL, the teacher has the ability to do that or refer you to someone who can.

  1. How long have you been teaching ASL?  Again, the longer the teaching, the more experience (at least that’s how it should be).

  1. Do you have references?  Get as many as possible and contact them all! Find out if this is the teacher for you!

  1. Are you involved in the Deaf community?  You want to make sure that this person actually socializes with the deaf and HOH who use this language.

  1. If you didn’t learn ASL before the age of 3 or earlier, where did you learn and for how long?  Pretty self-explanatory

  1. Are you able to keep me informed about upcoming deaf community events so I can socialize with other deaf and HOH people?  As you start to learn, you’re going to want to start meeting and chatting with deaf and HOH people who sign. Make sure this teacher knows about such events.

  1. Which curriculum do you use?   Find out and then research it. Even ask them to show it to you and let you flip around in the book. Curriculum is important. If they say they’ve self-designed one, make sure to see it!

These are just a few questions to get you started. I’m sure you can think of others. You should observe if they talk when they sign. Just to make sure they can sign, but also, sometimes talking relieves the need to worry about you not understanding. This isn’t necessary though as there’s always a pencil and paper.

So those questions should get you started. If you can think of more, please leave them as a comment. Always remember, any old goat can say they’re qualified, but don’t just jump on the bandwagon and start throwing money at them until you’re sure in your own mind that they truly are qualified.

Good luck with your search and be careful!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Learn American Sign Language Later This Summer in SW Grand Rapids

You know you want it! What can you do to learn the amazing language of ASL? Deaf Expressions is here to rectify the situation and answer that question!

Our Summer Conversational ASL Class:

Thursday nights, July 18 till September 5, 6:30 pm till 8:30 pm
$130/person and that INCLUDES the workbook

You MUST register. Contact us and we'll show you how! (Michele's email) or text Michele at (616) 516-6314

If those days and times don't work with you, you can do private tutoring ($20/hour) or get four other people and start your own class (price would be the same as the Summer class).

Hope to "hear" from you soon!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Needs Are Not Only Important--They're legally Expected

One thing some people don’t realize when they’re out—and even if they run into a deaf person while they’re out and about—how difficult some aspects can become if no one’s prepared. They don’t see that we need help in one way or another—ASL interpreter, oral interpreter, hearing dog (which we would supply), etc.

They don’t realize that, if they (meaning a business or office or doctor’s appointment), need to communicate with a deafie, they need not only to schedule one (*whichever the deaf person requests), but it must be at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting or appt. to give the agency enough time to find an interpreter for the appointment.

That doesn’t always happen with me (at least). Perhaps I’m just lucky. They say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I must be one big shot in the bag. Why do I say that? I cannot even begin to tell you how often Kenny takes me a long-been scheduled appt and we find no ‘terp being expected.

So, what does one do in these situations? Sure, depending on the time of day, once could call an emergency interpreter and wait around for an hour or more—only then needing to find an opening for that doctor.

The several times this has happened to me, it’s always the same thing on my end.

  1. Ask them what time the interpreter is scheduled for. (Often the answer is never).
  2. Literally and loudly communicate my total disappointment the place is to be seeing me.
  3. Then reschedule leaving it clear this is no to happen again.
  4. Go home ticked off and wait for yet another call regarding arranging a ‘terp. (I’ll believe it when I see it.)

There is one more option, but it is NOT recommended—to ask the hearing friend/family you’re there with if they’d stand in and interpret.

Let me straight with you—that is technically illegal because it is not their full language, they don’t have the schooling needed to do this, the appt is supposed to be confidential, and they don’t have a certificate. So, Kenny has been asked/forced to interpret for me at several therapy and psychiatric and medical meeting and lotsg of other places (dentists, discussions, etc). And Kenny does it, but he’s pretty ticked-off. He wants money for his efforts—with or without his certificate. And I totally agree.

My point? Respect deaf people’s needs for accommodations. Be sure to follow through with setting them up to fill their needs. After all, being deaf and surrounded by hearing people doesn’t make for a comfortable situation.

Just my opinion.
Anyone agree?
Please comment!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Have you ever had a circumstance growing up where you try to do your best at something and learn all you can about the specific details and such? Then you set it aside and forget about it for a while. Eight months later, you drag it out of your closet while spring-cleaning, and it rekindles your enthusiasm for the activity. However, after taking it out in the world and trying to start where you left out, you find that most of the rules and nuances of what you’re trying to do are no longer the way you learned it. It’s frustrating!

But it’s not all that uncommon. And for students learning American Sign Language to be able to interpret for a career have this occur often. You just have to learn to expect it.

Some of the things that have been changing are the name for countries. Whereas before, there was a sign used in ASL that went for a specific country, for example, GERMANY. It was done with putting the side of each five hand, one on top of the other, while you wiggled your fingers. That’s been used forever. But now it’s starting to change.

What’s happening is that, just as each country has their own Sign Language, each country has a sign done in their sign language to mean where they live.  To illustrate, GERMANY isn’t signed that way nowadays. The “new” sign, which is the sign taken from Germany themselves, is the right index finger pointed up into the air and set on the top of your head.

But this can get tricky, since the sign for HORNY is pretty close to the new GERMANY. The people having the conversation have to know what each other is referring to or you might end up in trouble with your partner.

Other countries have done this, too. AUSTRALIA, ITALY, KOREA, JAPAN, CHINA, and many more places. And it doesn’t just go for locations. Languages evolve and, ASL being a full language has changes, too.

American Sign Language also adapts within our country. I was raised to learn ASL in Illinois. When I moved to Michigan, signs that I use for METAL are used here for TRASH. Our sign for EARLY is different than what most of the country uses. Same thing with OUTSIDE or ELECTRICITY. But it’s OK. If it’s your language or your second language, it is best that you learn all variations and be prepared like the Boy Scouts you meet along the way.

So be careful out there and have an open mind. The best interpreters out there are those who learn as many of the signs for the same time that they can. That way, they’re fully ready to adapt to the Deaf person’s accent.

As you learn to use sign language content and signs, you will find that picking up the new and not-so-new variations becomes easier and easier. Best of Luck!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Let’s face it. Learning a foreign language isn’t exactly easy to do. To successfully become fluent in, say, German, one must not only learn the vocabulary, but study the grammar, the culture, and the history of the language as well. The same thing goes for American Sign Language (ASL), the language used by many, many deaf people and others—including the Deaf Culture, CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults), teachers, interpreters, and more. If you’re reading this, thinking, “Duh,” then you may be surprised just how many would-be signers/students don’t know this.

I remember a time my husband, Kenny, introduced me to a person who was looking to become a certified sign language interpreter. After Kenny introduced me to him, the student started waving his hands in the air and occasionally slapping himself in the face or grabbing his groin like Michael Jackson. Whether he screeched when he did this is anyone’s guess. I didn’t ask and Kenny didn’t tell. Thank you, God. But Kenny did help the disturbed guy translate what the perverse movements meant: “I don’t really need a lot of help. As you can see, I’m pretty good at it already. Whoo-hoo (there went the groin again)!” My last reaction was to laugh so hard I spit in his face. Once I calmed down a bit, I was able to ask him a few questions to help me know where he was in his studies.

I started signing and talking at the same time (using Contact Sign) so he could understand me:

ME: So, uh…where have you studied in the past?
HIM: Actually, I haven’t really needed to do anything formal. As you can see, I pick things up fairly fast and easily (smacking himself on the cheek and blinking his eyes as if he were about to have a seizure).
ME: Oh…kay. Hmm. Do you know any Deaf people whom you can practice with?
HIM: Not really. I’ve seen a few in the grocery store and I think there’s one at my church. I honestly haven’t talked to any except you. I want to be fluent before I have to go face-to-face with one.
ME: Why’s that?
HIM: Well, they’re kinda scary. I mean, not you, but the others I’ve seen. They don’t even talk. I mean, who doesn’t talk? Isn’t that like a requirement when you’re out in public?

I stopped the questions about that time. I didn’t really want to ask him anything else. I was already convinced he needed a lot more than ASL classes. Perhaps some antipsychotic medication and an imaginary dragon to play with would help.

So, I didn’t get very far with that guy. Even inviting him to one of my Sign Language classes was met with an interesting retort “You mean sit around with people who don’t know anything about deaf people? Wouldn’t that just be a waste of my time?” No reply from me was necessary.

Now, experiences like this one are not as rare as you might think. In fact, I would say that at least 1/3 of the people in the world who want to learn ASL think it’s nothing more than pantomime and funny faces. I must object and make it clear that learning ASL is not any easier than any other foreign language out there. And if you want to interpret, you must be fluent and certified with the state (or nationally certified if you are wiling to go the extra mile). I decided to let all of you know five of the best ways to learn this language—ASL or Contact Sign—and I hope you’ll take to my suggestions willingly.

5. Study ASL users online. The first thing you should do when you are thinking of learning this beautiful and challenging language is to do some online searching. Go to or and type into the search line: American Sign Language. You will find more people using ASL than ever imagined. Be careful though. Some might say ASL, but actually be using Signed English—something you don’t want to confuse it with.

You can also find several sites to help you learn vocabulary:
Or practice your receptive fingerspelling (a must-learn part of the language):

4. Take a community sign language class. If you ask around, looking for an area sign language class, there will usually be something that can help. Just be sure to ask the person in charge if they are indeed teaching ASL or just Sign Language or Signed English. There’s nothing wrong with started out with Contact Sign as long as you know what you’re doing. CSL  is basically ASL vocabulary in English word order. Many students start out with CSL, learning conceptually correct ASL vocabulary, but start learning the grammar and sentence structure later.

3. Enroll in a college interpreter’s program. This step is definitely the way to go if you’re serious about wanting to become a certified interpreter (and if you want to make money as an interpreter, you’ll need to be certified). Just be sure to study the programs goals and attitudes about both ASL and Deaf Culture. Not all interpreters program are as helpful as you might think. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s what you’re looking for. And please be sure that the classes are taught by Deaf teachers with experience (your best bet) or Certified ASL interpreters. Also keep in mind that a deaf teacher doesn’t guarantee fluency in ASL. There are millions of deafies out there who became deaf as an adult and really don’t know anything about the things you need to learn.

2. Find a mentor. Ahhh…If only every student could do this! You’ll have to put in some effort to find the right person for you, but it’ll be worth your time. You’ll want to call around to local interpreting agencies, ASL programs and the deaf community to find someone. Make sure they are skilled and are OK with you hanging out with them and observing their work or watching them chat with a skilled signer.

1. Get out there and socialize with the deaf community. I chose to list this one as the #1 way to learn ASL. Surprised? I’m not kidding you. You might be surprised at how many would-be students are terrified to actually hang out with deaf people! They’re too darn intimidated and they want to wait till they’re already good at it. Could it be that people like me go around with “I’ll kill you if you even try” sort of looks at all times? Even if that’s so, you have to force yourself. I mean, come on! If you want to learn ASL—to be an interpreter or for other reasons—wouldn’t you think that you have to get to know the community, too? Like it or not, getting out there is by far the most important step to being a part of the community. Period.

There you have it. Perhaps I’ve listed 1 or 2 that you never considered. I can understand that. Of course, if you have put yourself out in the community, you already completed the #1 rule. So good for you! Keep it up!

Everyone else out there whom are too scared to take a step or two: Just know that there are deaf people out there who know where you live. And if you don’t get your butt in gear and get out there and meet us in person, we’ll have to kill you.

Me intimidating? Never.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


One of the strangest things I've noticed with people is the various interpretations of words as they use them. For example, take the word “rich.” Some people see that word and think of Donald Trump. Other people get raises or bonuses at work and think of themselves as rich. Still others, me included, find a $5 bill in their pocket and are on Cloud 9 for a week.

Another word that has a host of definitions is the word “disabled.” Even looking it up on various sites online, I found three definitions. But for the most part they read: “Physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity, especially in relation to employment or education.” So, whom does that include? People in wheelchairs? Blind people? People with severe mental illness” Cancer? Diabetes? What about deaf people?

The Deaf community is a large and diverse group of people. In fact, some might think it odd, but it doesn't just include Deaf people. Hearing people from various backgrounds and careers can be part of the group, too. But let me just talk about the deafies for now. Are deaf people as a whole, “disabled”? Believe it or not, that is a question with a ton of different answers. Here’s what two separate groups might say….

Many people who lose their hearing as an adult do find adjustment extremely rough. Some never adjust. These people (late-deafened adults or adventitiously deaf) often consider themselves disabled due to being unable to willingly make the changes needed in their life. Communication can be horrible if they cannot lipread (I can’t) or never learn to sign. Many that had jobs, find themselves unable to continue on doing some things they were able to do in the past. And if that’s the way they've gone about living as a deaf person, they’re sure to think themselves disabled and, hopefully, seek help.

But tell a Culturally Deaf person they’re disabled and be prepared for a solid argument. Most believe Deaf people are not disabled—not impaired—they’re simply a minority group of people who live differently and communicate differently than their hearing acquaintances.

They can use the phone (video phones allow deaf people to do so with relative ease). They can express themselves fully using American Sign Language. They can work at most places with a little accommodation being given. They can go to school, get degrees, just like anyone else, if they’re given an interpreter. And so on and so on.

I personally fall into the middle physically between these two groups. I was born partially deaf, but my family raised me in the Hearing world since I could still hear some. I learned to speak, but often struggled to understand what was being said if the other person was not talking on my left side. However, I later lost the rest of my hearing. They describe hearing loss past 90 dB “profound,” but I’m not profoundly deaf, I’m totally deaf. There’s just nothing there.

When I became fully deaf, I started studying and learning ASL with a vengeance. I got many accommodations around the house I lived in (doorbell signaler, video phone, door knockers, vibrating alarm clock, etc). I also did a lot of research and finally went on to become a Sign Language teacher.

If someone were to ask me if I was disabled, I would have to say yes. WAIT!! Hear me out! (No pun intended.) I would say yes, but not because of my lack of hearing. I actually suffer from several severe mental illnesses that “substantially limit” my activity. So, that’s why I struggle. If I were not mentally ill, would I say I was disabled just by being deaf? Not at all. I’m not disabled by my deafness—I’m simply different.

Now, who can argue with that?