Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Top Three Colleges For Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.
As the only liberal arts college for the deaf in the world, Gallaudet University has graduated more than 19,000 students and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The university offers a bilingual learning environment featuring American Sign Language and English with programs and services designed specifically to accommodate the deaf and hard of hearing student.
Undergraduate students can choose from a wide range of undergraduate degree programs, including Arts and Media, Business, Human Services, Humanities, Language/Culture, and Science/Math/Technology. Graduate degrees include ASL and Deaf Studies; Counseling; Education; Government and Public Affairs; Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences; History, Philosophy, Religion and Sociology; Interpretation; Linguistics; Psychology, and Social Work.
That’s more than 40 majors leading to Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. A small number of hearing undergraduate students—up to five percent of an entering class—are also admitted to the University each year. Graduate programs at Gallaudet are open to Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students and offer certificates and Master of Arts, Master of Science, doctoral, and specialist degrees in a variety of fields involving professional service to Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Close to 2,000 students are enrolled at Gallaudet, which boasts a robust campus life including a campus ministry and full athletic program. According to a recent alumni study, more than 98 percent of those who graduated December 2010 and August 2011 are employed; 99 percent of graduate students are employed or furthering their education.
Gallaudet was granted university status in October 1986. Two years later, in March 1988, the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement led to the appointment of the University's first Deaf president, Dr. I. King Jordan and the Board of Trustees' first Deaf chair, Philip Bravin. 

 Through the University Career center, students receive internships that provide a wealth of experiential learning opportunities. Recent internships were offered at Merrill Lynch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, and the World Bank. Students also benefit from an array of services provided by such campus units as the Burstein Leadership Institute, Language Planning Institute, Hearing and Speech Center, Cochlear Implant Education Center, and the Center for International Programs and Services.

Today, Gallaudet is viewed by Deaf and hearing people as a primary resource for all things related to Deaf people such as career opportunities, visual learning, Deaf history and culture and  American Sign Language.
 National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, New York (NTID)
One of nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology. Of the more than 15,000 undergraduate students from around the world on campus, 1,200 are deaf or hard of hearing. The institute is the first and largest of its kind for deaf and hard of hearing students. Instructors use a variety of communication methods including ASL, spoken language, finger spelling, printed and visual aids, and online resources. FM systems are also available along with tutoring, note-taking, real-time captioning services and interpreting staff.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) was formally established in 1965 and began operation in 1967 at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with first students in 1968.The college is in Rochester, N.Y..  RIT was founded in 1829. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) is one of the nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a leading career-oriented, technological university recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's "Best College Values," and by The Princeton Review as one of the top 20 colleges nationwide for "Best Career Services." More than 15,000 undergraduate students from around the world, including more than 1,200 who are Deaf or hard of hearing are enrolled at RIT/NTID.

NTID prepares professionals to work in fields related to Deafness; undertakes a program of applied research designed to enhance the social, economic and educational accommodation of Deaf people; and shares its knowledge and expertise through outreach and other information dissemination programs.
The ACT score requirements are 24-31. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT/NTID receive private university education at a public college price.
 The Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf (SWCID), Big Spring, Texas
SWCID is a state-supported college operating within the Howard County Junior College District, which offers associate degree and certification programs. American Sign Language is primary communication used in instruction. SWCID students are also able to participate in athletics, student organizations, class internships and other residential activities on the Howard College campus.
SWCID was the idea of a parent of a Deaf student in elementary school Mr. Fred Maddux, who wanted a vocational training program for his son. Mr. Maddux presented the idea to Dr. Burke, the Regional Superintendent for the West Texas Panhandle-Regional Day School programs for the Deaf in Texas. They contacted Big Spring, Texas leaders to see if they would communicate with Congressman Charles Stenholm about the need for a college for the Deaf at recently-closed Webb Air Force Base facilities. Congressman Charles Stenholm, Dr. Burke, Mr. Maddux and several other Big Spring officials met. Following the meeting, Congressman Stenholm was in full agreement of using the Webb Air Force base facilities as a college for the Deaf.  Howard College agreed to sponsor SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf in May of 1979 under the leadership of President Charles Hays, and on November 6, 1979, the Howard County Junior College District Board of Trustees officially established the SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Deaf Actors On Television

Here are just a few TV Shows I found that use Deaf actors/participants and/or Deaf issues. If there's more (and I'm sure there are, tell me in a comment! I'd love to know!)

Amazing Race

Luke Adams was a Deaf contestant on, “Amazing Race,” who was on a team with his mother, Margie O'Connell. He and his mother communicated mostly through American Sign Language and were said to have one of the best relationships of any team on the show. He was eliminated from the show and came back in another season as part of an All Stars season, but was also eliminated. 

Big Bang Theory: Season 5, Episode 4: The Wiggly Finger Catalyst

In this episode of Big Bang Theory, Katie Leclerc (also seen below playing on “Switched At Birth”) plays a love interest of Raj (Kunal Nayyar). Essentially, Leclerc as "Emily" is the perfect girlfriend for Raj because Raj has a problem speaking to women without being drunk. But with Emily, he doesn't have to worry about that and becomes much more confident. He becomes infuated with her, even giving her jewelry, leasing her a car, and paying off her credit cards so that she would stay with him. However, Raj's friends, led by Howard, who somehow knows sign language, are led to believe that Emily is a gold digger and is just using Raj for his money. When they confront her about it, she becomes angry and tells Raj about it. The friends then tell Raj's parents, who then threaten to cut him off if he doesn't break up with her. He chooses Emily over the money, but when Emily finds out he no longer has access to his family's wealth, she breaks up with him.


Kurt Ramborger was a Deaf contestant on the cooking competition show, “Chopped.” Ramborger is a chef from Austin, Texas and gives an opportunity to teach the judges and his fellow competitors that a Deaf person can still compete on the show. He used an interpreter, but struggled in the show because he ran out of time because he couldn't hear the judges yelling that the clock was running down and didn't see his interpreter because he was focused on the food. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity for him in that he made it past the first round. 

ER: Season 5, Episode 14: The Storm

In this episode of ER, Marlee Matlin portrays a sign language instructor who is trying to teach one of the doctors sign language after the doctor found out that his son was deaf. The doctor had previously looked into getting his son a cochlear implant, but decided against it.

Project Runway

Justin LeBlanc is a Deaf competitor on Project Runway. He introduces himself as Deaf and that he uses a cochlear implant, but is still very limited in hearing. As a result, he uses an interpreter on the show to understand the judges and other contestants when they speak. He uses his experience on the show to express to the other contestants and judges how deafness can be very unique and how he is not just "an inspirational figure" as many people see deaf people. He even made an outfit that resembles the ASL sign for "I love you". 

Scrubs: Season 6, Episode 16: My Words of Wisdom

This episode of “Scrubs,” a popular hospital comedy show, features a deaf child who is brought into the hospital for an illness. His dad is also deaf, and they do not speak and cannot hear. Strangely, the Janitor knows sign language (although it is not clear how he knows it), and can act as an interpreter between the doctors and the father and son. The hearing doctors, J.D. and Chris Turk (the main characters) find out about cochlear implants and suggest that the father get his son a cochlear implant. The father strongly refuses, and J.D. and Turk are left mesmerized as to why this father wouldn't want to help his son hear, even going so far as to say that the father is being abusive towards his son. The doctors go around the father to get permission to do the cochlear implant surgery on the son, but what they don't realize is that the father fears that if his son got a cochlear implant, he would lose his relationship with his son, since being deaf was how they most connected. This shows a real debate in the deaf community, where cochlear implants are presented as a perfect, life changing option, but deaf people oppose it because they fear that they will lose their relationships with their loved ones and lose their culture, much like forcing a foreign immigrant to learn English and abandon their homeland's culture, language, and traditions. Very frustrating!

Seinfeld: Season 5, Episode 6: The Lip Reader

Marlee Matlin appears as a deaf woman who Jerry Seinfeld dates. The group of friends suddenly begin using Matlin to read lips of other people around them. Elaine also pretends to use deafness in the episode, pretending not to hear a cab driver, but reacting to a message over the radio and subsequently offending the cab driver. 

Sesame Street

Linda Bove was one of the first Deaf characters to appear on TV. In Sesame Street, she appears as Linda the Librarian, who teaches children about sign language and the deaf community. She also taught them that being deaf was not a bad or shameful thing. 


Christy Smith was the first Deaf contestant on the show "Survivor". She competed in order to raise awareness of Deafness and Deaf culture, but unfortunately her competitors took advantage of her deafness by whispering to each other, knowing that she couldn't hear them. Unable to form an alliance, she was voted out, but was able to remain on the jury as a voter for the remainder of the show. 

Switched at Birth

“Switched at Birth” is a popular television drama that airs on ABC Family. The show focuses on two teenagers who were switched at birth and how their families ended up reuniting. However, one of the main characters (Katie Leclerc) is deaf and goes to a school for the deaf called "Carlton". Marlee Matlin also makes an appearance on the show as the mother of Sean Berdy, who plays another character, as well as the guidance counselor for Deaf students at Carlton. The show does a great job of looking at the relationships between deaf and hearing people, and accurately depicts the challenges of hearing people having to learn how to sign and how to become used to communicating with deaf people, while the deaf characters frequently struggle with feeling like the hearing people are "invading" their space, especially at their school for the deaf. The most interesting episode that takes place is one in which the entire episode is done in ASL with no sounds. The show features quite a bit of ASL, which is usually subtitled for those who do not know how to sign. While the show can veer into typical "ABC Family Drama" at times, it really does do a great job of showing an accurate depiction of life for a deaf person in a hearing world, and vice versa. 


In “Weeds”, Shoshannah Stern plays Megan, the high school girlfriend of one of the sons, Silas (played by Hunter Parrish), of the main character, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker). Throughout the show, Stern teaches him about sign language, deaf culture, and communication. 

The West Wing

Marlee Matlin plays "Joey Lucas", a pollster who is not a main character, but does appear in all seven seasons of the show. She is deaf and is usually accompanied by an interpreter on the show. Lucas also had a love interest with one of the other characters on the show, White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Five Tips To Make Lipreading Easier

I’m deaf. It’s true. I’m stone deaf and sign language is my main mode of communicating. Of course, it can’t be only mode though. There are too many people out there who don’t know sign language to expect to be able to get around in the world only using that method. No. Another way I communicate is via the written word. If I’m lucky enough to encounter a hearing person with patience, writing back and forth is a really good way to go.

But that doesn’t happen all the time. I wouldn’t say it’s rare, but it certainly doesn’t happen often. Usually, people are in too much of a hurry to put their stuff down and write to me. What tends to happen, regardless of if I announce I can’t lipread, is people discover I’m deaf and then they tend to just speed off with their mouths, expecting me to lipread them with ease.

Truth is, I’m more than willing to try to lipread people. But they have to put forth some effort as well. That brings me to these five ways to make lipreading easier for the lipreader…

Tip #1: Beware of facial hair.

As anyone who has ever tried to lipread can attest, pseudo-Santas and other men with Frito catchers around their mouth can prove a great challenge. If you’re a man with a mustache (or a woman, for that matter), please make sure it is trimmed around the lips. It can be downright impossible to lipread someone with hair all over the place.

Tip #2: Don’t stand in front of a window or light.

One of the biggest problems I run into is trying to read the face of someone standing in front of a window or light. This puts a shadow on their face and makes it nearly impossible to tell what they’re saying. While we’re talking about it, don’t stand in front of a window or light even when you’re signing. The shadow makes it impossible to even see facial expressions—something crucial in a signed conversation.

Tip #3: Watch your hands.

Something many people don’t realize is how much they use their hands when they talk. It’s true! You have no idea how often I’ll look over and think two people are signing to each other until I realize it’s just hearing people using their hands. It might not be practical to tell you not to use your hands at all (in fact, sometimes it really does help give clues to what’s being said), but mind yourself when you go to put your hands to your mouth. This happens a lot. We cannot lipread you if your hands are on your lips.

Tip #4: Speak naturally and at a SLIGHTLY slower pace. Do not over-enunciate.

I am a lot of things. But one thing I am not is a dentist. I do not need to see your fillings and cavities, One thing a lot of people do when they find out I’m deaf is start to over-enunciate, saying each word overly clearly and with big lip movements. It’s scary! It’s true that speaking a little slower, a little more clearly, may help. But not so much that it changes the look of the words. Speak clearly, but at a normal rate. And, for Pete’s sake, keep your dental work to yourself!

Tip #5: Don’t chew gum or talk with your mouth full.

Finally, there’s one thing you would think wouldn’t need to be included on this list, but sadly does. Please do not talk with your mouth full of food…even stuffing it to the side. It’s downright nasty! It’s difficult enough to try to decipher what you’re saying. But when you add gobs of mushy egg salad to the mix, it’s gross! Even chewing gum while you speak can make it impossible to know what you’re saying. So swallow before speaking, please.

So, there you have it. Lipreading is not an easy skill to acquire. Only 35% of what is said can be lipread by even the best of lipreaders – 65% is guesswork. But you can make it a bit easier on the deaf or hard of hearing person by following these five tips. Put them to use if the deaf person says he or she can lipread. But if they tell you they can’t, even these five tips might not work. Written communication may be best. Good luck!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Guest Blog: Deafness Compared With Other Disabilities

Deafness is just another disability, right? A disability is just a wide term for any type of problem that sets someone apart from the masses. Everybody has their faults--stage fright, fear of deep water, relationship commitment issues, etc.--but disabilities limit essential faculties. By definition, they imply that the disabled are capable of less.

Of course, deaf people, like all disabled people, are able to live and work just as other people do, but that doesn't mean that they can live and work exactly like them. With certain help, though, they get by.

Here is where things start to branch out and instead of seeing the disabled as a single, large, unfortunate group, you start to see real individuals with actual problems, dreams, ambitions, loves, and much more.

All disabled people have their troubles. Of course, they do not define the disabled, only characterize them. Like someone with ordinary anxiety who must undergo breathing exercises before speaking up in class or giving a presentation at work, the disabled just need a little help to produce the same results as other people.

The best path to sympathizing and also accepting a disabled person is to distinguish their specific disability, understand their individual struggles, and relate to them as a person who, like you, has
trouble doing regular human things sometimes. While the 2 latter steps occur as a personal task,
something of a homework assignment for you to tackle with disabled friends, coworkers, and
acquaintances, the former is actually quite easy. Just remember that being deaf, for example, is
different from other disabilities.

First of all, deaf people are often not given sympathy. Because the blind and people with certain
mental disorders are able to communicate clearly and someone in a wheelchair or crutches can place a coffee order just like anyone else, a human connection happens and opens a pathway for sympathy to occur. However, deaf people are met with frustrated sighs--which they cannot hear, but can definitely see and interpret--shrugs, and cold shoulders as people refuse to step out of their comfort zones to communicate with someone who cannot hear.

Second, deaf people do not face the same everyday dangers that other disabled individuals face. The paralyzed cannot bathe themselves and need help ingesting food, as choking is a huge hazard; many disabled people have trouble crossing the street or entering a building; and the blind should rarely be left alone in their homes. However, deaf people can take in and deal with most ordinary situations without significant risks. However, they should be careful around vehicle traffic because of their inability to hear sirens and horns honking. Of course, technology exists to minimize risks of harm for disabled people, like alarms for the deaf that expel light or vibrations and safety equipment that allows the blind to move through their homes without fall risks.

Third, a person who is deaf can "pass" for a non-disabled person. If you were to look at a crowd of people going about their own personal business in a public square, you would be able to identify those that have cerebral palsy or another movement-limiting disorder, are blind, or are in a wheelchair. However, you could not "see" that someone was deaf. This allows for a sense of normalcy and blending in.

Fourth, deaf people often have serious trouble finding employment. While employment discrimination against the disabled is technically illegal, plenty of employers get away with dismissive statements like, "Why would I hire someone who cannot answer a telephone?" or "They would be so hard to train if I can't speak to them!" Unlike the blind or those with disabled movements, deaf people are frequently unemployed and even homeless. While this certainly happens to people of all walks of life, the deaf are at significant risk of being ignored by employers, or really anyone who is held responsible for judging another person's capabilities with a business mindset.

While all individuals--deaf or hearing-capable, disabled or physically average--have problems that make everyday life hard, it is important to understand how exactly the person near you is struggling with their day. Is your loved one stressed? Is a deaf person at a restaurant facing discrimination? Everyone has struggles and everyone can use the help. Knowing what type of problems people routinely face and how they affect their everyday lives can help you step in to help them, or at least say hello and try to relate. Everyone would feel a little more capable and accepted if we made this a rule.

BIO: Heather Jensen is an Audiologist and Clinical Assistant Professor for Utah state University. She received her Doctorate of Audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2004. She has been an adviser for the student academy of audiology organization at USU for 11 years. Before coming to USU, she owned her own private practice, but decided she wanted to give back to the field of audiology by teaching students. When she's not working she spends time with her four children, she also enjoys doing hearing related humanitarian missions.

Thank you to our guest blogger! For more information about Deaf Education, please visit: http://comd.usu.edu/htm/campus-programs/deaf-education

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


It wasn’t very long ago that I asked my kids some questions about having a deafie for a mom. But it’s been long enough that I thought I should ask again. Here’s the information they shared with me:

  1. Are you ever embarrassed that your mom is Deaf?
NATALIE: No. I don’t see why anyone would be. I find it a good opportunity and a cool experience (Isn’t she the greatest?)
MOLLIE: No. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. (I’m so happy they feel this way!)

  1. Have you ever had a time when having a Deaf mom helped you?
NATALIE: It helped to know who is who at Silent Celebration. (Silent Celebration is a big Deaf/HOH get together each summer with dozens of deafies, lots of conversation and games.)
JACOB: Yes. My ASL Class. My mom helped me with ASL grammar, new signs, and doing a song for my end-of-class project (Which he was great at).
MOLLIE: I have met and talked to many deaf people and helped with sign language. It also helped in getting a job.

  1. What do your friends say when they meet your deaf mom? Are they intimidated?
NATALIE: At first, they’re scared and nervous, but they think it’s really cool and eventually it doesn’t phase them.
JACOB: Not to my knowledge, but I’m not in their head. Most of them don’t have a problem as long as I am there to interpret.
MOLLIE: Everyone is intimidated by coming into contact with something they don’t know…someone from a different way of life. But, after a while, they like you and get used to it.

  1. Name a time knowing sign language helped you.
NATALIE: When I’m able to communicate with people like you, the family and deaf and hard of hearing people.
JACOB: It helped me communicate with other deaf people at Silent Celebration (See above for an explanation of what that is).
MOLLIE: When I come into contact with Deaf people who need help, I can voice for them or sign with them.

  1. Do you consider yourself bilingual?
NATALIE: Yes, because I learned ASL before I learned to speak.
JACOB: Yes, because ASL is now being recognized as a real language.

  1. How will you use your sign language skills in the future or with your future career?
NATALIE: I want to be a therapist and id a parent or kid is deaf, I can help them.
JACOB: To communicate with other people.
MOLLIE: In art, it helps to have knowledge of different cultures to draw from. It’s inspiring.

  1. What would you say to kids who have a deaf relative and are embarrassed?
NATALIE: It’s a good experience and in this society with friends, they’ll find it really cool. Embrace it with an open mind. You shouldn’t disown them for things they can’t help. Be proud.
JACOB: Don’t be. They’re just like you and me. Nothing to be embarrassed about.
MOLLIE: Why be embarrassed. That’s stupid. (LOL Her words,,,not mine.)

  1. Have you ever used ASL in class when the teacher wasn’t looking?
NATALIE: Yes. In math class I taught my friend, Anna, a few words and the ABCs. We could spell to each other across the room. We talked in History class all the time.
JACOB: I’ve shown my friends signs, but I don’t use them in class.
MOLLIE: Nope. (She’s just being difficult.)

So, as you can see, being a Deaf mom doesn’t necessarily have to have reprocutions for the kids. Just help them keep an open mind and embrace your language and culture and all will be OK.

Friday, June 19, 2015

You Mean You Took ASL I and You're Not An Interpreter Yet?!?!

Ain't life grand? You often said you wanted to learn American Sign Language. "It's so beautiful," you'd always exclaimed. And it is (if you know what you're doing). So, after years of watching "Signing Time" and thumbing through "The Joy of Signing" while you have a free moment on the toilet, you're finally convinced to visit your area's community college and enroll in ASL I. You leave the college beaming--exuding excitement all over the place. (If you exude at my house, I'll expect you to clean it up. I'm just saying...)

Class starts: Depending on which college's ASL class you attend, you learn ABCs, numbering, vocabulary, a few phrases, grammar, and a little about the Deaf culture and communication. You recognize that you're definitely not the best in the class,, but onward you trudge.

The teacher gives the class a mandatory assignment that you have to go to a Deaf event and sign (no talking, please) with some deafies. You do, in fact, go to one at the neighborhood mall. Your teacher introduces you to some very kind, patient and understanding Deaf people, but mostly you find solace with some of the other members of your class.

Finally, you finish! Class is over! Your teacher compliments your hard work and off you go into the world of wonders.  You're bilingual now, right? I mean, you learned a lot. And it wasn't easy! Man, you can fingerspell both your first and your last name! What else could there be? It's not like you want to interpret for the President. You just want to be able to sing songs in sign (how did you like that for alliteration) and chat with the (gulp) "hearing impaired." What more could you possibly need?

But life goes on. And although you continue to work on your fingerspelling and some signs, you seem to fall into a funk and resort back to that sinfully annoying woman on "Signing Time."

Six months after you completed ASL I, you happen to see a table of people in an elegant restaurant, signing to each other. You stare--Trying to figure out if you can understand them. Nope--Not really. You go back to eating, wishing so much you could communicate with them.

Heck with it! You get up and walk over to their table. They see you, so they stop signing and turn to you. "HI, I'M...," you get five out of the twelve letters of your name wrong, but you don't notice. The group at the table looks at each other, confused. One deaf man signs something you understand: DEAF.

"DEAF YOU?" He asks in ASL.

"NO," you sign. "I NOSY." The group breaks outs into guffaws and giggles. What you don't realize is that, though you intended to reply, "NO, I'M HEARING," your hand actually was too high and, well, maybe NOSY was the more appropriate sign anyway.

Later, an elderly woman from the deaf table's group wanders over to let you know (by way of a napkin note) to keep studying and that it will get easier eventually.

And it does get "easier." Well, maybe not. I guess I would rather say you become more proficient the longer you study it. Seriously study it. And what every knowledgeable teacher would tell you, the more time you spend signing with deaf and hard of hearing people (NOT just signing friends from school), the smoother and more fluid your words and presentation will become.

To be totally honest, I gotta tell ya, taking one ASL class, expecting to be skilled enough to engage in even moderate conversation in sign (especially with a native Deaf person), is insane. But the next time you become upset with your signing, thinking you should be learning faster, imagine that it's German you're learning. Would you be so hard on yourself then? Well, a foreign language is a foreign language. American Sign Language is just as complex as any other. Give it time.

So here's what you do: Give yourself a pat on the back for all you've already accomplished, sign up for ASL II, go to Deaf events as much as you can, and, sooner or later, you'll fulfill your wish of hangin' with the crew. Now, go study!

Monday, June 8, 2015

"What Did She Say?"

We walked into Olive Garden and were seated immediately. The place was quiet since we were early for the lunch crowd.

"What would you like to drink?" was the waitress' first question. I knew what she was asking from past experience, so I went ahead and told her I wanted an iced tea and she went on her way. She returned shortly thereafter to take our food order.

"Are you guys ready to order?"

I watched as Kenny placed his order and then the waitress turned to me and started talking. Not knowing what she was saying, I went ahead and started to order. "I'll have the seafood alfredo, please."

"OK." She said more, so I turned to Kenny to interpret. When he began to sign to me, the waitress' eyes grew as big as saucers. I found out what she was saying and answered -- just as clearly as I had before. She looked baffled -- as if finding out I was deaf completely blocked her brain waves. "Wh--what did she say?" She turned to Kenny to rescue her. "I didn't understand."

Kenny signed to me to repeat myself and I did. Still the waitress stood there, unable to comprehend the words coming from my mouth.

After a minute of repeating myself, I was visibly frustrated, so Kenny finished up the order and the waitress awkwardly walked away.

That wasn't the first time a person was fine listening to me till he or she discovered I was deaf. People find out this information and all of a sudden tit's like the clarity of my voices dissipates and they can't understand me. But, despite the frustration, it's really quite absurd and I often have to laugh out loud. What is it in my voice that changes? Do I start to mumble? Do I start to slur my words like a drunken sailor? No! Nothing changes except the other party sees I'm deaf and that I need sign language to understand them. But since they don't know sign language (It's another story if they think they do), they assume we cannot communicate with each other and they have to ask my husband to talk for me. Nevermind, I've been talking all of my life and didn't lose the bulk of my hearing till I was 27!

Because this happens so often when I'm out and about, I have repeatedly asked my family if my voice has changed. Some have said that my voice has gotten a little deeper, but most people emphatically tell me no. My voice is the same as before I went totally deaf.

So why the comprehension problems? I believe it's gotta be in their heads. I mean, isn't one of the first things you learn about the "death" is that we also can't speak? Deaf mute, right? Before I sign, I look "normal." Then I use my hands and POW! I must be a mute. I must be "deaf and dumb."

Well, let me take this moment to clarify. To not be able to hear -- no matter how deaf a person is -- does not in any way automatically mean they're not able to speak! Everyone has a past and you can't know a person's abilities simply by watching and/or guessing.

Remember this blog the next time you meet a deaf person. Assume nothing! Get rid of all the stereotypes in your head. Just because a person has a disability or comes from a culture other than your own, doesn't mean they fall into a set of characteristics you learned as kid or even an adult. Keep an open mind! But I still have to laugh when people, who have been talking to me, all of a sudden can't understand me and need to ask my family, "What did she say?"

Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Have Rights!

I have rights. Just like everyone else, I have the right to leave my house without being scared. Yet I am – scared, I mean. I’m not afraid of getting killed or mugged. I’m not afraid of being put in jail or being in an accident. So, what am I so afraid of? Communicating with other people.

Silly, huh? Of all things to be frightened of, the one thing that terrorizes me is the chance that another person will try to talk to me. Or that I will need to talk to someone else.

Why? Because I dread the moment when I have to let them know I’m deaf. It’s the reactions I get that bother me the most. That and the fact that, when I let them know, I feel like I’m confessing to some unfathomable crime I committed or something. Like I did something wrong.

The reactions are always the same. Some people become bug-eyed and high-tail it away from me. Some say they’re sorry, as if they’ve caused it. And some even laugh it off and keep talking – even when I explain that I can’t lipread. When I ask if they can write down what they’re saying, some people just wave me off. Of course, we also can’t forget the ones who become angry and irritated – like I did something personal to them and they haven’t got the time to mess around with me.

Sure, there are many deaf people who can shrug it off or who have gotten so used to it that they don’t even notice. But that’s not me. I care. I notice. And it scares me. It intimidates me. It makes me want to stay in my house – locked behind a hard, wooden door – separating me from the cruel, cold world.

But is it really the world that is holding me back? Can I make myself so invisible that I can’t be hurt by the reactions I get from total strangers? I have the right to be treated well, but can I really control what other people say or do? I don’t think so. I mean, I may get hurt emotionally when I go out, but that shouldn’t stop me. I can’t control other people. And if they are so ignorant that they run for the hills or babble on even though I tell them I can’t understand them, that shouldn’t be my problem. In my head, it is, but it shouldn’t be.

I shouldn’t let my fears win. If I want to go out to eat or browse around the bookstore or serve on the PTO board at my kids’ school, then that’s exactly what I should do!

I have rights! Believing that and pushing myself to go forward may scare the heck out of me, but it shouldn’t stop me. And I don’t want to let it. So, I’ll fight. I’ll force myself to go out – to shrug off people’s reactions until one day I can be like the other deafies who don’t let it scare them. It might take a lot of time – years. But that’s my goal. Who wants to live in fear anyway? Certainly not me. So, look out world; I’m going to conquer my fears one way or another. One day, I’m going to leave my house and not think twice about my fear of communication. I know it. I have to believe it! One day…..

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coincidences are Underrated--that's for sure!

Who says coincidences are overrated? I must strongly disagree. I know I’ve been shocked by things often, but there’s one time that comes to mind that shows that life can throw unexpected joys at you when you least expect it.

I had just become totally deaf in both ears and I felt very alone. Not having found my identity yet in the deaf community, I called the contact person for the Association of Late Deafened Adults and asked about information. They didn’t really have anything for me. I wasn’t interested in lipreading (I am totally deaf—not just profoundly deaf—and a bad guesser from the start) and they didn’t really focus on Sign Language, which I chose as my main method of communication. But, although I found the organization more for older people who lose their hearing through age, they did ask if I wanted the contact information of someone in my area who was also “late deafened.”

I was shocked! I lived in town where the population was 200 and that included all the cows and dogs. But there was someone else experiencing what I was experiencing in my area? Wow! So, of course I took the information and then I TTYed them right up. (This was a long time ago—long before video relays and such).

When I finally was able to talk with Bob, I liked him right away. He had a great sense of humor and, like mine, tended to be sarcastic to the hilt. Kenny (my husband) and I met with him and his wife that very week. For a few months, we got to know each other well and it was so nice to have someone whom I could confide in.

Then one evening, it happened. Kenny had gone off to use the restroom and I was showing them my photo album. I had been into scrapbooking for some time and was showing off a little.

As we sat and thumbed through the pictures, Bob got a confused look on his face. He turned to his wife and asked, “Does that look like Thelma? Why is Thelma Laflen in your scrapbook?” I replied, “Thelma Laflen is my grandmother.” He looked at me and very excitedly said, “Thelma Laflen is my aunt!”

Huge laughs and total astonishment, we quickly figured out that that meant we were second cousins! In fact, he said he had even met my parents at a family reunion a few years prior! How amazing! We hugged and explained it all very excitedly when Kenny came back in the room. We were family! How wonderful! Two people who had never met, hadn’t known anything about each other’s existence were actually cousins! And both deaf at that!

So don’t tell me coincidences are overrated. I strongly disagree. Coincidences can be life-changing just like the one I had. Our family had grown. We were related and instant fans of each other.

Bob died of a heart attack a couple of years ago. We were close, but circumstances had lead us to not see each other as often as we would have liked. Don’t get me wrong. I miss him. I will always miss him. But I know that he and my grandmother are up there in heaven celebrating. I’m also certain they watched down on me as I went through finding my identity in the Deaf world. Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Service Dogs Are Awesome!

If you check out the following link, you'll find that a war veteran was kicked out of a Taco Bell because he had a service dog. He had the dog for his PTSD, but the worker at Taco Bell said that he wasn't blind, so he didn't need a dog. Here's the link:


Service dogs have been around for quite some time, but people are still having to fight to be allowed public accommodations for them. People only think of seeing eye dogs, but there's service dogs for many, many conditions from physical to emotional. Not least of which is hearing ear dogs.

Service dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing are extremely helpful and can be made to let you know if the doorbell or phone is ringing, fire alarm blaring, someone knocking on your door, get your attention for another person, medical emergencies, and many, many more jobs that they do so very well.

I wish I had a service dog. There's a place nearby here called Paws For A Cause that trains service dogs and helps you find a match. I haven't applied, simply because I can't afford it right now and don't really have the time, but for people just starting out deaf (late-deafened adults) or born deaf-alike these wonderful pups can really make a difference in your life.

The next time you see a service dog in public, try to remember the article above and remind yourself that one neednt be blind or even deaf to have some use of one. Support service dogs!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sympathy? What's That?

I don’t write in my blog enough. I use to, but my depression got the best of me and then I just ended up stopping. Couldn’t think of anything funny to write about. However, even when I’ve got a world of writer’s block in me, people still seem to find my blog and read it. I’m so, so happy about that.

I get people asking all sorts of things, like where an ASL class might be located or if a certain situation really did happen. Some want me to read books and give reviews about them (I’m not so good at that since I really only read non-fiction and most of the books they want me to read are fiction). But sometimes I do get requests to be interviewed. 

In fact, last week I received an email from a teenaged girl who “found” my blog and wanted to know if I would answer some questions to help her with a project at school. Sure! Of course I said yes. Always happy to help where I can. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t be of much help to her. See, her project was to compare the kind of sympathy for the blind with the kind of sympathy for the deaf.

The problem I ran into was that deaf people don’t really get sympathy. Rolled eyes, we get. Frustration. Angry communicators. We get all that. But very, very few people actually feel sorry for us. It’s more of a nuisance to them.

“Hi! I was just wondering if you could come speak with my class about deafness.”

“I’m sorry, what? Can you write that down? I’m deaf and cannot lipread. I need you to write for me.”

“Nevermind. I’ll ask someone else.”

Good luck with that! If you’re looking for a deaf person, you better be ready to write at least some of your conversation. Or repeat it slowly three times. (This, of course, does not include those who lipread like a pro.) Fact is, communicating with a deafie can be difficult. Not always, but often. And people don’t like that. In fact, they hate that! The thing is, deaf people don’t look deaf. You can’t decipher a deaf person from a hearing person just upon looking. So it’s a shock or a surprise or a grenade thrown right in their faces if they find you can’t handle small talk. No thanks. I’m not up to that much trouble. I’ll just move on over to this other person.

And it hurts sometimes. They leave. Sometimes they just turn and walk away without any acknowledgement. Ouch.

The blind, on the other hand, are visible. People can and do sympathize with someone who can’t see this beautiful world. Let me help you across the street. Would you like me to read that to you? What do you need? I can help!

Now, I’m not blind and, in fact, I only know a few blind people, so forgive my ignorance if I’m wrong. But they do get sympathy. I see it all the time. It’s that inevitable question:
If you could be blind or deaf which would you choose? And everyone chooses deaf. Why, “Because it would be easier. At least I can drive (you do drive, don’t you?) and I would have to learn Braille. If I were deaf, I could just learn sign language and everything would be normal otherwise.”

Ha! What’s “normal?” And as a matter of fact, if you learned sign language, who exactly would you be signing to? Are all of your family members and friends going to learn it, too? Will the world be able to cater to you if you know ASL? Dude, you have no idea what you would be getting yourself into.

Anyway, back to the question the teenager asked me (remember her from above?). Compare the two, sympathy-wise. I can’t. They’re two totally separate entities, each with unique and diverse experiences. I’d like to say that no two experiences are alike, but that’s not true. That’s what makes this blog helpful. Other deafies can read it and say, “I’ve been there.” Hearing people can read it and be baffled at how ludicrous the situations are.  Blind or deaf? Who gets more sympathy? There’s no comparison because there’s very little sympathy for the deaf population (though it’s not unfounded in some circumstances).

As for me, I don’t want anyone’s sympathy for my deafness. I am part of a great community of people who have a rich and diverse culture. I’m Deaf. I sign. It’s how I communication. Now, do I miss sound at any time? Hell, yeah! I’d do anything to hear music again or listen to my kids’ voices (of which I’ve never heard). But I don’t need people looking at me like I’m some fragile person who needs to be saved.

I never heard back from the girl after I explained the situation of deaf versus blind. Don’t know if she went to another source to try to find an answer she liked better or if what I gave was sufficient and she needn’t contact me again. That’s OK though. I don’t expect an answer. I do wonder if it surprised her. I wonder if this surprises you. Did you already know or is this news to you?