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We Live in a World

By: Danielle Gutierrez
Deaf Dreamer

We live in a world where Eyeth is a fantasy.
We live in a world where we are the minority.
We live in a world of irony where hearing babies sign, and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing are denied their natural language.
We live in a world where individual identity is not only encouraged, but praised,
yet we live in a world where Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing are forced to pretend.
We live in a world where we become excellent actors and actresses.
We live in a world where we become the best guessers.
We live in a world where our hands gets pushed down and our voices are praised,
yet our needs are not heard.
We live in a world of oppression, under constant attacks of Audism.
We live in a world full of tears, pain, and misunderstandings.

We live in a world where changes are desired to be made…
Need to be made…
Must be made.

We live in a world…

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Accessibility: 1, Inequality: 0

By: Mariam Janvelyan
Managing Intern

You want to know something incredible?

Great, because I’m about to tell you something that is going to give you hope for a generation of new signers.

I have been in ASL classes for two years, and as our last quarter was approaching, our professor, Benjamin Lewis, was racking his brain for a big final project that would allow us to give back to the Deaf community. He refused to let our hard work die out, and this stubborn man came up with a big project that had us all shaking from fear. Now, many of you already know the stress that finals week brings, but this project had added on an entirely new dimension of terror; I have never seen anyone go white that quickly from the prospect of a final. But I will tell you something else. Fear aside, there was a fire behind the eyes of my classmates, a kind of excitement I hadn’t seen come through so obviously before. We were ready, and the expectations were high.

Is your curiosity piqued yet? Are you wondering what exactly is this amazing project I’ve been going on and on about?

The project revolves around a commonplace issue for Deaf people: accessibility. Think of the last time you spontaneously decided to go to a museum. Chances are, if you’re hearing, you’d get a tour guide that would walk you from place to place and explain everything in that exhibit, or you would get a pair of earphones that would present the information to you auditorily. If you are Deaf, they’d drop a big, clunky textbook into your hands that had the script, in English, for each exhibit; you would fake a smile and act grateful, because you’re a nice person who has sadly become accustomed to this kind of inequality. But hey, some places didn’t even have that.

See, Ben is an adventurous person, and he decided last minute to go to a museum, only to realize there was absolutely NO accessibility for Deaf people whatsoever. He looked around at people who were entranced by the exhibits; there were exclamations of shock followed by tears as they learned about the Holocaust. He saw all these people feeling emotions he was being denied access to.

So he decided to make a change. For over a year he contacted the highest administrative officials of the museum, and finally got hold of them. Once they heard his project proposal, they were completely thrilled and on board. We received permission, went to the museum, recorded all the audio, transcribed it, glossed it, translated it into ASL, and filmed ourselves signing it in front of a green screen. There were 14 of us, and 18 exhibits, so many had to do two videos. The weeks after that were spent editing, captioning, and perfecting these videos.

The final version (or as Ben likes to call it, version 1.0) will be released at the Museum of Tolerance on iPADs they will provide for Deaf people to access when they please. Each exhibit will be numbered, so as the exhibit itself lights up, all you need to do is click the corresponding number on the iPAD and a video will pop up of someone signing the same information.

So, how’s that for accessibility?

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Lipreading vs. Sign Language

By: Albany Jacobson Eckert
Junior Intern

I have a genetic degenerative hearing loss. I was born hearing, got hearing aids at age 11, and will become deaf probably by the time I am 30. I decided to start learning ASL last year. One time, I told a nurse about this and she told me that I needed to learn to lip-read. I was briefly taken aback, but I assured her I’m learning sign language. She just ignored me and kept insisting that I needed to learn to lip-read.  My experience is probably not unique. And it’s probably not the last time that will happen to me. But, if it does, I can happily give these reasons for my decision:

  1. Only around 30% of English can be read on the lips. And that’s probably in an ideal situation: no mustaches, no mumbling, clear light, etc. On the other hand, sign language can be understood from across a room.
  2. You cannot learn to lip-read the same way you can learn to sign. Learning sign is very straightforward – there are specific rules for the vocabulary and grammar. But, becoming skilled at lip-reading takes year and years of experience and trial and error, which can all go out the window with a single mustache.
  3. Lip-reading is mainly a one-way communication method. Meaning that the hearing person can understand you if you speak, but trying to understand the hearing person can get pretty stressful. Sign language, though, even if you’re still learning, can be understood by both parties.
  4. Lip-reading is optimized by knowing the context of the situation. If a deaf person enters a spoken conversation with no idea of the context, they’d probably have a hard time catching up. But, with a signed conversation, a person can probably understand the conversation after a few seconds. If not, they can always ask.
  5. Learning sign language enhances your linguistic skills and cognition. This is true with any language. Languages are generally bound by rules and patterns, which people can easily detect. Lip-reading is less predictable and can vary from speaker to speaker.
  6. Learning to sign opens up a whole new culture. And a culture with people who will understand you better! Why didn’t I start learning earlier???

Or, I can just show them this link: http://www.chums.co.uk/blog/?page_id=601 Even then, this test is multiple choice!

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

“You’re not allowed to ‘do’ sign language”

By: Mariam Janvelyan
Managing Intern

Do you understand these words as you’re reading them?

Is English your native language?

Did you answer yes to both of these questions?

Okay then, stop reading.

I mean it.

You don’t deserve access to this in your native language.

Are you offended? Now imagine you’re a 12 year old Deaf girl being threatened with suspension for using sign language. That’s right. For speaking in your native language. The reason? Sign language is “a safety hazard.”

A letter was sent home with a 12 year old Deaf student, admonishing her for “doing sign language after being told it wasn’t allowed on the bus.” The schools district attorney continues to insist that there are no rights being violated, when the case can be made that school officials are violating the ADA (Americans with Disabilities) Act. Now I was under the assumption that absurdities such as this one don’t occur anymore; how wrong I was. I cannot comprehend the reasoning behind denying someone such a fundamental human right: their right to ACCESS, their right to LANGUAGE. Freedom of expression. Taken away by those who have absolutely no right to do so. The only redeeming part of this story is that the child’s parents are planning on suing the district for infringing on her rights, which means this child has access to a proper language model at home.

You don’t ask a Spanish student to stop speaking in Spanish. You don’t ask a Chinese student to refrain from using Mandarin. So why force a Deaf student, who cannot hear and has been using ASL to communicate her entire life, to stop using ASL?

Source: http://tellmenow.com/2014/05/elementary-school-punishes-deaf-girl-for-using-sign-language/

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Now THIS is a community!

By: Mariam Janvelyan
Managing Intern

“You remember I told you about that friend whose father’s uncle’s brother’s sister in law’s aunt twice removed is Deaf? Yeah? Well her daughter…”

As a profoundly hearing Armenian, I find that Armenian culture and Deaf culture are pretty similar: Armenians run on Armenian time (i.e. always late), they take forever to say goodbye, and everyone in the community pretty much knows each other. This past weekend, my ASL club (UCLA Hands On) along with ECC hosted a bonfire/potluck/mixer at the beach, and something really stood out to me: you don’t really know the differences between a hearing and Deaf community until they’re staring you in the face.

For starters, we were realistically expecting a minimal amount of people.  What started with 5, quickly turned into 50, and then 100, as hordes of people continued to pour in. As more and more people joined us, the differences between the two worlds really struck me. When the sun set and the bonfire was lit, Deaf people, almost unconsciously, gathered around the fire or other sources of light, while hearing individuals chose to struggle to see each other sign in the dark.

There were moments where I’d look around and simply stare at the conversations around me, in awe at the speed and expressiveness of each, catching glimpses of introductions here and there. One of my favorite parts of the night was that I was able to flit from group to group, pop in and introduce myself without feeling awkward or uncomfortable like many tend to with strangers, and then talk to people I’ve just met like I’ve known them my entire life. Within the first five minutes of conversation, we had exchanged our life stories and were joking around as you would with people you’ve known from diaper days. As the night went on, and conversations became deeper and more meaningful, I learned a few things:

  1. I felt a stronger connection to people whom I had just met than I ever had with others I’ve known my entire life.
  2. I was challenged and had my perspective altered on topics I wouldn’t even think about in other situations.
  3. I had. A lot. Of fun.

I realized, this is what I think of, when I think of community. There’s a sense of belonging, of oneness, of genuine care and curiosity of the other, and I feel beyond blessed to be able to get a glimpse of this noisy, beautiful world, that everyone just assumes is silent.

 

The Challenge

By: Mariam Janvelyan
Managing Intern

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I looked around the table and all I saw were hands flying through the air, as my classmates recounted their favorite memories related to ASL. Facial expressions excitedly shifted from one emotion to the next and body language expressed volumes more than a mere sentence ever could.

Two hours. That was the challenge. A two hour silent lunch. Two hours communicating without using the one thing we’re so accustomed to: our voices.

The challenge was welcomed and then executed flawlessly. I watched as my classmates went up to the counter, pointed at an item on the menu, then held up two fingers and nodded, confirming their order. I went up and wordlessly asked for the student discount by pointing at myself, showing my student ID card, and signing an exaggerated version of “LESS MONEY?” I saw the understanding dawn on the cashier’s face as he beamed back at me, nodded, and signed thank you.

Thank you. With one simple sign, he broke the cynicism that seems to accompany hearing and Deaf ASL users alike.

For two hours, I heard nothing but the occasional clink of a fork on a plate, the shift of papers, and the hustle and bustle of the busy kitchen. I heard conversations of customers come to a stop as their eyes fixated on our table, trying to decipher the reasons behind our laughter. At the same time, I heard my Professor recount his favorite memories in his time teaching us. I heard my classmates make fun of me for the ridiculous mistakes I’ve made during my journey through the Deaf world. I heard my friends make plans for the weekend.

I heard everything. Why? Because I hear with my eyes, and speak with my hands. The challenge wasn’t just to not speak, but to listen. And I think you’ll find that Deaf people are the best listeners.

 

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

How Do You Communicate?

By: Christina Pettus

Junior Intern

I always get asked the question, “With having a Deaf mother, is the primary language in your household American Sign Language?”

“Well, you see, it is and it isn’t.”

There is an assumption that all Deaf people grow up in similar types of households and use the same forms of communication. For instance, the idea that all deaf people grow up with ASL as their first language. However, most deaf children are born into hearing families, who may be unaware of ASL and Deaf culture. Although hearing families with deaf children have more access to the language and culture today, past generations have had limited access or knowledge of the information. With the lack of understanding the importance of ASL and culture, most hearing families taught their children how to speak, either due to their own personal desires or lack of other options. Both my mother and her friend were born in the late 1960s and into hearing families. My mother grew up in Riverside and her friend grew up in a small town in a different state. Both did not learn ASL as their first language, but they now know ASL and identify with being a part of Deaf culture.

My mother was forced to learn how to speak and was not allowed to sign. She found this to be extremely difficult, and begged to learn sign language. She was then sent to another school to learn total communication, speaking and signing an English form of sign language, at the same time. Lastly, she learned ASL when she was in the 6th grade. Additionally, she was surrounded by mostly hearing family members, who did not know how to sign. Her mother was the only one who could communicate with her in sign language; therefore speaking English became her main source of communication in her household while growing up.

In comparison, her friend grew up in a hearing family. They lived in a small town so there was not any information on how to raise a deaf child. Her parents’ only option was to teach her how to speak English. She did not learn ASL until she went to college. The transition between the two languages was not difficult for her. She can now sign ASL fluently but English is still considered her native language. Her family members do not know how to sign ASL so they still communicate with each other by speaking English.

Now taking into consideration these life experiences that contrast with those who have primary grew up with ASL, we can see how my answer to this question is more complex than just “yes” or “no.” So my answer to the question is that in my household, we speak, and sign a mixture of ASL and English sign language.

In short, I am not arguing that one communication system is better than the other, I just want to show you that when you tap on a deaf person’s shoulder and introduce yourself, just keep in mind, that they all grew up in different situations. They could communication in many different ways such as signing ASL or an English form of sign language, and/ or they may speak; the most important thing is to respect their communication system, because after all, it is a part of who they are.

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 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Signing with your dog: Is it Possible?

By: Hyram Yarbo

Junior Intern

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Chai signing her own name in response to “Who’s that?”
 
As you sit down to your dining room table to enjoy breakfast, your dog comes running up to you. “What is it?” you sign to Charlie, your German Shepherd. Using his paws, Charlie signs back to you “Man at door.” You immediately stand up and walk to the door to greet the visitor.
You may think that this paragraph was extracted from a science fiction book or a children’s story. I beg to differ. Opportunities are available today to communicate with a dog without technology or science fiction.
As the world increases its understanding of animal nature, many have searched for opportunities to communicate with a dog. K9Sign is the new way to go! K9Sign Language is a method of communicating by sign language with your dog. Using a combination of specified signs, the owner gestures to the dog and the dog responds by signing with their paws. AnimalSign.org describes the importance of K9Sign: “Dogs learn to extend their gestural & behavioral and oral communications by linking common gestures to new, useful, and fun meanings, new gestures to new meanings, behaviors to new meanings, and vocalization to specific meanings.
While some individuals find this information debatable, Sean Senechal says that dogs can learn as many signs as possible as long as they can distinguish and discover differences between each of the signs they learn. AnimalSign.org outlines the different signs that have been taught to dogs in the past: Watch Out, Man at Door, Pick Up, Stop, Feed Me, etc. When concerned with the difficulty level, teaching a dog sign language is comparable to teaching babies signs for “Food”, “More”, or “Mommy”. It really isn’t that hard to do!
Interested? I’m sure you are! After all, who wouldn’t want to communicate with a dog? If you are seriously considering this teaching plan, AnimalSign.org is a great resource for learning specific signs, finding K9Sign conferences near you, watching sample videos of dogs communicating, etc. The book Dogs Can Sign Too by Sean Senechal also describes in detail the process of teaching your dog to communicate using K9Sign.
While this is an interesting idea the can be worth looking into, it does take time, patience, and love for your dog. The effects are not instantaneous, and the process can be frustrating. However, many find that the end result is worth all of the work they put into teaching their dog. The choice is yours!
 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.
Works Cited
Senechal, Sean. “AnimalSign | K9 Sign for Dogs.” AnimalSign | K9 Sign for Dogs. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.             <http://www.animalsign.org/animalsign/k9sign.html>.
Senechal, Sean. “Dogster.” Dogster. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/teach-your-dogsign-language-youll-learn-a-lot-about-your-dog>.

NONACCESSIBLE is NOT ACCEPTABLE

By: Mariam Janvelyan

Junior Intern

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Picture the following hypothetical scenario: one evening, a patrolman pulls over a Deaf man. The man’s license specifies that he is Deaf. He even has a notice on his door indicating that the person driving the vehicle is Deaf. Expecting to be asked for his license and registration, he rolls down the window. Should the officer:

 a)     Strike him in the face — multiple times.

b)     Refuse to provide him with an interpreter during the booking, hospital, and jail time?

c)     Yell and continue to strike the driver because he does not respond to their yells?

Are you disgusted yet? What if I told you the scenario wasn’t hypothetical? What if I told you a Deaf man in Oklahoma was beaten for 7 minutes because he didn’t respond to the officers. Aside from the obvious degrading, brutal and horrific treatment of another human being, he was also denied another one of his fundamental human rights: the right to language. His right to accessibility was stolen from him.

This seems to be a common theme in the Deaf world. From something as simple as captioning a program, to something as crucial as providing an interpreter, the oppression that has followed Deaf people throughout history rears its ugly head daily in the form of limited access. No child should have to stand in a hospital room and convey a life threatening illness to their parent because the staff couldn’t be bothered to hire an interpreter. No human being should have to struggle through the fear and confusion of a situation such as an arrest, because their rights weren’t conveyed to them in their native language. Hearing children are encouraged to sign, while Deaf children are banned from even the smallest of gestures, forced to memorize tongue placements and diaphragm movements to produce sounds they themselves cannot hear.

 Language impairments. Cognitive delays. Depression. Anger. Mistrust. Just a few of the critical side effects of the ignorant world’s oppression of the Deaf. Accessibility is the first step to combating these issues. Every human being has the right to language, and no other human being has the right to take that away.

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

Is the Demographic of Interpreters Changing?

Daniel V.

Junior Intern

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I find myself finally done with the ITP program and in my new career as an educational interpreter.  I was dreading sharing the inevitable story of how I started in my profession and the Deaf community, mainly because I have no friends or family who are Deaf themselves.  I found more often in my classes that the other students had some connection to the Deaf community before taking up study in ASL or interpreting.  To my surprise I do not find myself in the minority any longer.  Often I will be more in line with my peers in reason for starting interpreting and having no connections to the deaf community until after working in it. This made me curious.

It’s interesting to wonder what this means for the profession and the community that it serves.  While learning about deaf culture I was told that there is a line I must make because I planned to become an interpreter.   Up until that point, I was a learning member of the community.  The interpreter’s tile carries more weight and responsibility.  Dealing with the deaf community and their personal lives and information.  My teachers stressed the importance of being professional even in social situations and to be careful of the line between friend and client.  Not to say that your clients Connor be your friends, only to be careful.  In this situation I feel there is more trust with interpreters that themselves are CODAs or that have Deaf family members and are accepted more freely than an interpreter that got into the profession from pure interest.  I find this to be short sided.  I can empathize with the Deaf community this feeling of camaraderie with interpreters that have grown up already in the Deaf world.  Obviously I can never truly put myself in their shoes and will never understand the struggles they might have faced.  But something should be said for the persons who have gone through the training and who have had to start from scratch.

In my experience CODAs have always had a leg up on me.  This has only made me want to work harder.  I have met wonderfully passionate interpreters that have been from both starts.  For the interpreters who have started from no previous experience and have bravely entered a whole new world with Deaf culture, there is something to be said.  These people actively choose this profession.  Maybe like me they are doing what they love.  Hopefully you might consider intentions before you write off a NERD (Not Even Related to Deaf) like myself.

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 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

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