All posts by Christina Goebel

Christina Goebel is Advocacy Community Projects Manager at Sign Shares, Inc./International.

Texas Poster Contest for Artists with a Disability

A picture of a Texas Capitol entrance with the Texas flag hanging in front and on top of the Capitol.
The Office of the Governor promotes disability inclusion through the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.

According to a bulletin from the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is calling for art entries for the
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Poster Art competition. Entries must be submitted by May 31, 2017.

Picture of screenshot of two former posters, one is paper art of a moon and another shows a cowboy in the sunset.
Above are examples of previous poster contest winners. Use the link below to learn more about the artists and their work.

The winning artist gets statewide recognition when the committee releases free copies of the winner’s art on posters to businesses across Texas.

“The winning artwork is incorporated into the Texas HireAbility Campaign #TXHireAbility,” according to the press release.

In 2016, the committee distributed 2,500 posters.

Submissions

Submissions from Texas artists with disabilities can be sent to the committee via email at GCPD@gov.texas.gov with a photo attachment of the original work in a high resolution digital format, either JPEG or PDF.

They also accept color photocopies, or images on a CD sent by postal mail. The original artwork does not need to be submitted unless it wins the competition. It is free to enter.

All entries must be accompanied by a signed Entry Form, which is available on our website along with the Submission Guidelines.

Due date

Entries must be received by email or postmarked by May 31, 2017. The winner will be announced by June 21.

Artist Recognition

Besides having their art on a poster that is distributed across the state, the original art and the poster will be placed on display in the Office of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, as well as at other exhibits.

See previous winners at this link.

The winning artist may opt to be a featured guest at the annual Lex Frieden Employment Awards ceremony this October. Sign Shares, Inc./International won a Lex Frieden award for its support and inclusion of employees with disabilities.

Spread the love for inclusion

Join Sign Shares in ensuring that your office provides access an inclusion in the workplace. If you have an employee who needs sign language or foreign language services, request language services with Sign Shares.

 

Deaf Scholar: Appreciating Sign Language and English

Since a popular talk at Stanford University, a scholar who is Deaf has continued her quest to understand the beauty of both sign language and English.

Rachel Kolb at RE:CREATE TEDx
Rachel Kolb presents at TEDx about her experiences with English and sign language.

Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb gave a TEDxStanford Talk: “Navigating Deafness in a Hearing World.”

Kolb was born profoundly deaf and knows sign language.

She said, “I could have chosen to use sign language today instead and that would have been a perfectly viable choice. But for me, the answer was 18 years of speech therapy.”

Kolb tells the story of a presentation she gave to her middle school history class.

Days after the presentation, she said the teacher’s feedback was: “You should never speak like that in front of a group without an interpreter. It is not fair to anyone who has to listen to you.”

This lack of awareness causes some in the d/Deaf community to shy away from speech, but not Kolb.

She has challenges though, she said, and one of those is social communication with hearing people when she relies solely upon reading lips.

Rachel Kolb says, "Never put limitations on this child."
Kolb shares about what her speech therapist told her mother when she was 18 months old–to not limit her.

“I communicate fine face-to-face, but walking into those kinds of group conversations is like watching a world championship ping pong match with ten different people and half a dozen balls,” Kolb said.

In another article, Rachel Kolb’s mother, Irene Kolb, shares about learning what to do about her daughter Rachel’s hearing loss. Irene went to the library and read about hearing loss and communication.

“I learned that the biggest window of opportunity for language acquisition is from birth to three years. We started using signs that same day and within a few months, Rachel was communicating to us with baby signs,” Irene Kolb said.

When cochlear implants were approved by the FDA and their daughter was a candidate, Irene Kolb said, “We chose not to pursue cochlear implant surgery for her because we were sensitive to the message it may send, that she was not okay being deaf. The most profound book I read was Deaf Like Me. With that book, we came to the early realization that Rachel may never learn to hear or speak, even with a cochlear implant, but we could learn to sign.”

Kolb’s father, Bill Kolb, shared a story about how he came to understand deafness through a New Mexico state-sponsored program.

He said, “Then during one visit the individual brought a record that gave me, as a hearing person, an insight to what  different levels of hearing loss sounded like. The record repeated a story over and over again, and each time the narrator would drop certain frequencies until the recording lost all frequencies – that is, let me hear what it sounded like to be profoundly deaf. This recording really hit home with me. Going forward, I decided I would learn as much as I could about how to communicate with my precious daughter.”

According the the article, her parents learned sign language over lunch where they worked and took continuing education sign language classes. Their daughter Rachel studied at Deaf, mainstream, and private schools—an environment that may have helped her develop an appreciation of diverse communication.

“Having a family that signed and that worked to provide language access for me gave me a sense of confidence in myself, even when things got challenging,” Kolb said.

Stanford News reported that Rachel Kolb had a unique perspective on communication.

Rachel Kolb says, "But I can learn how to use the abilities that I do have."
While she doesn’t have a choice over everything, Kolb says, she does have a choice over how to use her abilities, which include sign language and English.

She signed, “As someone who understands the different forms communication can take, from spoken to sign language, I understand the value of flexibility in transmitting ideas. I see well-rounded, effective communication as essential to ideas, creativity and progress.”

In an article she wrote for the New York Times, Kolb illustrated the d/Deaf communication dilemma. She said, “While talking to a hearing person at a noisy party, I inevitably reach the point when I want to stop, switch off my cumbersome voice, and let my hands fly.”

“The general advantages of sign are numerous: not only talking through overwhelming noise, but chatting to friends from various distances, or through barriers like doors or windows. Sign, too, possesses a vibrant visual-spatial orientation and a robust directness of expression that spoken languages lack,” she said.

Kolb uses a party example to illustrate how people who don’t know sign language may have a limited ability: “…when faced with a noisy party filled with signing-impaired people, I sometimes marvel, instead, at the skill my eyes and my hands possess.”

She said people who are hearing note her ability to visually navigate a loud environment where hearing people have difficulty too. They’ve commented that it would be preferable to use sign and she encourages them to learn.

When people do learn sign language, she said it helps people to grow. “It is the human desire to communicate – which always strains to break out of presupposed categories, always insists upon its own flexibility and power.”

Communication is unique to the person and situation, to their education and experiences, but it’s valuable to embrace flexibility in communication with others, regardless of ability.

Links

Songwriter Tell Future Child about Hearing Loss in a Song

Woman sings I won't hear you crying when you're born (captions)
Screenshot from Zoë Nutt’s video, “Like You.”

Singer, songwriter, and musician Zoë Nutt recently released a song, “Like You,” telling the story of her progressive hearing loss.

At the beginning of the Tennessee native’s open captioned official video, Nutt says, “I lost all of my hearing in my right ear. I now have progressive hearing loss in my left ear. Along with tinnitus, which is this high-pitched ringing that’s just there all the time.’

“That change in my life led me to write a song addressed to my children—whenever I have those children. And it basically says that no one will ever sound like you. Even if I can’t hear you…no one will ever be just the same.”

Woman plays guitar with captions And it basically just says that no one else will sound like you.
Screenshot of Zoë Nutt’s video, “Like You.”

According to an HLAA report, Nutt says, “But releasing this music video has been more than just a letter to a possible future. It’s most importantly the start of a conversation I’ve been longing to have with others. I am going deaf, but I will not let it stop me from making music.”

The song’s lyrics describe beauty and meaning beyond sound: “I won’t ever hear you say you love me / I’ll never know whether you can sing. / But I can’t wait to watch your lips speak wonders / ‘cause no one else will ever sound like you.”

100 percent of the artist’s tip proceeds from downloads of “Like You” at Noistrade will go to The Hearing Loss Association of America.

According to a review from Vents Magazine,”Nutt’s very deliberate vocal style never clashes with her effortless ability to convey sensitivity in every line. Like You, as a whole, is more than just one of the year’s best full length debuts. Instead, it heralds the arrival of a major new voice who will only follow an upward trajectory from here.”

You can order Nutt’s album on iTune’s or in physical CD here.

Download “Like You” for free here.

 

How 11 Deaf Men Catapulted the American Space Program Forward

On July 16, 1969, the United States’ Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Man floats anti-gravity and sign says, Deaf Difference + Space Survival ... the exhibit is now open
How would people travel through space without spending most of their time sick? Deaf research participants would be key to finding the answers.
Picture of men sitting on an airplane and ABC post saying they are just now getting attention for their contributions.
Media has recently acknowledged G-11’s efforts, which for many decades went unrecognized.

The Apollo 11 flight may never have been possible if it hadn’t been for the contributions of 11 Deaf men who were Gallaudet College (now University) alumni.

From 1958-1968, and ending the year before men would land on the moon, 11 Deaf men volunteered to participate in a joint research program with the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, according to an article in Knowridge Science Report.

Since they were Gallaudet alumni, they were called the Gallaudet Eleven, or G-11.

All but one of G-11’s members had become deaf early in their lives due to spinal meningitis, which damaged their inner ears in a way that prevented them from getting motion sickness. As far as space travel was concerned, motion sickness was a serious concern.

G-11 members took part in a variety of activities, including flying in airplanes performing parabolic arcs that created weightlessness, rough seas experiments, spinning room experiments, and more.

Did the experiments hurt?

According to a NASA article, participants didn’t get sick.

Man hangs upside and says I feel fine.
Researchers expected G-11 participants to not get sick, but they needed to understand how that happened.

“The only discomfort was in the pullouts after steep dives when we experienced from 4 to 6 G—if you tried to lift your arms, they weighed a ton,” said G-11 participant Robert Greenmun.

According to the G-11’s timeline, Greenmun never got sick, but had to nurse hearing Navy aides.

G-11: the envy of astronauts and doctors

Space wasn’t comfortable for people who could hear.

Astronaut and Senator John Glenn said he envied the G-11 because he got motion sickness in space, but they didn’t.

Even Earth’s Atlantic Ocean challenged hearing doctors, when Deaf volunteers didn’t get motion sickness on the rough ocean, but their doctors became sick and had to cancel the tests, according to the timeline.

Man signs that he and other program participants didn't have good balance because of the meningitis that had caused their deafness.
G-11 members enjoyed their participation and the challenges they faced.

“We always looked forward to seeing new experiments. It was an adventure for us,” said G-11 participant Harry Larson.

Larson had poor balance due to deafness from spinal meningitis, as did 9 other G-11 participants.

When being different makes the difference

The experiments helped improve the understanding of how our senses work normal cues for the ear aren’t there, as is the case with weightlessness, during gravitational forces, and at sea.

“We were different in a way they needed,” said Harry Larson, one of the volunteer test subjects.

G-11: NASA’s secret sauce

According to a WJLA report, Harry Larson said, “We were the only Deaf group to ever be involved in the history of the space program.”

Russia and the Untied States had competed to see which country would have a man set foot on the moon first.

Since Russia’s second cosmonaut got sick during flight, G-11 may have contributed to the the American program’s ability to land people on the moon before its Russian competitor, according to the report.

59 years ago and counting

Today, only five of the 11 test subjects are still alive.

2018 will celebrate 60 years since the G-11’s historic contribution to the U.S. Space program.

The Gallaudet Eleven’s roster:

  • Harold Domich
  • Robert Greenmun
  • Barron Gulak
  • Raymond Harper
  • Jerald Jordan
  • Harry Larson
  • David Myers
  • Donald Peterson
  • Raymond Piper
  • Alvin Steele
  • John Zakutney

From space history to museums

Some of G-11’s participants share their story in sign language.

On Apr. 11, 2017, Gallaudet University opened a museum exhibit, “Deaf Difference + Space Survival.”

Three of the 11 former study participants attended the exhibit’s opening: Harry O. Larson, Gallaudet class of ’61, Barron Gulak, class of ’62, and David O. Myers, class of ’61.

“Deaf Difference + Space Survival” is currently on display at Gallaudet University’s Jordan Student Academic Center, open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Experience their story

See the open captioned and partial sign language video, “Deaf Difference + Space Survival” on YouTube.

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Get Awesome Materials to Raise Hearing and Speech Awareness

Two groups have created a variety of useful materials about communication disorders that are free to use and distribute.

To raise awareness about communication disorders, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association observe Better Hearing and Speech Month each May.

This month, they are holding a social media contest and providing an inforgraphic and a quiz about hearing loss, as well as other communication disorder information in press releases, information sheets, posters, and more.

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Communication: The Key to Connection. National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders logo. Side profile of a woman’s face as she is speaking. Letters float out of her mouth and into the air.

According to the institute’s website, 48 million Americans have a form of communication disorder, while 37.5 million of us have hearing loss–that’s 15 percent of Americans.

NIDCD Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Use Infographic

Want to use the infographic above? The institute has created a version you can upload to your website or blog here.

Currently, the institute supports research for promoting accessible health care and urges people who think they have hearing loss to have their hearing tested.

Since only 25 percent of Americans who could benefit from hearing aids have used them, there are potentially people who might want them who haven’t had access to them, or who may need them for safety or work-related issues.

On their website, you may take a quiz in the right-hand column to determine if you should have your hearing tested.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is promoting a social media contest to raise awareness. The association will award points for sharing information on social media and issue prizes for those earning the most points. Prizes will include Amazon gift cards and association promotional materials.

Learn what people with communication disorders, audiologists, speech-language pathologists are doing to raise awareness on this interactive, international map.

The association has also provided many press release materials and patient information handouts about hearing loss–in English and Spanish.

Sign Shares, Inc./International educates society about awareness issues concerning communication disorders through this blog and also on our website, including answering questions people ask about using sign language interpreters and information about how to empower communities by providing communication access.

Request sign language services from Sign Shares here.

 

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Join a Texas Emergency Management Webinar

Are you prepared for when an emergency strikes?

The Texas State Independent Living Council will host a webinar/virtual conversation, “Conversations on Independent Living: Emergency Preparedness,” on May 5, from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. (CT).

Color-enhanced picture of clouds over the ocean, showing golden and pink hues against black storm clouds.
If floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or other disasters strike, are you ready? (license)

The guest speakers will be Ron Lucey, Executive Director of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, and Danielle Hesse with the Texas Disability Task Force on Emergency Management of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The session will discuss:

  • best practices for emergency communications with members of the disability community;
  • including individuals with disabilities’ needs in emergency management processes; and
  • increasing emergency preparedness in the disability community.

    Picture of trees and a bridge, with high strong water forcefully crossing under it as if from a recent flood.
    Flooding presents a challenge to most Texans with a disability. Are you prepared? (license)

This discussion is open to all members of the public.

Register for the webinar here.

(They will send you an e-mail with call-in information after you complete registration.)

Accommodations: If you need accommodations to join the meeting, contact the Texas SILC by Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

For more information, contact Ashley Fry at 512-371-7353 or ashley@txsilc.org.

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Congressional Bill Challenges the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) allows people with disabilities the right to go to court if they can’t find satisfaction regarding their civil rights under this law and other disability rights laws.

American flag shines in the sunlight.
Will Congress reduce the power of one of its greatest laws? photo credit: docoverachiever VOTE via photopin (license)

However, a new Congressional Bill, H.R. 620, seeks to change the way people with disabilities may seek redress, or resolutions, to the inaccessible world they encounter. You can read the bill here.

According to a newsletter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the bill will take away some rights that now exist under the ADA.

According to bill H.R. 620, it is designed “to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to promote compliance through education, to clarify the requirements for demand letters, to provide for a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action, and for other purposes.”

The fund opposes the bill. “We must counter the business lobby, which wants to make it much more difficult to attain accessibility when businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. disregard their ADA responsibilities,” according to the fund’s newsletter.

Black and white photo of an empty wheelchair at the bottom of some stairs.
Stairs are an example of an architectural barrier for someone who uses a wheelchair, scooter, or cane. But what if they block access to a doctor, lawyer, or school? (license)

Two problems in particular will affect people whose rights are violated under the ADA under H.R. 620, and according to the newsletter, it:

  • “Requires a person with a disability who encounters an access barrier to send a letter detailing the exact ADA provisions that are being violated;” and
  • “Rewards non-compliance by allowing businesses generous additional timelines, even though the ADA’s reasonable requirements are already over 25 years old!”
Gavel with a book in the background
How many actions must a U.S. citizen take before they can bring an action to court? (license)

If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier, according to the bill, they must do three things before they can take civil action:

  • “Provide to the owner or operator of the accommodation a written notice specific enough to allow such owner or operator to identify the barrier;” and
  • “Specify in detail the circumstances under which an individual was actually denied access to a public accommodation, including the address of property, the specific sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act alleged to have been violated, whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier to access was made,” and
  • Specify “whether the barrier to access was a permanent or temporary barrier.”

The amendment language also calls for the creation of a “model program with … an expedited method for determining the relevant facts related to such barriers to access and steps taken before the commencement of litigation to resolve any issues related to access.”

H.R. 620 seems to contradict the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Since lawsuits allow U.S. citizens to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” or for a remedy for their problems, then requiring people with disabilities to take additional steps before they can bring a lawsuit would hinder that freedom and cause them to have an additional burden unlike other U.S. citizens.

The fund recommends that individuals let their representatives in Congress know if they don’t wish the ADA to be limited by the amendments that H.R. 620 brings.

To find out who your state’s representatives are, you can type your Zip Code in at https://contactingcongress.org. Contacts include phone numbers, emails, and social media of your representatives.

Picture of the domed White U.S. Capitol building.
U.S. legislators will vote whether amendments are made to limit the ADA. (license)

You may also contact your legislators via phone by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may ask them to help you locate your representatives if you don’t know them.

 

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