Tag Archives: ASL

Deaf and Interpreter Physicians Open Doors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

Doctor sitting at desk reaches out hand for a handshake.
Who determines which qualified candidates will still be rejected at medical school because of a disability? Is it still happening? How many doctors with disabilities do you know?

While many doctors with hearing only worry about earning good grades in their classes–doctors with deafness worry about admission to medical school after the good grades. In the past and perhaps in the present–doctoral candidates who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing wondered if they would be admitted at all, despite their other abilities.

Some pursued their profession past all advice and against the rejection from myriad medical schools. Another crossed the communication barrier and became a Certified ASL Interpreter to meet the needs of patients who wanted to openly communicate with their physician.

The following doctors are pioneers that have opened doors to medical school for people with hearing loss or deafness, and to the Deaf Community. They opened the minds of a Hearing Community that didn’t understand their abilities were less by the ability to hear than by the societal attitudes that believed they couldn’t achieve.

DEAF DOCTORS WHO OPENED DOORS
TO MEDICAL SCHOOL

Picture of a door with punch number code
These physicians with deafness unlocked doors that were closed to them by physician and medical school gatekeepers.

Dr. Judith Ann Pachciarz lost her hearing as a toddler, according to Celebrating America’s Woman Physicians. She believes she may be the first deaf person in history to earn both a Ph.D. and an M.D. She is also the “first profoundly deaf woman physician.” Dr. Pachciarz served as doctor at the 1985 World Games for the Deaf in the Los Angeles area.

Dr. Pachciarz advocated for the right to study to be a doctor when they were considering Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

A pile of keys of different sizes and colors
There are many keys to open access to careers, including education, advocacy, and communication tools.

“In 1963 I met all the qualifications for medical school admission as I did in 1979. In 1977 I wrote Health Education and Welfare Secretary [Joseph] Califano, who was considering the provisions of Section 504: ‘I am a thirty-five year old deaf woman who has wanted to be a doctor of medicine since early childhood. I have encountered resistance and discrimination at every step from grade school through graduate work to a Ph.D…thus the enthusiasm, expertise, and dedication I could provide to health care…is denied…When will our equal educational opportunities be protected under the law? Fifteen years—how much longer do I have to wait?’ Secretary Califano signed Section 504 after concerted collective action, and I was accepted into medical school two years later,” she said in the article.

At the time of the article, Dr. Pachciarz was a hospital pathologist and director of the blood transfusion service at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Picture of an older man in a suit with the words...Deaf doctor makes patients feel heard.
A screen shot of Dr. Phillip Zazove on CNN.

According to a CNN report, Dr. Phillip Zazove, who is deaf, “makes patients feel heard.” Zazove, who has profound hearing loss, was the third if American physician. Not only does he serve the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, but he also mentors doctors who are deaf.

According to the article, Dr. Philip Zazove is an author, physician and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan.

Drs. Pachciarz and Zazove were both told as children not to expect much for careers. They chose to be pioneers and advocates, instead of giving up.

DR. AND INTERPRETER WHO RAISES THE BAR FOR DOCTORS

Hands using sign language spell A, S, L.
A-S-L, The hands spell the abbreviation for American Sign Language, a tool that enable doctors to communicate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in one of their languages.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dr. Deborah Gilboa is “one of the few doctors in the nation who is fluent in American Sign Language.”

While completing prerequisites for medical school, Galboa became a certified ASL interpreter.

Pencil eraser over notebook paper with pieces of the eraser on the paper.
Many people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing wish doctors would erase communicating with them using pencil and paper and begin using sign language or having interpreters. Photo credit: Hometown Beauty via photopin (license)

“People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are said to be one of most under-served disability populations in terms of health care. Lack of sign language interpretation is the most frequent subject of Department of Justice cases regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in health care settings, according to the website ada.gov,” according to the article.

Dr. Galboa said doctors need to step up and meet the Deaf Community’s needs, “The deaf community puts up with uncertainty about their health care that leaves them poorer for it, and I don’t mean financially. As doctors, we want to know what’s really going on. The deaf community’s expectations of doctors is very low. We need to raise those expectations.”

FROM THERE TO WHERE?

How will societal attitudes limit future physicians with deafness or hearing loss? How many physicians will opt to learn ASL, or at least adopt methods of communication that are suitable for truly understanding procedures and conditions?

Have times changed?

COMMUNICATION ACCESS FOR MEDICAL STUDENTS OR PROFESSIONALS

  • Are you a person with deafness or hearing loss who wants to become a medical professional?
  • Do you want to provide communication access to medical students?
  • Are you a medical professional who needs more communication access?

Woman with unreal blue eyes and black hair and background, reads, Sign Shares, Interpreting Your WorldSign Shares, Inc. can help! We provide services for people with deafness, hearing loss, and deaf-blindness, as well as foreign language translation for people with hearing.

Request Services here!

 

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The EEOC and FedEx Continue Battle to Define Employer Requirements under the ADA

In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action disability lawsuit against the multi-billion dollar business, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc.

FedEx Ground truck in front of a parked car.
FedEx Ground is facing EEOC discrimination charges for its treatment of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: torbakhopper fedex ground illegal deliveries (this episode actually lasted over five minutes but flickr only allows 90 second uploads) via photopin (license)

Two years later, the lawsuit is still underway after a judge denied the company’s motions to dismiss or strike it.

Court documents provide a rich source of learning about how the government views a business’ obligations to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

The case comes behind another FedEx case concerning an employee who was Deaf.

In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf intervened in the lawsuit. Unlike a previous EEOC v. FedEx case, this time, a national Deaf advocacy group joined.

According to the association, they intervened on behalf of “two deaf women who worked for FedEx Ground without access to qualified sign language interpreters or other reasonable accommodations.”

In 2016, FedEx’s Motions to Dismiss and to Strike were dismissed by U.S. District Judge, Mark R. Hornak.

Picture shows a screen shot of someone using sign language in an ASL video on the EEOC website.Learn more about this current case in ASL.

Overview

In a 2014 press release, the EEOC said, “FedEx Ground failed to provide needed accommodations such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during the mandatory initial tour of the facilities and new-hire orientation for deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants. The shipping company also failed to provide such accommodations during staff, performance, and safety meetings.”

Female news broadcaster with image of Hurricane Matthew in the background.
As pictured, this news broadcast wouldn’t make any sense to the Deaf community. No interpreter for those who use ASL. No captions for those who are Hard of Hearing. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community needs visual communication. photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video NASA’s 3D view shows Hurricane Matthew’s intensity via photopin (license)

“FedEx Ground refused to provide needed equipment substitutions and modifications for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as providing scanners that vibrate instead of beep and installing flashing safety lights on moving equipment,” according to the release.

Stop sign shows a person light in green and a person lit in red.
Just like the lights on this sign show it’s safe to cross the street, color changing lights can send visual signals to people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: My Buffo Should I stay or should I go? via photopin (license)

Employees worked at facilities in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.

After attempting to remedy the situation with FedEx, “The EEOC’s lawsuit arose as a result of 19 charges filed throughout the country citing discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing people by FedEx Ground,” according to the press release.

Failed resolution

“The agency consolidated these charges and conducted a nationwide systemic investigation of these violations. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr, said in the release, “FedEx Ground failed to engage in an interactive process with deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants to address their needs and to provide them with reasonable accommodations. That’s why we filed this lawsuit — to remedy alleged pervasive violations of the ADA on a national level.”

People sit around a room on several sofas.
Employee engagement requires effective communication. Sometimes that requires accommodations. Trust employees to know what they need. photo credit: TEDxSKE (Lebanon) TEDxSKE salon: 08.09.16 via photopin (license)

A lose/lose scenario

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “…FedEx Ground should have provided effective accommodations to enable people with hearing difficulties to obtain workplace information that is disseminated in meetings and in training sessions. … by failing to do so, FedEx Ground has marginalized disabled workers and hindered job performance. This is a ‘lose/lose scenario.'”

Button says Failure is always an option.
Not preparing ahead to meet the needs of employees can lead to the business and employees losing opportunity. photo credit: Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis Failure : @sharkthang : Quote : Prisma : Wave via photopin (license)

This case supports part of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan’s six national priorities: eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc.

Blue bag with money symbol on it tied with a rope.
Discrimination lawsuits can be costly and inconvenient. photo credit: dolphinsdock Money Bag in Blue via photopin (license)

According to court documents, The EEOC “seeks:

  • a permanent injunction to prevent FedEx Ground from engaging in disability discrimination;
  • an order directing FedEx Ground to implement policies, practices, and programs to provide equal employment opportunities and reasonable accommodations for aggrieved individuals;
  • back pay;
  • compensation for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses;
  • instatement of aggrieved individuals or front pay;
  • and punitive damages.”

No procedure = operating procedure

According to court documents, “The EEOC pleads that ‘FedEx has not implemented a corporate-wide procedure’ for accommodating deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.”

When “faced with a legal duty to seek reasonable accommodations, an employer’s complete and uniform failure to do so can fairly be conceptualized as a standard operating procedure of unlawful conduct.”

What happens when the EEOC goes fishing

Man on beach in sunset gathers his large fishing net.
The judge compares the EEOC to someone who has gone fishing and already cast their net–so they can reap the benefits. photo credit: Prabhu B Doss Networking. via photopin (license)

According to court documents regarding FedEx’s attempt to dismiss or strike the case, “EEOC has provided, and at oral argument FedEx Ground acknowledged possessing, a list of 168 named individuals that are the subject of this suit. And while the EEOC generally ‘may not use discovery.. .as a fishing expedition to uncover more violations,’ here the EEOC has already cast its net.”

Previously, the EEOC had placed a form on their website information requesting leads about FedEx Ground employees who had been denied accommodations during hiring or at work. In stark contrast to FedEx Ground’s training videos, the EEOC’s video is in American Sign Language.

“If some other aggrieved individuals–those meeting the statutory criteria for the claim as pled–are added to the haul . . . sometimes permissible fishing expeditions legitimately catch fish,” the judge said.

Many fish swirl around in the ocean.
If your business policies don’t respect people with all abilities, there are likely many fish for the EEOC to catch. photo credit: forum.linvoyage.com Fish soup IMG_1172s via photopin (license)

FedEx Ground complained that defending themselves against so many was unreasonable.

“FedEx Ground will not necessarily suffer impermissible prejudice. The EEOC’s central claim is based on an alleged failure to engage in an interactive process in order to give disabled individuals a statutorily-mandated reasonable accommodation. If it turns out that FedEx Ground indeed failed to do that, all individuals who were unlawfully discriminated against could be entitled to relief…”

What FedEx Ground failed to understand about the EEOC

According to court documents, “…The EEOC has significant discretion to investigate discrimination claims and … to litigate on behalf of a potential group of aggrieved people” and can “maintain class action suits even where it does not attempt to conciliate on behalf of each member or potential member of the class)” if they have informed the company that some people have suffered certain discriminatory conditions.

FedEx Ground’s statement

In this report, FedEx Ground said, “We value our deaf and hard of hearing employees, and we strive to give them, like all our employees, every opportunity to be successful — including working with them to provide individualized and reasonable accommodations.”

“We have cooperated with the EEOC throughout their investigation and are disappointed that the EEOC was not willing to engage in legitimate, good-faith discussions to conciliate and resolve these allegations. We are confident that we have complied with the law and intend to vigorously contest the EEOC’s unfounded allegations,” they said.

When should accommodations have been provided?

Many lifejackets are restrained by cords.
Ensure that your employees swim, not sink, by making all meetings and trainings accessible to people with all abilities. photo credit: tompagenet IMG_6282 via photopin (license)

According to a 3PlayMedia report, “..FedEx Ground blatantly violated the ADA by failing to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or closed captioned training videos in the following situations:

  • Mandatory initial tour of the facilities,
  • New-hire orientation for applicants,
  • Staff meetings,
  • Performance meetings, and
  • Safety meetings.”

From the perspective of people with deafness and hearing loss

Eisenberg & Baum, LLP of New York, ASL-fluent attorneys, addressed the case. “If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, it can sometimes be hard to get your employer to address your needs. Lack of reasonable accommodations can make your work life miserable, and make it harder for you to do your job.”

What must happen before an ADA lawsuit

“Before an ADA lawsuit can start, the employer must also have taken some ‘adverse employment action’ against the deaf or hard-of-hearing employee. This could be refusal to hire, failure to promote, firing, or discrimination in shifts, positions, or hours. It could also include harassment, if the behavior is serious enough to create a hostile work environment.”

Reasonable Accommodations can be used to complete work duties

Man looks at camera as he holds a phone handset while another person on video waits for him to continue speaking.
People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have been using videophones and captioned phones for many years now. photo credit: Ian Broyles i invented a video phone to the past via photopin (license)

“For example, a deaf woman may not be able to answer telephone calls. However, she may request a text telephone, voice carry-over telephone, or a captioned telephone, which would allow her to perform the essential work of responding to phone calls. This would be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act unless it was unduly burdensome on the employer.”

Positioning your business to be ADA compliant

Older man in a boat on the water pulling up a fishing net.
Liken the EEOC to the Old Man and the Sea. They are experienced and despite all challenges, they can catch big fish. photo credit: Emanuele Cardinali The Old Man and the Sea via photopin (license)

First, understand that the EEOC is a good fisherman.

According to its website, since the start of FY 2011, the commission has filed more than 200 disability discrimination lawsuits recovering $52,000,000. “The Commission secured this relief through jury verdicts, appellate court victories, court-entered consent decrees, and other litigation-related resolutions.”

Lawsuits include all “segments and sectors of the workforce” concerning a large variety of disabilities.”

Click here to review a list of EEOC cases.

How to avoid the EEOC fishing at your business

To avoid competing against the EEOC protecting the rights of your employees, you must fish better from your own pond. Like most people who fish well, prepare ahead of time.

The secret to good conflict resolution is fishing well with catch and release

Woman in boat holds a large fish she apparently just caught.
How well do you fish? Are you soliciting employee feedback regarding accommodations? photo credit: Kris Krug Antonia Wilson – Salish Sea Charters – Winter Salmon Fishing – Galiano Island via photopin (license)
  • Cast your line. Accessible hiring, training, and meetings. Have public policies that encourage complaints and management interaction.
  • Use the right bait. Avoid any practices or lack of policies that allow discrimination to take place. This includes training any supervisory personnel about supporting all abilities from the first week of hire. Build a nurturing workplace environment. The wrong kind of bait may lose your catch and the EEOC won’t use the wrong kind of bait.
  • Reel in your fish. When complaints are received, call in teams of people with similar abilities and ask them what can be done, what are potential cost-saving short cuts, and about other suggestions.
  • Let them go and multiply. Address needed changes, have follow-up dialogues, and encourage open door policies to discuss future needs. If this encourages more employees with similar needs to apply, it’s because you have strong policies that support your employees. Applicant metrics are a good standard for measurement of policy effectiveness.

    Two large fishing nets are hung in the water beneath a colorful sky.
    When you prepare ahead for success, you’ll cast out your net and gather new clients and funding sources. photo credit: Christopher Crouzet Cu Đê River, Da Nang via photopin (license)
  • Cast a new net. Reap the benefits of encouraging clients with similar abilities to support your efforts. Promote within the disability network, which has a strong word-of-mouth campaign. Enjoy the bounty!

Learn more about the EEOC

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website.

Houston Deaf Grassroots Movement National Corner Rally this Thursday

The Houston Deaf Grassroots Movement will have a National Corner Rally this Thursday, Oct. 20, at Houston City Hall. This is part of a national effort to raise awareness about Deaf issues.

The three goals of the national Deaf Grassroots Movement are: Communication Access, Education, and Employment.

Street painting of sign language hand showing beginning of alphabet, A, B, C, D...
When people don’t know sign language or use captions, Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members need accommodations to have equal rights. photo credit: Hindrik S put your hand … via photopin (license)

Deaf Grassroots members will hold events at 85 cities across the nation, including:

According to Deaf YouVideo, the National Association of the Deaf met together with the Deaf Grassroots Movement to plan events for this Oct. 20.

Howard A. Rosenbaum of the National Association of the Deaf signed, “DGM and the NAD work together and support each other. Allow me to explain how. The NAD has always met with the federal government to discuss various issues including education, employment, and access. While such discussions are productive, sometimes we get nowhere. Thanks to DGM’s movement and making noise about our needs, the federal government reached out the NAD recognizing their actions. This helps the NAD continue the dialogue we want to have with the federal government. I am very appreciative of the work DGM has done to support the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people.”

“October 20th is a very important day! You can get involved by looking for the DGM Facebook page in your state, and find out details about October 20th. You can join for an hour, a few hours, or all day! Your time contributed to this movement will have an impact across the country!”

Map showing location of City Hall at 901 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002The Houston event will be from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 901 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

“There is a serious need to fight for the Deaf rights of communication, education, for jobs and many other issues of discrimination. The Deaf community must continue to fight for these rights and the best way to do so is to make the public aware of the issues of discrimination,” according to the event’s listing at the Deaf Network of Texas.

Participants will meet at corner intersections. Members of the Houston Deaf community are encouraged to attend to bring attention to their rights.

According to the event listing, “There is power in numbers and you will want to attend with your friends.”

To learn more, contact Darla Conner at dconner@cbfl.cc,  at 713-491-2381VP, or at 713-974-4621voice/tty.

Click here to let event organizers know you wish to attend.

NAD and DGM Links:

Follow @National Association of the Deaf:
Facebook – https://facebook.com/nad
GooglePlus – https://plus.google.com/nad
Twitter – https://twitter.com/nad
YouTube – https://youtube.com/nadvlogs
Website – http://nad.org

Follow @Deaf Grassroots Movement:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/deafgrassrootsmovement
Official Website – http://www.tdgm2015.org

Deaf Grassroots Movement Hashtags:
Facebook – https://facebook.com/hashtag/dgm
Instagram – https://instagram.com/explore/tags/dgm
Twitter – https://twitter.com/hashtag/dgm

Related Deaf Deaf Grassroots Movement:
Deaf Grassroots Movement – National Deaf Rally
Deaf Grassroots Movement Nationwide Rally
Deaf Protest at White House in Washington DC
Deaf Protest At The White House 2015 Live Video

Interpreting for Hurricane Matthew to Avoid Repeating Hurricane Andrew’s Deaf Community Disaster

When it was over sea, Hurricane Matthew was a Category 5 hurricane, with the potential to do as much damage as the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew that hit Florida in 1992 with 165 mph winds–and needlessly took Deaf lives.

Picture of a swirling hurricane in the ocean heading toward Florida.
Hurricane Andrew before it took an unexpected turn and struck South Florida. Only one TV station agreed to have an interpreter inform the Deaf Community of the unexpected change–a difference that may have cost Deaf lives. photo credit: Key West Wedding Photography Remembering Hurricane Andrew – 1992 via photopin (license)

Andrew took 65 people’s lives and warnings from local news stations warned that Hurricane Matthew was as serious a threat to the Eastern U.S. coastline.

For the Florida Deaf community, reporting and interpreting about Hurricane Matthew was a time for news stations to redeem themselves and not fail them as they had during Hurricane Andrew, when the Deaf community relied on reports from only one TV station that would accept and interpreter–and no captions at all.

For Hurricane Matthew, not only did news stations use interpreters for Hurricane news along the East Coast, many used Certified Deaf Interpreters too, bringing praise and surprise.

Hurricane Matthew–A Big Difference

Hurricane over the ocean near Florida.
Hurricane Matthew over the Bahamas. Wikipedia reported the hurricane caused 1,027 fatalities. This time, the media took a better approach at informing the Deaf community. photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery Hurricane Matthew pass over the Bahamas. via photopin (license)

In 2016, with Hurricane Matthew, things started differently than they did during Hurricane Andrew.

For Hurricane Matthew, the Federal Communications Commission was available 24 hours a day, assisting with emergency communication providers.

The State reports that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley set the stage for public officials sharing communications with the Deaf Community, by providing a nationally Certified Deaf Interpreter, Jason Hurdich.

One viewer posted, “The sign language interpreter is the best part of Nikki Haley’s press conference. His facial expressions are 🔥🔥🔥.”

Channel 10 of the Miami area, once again a champion for Deaf communications during hurricanes, broadcasted interpreted news, this time with Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez. A graphic artist found the sign language interpreter so fascinating that she shared his video on her website.

Gym with hundreds of people laying on the floor in sleeping bags.
This U.S. Navy image shows preparation in a shelter in Cuba before Hurricane Matthew hit the island. Without proper communication, Deaf community members wouldn’t have known the shelter was available. photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery Service members attached to Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay take shelter inside Denich Gym before Hurricane Matthew hits Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. via photopin (license)

On their Facebook page, Pasco County Schools of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, provided a sign language interpreter, and added Hurricane Matthew emergency communications in Spanish.

The Broward County Emergency Operations Center of South Florida used a Deaf interpreter, with a hearing interpreter signing for him.

The Miami Herald reported that the Deaf interpreter, because American Sign Language is his native language, added more meaning for audience members who are Deaf.

“I process it and put it into an art form or language that is clear to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” interpreter Andrew Altmann said. “It’s like a puzzle and I have to put all the pieces together and present it to our community.”

The mayor’s Facebook Fan Kim Black said, “Marty, thank you for publicly supporting the interpreter! You always go above & beyond to support those who work behind the scenes. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community is fortunate to have leaders like you. You’re a very special person. Stay safe through the storm.

West Palm Beach, Florida’s WPTV, introduced their interpreter on the channel’s website, saying she would interpret for their viewers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

There was a time though, that the Deaf community fended for itself with no information–and Deaf people died.

Hurricane Andrew: a Deaf Catastrophe

In 1992, before Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, no one was certain if the storm would strike South Florida. To make matters worse, there had been a few hurricane scares earlier that year and nothing had happened.

According to “Lessons from Hurricane Andrew” by Rick Eyerdam, in the 1990’s, news stations used a “crawler,” which provided a written message at the bottom of the screen to inform people with deafness or hearing loss what was happening and what to do when closed captioning and interpreters weren’t signing.

According to the a Deaf services agency representing 30,000 clients then, when the news stations changed the Hurricane Watch to a Hurricane Warning, they stopped using a crawler.

Female news broadcaster with image of Hurricane Matthew in the background.
As pictured, this news broadcast wouldn’t make any sense to the Deaf community. No interpreter for those who use ASL. No captions for those who are Hard of Hearing. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community needs visual communication. photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video NASA’s 3D view shows Hurricane Matthew’s intensity via photopin (license)

There were no captions, no crawler, no interpreters.

The equivalent for a hearing person is a TV that is turned off and no radio communications. Nothing.

The South Florida Deaf community had no idea the hurricane now had the highest probability of striking the area where they lived.

When the Hurricane Andrew Warnings were issued to the hearing population, most people went to the stores to buy food and water.

During hurricanes, water supplies can be contaminated, so the stores sold out. Home Depot ran out of generators, since many feared the 90+ degree heat with no air conditioning or power. Stores ran out of wood panels and duct tape to cover windows and keep them from shattering inside their homes.

Everyone went except the Deaf community, which didn’t know because local news stations, according to Tyrone Kennedy, stopped using the crawler to provide words at the bottom of the screen, because emergency messages were long and difficult to reduce to writing.

“Once it changed from the watch to warning, we lost it all. The deaf population had no knowledge of what was going on. They missed out completely,” Kennedy said.

When the Hurricane Warning was issued, Kennedy and Deaf Services called the National Hurricane Center to offer interpreters for hurricane announcements.

He never got called back.

The television stations refused interpreters. Finally, one television station, Channel 10, agreed to have an interpreter on the news.

“By the time those people who would have relied on this information, if it came sooner, found (the station and got the information) by then it was too late. The stores were all empty. There were no supplies left,” Kennedy said.

They also didn’t have enough time to properly evacuate to a Florida city higher north.

After the storm, they couldn’t contact people who were Deaf by phone, since TTYs needed electricity. Fortunately, they forwarded all calls to one apartment with electricity and sent out volunteers with replacement batteries for their TTYs.

After Hurricane Andrew, according to the report, “the deaf community has discussed the effectiveness of closed captioning in the emergency environment and is now recommended all messages be sent in open captioning…”

According to “Deaf People and Hurricanes,” by Elizabeth Sadler, several Deaf Floridians died during Hurricane Andrew.

While it’s too late for those who lost their lives during Hurricane Andrew, at least the Deaf Community received greater emergency communications and acceptance, far beyond anything they dreamed of long ago in 1992.

Learn Sign Language for Hurricane

Broward County’s emergency interpreter, Andrew Altmann, demonstrates how to sign “hurricane.”

 

 

 

Texas Governor Proclaims Deaf Awareness Week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation recognizing the week of September 18-24, 2016 as Deaf Awareness Week. The celebration is part of the month-long Deaf Awareness Month.

Governor Greg Abbott is speaking, the top rim of his wheelchair is visible.
Gov. Greg Abbott recognized this week as Deaf Awareness Week, kicking off social and awareness events this week. photo credit: Greg Abbott via photopin (license)

In a press release from the Office of the Governor, Abbott said, “Among those with disabilities,Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing have long been recognized for their contributions to our state. In fact, the 6th Texas Legislature helped to ensure the support of this community with the establishment of the Texas School for the Deaf in 1856.

Each September, organizations across Texas set out to raise awareness of this special population of citizens and promote available resources for the educational needs of Texans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I encourage all Texans to support and celebrate the many unique and individual achievements of all citizens of our communities, and especially at this time, to honor Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing. I thank the many professionals and educators dedicated to assisting their fellow Texans and for their contributions focused on the best for all deaf and hard of hearing in Texas. Working together, we are ensuring a brighter future for our state.”

According to the press release, Texas School for the Deaf Superintendent Claire Bugen said,“We commend the Governor’s office in encouraging all Texans to gain a better understanding of the achievements of deaf people and their contributions to the world we live in. This annual event offers us the opportunity to increase public awareness of deaf issues, deaf people, and culture. Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.”

Upcoming Deaf Awareness events

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Deaf Hawaiian Battles to Save State’s Native Sign Language

Almost as soon as its documented discovery in 2013, Hawaii Sign Language was on its way to extinction.

Linda Lambrecht, a career American Sign Language teacher and past president of the Aloha State Association of the Deaf, is documenting Hawaii Sign Language, or HSL, while its few remaining native signers are still living. She’s one of them.

She hopes they can teach HSL to Hawaiians to preserve it as something that belongs to the Hawaiian Deaf community’s history.

Not long ago, Hawaii faced losing it's native spoken tongue. Now, experts are focused on saving its signed one. photo credit: Cliffs on Molokai Northern Coastline James Brennan Hawaii (27) via photopin (license)
Not long ago, Hawaii faced losing it’s native spoken tongue. Now, experts are focused on saving its signed one. photo credit: Cliffs on Molokai Northern Coastline James Brennan Hawaii (27) via photopin (license)

Lambrecht learned HSL from her older brothers, who are Deaf. According to an article in Hawaii News Today, “‘It wasn’t formal instruction, it was just exposure and that’s what we used to communicate,’ signed Lambrecht, who is also an ASL instructor at Kapi’olani Community College. ‘When foreigners came here and taught American Sign Language it was quite confusing.’”

She presented Hawaii Sign Language to the world at an endangered language conference and stunned the community because a new language hadn’t been discovered in America in decades.

According to the Ethnologue website, which documents the world’s languages, HSL is listed as “nearly extinct,” used by “elderly only.”

Surfer surfing a giant Hawaiian ocean wave.
Will Hawaiians surf this next wave to save a native language? photo credit: Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Surf Contest Waimea Bay Hawaii Febrary 2016 via photopin (license)

Many Hawaiians who are Deaf don’t support HSL.

The results of the battle within the Hawaiian Deaf community about the value of its native sign language versus the more common and powerful American Sign Language will determine whether Hawaiians keep or abandon their unique sign language and its history.

HSL is distinct from American Sign Language. 80 percent of HSL has different vocabulary. Words such as “mother,” “father,” “pig,” and “small” have signs that differ from those of American Sign Language, according to an article in The Guardian.

See examples of HSL compared to ASL here.

Two things led Hawaiians who are Deaf to desert their native sign.

Pictures of a woman's lips while talking.
Some past and present efforts with Deaf education focus on how they can learn to speak, not sign. photo credit: 160318-N-IU636-154 via photopin (license)

The first was the establishment of a Deaf school, which promoted speaking over signing, according to The Guardian article. “‘The turning point, the beginning of the end of HSL,’ according to Barbara Earth [one of Lambrecht’s students], was the founding of Hawaii’s deaf school in 1914. Like most schools at the time, it promoted oralism, the system of lip-reading and speaking that is almost universally despised in Deaf communities for being painful, unnatural and ineffective.’”

When Hawaiians left the islands to become U.S. mainland soldiers, other Hawaiians also left, causing widespread changes, including the loss of HSL. photo credit: 160318-N-IU636-154 via photopin (license)
When Hawaiians left the islands to become U.S. mainland soldiers, other Hawaiians also left, causing widespread changes, including the loss of HSL. photo credit: 160318-N-IU636-154 via photopin (license)

The second language-killing event was Hawaiian military participation during World War II. While soldiers trained on the U.S. mainland, more Hawaiians moved to mainland states to attend college. Since most Americans who were Deaf used American Sign Language, Hawaii’s Deaf community used it too.

ASL became associated with success, education, and even “whiteness.” According to The Guardian article, “‘Deaf people here would put themselves into an inferior category compared to the people who brought ASL. People said, ‘They’re from America, they’re white people, they know better.’”

“…The forward march of ASL, which in certain ways brings people together, also poses a significant danger to many of the estimated 400 sign languages used all over the world – most of which we know nothing about,” according to The Guardian article.

Picture card showing sign language
How many ways are there to sign? Apparently, less and less with the widespread use of American Sign Language. photo credit: Positive signs via photopin (license)

Few Hawaiians sign now in HSL. Some who know it well prefer ASL instead of the native sign language they know that dates back to at least the 1820’s.

For a pilot study conducted by the University of Hawaii and created through the efforts of Linda Lambrecht and her former student, Barbara Earth—researchers located 19 people who were older and two children of Deaf adults who knew fluent HSL, according to the article.

Mildred was one of the most fluent HSL “masters,” but she preferred ASL. According to the article, Linda Lambrecht said, “‘I remember Mildred would always tell me, ‘I don’t like HSL, I like ASL, it’s for educated people like me.

However, when Mildred had a bad fall and was placed into hospice care, she reverted to using HSL, according to the article. “‘Linda visited her recently: “I saw her signing – and I noticed that she had reverted to HSL.’”

Whether anyone will translate HSL in the future depends on the Hawaiian Deaf community.

According to a Hawaii News Report, “”What we need to do is make sure that we have a good grammatical description of the language, make sure that we have a lot of data, then we need to train the deaf adults who use the language to teach it to other deaf and hearing people—and especially to expose children to it,” said James Woodward, an Adjunct Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who helps document HSL.

Learn more about the history of HSL and attempts to preserve and teach it.

See the most popular HSL signs.

Texas Cities Open Cooling Centers to Cope with Heat

man in suit and tie sweats profusely
Texas cities brace themselves for hot temperatures. photo credit: Misery via photopin (license)

Houston and Dallas have opened cooling centers across their metropolitan areas for people to escape the heat.

Houston-area cooling centers

With temperatures forecast in the upper 90’s all week, and heat indexes making it feel like it’s in the mid-100’s, the City of Houston has activated its heat emergency plan to provide cool places for people to spend hours or the day.

Words read Air Cooled
Spending time in cooler air helps the body prepare for the stress. photo credit: air cooled – Phoenix via photopin (license)

Most of the locations are libraries. Some run regular business hours, as early as 8 a.m. to around 4, 5, or 6:00 p.m. Others stay open as late as 9 p.m. The cooling centers are open different days, with many being closed on weekends or having certain days open.

Click here to locate a Houston-area cooling center near you.

To arrange for transportation to a designated cooling center in Houston, call 3-1-1.

Dallas-area cooling centers

In the Dallas area, Salvation Army has opened cooling stations. According to CBS DFW, centers have weekday business hours, except for the homeless shelters, which provide cooling seven days a week.

Locate a Dallas-area cooling station here.

man dumps ice bucket over his head
Before dumping an ice bucket on your head, maybe you can visit your local cooling station! photo credit: Mission Accomplished – ALS Ice Bucket Challenge via photopin (license)

Planning for heat safety

The Houston Fire Department has many suggestions for heat safety, including:

  • drinking water before going outside,
  • wearing light, loose clothing,
  • avoiding leaving children, seniors, or pets in hot cars, and
  • working early in the day to avoid the heat.

Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be caused by too much exposure to the heat and/or not enough fluids. Learn more about the symptoms for these two illnesses here.

Deaf heat safety video

Watch an American Sign Language Extreme Heat Emergency Information Video.

The video was produced by the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Northeast Texas Public Health District.