Tag Archives: Gallaudet University

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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Dallas Community Holds Deaf Celebration Expo Sept. 24

Deaf Celebration LogoThe Dallas/Fort Worth Deaf community is reviving the Deaf Celebration Expo, an event connected to Deaf history.

Kent Kennedy log, saying he is a unique comedian and Flying Hands of LaughterThe expo will take place at Tarrant County College –Trinity River Campus on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. The event will run from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and will have an evening show with Austin Deaf comedian Kent Kennedy, “Flying Hands of Laughter” from 7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Event planners expect attendance of 1,000 or more people.

Attendee Registration

Register for the Deaf Celebration Expo here to avoid lines at the event. Admission to the expo is free. Admission to the Evening Show is $5.00 per person. Children under 17 are free.

Map of Deaf Celebration locationThe event address is Tarrant County College – Trinity River Campus, 300 Trinity Campus Circle, Downtown Fort Worth, Texas 76102.

Exhibitor Registration

Expo exhibitors will have a unique opportunity to reach the Texas Deaf Community with interpreters available at the event.

Booth fees:

  • $50.00 (Non-Profit Organization)
  • $100.00 (For-Profit Organization)

This is a small, additional for an electric outlet. First come, first serve.

Please attach brochures, photos, detailed drawings or any information about your product(s) and booth as it appears while in operation.

Booth includes a one (1) 7” by 44” identity sign, one (1) 5’-long table, and two (2) folding chairs.

Sponsorships are also available and they are seeking door prize donations.

The deadline to register as an exhibitor is Aug. 31, 2016. Registration forms submitted after the due date will be awarded based on booth availability.

Download Booth Application 2016 (PDF)

Download Booth Application 2016 (DOCX)

Deaf Celebration is a 501c (3) organization.

For exhibitor and sponsor questions, email booth@deafcelebration.org.

History of Deaf Celebration

According to event Chairperson and founder of the Deaf Network of Texas, Grant W. Laird, Jr., “Deaf Celebration has its roots in the Deaf President Now movement that occurred in 1988 at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., through which a Deaf president was finally appointed at Gallaudet University serving D/deaf students.”

Deaf Celebration seeks to provide a forum for the D/deaf Community, broaden the public’s knowledge of Deaf culture and heritage, create awareness of organizations “of, for, and by the Deaf,” and provide a forum for “artists, performing artists, and craftspeople that are Deaf,” according to the event’s website.

Interpreters and ASL students will donate their time to facilitate communication between individuals who use sign language and those who can’t.

Contact Grant W. Laird, Jr. with questions at info@deafcelebration.org.

Event Flyer

deaf-celebration-2016-with-Kent-Kennedy-and-starsdeaf-celebration-2016-with-Kent-Kennedy-and-stars

Word version of flyer.

 

DeafSpaces: Architecture for the Deaf Community

Vox and Curbed created a video and article to demonstrate how DeafSpace differs from spaces created for people who hear.

The close captioned video begins with the open captioned words: “We live in a world built for people who hear.”

A concrete and red brick wall.
Bricks walls and painted concrete aren’t Deaf-friendly because they don’t provide reflection, aren’t transparent, and the red can be tiring to the eyes of those trying to read sign language. photo credit: Rothkoesque via photopin (license)

Curbed houses the article, “How Gallaudet University’s Architects Are Redefining Deaf Space.”

Gallaudet University is America’s only liberal arts college for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

According to the article, “Deaf (with a capital D) is a cultural identity that stems from pride in signed language and what Deaf Studies professors call ‘Deaf ways of being,’ or shared sensory experiences and cultural traditions.”

“DeafSpace is an approach to architecture and design that is primarily informed by the unique ways in which Deaf people perceive and inhabit space,” according to the video.

The video explores some of the five basic principles of DeafSpace.

Space and Proximity

Teacher signs to student writing on whiteboard at the front of a classroom.
This student needs to see the teacher’s facial expression and hands while signing. This requires extra space, whether at the whiteboard or in the hallway. photo credit: A teacher works with a hearing impaired student via photopin (license)

According to the article, “Facial expressions are important in ASL. So are body movements; to be able to sign comfortably, a person needs adequate space—more than is typically required for someone engaged in spoken conversation.”

The video shows wide hallways that accommodate two people signing and using full body language while having more space to sign and maintain eye contact.

Sensory Reach

The principle refers to “how Deaf people use their senses to read the environment,” according to the article. DeafSpace would extend the person’s sensory reach, by allowing him or her to view between rooms and have low-glare reflective surfaces so people would see shadows indicating someone is outside the room.

Glass elevator.
This glass elevator is Deaf friendly because those who can’t hear can see someone is in the elevator and that it’s moving. photo credit: combi nation via photopin (license)

In the video, they show transparent elevators and some offices have opaque glass walls, while some public rooms have clear glass walls.

Mobility and Proximity

“DeafSpace design calls for ramps and wide, gently sloping stairs; ‘soft’ intersections to prevent pedestrian collisions…” according to the article.

Wide concrete stairs with wheelchair ramp added on top, but is at dangerous slope that is too steep.
This space isn’t Deaf friendly because it doesn’t allow people to sign to one another without having to worry about tripping. It’s also not accessible to those using wheelchairs, scooters, or strollers. photo credit: Wheelchair Ramp – Sortedams Sø / Øster Søgade via photopin (license)

In the video, instead of stairs, which hinder the free-flow of communication, ramps allow greater access and would accommodate other disabilities that might need white canes or wheelchairs.

The video also shows classrooms in a U-shape that allows for signers to view one another.

Light and Color

Soft green room with Yoda with lightsaber lit green on a desk.
The soft green walls of this room are Deaf friendly because it is a restive color for the eyes. photo credit: Jedi, Yoda is! via photopin (license)

“Certain colors, especially muted blues and greens, contrast well with a variety of skin tones, making them easy on signers’ eyes,” according to the article. “Lighting should be soft and diffuse, and avoid dimness, backlighting, glare, and abrupt changes in illumination levels.”

In the video, Derrick Behm, from Gallaudet’s Office of Campus Design and Planning, signs in natural lighting that is restive to the eyes.

Acoustics

Room with chair immediately next to a window air conditioning unit.
The air conditioner next to this chair isn’t Deaf friendly because the loud noise would be amplified by a Deaf person’s hearing aids or cochlear implant. photo credit: fra_256sv2_energy_star_25000_btu_230_volt_window_mounted_heavy_duty_air_conditioner_with_temperature_sensing_remote_control via photopin (license)

According to the article, “In general, acoustically quiet spaces are the goal. Hearing aids and cochlear implants amplify sounds, and for their users, the hum of air conditioning or loud echoes can prove extremely distracting.”

DeafSpace is part of an architectural movement similar to Universal Design, where architectural design considers how to complement all abilities, not just mainstream ones.