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.

Focus Group Explores Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community Needs

Capsule Group logo with black background and white word Capsule and confetti streaming from word.Friday, March 25, Sign Shares, Inc./International and the new advocacy business, The Capsule Group, known as Capsule, hosted a focus group in Houston regarding the needs of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community at the Heights Neighborhood Library.

The group provided attendees with opportunities to discuss their needs regarding medical access. Attendees also took a Medical Access Needs Survey, which provided input about whether their communication needs are being met.

The meeting provided Certified Hearing and Certified Deaf Interpreters, as well as CART live captioning.

Attendees learned about The Capsule Group, which is a modern day business formed to educate, advocate, and legislate for people with all disabilities.

Capsule’s founder, Detective: Eva Storey, says, “As American citizens people of disabilities have national rights and as Texans, we have our very own state rights. Well, certainly we should be cushioned, but that’s not the case with many situations within disability rights. The Capsule Group, referred to as Capsule, is an organization that will set the standards, and the census, based upon the one-on-one time, voiced by the communities of all types of disabilities. We started off with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, since they are such an underserved community all because they are unable to hear. Can you imagine being denied services all due to a simple language barrier? We are here to be a spring board to educate others that may not understand the life of a certain disability, advocate for those that may not know their rights, and legislate on behalf of their rights, creating a focused movement with solutions. Capsule is a person’s legacy, specially time-stamped, and we will soon launch, informing those who wish to start a Capsule for someone who has a need in the community. So please stay tuned, it’s going to be something different!”

Survey results will be compiled to create data to share with state legislators about the needs of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Signing St. Patrick’s Day and Easter

 

Outline of green four-leaf clovers.
Enjoy new ways to share St. Patrick’s Day and other holidays!

To get into the holiday spirit, you can learn or share signs and even some Irish for the warming season with your friends and family.

St. Patrick’s Day

There are a variety of ways people sign St. Patrick’s Day.

Here is one way with Hand Speak.

Signing Savvy shows another way to sign for St. Pat’s.

You can also download some Shamrock ABCs flash cards to practice the alphabet in sign language.

Did you know we use many Irish words in the English language? Here are 10!

Easter

To sign Happy Easter, there are a few variations, but one of the most common is using the “E” sign and then moving it from left to right like the top of a basket. Learn how with this video.

Search and explore the Internet for ways to sign your favorite things!

 

Let Texas Know Your Needs

Every three years, Texas organizations and agencies gather with people who have disabilities to plan how to provide better services and supports so that Texans can live more independently.

Texas state flag waves
photo credit: The flag of Texas via photopin (license)

The Texas State Independent Living Council, or Texas SILC, asks for your input for the State Plan for Independent Living. The SILC  helps develop and monitor this plan.

According to a recent email by the Texas SILC, “By taking this short survey, you can help us create a framework for service delivery by including your feedback in the next State Plan for Independent Living. Take the Survey

Take Survey to Improve Online Video Captions

Captions show road worker talking about ice and dice.
Sometimes, online videos have captions that don’t make sense, or none at all. photo credit: 2013_12_040009 – you may dice? via photopin

Have you seen videos online that had no captioning? Have you seen videos with closed captioning that didn’t make sense? Was it on your local news’ station, a sports station, or somewhere else? Perhaps this is a common occurrence for you.

The Hearing Loss Association of America, or HLAA, together with the National Association of the Deaf, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc, and Communication Service for the Deaf, has created a survey to learn more about captioning difficulty with online video content.

According to a recent email from HLAA, “Your responses will help us identify gaps in captioning coverage and identify ways to close those gaps.”

Here is a link to the survey , which will be open until March 4.

 

 

Class Learns Sign Language for Classmate

When a teacher accepted a child with hearing loss into her class, she didn’t know how to communicate with him, and he didn’t know sign language.

The teacher and parents of children in his class committed to contracting  a sign language teacher at their cost, since the school couldn’t pay for it.

A series of pictures of a woman using sign language
Examples of signs. Using sign language helps people with hearing loss or deafness to learn more about Deaf culture. photo credit: See Hear via photopin (license)

According to a report in Oddity Central, when six-year-old Zejd Coralic’s mother went to enroll him in school in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzogovina, his teacher, Sanela Ljumanovic, accepted.

However, the teacher “noticed Zejd sitting all by himself, unable to communicate with any of his school mates,” according to the report.

“Zejd came to our class. He is a beautiful and smart child. Zejd did not know sign language. We did not know sign language. Neither the children nor me. We had to do something,” Ljumanovic said in a video.

Ljumanovic took the suggestion of a parent and decided to teach the whole class sign language so they could speak with their peer, according to the report. They hired Anisa Setkic-Sendic to teach them sign language.

Two girls use sign language.
Classmates around the ages of these girls studied sign language to communicate with their peer. photo credit: Learning sign language via photopin (license)

The children are responding well to learning sign language and it is becoming more popular at the school. “I like this language and I also think it will be useful when I grow up,” said Anesa Susic, one of his classmates.

“I like to learn Zejd’s language so I can talk to him and to other deaf people,” said Tarik Sijaric, another classmate, in the report.

Integrating children into schools in Bosnia was made law in 2003, according to a video about the student’s story. “But there isn’t enough money for the programs.”

Airlines to Have Captioned Movies

Many airlines will begin showing in-flight movies with captions, according to a press release from the National Association of the Deaf.

Picture of US Airways jet on airport runway
US Airways is one of several airlines that will now have captioned films for customers, thanks to a NAD and Gogo LLC agreement. photo credit: CLT 4-5-09 N183UW via photopin (license)

The association has made an agreement with Gogo LLC. According to the release, ” The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and Gogo LLC, the global leader in providing broadband connectivity solutions and wireless entertainment to the aviation industry, have reached a historic agreement for Gogo to make closed captioning available for 100 percent of programming content sourced by Gogo and streamed through its on-demand in-flight entertainment service, Gogo Vision.”

Customers will be able to display closed captions for Gogo content. The company is also replacing its current content with captioned entertainment films, to be completed by June 30, 2017, according to the release.

Woman's face and text below reads, Does your life have meaning?
In-flight films will have a lot more meaning for travelers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: via photopin (license)

“This is a monumental step in making in-flight entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone,” said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, of the agreement.

Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief commercial officer said,  “Watching movies on a passenger’s own device has become a very popular product for Gogo and we are excited to provide access to this product to the deaf and hard of hearing.”

According to Gogo Inflight Internet, the following airlines currently partner with Gogo:

  • American Airlines,
  • Delta Air Lines,
  • United Airlines,
  • US Airways,
  • Virgin America,
  • Alaska Airlines,
  • Aeromexico,
  • Air Canada,
  • AirTran Airways,
  • Japan Airlines,
  • Vietnam Airlines,
  • and Virgin Atlantic.

Missing from the list are Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, though AirTran merged with Southwest in 2010. Continental Airlines ceased operation in 2012 and merged with United Airlines, which is a Gogo LLC partner.

Marlee Matlin to Sign National Anthem with Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl

Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin will perform the national anthem with Lady Gaga at the 50th Super Bowl, according to a report in the Washington Post.

Lady Gaga collage of face
Lady Gaga’s lyrics normally present special challenges for interpreters, but the Star Spangled Banner is more standardized. photo credit: Gaga Fashion via photopin (license)

Lady Gaga will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, according to the report. Matlin will perform in American Sign Language, or ASL.

Marlee Matlin signs I love you
Marlee Matlin signs her love to fans when she collects her Hollywood star. photo credit: Marlee Matlin via photopin (license)

According to Matlin’s official website, the actress, author, and advocate has “received worldwide critical acclaim for her film debut in Paramount Pictures’ Children of a Lesser God, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress … In addition to the Oscar, Marlee received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama.”

Marlee Matlin's Hollywood Star
Marlee Matlin’s star in Los Angeles. photo credit: STAR via photopin (license)

On Twitter, Matlin said, “I am so honored to be performing in ASL alongside the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50!”

Matlin also tweeted, “So excited!! Can’t wait to return to sign my third ! Do you know who the other two I signed with were?”

Matlin performed the national anthem at:

You can see a list of past Super Bowl performers and those who signed with them beginning with Super Bowl XXVI, here at CBS8.com.

On her website, Matlin says, “The opportunity to communicate in sign language, one of the most beautiful languages in the world, is an advantage that deaf people enjoy. It’s a language that combines several elements at once with a simple hand movement and facial expression: meaning, affect, time and duration. It’s just so beautiful that printed or spoken words can’t begin to describe it.”

Marlee Matlin poses with a fan
Marlee Matlin poses with a fan. photo credit: Marlee and Me 365.91 via photopin (license)

Matlin has an app to teach sign language, Marlee Signs, available at iTunes.

The star will return to her role as Melody Bledsoe in Season Five of Switched at Birth (see link for picture with her “son” Emmet filming the new season).

Switched at Birth’s Facebook page hasn’t released an air date for the new season yet, but it should be in August 2016.

Do you need a sign language interpreter for your event? Don’t let Lady Gaga be the only one with an interpreter.

Sign Shares can help!

 

 

 

 

Advocacy to Avoid Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

When people with disabilities encounter disability discrimination, they may think the only option is to sue. Or, they may let the issue go, thinking hiring a lawyer may be too expensive or time consuming.

Litigation in court costs money, and matters are resolved over a period of time–sometimes years. That’s too long to wait for a pressing need.

Gavel rests on top of desk with court room participants in distance
The courtroom is a place to solve problems as a last resort. photo credit: CA Supreme Court – 11 via photopin (license)

Other options are available to get access and inclusion.

Many businesses, organizations, and agencies understand that they should respect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and other federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities . One way to raise awareness is to share the law with them.

When agencies, organizations, and businesses know the laws and don’t want to make accommodations or include people with disabilities, there are other remedies.

According to the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ (CTD) Messenger e-Newsletter, a lawsuit should come after other efforts have been made to see if a solution can be reached.

The CTD newsletter suggests three actions before seeking a lawyer:

Wheelchair ramp leads up to steps
Here’s a situation businesses could understand better once someone pulled their wheelchair up to this ramp. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)
  • Talk to the business directly CTD recommends asking for the manager or the property manager. A CTD example shows that calling attention to access for one disability can benefit others: “CTD was approached by a group of taxi drivers who were concerned that the drop-off area [for Austin City Limits] was far from the entrance gates and required people with mobility impairments to traverse a ditch. CTD staff met with Festival organizers … By the next year, vehicles transporting people with disabilities were allowed to pull right up to the entrance gate. Plus, the Festival added accommodations such as an accessibility station and free rental wheelchairs, and ASL interpreters became permanent.”
  • Put it in writing An example where this worked: “Austin resident Julie Maloukis sent Maudie’s Tex Mex written notice about their inaccessible parking. Several weeks later, Maudie’s contacted Julie, thanking her for letting them know about the situation and to tell her the parking spaces were fixed.”
  • File a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, “which might be able to require a business to comply with ADA regulations.” What does the Department of Licensing and Regulation do? According to the agency’s website, they “ensure public safety and customer protection, and provide a fair and efficient licensing and regulatory environment at the lowest possible cost.” The department has influence over businesses, particularly if the business requires a license. Complaints can be filed against businesses that are unlicensed too.

Another way to educate others is to ask to schedule a demonstration of the lack of access or inclusion. When staff at businesses learn how the problem affects others, they are more willing to help.

For example, if a ramp is too steep at the entrance to business, offer to demonstrate for them why. Have someone to spot the wheelchair as you attempt to travel up or down the ramp, and keep safe.

Captions on bottom of TV screen showing news about Oprah and Australia.
Watching TV without sound or captions is a quick way to teach why captions are important to those with hearing loss or deafness. photo credit: NICOLE CHETTLE via photopin (license)

If you need communication access, demonstrate how the experience would be without sound or words. For example, if you need a video captioned, have them watch the video with you without any sound. Have them read a paper with their eyes closed or in the dark if you are requesting Braille and they don’t understand why.

Be creative with teaching others to understand. Misunderstandings lead to discrimination continuing. Once everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to find a reasonable solution.

In many cases, these steps will work with solving  discrimination situations.

If not, another option before filing a lawsuit is to ask a lawyer to draft a letter discussing their obligations under the law, so that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Whether the person chooses to take a matter to court is his or her right. Each person needs to evaluate how severe the situation is, and if a possible solution can be reached without deciding to sue.

Who Ensures Deaf/Hard of Hearing Voting Access during Caucuses?

Disability advocates are working to ensure that people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can participate in the selection of presidential candidates for their political parties during the Iowa caucuses.

What’s a caucus?

Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins helmets on display in a football stadium.
Think of a caucus as playoffs leading to the teams that will play the Super Bowl-our one Democratic and Republican candidate for the presidential elections. photo credit: houston texans vs. miami dolphins via photopin (license)

According to LifeHacker, “Before a presidential candidate can be on the ballot for the general election, they have to win the approval and backing of their political party. Think of the caucuses and primaries as the NFL playoffs—with candidates dropping out after each round of voting—and the general election this fall is like the Super Bowl where (usually) two candidates go head to head…”

According to a report from RespectAbility, five people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have requested ASL and CART, or Communication Access Real-time Translation, to participate in the Iowa caucuses, when “Iowans will publicly pledge their support to one of the Democratic or Republican candidates and by the end of the evening, each county will have a winner.”

Because the caucuses selecting political party candidates aren’t government run, but are run by the state’s political parties, they don’t follow traditional election procedures to ensure voting access. Some caucuses are held in churches or individuals’ homes, complicating accessibility, according to the report.

Jane Hudson of Disability Rights Iowa, has helped empower Iowans of all abilities to participate in candidate selection through the caucuses, according to the report. Hudson has had conversations with the Democratic and Republican parties and helped secure ASL and CART for the five people requesting it.

ASL open mic, cross through picture of microphone and shows sign language instead
Having sign language interpreters at events ensures greater access for people who are Deaf to have their hands heard. photo credit: Poetic Vision via photopin (license)
The nonprofit organization is “part of a national network of protection and advocacy systems established in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress to respond to repeated abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in large institutions.”

According to RespectAbility report, “While there was discussion on who should pay for this [ASL and CART], the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties are footing the bill.”

Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
The Iowa caucus will occur on Monday, Feb. 1, starting at 7 p.m. Central Time and lasting two or three hours. Results will be posted here.
Texas will not have caucuses, as it has had in the past, but will have a primary when voters determine which candidates gain their vote.
The Texas primary is on March 1 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Early voting begins on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and ends on Friday, Feb. 26.