September is Deaf Awareness Month, but it’s a reminder that we should make awareness about hearing loss and deafness year-long.
People who have deafness or hearing loss and work in the entertainment industry have advocated for more awareness about D/deaf issues.
“Seriously, I don’t find not being able to hear an obstacle or a boundary. For me and for many of us, it is an advantage and it’s a part of my identity in fact. It’s a huge part of who I am.”–Nyle DiMarco
“We really get to prove that the old saying is true — the only thing a deaf person can’t do is hear. I love that we show how diverse the deaf community is and how uniquely individual hearing loss is.”–Katie LeClerc
“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
“If I hadn’t lost my hearing, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It forced me to maximize my own potential. I have to be better than the average person to succeed.” —Lou Ferrigno
To celebrate Deaf Awareness Month 2016, here is a list of upcoming 2016-17 events for people who are D/deaf, their friends and family members, or for professionals who provide services for them.
If we’ve left anything out, please let us know in the comments below and we can add it.
The Houston Interpreters and Translators Association’s interpreter training: Consecutive Interpretation and Code of Ethics on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. The training will be provided during morning and evening hour sessions. It is approved for 8 hours of ATA; and is pending approval for: JBCC, ATA, CCHI and IMIA. The event includes 2 hours of ethics.
The trainer will be Virginia Valencia, a federally-certified court interpreter.
International Language Services Conference
Oct. 12, 2016
“The 5th annual International Language Services Conference will explore a 360° view of the interpreting encounter from start to finish, unifying all stakeholders in the process from the LEP patient to the hospital administrators, interpreter certifying organizations and educators, and compliance officials.”
The ASL poker series was developed to “bring renowned poker games to all deaf, hard of hearing, interpreters, and family members of deaf or hard of hearing adult poker players of all languages in different regions of America,” according to the series’ website.
The group was formed by Texas residents Jay Levine of San Antonio, Matt Erickson of Austin, and Dan Stoddard of Austin. Tournaments will be held at different casinos.
There has been debate about whether people who use ASL can do so in poker games and at casinos, and when, if at all. This relates to industry rules that English only is accepted in poker, usually unless the dealer and all the players at the table use the same language. Notepads have also been in use.
Anyone wanting to play games at a casino who uses sign language should contact the casino ahead of time to learn what restrictions apply during play.
WASP, however, invites a variety of abilities to play.
The event will be held Friday, Feb. 5 in Austin at the Austin Deaf Club, 8818 Cullen Lane, Austin, Texas 78748.
Admission for Friday night only or for Saturday night only is $10. Saturday full-day admission is $20. Early admission paid on Friday offers a discount of $25 for both days. Additional fees may apply, contact event coordinators or the flyer below for more information.
While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.
Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.
Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.
Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters
Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.
On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.
Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.
While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.
For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”
Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.
Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.
Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”
The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.
For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.
“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.
Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”
J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.
According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”
Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.
If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.
The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.
The subject of the Harvard article, Westley “West” A. Resendes, has had some good experiences at Harvard as a student who wears a cochlear implant and self-identifies as culturally “Deaf.”
According to the article, “He had interpreters for lectures, sections, and thesis meetings, as well as outside events at the Kennedy School of Government and Kirkland House.”
The university provides full inclusion during access. For example, Resendes recalls that when Family Guy creator, Seth McFarlane, visited Harvard, the celebrity learned signs for vulgar words in ASL and then said them and watched the interpreters sign them, according to the article.
Times have changed for students who are deaf at Harvard. A professor from the deaf college Gallaudet University, Caroline M. Solomon, said there were no staff interpreters when she arrived at Harvard.
According to the article, “Halfway through [Solomon’s] first semester, however, the school hired an interpreter full time, who stayed with her for the next four years.”
Resendes and others sometimes don’t receive interpreters if they can’t give advance notice, according to the article.
Sarah D. Gluck, a deaf graduate student pursuing a degree in speech and hearing bioscience and technology, said, “Hearing students have the privilege of walking through the hallway and seeing a poster for something, like a science lecture or talk that’s happening that day or later that week, but it’s hard for me to have any sort of spontaneity.”
Gluck and others who are deaf must give two to three weeks’ notice of their intentions to attend an event, according to the article.
Besides the difficulties of interpreter availability at Harvard, the lack of American Sign Language, or ASL, classes thwarts students like Resendes. The university had ASL courses in the 1990’s, but dropped them due to funding. Now, according to the article, the only ASL courses are provided by the campus organization CODA.
According to the article, Resendes tried fulfill his Harvard foreign language requirement with ASL and his request was denied. Currently, Harvard students can study ASL only as a source of research.
Resendes said, according to the article, that the standard is “rather unfair…considering other languages can be taken for pleasure at Harvard,” and that “The University needs to reconsider its outdated position on ASL.”
Significant strides are being taken by the university journalism staff because they are providing balanced news by presenting news from the perspective of deaf students. Also, The Harvard Crimson reporters aren’t perpetuating stereotypes and are including issues relevant to students with all abilities.
Media inclusion is crucial for the future inclusive environment at Harvard, because without news coverage, students and faculty at the campus wouldn’t know the issues faced and changes needed.
According to Susan C. Levine in “Reporting on Disability,” “Media coverage plays a crucial role in educating the public on disability issues. It could–and should–be helping people understand that these are civil-rights issues. But more often than not, reporting on disability perpetuates negative stereotypes or fails to tell the story from the perspective of people with disabilities.”
Like many universities, Harvard is working toward greater access and inclusion for all students and the article in The Harvard Crimson is proof that the campus culture encourages growth.
If you would like to provide a more inclusive environment for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind, you can request services from Sign Shares here or call 713.869.4373 or 866.787.4154.
The Houston Commission on Disabilities will meet from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10.
According to the mayor’s website, “The Commission is responsible for advising and making recommendations to the mayor, City Council, department directors and the individual designated by the mayor to head the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.”
The month’s agenda includes the swearing in of seven new commissioners. Michael Mcculloch will discuss the possibility of a Disability Pride Parade. There will be time for public comment after the presentation. The commission meets every second Thursday of the month from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
ASL interpreters and CART services will be available for the meeting.
The meeting will be held at the Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray, and Houston, TX 77019.
Gift ideas include bed shakers–which now work with cell phones and have many options, light on cell phone signalers, new devices with different light signals for different sounds, assisted listening devices, amplified or TTY phones, and also includes items such as apparel, rugs, keychains, drinkware, and jewelry. They also have products for interpreters.
DeafGifts.com sells more refined jewelry, apparel, home decor, and games. Novel items include:
In a recent Facbook photo album, Sign Shares’ staff Eva Storey and Michael Akinosi interact with Lizzie Velasquez. Velasquez is an international speaker and activist who is the subject of a film, A Brave Heart. The film explores how Lizzie turned a malicious viral video touting her as the “world’s ugliest woman” into a stigma-shattering victory.
The Sign Shares team also viewed the Jessica Cox film Right Footed. Cox is an advocate, pilot, and martial artist who was born without arms. The film follows her advocacy for disability rights.
Our pictures also share our family with you–recent birthdays for Sign Shares’ family members Bettye Washington and William “Randy” Gunter, and a picture of the Sign Shares’ Lex Frieden award!
On Facebook, Sign Shares’ President and CEO, Eva Storey, said, “We have more memories to create and wrap up by the end of the 2015 year. We always have you all in our hearts and minds. Love and Blue Light, the SS Family!”