Thursday, March 13, 2008

10: notes from the bilingual, bicultural classroom

...and what's amazing is that out of 17 kids the two who refuse to sign are the deaf ones!

You read that right. The deaf children refuse to sign! I understand why, but it's still marvellous to observe.

I'm proud to say I think I've achieved a fully multicultural classroom. I type this while watching my students act in an anger management and conflict resolution program run by ENACT. The program's goal is to act out common school problems and help students realize better ways to resolve those concerns. We have two interpreters in the room. The Deaf students are new to ASL. They still feel embarrassed about using an interpreter. Their background has been one of being picked on for being different. Here in our school, with deaf teachers and administrators visible, they have begun to have pride in themselves, but there are still barriers. They glance at the terps out of the corners of their eyes and sometimes absentmindedly imitate signs; the hearing students try to sign with them but get frustrated at their embarrassment and instead REFUSE TO SPEAK for the visiting team leaders! Yes, they sign and use interpreters; moreover, the fact that the interpreters cannot tell who is deaf and hearing is very heartening to me... An indication that maybe we're doing something right and can create a real signing community here. Ideally, any student would be able to speak or sign, and be functional on some level in either language, so yes, it would be appropriate for the hearing bilingual student to use ASL interpreters, just as the deaf/Deaf bilingual students do. I do wish I had some indications for ways to ease the distress I see the Deaf students feeling. Should I set up a special class for them? A special group? Do Deaf students need Deaf time? Do they need more structure in their environment to guide language and interaction? And how DO you get boys to be more comfortable with the more extroverted aspects of ASL?

All these questions. And so many answers to find...

Friday, July 27, 2007

415: I Can't Watch the NY Times

Sigh. It's been a long month. I'm starting a new career and have no time for blogging. But to this I make an exception... this follows hard on the heels of Shane Feldman's recent blog about the lack of online captioning on CNN.

In the middle of an intense course of study this summer, I decide to purchase the TimesSelect. I love the New York Times and always have. While reading this newfound addition to my computer, I notice the Times has video. Unfortunately, none of the specific videos produced by the NY Times or posted on their website are subtitled.

I emailed their access dept., the TimesSelect people, and a couple others on their list. I'd love to be able to use this stuff or at least watch it myself.

Nope. They don't have captioning. Well, I shot back, do you have a schedule to include captioning? We'd like to do it one day, but we don't know when this will happen. Uh-huh. As Shane implies, this is getting tired. Subtitling comes included with most video editing programs, which means it's free. The only reason not to include subtitles is laziness.

I keep emailing one person a week. If you'd like to email people also, click on this link. What's really ironic? By using the TimesSelect Article Archive, I can go back to 1989 and read every single article of support the New York Times had for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I guess it's a case of monkey say, monkey not do. But when the entire country is concerned about reading skills of Deaf people, shouldn't we get a little more respect when we're fighting just to get to the point where we have words to read? And, I mean, what about the kids?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

414: The Not-So-Good-Now Cochlear Implant?

17 months. That's one year, five months. Are people implanting children too fast? That's the opinion of one researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel: that there are children who are currently being implanted too early, before the cilia in their ears have time to develop. These children might have been better served by hearing aids, or by being left alone:
He then found another five children who had been referred to him for pre-operative testing. At the end of his clinical research, he identified a "window of opportunity" of 17 months during which deaf children may begin to hear. "A child whose deafness is caused by a malfunctioning connection between hair cells and the auditory nerve should not have a cochlear implant in the first 17 months. Research shows that at least some of these children undergo the procedure for nothing," Atias explained. He added that some of these children only develop partial hearing, which can be augmented with external hearing aids. He is now researching "temporary deafness" among young children, looking for a way to identify those who will recover.

Cochlear implants are wonderful technology, but they are still new technology. I'm still cautious about them, and for just this reason: the unexpected always happens, especially when messing with that piece of marvellous technology, the human body. I remember when I studied in England and the numbers of Deaf children who became infected with meningitis as a result of the surgery started to trickle out.

I'm not against implants, but I think individuals should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves. I was given the choice by my supportive family at the age of 13. Likewise, we as the Deaf community have a responsibility to make sure we look at this info. What do you think of this article? It creeps me out. Even creepier is the fact that JUST as we find out these implants may not be such a boon after all, up crops the next generation, even better-and suddenly implants look even worse:
If the idea pans out in further animal and human studies, profoundly and severely deaf people would have another option that could allow them to hear low-pitched sounds common in speech, converse in a noisy room, identify high and low voices, and appreciate music - areas where cochlea implants, though a boon, have significant limitations.

"In nearly every measure, these work better than cochlear implants," says U-M researcher John C. Middlebrooks. He led a study requested by the National Institutes of Health to re-evaluate the potential of auditory nerve implants. Middlebrooks is a U-M Medical School professor of otolaryngology and biomedical engineering. He collaborated with Russell L. Snyder of the University of California, San Francisco and Utah State University. The two co-authored an article on the results in the June issue of Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.

The possible auditory nerve implants likely would be suitable for the same people who are candidates today for cochlear implants: the profoundly deaf, who can't hear at all, and the severely deaf, whose hearing ability is greatly reduced.

Or, if you want to read it the way my brain read it, the first time:
The possible auditory nerve implants likely would be suitable for the same people who are candidates today for cochlear implants: the people whose ability to stand up for themselves is greatly reduced.

Which is why language is so important. Without language, how can you stand up for yourself?

Wondering what the future holds - RAINMOUND

Thursday, May 10, 2007

413: No Deaf Child Left Behind?

How does No Child Left Behind affect the Deaf community? The No Child Left Behind program has been receiving heavy criticism over at DailyKos lately. Check out this article by teacherken:
The multiple choice questions on the AP are almost always of high quality. And, like the SAT, there is a correction for guessing: there are 5 answers, and it is the number correct minus 1/4 the number wrong. If you can eliminate one answer guessing has a marginal positive answer, and if you can eliminate two you really should answer. ON the state's HSAs there is no correction for guessing, so I have to encourage my students to answer every question, even if they have no idea of the answer. Further, there are often multiple answers or no answer that is technically correct - the answer the state might want is the Brown v Board overturned Plessy, even though it did not. The students have to look at all the answers and take the one that stinks the least.

Teacherken is highly concerned that regular students will be wasting their classroom time and focusing instead of on their education on passing tests. Passing tests is important, but how important - and how useful, especially if you have to learn a whole bizarre system just to take the test? And what happens with Deaf children? From the American Annals of the Deaf:
NCLB has 10 titles, none of which address the education of disabled children, of whom almost 7 million are identified as attending public school. Three components of NCLB have major implications for all children, including deaf and hard of hearing students: assessment; demonstrated annual yearly progress; and the mandate for highly qualified teachers. The implications for deaf and hard of hearing children, many of whom will not be identified in the present statewide assessment system, are mixed but, on balance, negative.

Oh yes, unbalanced. I would DEFINITELY say unbalanced. Especially when this happens:
But for Corona, the tests simply mean that his third-grade son, Albert, will come home from school tired and frustrated. Albert attends a program for hearing-impaired children at Loma Vista School in Ventura. Last year, he and his classmates sat through six days of tests, only to find out months later that their scores wouldn't be counted.

Their teachers used sign language to give them the test questions a modification that the school and parents said the children "rightfully and legally" deserved. Deaf children, who can't learn language skills by hearing, typically fall behind grade level in reading, they said.

State officials, however, decided that the use of sign language invalidates the scores on reading, language and spelling tests.

As James Tucker said in this conversation between heads of Deaf Schools on the NAD website:

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act’s logic-defying “Adequate Yearly Progress” provisions also put many public schools including schools for the Deaf students at risk.

With all the challenges on the table, the most frightening and daunting challenge is the proliferation of pediatric cochlear implant surgeries. While many children demonstrate improved hearing after receiving cochlear implants, most children with implants are visual learners and need sign language and visually-oriented classroom environments found in schools for Deaf students.

Sure. No child left behind - unless they use ASL to have the test rules explained to them. Thanks Bush! Create a WHOLE WEIRD Uuhif@&@&*!!'ed up system just to test people, then deny Deaf people access to the test-taking information... *shaking head* Worse, it seems to provide no oversight for Deaf schools. Check out this note from this essay on schools and NCLB:

A couple of depressing examples of why I trust teachers' ground-level input over their better-informed bosses' were in yesterday's and today's local newspapers -- and that's probably about as far as anybody else would have to look anywhere in the nation! The July 12 Rome [Ga.] Tribune gives this year's AYP results, and despite all the hype and PR of the past two years, the local schools are, to put it nicely, turning out cheap labor, and that's about it.Today's paper describes the sentencing of our state's previous superintendent to eight years for stealing $600,000 from the Georgia School for the Deaf. The School for the Deaf, for God's sake!

So with a huge government program not providing oversight, should we really be upset when Deaf people show heightened concern about Deaf schools? And what do YOU think about NCLB?....

In other news, it's the birthday of one of my favorite girls today... she knows who she is. Be good, Starlet!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

QUESTION: How do you contact NAD at their national office?

UPDATE: NAD has contacted me and I will be posting information about our conversation soon!

(gripe)I've been trying to send them questions about VRI on their online contact form but it keeps telling me there's a data error. Nobody picks up on the TTY line. The voice line has a message that people will respond to me via e-mail. Plus - their website is really S-L-O-O-O-W. Does anyone still work at NAD's national office or have they gone fishing? (/endgripe)

I'd really like to know NAD's official position on the use of VRI. I have not heard anything from NAD on this issue and don't see anything on their website (anyone who knows something feel free to respond.)

But honestly - you really need to have live people answering ttys/phones at a national organization serving Deaf people. Anyone else have trouble contacting NAD?

UPDATE: I have not been able to get in touch with anyone after 2 more phone calls but I was able to finally get something through the NAD website form after using Google's cache of the NAD "Contact Us!" website. (THANKS GOOGLE!) In a few minutes I recieved this:
5/1/2007 9:42:37 AM (Pacific Standard Time)

Thank you for contacting the National Association of the Deaf. We will respond to your question, comment, or request as soon as possible.


Receptionist/Information Specialist

National Association of the Deaf
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820
Silver Spring, MD 20910

So I guess I'll wait and see. I'm sure NAD is trying to limit pointless phone calls but...

Update: NAD has responded. Will let you guys know soon...

412: tuesday morning news & coffee

The Pet Food Crisis: It's worse than you thought. UPDATE: Another diary posted over at Pam's House Blend. How long before this starts hitting human beings?

VRI: We're not the only ones dealing with the VRI issue in hospitals. This is becoming a national problem. To be honest, most Deaf people are not willing to speak out on this issue. Peggy Johnson is different. Reverend of a Deaf church:
Johnson watched a congregant suffer in the hospital with severe back pain, while staff members tried in vain to communicate through Deaf-Talk.

“She had to lay flat,” she said. “You can’t see a TV that way,” she said.

What's been the response so far from DeafTalk?

Deaf-Talk operates in 350 hospitals nationwide, including 13 in the Baltimore area. The company that produces Deaf-Talk has had three complaints from Baltimore Hospitals, said Dave Stauffer, company vice president and co-owner.

“There is one lawsuit in Maryland; everyone else loves our system,” he said.

He categorized Johnson’s church as troublemakers.

“I know which church [The Examiner is] talking about. It’s a deaf congregation and they’re talking about trouble that doesn’t exist.”

Unfortunately this has also been the problem here in New York. You know what the culprit is? DEAF NOD YES. Deaf people don't complain to the administration. Many Deaf people have gotten so used to accepting whatever services are provided that they don't think about or ask for their rights. People who fight back are rare. But Alma Andrews is an amazing fighter.

And here in New York our own fight continues...

And in Japan: Deaf Japanese are swindled in yet another business:
The majority of the invested money was reportedly used to pay off her company's debts, which had grown to 4.4 billion yen following a failed campaign to sell "memo phones" to deaf people.

Two of Kobayashi's employees -- Eiko Machida, 55, and her son, Norikyo, 28 -- were also indicted for their involvement in the alleged fraud. Eiko denied she defrauded the deaf people, but her son acknowledged doing so and admitted he tricked his clients into handing over their money.

With all of the pyramid schemes and business deals floating around the country lately... are Deaf people just gullible, or so greedy they have to try to make a buck - who knows! The Japanese scam was for spa memberships - maybe Deaf people just need to be pretty.

And how was the news in your week?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

411: Firm of Scratcher & Low Leaving RNID; DeafRead Too American?

I kept trying to find time to write about this, but life once again overwhelms me! But this is very important news and recent developments make me think it's important to provide some context. The RNID is the largest charity organization for Deaf people in the UK, claiming to represent 9 million Deaf and hard of hearing people - think the largest GOVERNMENT nonprofit. They provide tons of services for Deaf people in the UK. Scratcher, also known as James Strachan, was a source of a lot of controversy - and a much clearer-cut case of audism than our own Gallaudet protest. You can read Doug Alker's book about his own experiences, Really Not Interested In the Deaf? (also with video in BSL.) You can also catch up on the news at GrumpyOldDeafies where alison did an AWESOME job on the news roundup.

Doug Alker after his experiences working at RNID became Chair of the British Deaf Association. He was the chief executive of the RNID until he was replaced by Strachan. From The UK Guardian:
So fraught has been debate on this question that on the appointment of Strachan - who lip-reads and speaks, rather than uses sign language - the RNID was plunged into a bitter internal feud. Supporters of the displaced chief executive, Doug Alker, a signer, accused the organisation of pandering to the "oralist" school that encourages deaf people to lip-read and develop speech. Three years previously, after the departure of Stuart Etherington, deaf people had staged demonstrations to persuade the charity to appoint a deaf chief executive such as Alker, reflecting the growing sentiment among "users" that nothing should be done about them, without them.
Basically Strachan seems to have oppressed signing Deaf people in favor of oralism, technology, and has connections to corporations. He did not support the BSL recognition movement. He didn't like having to allow a diversity of opinion and didn't respect signing Deaf people. He doesn't sign himself. While I was in the UK, there was also a lot of controversy over the appointment of Dr. John Low, a man with ties to cochlear implant corporations, as chief executive of RNID, and there were in fact protests on the street, and the Deaf Liberation Front met with Dr. Low and drew up a list of 5 demands. The cartoon below was published in Federation of Deaf People Magazine and shows public sentiment:

Imagine Jane Fernandes had been appointed President of Gallaudet University and imagine after five years she left with Paul Kelly. Imagine the kind of atmosphere and potential for positive change. This is what the Brits are experiencing now.
The reason I finally forced myself to sit down and write about this is because of the concerns raised by Alison about how DeafRead's methods of filtering affect its audience. This is a HUGELY important post which everyone should read. People need to remember that there are people at DeafRead making choices of how to categorize the news. Their definitions don't necessarily have to be the same as yours. In this case DeafRead have apologized and promised to learn and improve, and you can see the up-front responses from DeafRead staff in the comments of Alison's blog. (It's cool seeing people respond directly, isn't it?)

I have personally had some experiences where my blogs don't appear on DeafRead. This is mostly when they feel my blogs are advertisements - reviews of performances are often problems. I'm divided on this, since I'd like to expose people to criticism of and material about Deaf art. (And besides, I'm not always complimentary!)

I think sometimes we have to be content with the fact that there are going to be situations as the Deaf blogosphere develops in which there is no clear "right" or "wrong." But it would be nice if the Deaf community was global enough to recognize international news more readily. On the other hand, how long have we had the internet?

Maybe we need a global DeafBloggerCon with a panel to develop directives on how to shape internet to improve relations in the global Deaf community so we can develop a truly international response to ...

*sigh* I so wish I was going to Spain this summer.
Note: Thanks to Rob Wilks for some feedback on this post!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

410: Late Night News and Coffee Roundup

I had way too much curry last night, so I had some extra time to check out the news...

OBI-WAN, PROTECT ME DEPT: OK-WARN is a new emergency service specifically designed to warn Deaf people in case of emergency:
"About 80 percent of the deaf and hard of hearing population feel uncomfortable because they feel they don't get the proper notification in an emergency event," said Comanche County Public Information Officer Chris Killmer.

That's where OK-WARN steps in. OK-WARN is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service--Norman Forecast Office. OK-WARN will send out a page to pagers, cell phones, even email when an emergency or weather event occurs in your area.

I believe they're starting to do this in cities across America. Isn't technology wunnerful? Geo shares his perspective.

HOT GERMAN BOMBSHELL WILL BLOW YOUR MIND DEPT: In the San Francisco Gate, a cool article about a Deaf therapist...
A doctoral candidate in psychology, she's doing her internship at San Jose State University, where she sees 16 to 20 students per week. Some are vexed by relationship problems, others by the stress of exams and heavy course loads. For foreign students, loneliness and cultural isolation are big issues.

They confide in Ulrike, even though she is deaf and requires a sign-language interpreter to be present at each therapy session. Deaf since birth, Ulrike came to the United States from her native Germany 21 years ago. She's fluent in American Sign Language, or ASL, but says she can't lip-read English speakers the way she can German speakers.
STILL HAVING TO PROVE ASL IS A LANGUAGE DEPT: It's old news to most Deaf people that we spend a significant portion of our lives having to convince and re-convince others that ASL is, yes, a language. Banjo and Ben Vess take their turn stepping up to the plate. (I want to include some hearing people in the capital D crowd - my friend the Butterfly once, in medical school, contradicted an idiot who said that Deaf people couldn't think because they couldn't speak to think and therefore didn't have language to think with, or some such nonsensical bullshit. So you see, it's not just us.)

YOU CAN'T PUT THAT UP YOUR NOSE DEPT: DeafAdvocacy.Org discovers the government actually blocked something related to cochlear implants... what do you think it all means?
409: Sprummer?

Too hot for spring, too cool for summer, check out this panoramic photo of thousands gathering for sun and fun in the city: The Sheep Meadow in Central Park, one of the undoubted benefits of being a Deaf New Yorker. My first attempt at using panoramic 'stitching' software - I tried Calico 1.3 on the Mac, and I think it did a pretty good job, although I notice some ghosting, and there's a pretty big chunk taken out of the lady walking by the tree in the center. For now enjoy! (Warning: Big image!) (And please post recommendations if you know better Mac stitching software...)

Each year on Earth Day, I make sure to go to Grand Central's Earth Day Festival, and get pizza from Two Boots, which has arguably some of the coolest pizza in NYC, although for me the best will always be from Brooklyn.

Happy Belated Birthday to Wally, who flew to England to care for and support a friend undergoing surgery and chemotherapy instead of have one of his epic birthday parties...