Thursday, October 29, 2009

Advocacy Group Opposes ‘Miracle Worker’ Casting Choice

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Two weeks after a group of deaf actors protested the choice of a hearing actor for a deaf role in an upcoming Off Broadway production, the issue has surfaced again: Should producers have chosen a deaf or blind child actress to play Helen Keller in this winter’s Broadway revival of “The Miracle Worker”?

The producers announced on Wednesday that Abigail Breslin, a 13-year-old newcomer to Broadway who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as the beauty pageant contestant Olive in “Little Miss Sunshine,” would play Helen in the production, which is set to open this winter. Ms. Breslin can see and hear.

Sharon Jensen, executive director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, an advocacy group for blind and deaf actors, among others, said in an interview late Wednesday that her organization strongly opposed a decision by the producers to not audition actresses for the part who shared Helen’s disabilities.

“We do not think it’s O.K. for reputable producers to cast this lead role without seriously considering an actress from our community,” Ms. Jensen said. “I understand how difficult it is to capitalize a new production on Broadway, but that to me is not the issue. There are other, larger human and artistic issues at stake here.”

The lead producer of the revival, David Richenthal, said in an interview that he had already made up his mind about his casting criteria for Helen when he chose to revive the William Gibson play -– he wanted a star. The only way to make money for his investors in a commercial Broadway revival of a play these days, Mr. Richenthal believes, is to cast stars, and his research did not turn up any young well known actresses who were deaf or blind.

“It’s simply naïve to think that in this day and age, you’ll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance,” Mr. Richenthal said. “I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star.”

Mr. Richenthal said that he and the production’s director, Kate Whoriskey, as well as their casting director, planned to audition deaf or blind actresses to be Ms. Breslin’s understudy, and would hire sign language interpreters for the auditions of the young deaf women.

The distinction between the lead role and the understudy is that the show can sell tickets with its lead actress, Mr. Richenthal said. He emphasized that if he could not find a “qualified” deaf or blind actress who was right for the part, he would cast a hearing and seeing actress in the role.

Ms. Jensen’s organization was among those that complained vehemently early this month that New York Theater Workshop and the director Doug Hughes had retained a hearing actor to play the deaf character Singer in the workshop’s upcoming production of “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” an adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel.

Deaf actors, as well as the alliance and advocacy groups for deaf artists, demanded that the actor Henry Stram be replaced as Singer by a deaf actor. Mr. Hughes and the workshop met with several deaf actors and searched for some common ground, but could not agree on the central issue; Mr. Hughes said he would not fire Mr. Stram, who had played Singer in an earlier production of the play that Mr. Hughes directed in Atlanta. Mr. Hughes had auditioned deaf actors for the role in Atlanta.

So, first Singer and now Helen Keller: Should producers and directors audition and hire whoever they see fit for these seminal roles? Or, as Ms. Jensen asserts, if deaf or blind child actors do not start getting work that will turn them into stars, how will there ever be any for producers like Mr. Richenthal to audition?

Marlee Matlin, NAD, and Purple!

Academy Award winning actress and author Marlee Matlin, a member of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), is taking on a new role as an NAD spokesperson for accessible broadband services and Internet media.

Matlin will take part in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing addressing the needs of people with disabilities in the development of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which will be submitted to Congress in February 2010. The hearing, along with innovative technology exhibitions, will be presided over by Commissioner Michael Copps at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., from 9:00 am -1:00 pm, on November 6, 2009. The public is encouraged to attend the event and to share their ideas and comments with the Commission. More information about the hearing is available at

"Not only is Marlee a phenomenal actress, she understands our experience," said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins. "The nationwide adoption of broadband and Internet services can only be achieved when those services are available, affordable, and accessible to every American, including Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. The disability community must not be left behind as our nation’s communication, information, and entertainment services migrate to the Internet."

While in Washington, Matlin will also visit key legislators on Capitol Hill with NAD representatives and other members of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). Matlin’s meetings will spotlight on the need to enact the “Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009” (H.R. 3101) introduced by Representative Edward J. Markey (MA).

An outspoken advocate for captioning Internet media, Matlin first testified before Congress in 1990, successfully paving the way for a law requiring most television sets to be capable of displaying closed captions. Presently, Matlin is leading social media advocacy efforts to urge online video content providers, such as Netflix and Blockbuster, to caption their media. Her efforts have captured both providers’ attention in making their online content accessible to 36 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans.

"Internet captioning is very important to me as a deaf person because captions provide access to content that affects my life and my livelihood," said Matlin. "Legislators need to know that captions are necessary to follow the latest news, information, and entertainment available on the Internet. I join millions of other deaf and hard of hearing Americans advocating for Internet access."

Matlin is an acclaimed actress who gained worldwide fame with her role in the film "Children of a Lesser God." Her performance was recognized by the film community with an Academy Award, making Matlin the youngest recipient of the Oscar for Best Actress at age 21. She has also starred in many popular television programs and series, such as “West Wing” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Her autobiography, "I'll Scream Later," published by Simon Spotlight, is available in bookstores nationwide.

The NAD thanks Purple Communications for sponsoring Matlin’s visit to Washington.

About the NAD
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. These beliefs remain true to this day, with American Sign Language as a core value. As a nonprofit federation, the mission of the NAD is to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering the breadth of a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more.

About Purple Communications
Purple Communications is a provider of onsite interpreting services, video relay and text relay services, and video remote interpreting, offering a wide array of options designed to meet the varied communication needs of its customers. The Company’s vision is to enable free-flowing communication between people, inclusive of differences in abilities, languages, or locations. For more information on the Company or its services, visit Purple Communications or contact Purple Communications directly by voice

ND team evaluating services for deaf people

Source Link - ND team evaluating services for deaf people

A team of parents, legislators, community members and alumni of the state School for the Deaf are working on a long-term plan to serve North Dakotans who suffer from hearing loss.

The 13-member transition team is holding a series of meetings, starting with a session Thursday at the state Heritage Center.

Carmen Grove Suminski is the superintendent of the School for the Deaf. She says the Devils Lake school has 23 students, but it also offers outreach services. She says the needs are increasing and technology is changing.

State school Superintendent Wayne Sanstead said the transition team wants to take a comprehensive look at the services around the state.

Police probe report of sex assault at school for deaf

Source Link - Police probe report of sex assault at school for deaf

Police in Frederick were investigating an alleged sexual assault of a student Tuesday night at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

Police Sgt. Jason Keckler said investigators believe the male student was assaulted by fellow students in one of the school's dormitories.

Police said the student was being treated at Frederick Memorial Hospital and was in good condition.

Home > Entertainment Assistance Dogs Give Help to Hearing Impaired

Source Link - Entertainment Assistance Dogs Give Help to Hearing Impaired

The little mixed-breed who was rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico needed a home. Dobson, of Orleans, Mass., was losing his hearing.

"My wife saw me kind of dropping out," he says. "As people get deafer they get more anti-social."

Both problems were solved when man and dog were brought together by the National Education for Assistance Dog Service, which trains dogs from shelters to assist the hearing impaired. Based in Princeton, Mass., NEADS has placed more than 1,300 hearing dogs all over the country since 1976.

Goblin does for Dobson what his digital hearing aid can't.

"What the dog does for me is hears what I can't hear," he says. "She can hear the phone ringing, alarms, knocking on the door, when people call my name."

The dogs chosen for this job have to have special qualities — often exactly the qualities that land them in shelters.

"The hearing dog is usually the dog no one wants," says Brian Jennings, who's been a trainer at NEADS for 20 years. "It's usually hyperactive, willful, compulsive. They have to be. If the dog wakes you in the middle of the night because the smoke alarm's going off and you push them away, they have to not give up."

What's unique about hearing dogs, says Kathy Foreman of NEADS, is that they work without being given commands. A guide dog for the blind, for instance, is given a command to go forward, and while it knows to disobey if there's danger, it's still initially responding to the handler's direction. Hearing dogs, by definition, need to do their work when their owner doesn't know there's a job to be done.

So trainers look for dogs who are curious about sounds, but also very confident. These may be exactly the dogs that drove their original owners crazy because they were bouncing off the walls, but as Jennings observes, "sometimes a dog's weakness is its strength."

The dogs are trained to touch the owner and lead him physically to the source of certain sounds. So that they'll do this on their own initiative, says Foreman, the secret of training is to make the dog think "it's a big game, and we are happy to play it with you any time."

New owners are taught how to keep the dog's skills sharp, such as praising it for responding to sounds even in cases that turn out to be unimportant.

NEADS has no physical requirement for hearing dogs. "We've had everything from Chihuahuas to German shepherds," says Jennings, and most of them are mixed breeds.

Hearing dogs not only let their handlers know that they've dropped their car keys, but also help in less tangible ways. Social interactions are often affected by the fact that deafness is not a visible disability. Foreman says that not hearing when your name is called is a big issue for the clients: "People say, people at work thought I was the biggest snob because I ignored them."

The dog not only helps make the handler aware of sounds, but makes observers aware of the handler's situation.

"When they see the dog, it helps people understand that they need to take extra time to communicate with that person," says Jeanine Konopelski of Canine Companions for Independence.

For the hearing impaired, the dogs allow more freedom and independence, says Robin Dickson of Dogs for the Deaf in Oregon. One client told her that before she had a dog, "I never had time to think, because I was always trying so hard to listen."

Dobson's wife Joanne says that Ray, like many who are losing their hearing, was reluctant to admit the problem, and was coping by withdrawing from social interactions. "Now he's back in the mainstream," she says.

Plus there's one benefit she didn't expect.

"My friends are very jealous," she says. "When I call my husband, the dog jumps on him till he comes."

Deaf and dumb social worker feted by governor

Source Link - Deaf and dumb social worker feted by governor

Governor Dr S S Sidhu, who was moved after reading a newspaper report about the life story of Raju Anath, a deaf and dumb orphan doing social work at Ponda, handed over a cheque for Rs 25,000 to him.

Sidhu has obtained a factual report through the Goa police department about his life. The newspaper report indicated that Anath was voluntarily helping in traffic discipline at Ponda and taking special care of school children and their safety.

The report submitted by the DIG, Goa, stated that Anath was in Goa for the last 30 years and is spending his days on streets and pavements.

He is rendering selfless service in regulating traffic at Ponda which is appreciated by the media and the people. As a traffic warden, he is performing the duty early morning and spending the whole day at the bus stand.

Though Anath is deaf and dumb, people understand his gestures and communicate with him. He is seen near traffic signals where he helps the traffic police to clear chaotic traffic during day time. Anath has set an example before the public on how to serve the society selflessly, despite being handicapped.

The police felt that he needed help and assistance from the government. Taking into consideration the fact that in spite of being deaf and dumb, Anath has been rendering selfless service to the society, the governor granted him Rs 25,000, on humanitarian grounds. He was called to the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday, and the governor personally handed over a cheque for Rs 25,000 to him.

The governor has advised him to deposit the cheque in his already existing bank account, so that the interest accruing out of this amount could be of some help towards his day-today livelihood.

St Gabriel’s Castle Hill Hearing Impaired Children need funds to stay open

Source Link - St Gabriel’s Castle Hill Hearing Impaired Children need funds to stay open

The plight of St Gabriel’s early intervention centre which helps hearing impaired children was raised today by Shadow Minister for Health Jillian Skinner. The Castle Hill school is seeking $200,000 to keep their doors open and the NSW Government will not provide the funding to keep the centre open. Private sector support in now being sought so the early invention program for 20 hearing impaired children is not lost.

“Despite funding a screening program to identify children with a hearing impairment, the Rees Labor Government is not funding the critical learning centres that treat those babies identified as having a hearing impairment,” Mrs Skinner said.

“These parents are trying as hard as they can to get the funding required to allow their children to learn, but Nathan Rees has turned his back on them.

“Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt and Nathan Rees are happy to be photographed with babies as part of the screening program, but they’re nowhere to be seen when those children with hearing difficulties need help with early intervention.

“The Rees Labor Government should ensure those children identified as having hearing impairments receive the early intervention services they need,” Mrs Skinner said.

A dictionary for the deaf

Source Link - A dictionary for the deaf

In the stifling afternoon heat, a momentous occasion came to pass today. There was excited chattering all around but with a difference - it was soundless. Animated facial expressions and rapid-fire hand gestures created an atmosphere of exhilaration. This was the inauguration ceremony of the first Maldivian sign language dictionary. A book that will work as a bridge between the deaf community and the rest of society.

The event kicked off with a recitation of the Qur’an. A translation followed with Mohamed Awwam accompanying in sign language, setting the tone for the rest of the ceremony. Mariyam Fazni, the first-ever Maldivian teacher specialising in teaching deaf students presented each of the speeches through sign language. Even their applause, which came in the form of waving both hands in the air, was different.

Speaking at the ceremony, Hassan Mohamed, the principal of Jamaaludeen School said, “This will enable parents to help children with their school work and help people communicate with members of the deaf community.” He spoke about the start of special classes set aside in the school for children who were hearing-impaired.

The school first started offering classes for deaf children in 1985, after a class full of children with a variety of disabilities, proved too difficult to teach. “This year we started grade eight and we have five students,” said Mohamed. “We hope that these students will be able to finish secondary school here.”

Two years ago Jamaaludeen School introduced primary school classes for hearing-impaired children. “We still don’t have enough students,” said Mohamed. “There are still some parents who hide their children, despite the fact that it had been proven these kids perform better than average.” He called for a survey to be conducted to find out the number of deaf children and ensure they had access to education.

Amaresh Gopalakrishnan, a special educator and architect of the book, said language was of paramount importance to any community. “This will give an identity to the deaf community,” he said. Amaresh moved his mouth without uttering a sound, saying, “Even for two minutes you can’t stand this.” In response to the myth about sign language being universal, he said, “Each has its own methodical structure. The deaf community is a linguistic minority that does not depend on any language.”

When he first arrived in the Maldives in 2007, Amaresh was surprised to find he could not communicate with deaf people on the street with the signs he was learning at the school. He travelled with Ahmed Ashfag, the head of the Maldives Deaf Association, to four islands and found that each had their own set of signs. “From all this we have documented 650 signs and we have shown the book to many people to ensure that even a layman could understand it,” said Amaresh. His father, who is deaf, did the illustrations.

Mariyam Fazni said the book would enable teachers on the islands to teach deaf children, while Ashfag summed up the feelings of many of those present today by saying that it was the happiest day of his life in sign language. “This is my language. The doors have opened for this community now and we will not be silent anymore. We will scream,” he gesticulated. Ahmed Mohamed, one of the student’s parents, said those present had both the “brains and the will” to go on to higher education. “I hope they get the chance soon,” he said.

The project was funded by Handicap International and Lucy Roberts, the charity’s country manager, said the dictionary helped raise awareness about the deaf community and the problems they faced. Short theatrical productions followed, each highlighting the challenges experienced by deaf people in school, in society and even in matters of the heart.

Speaking at the occasion, President Mohamed Nasheed said he was pleased to be part of the day as he had two deaf relatives and had witnessed their problems. He also said an absence of communication hampered freedom of expression.

“I might not have stood in front of a podium and made promises about this, but I have given my word to a person from the deaf association who worked closely with me on the campaign trail that my government would do all it could to help this community,” he said. Nasheed said he hoped sign language would be taught in all schools so that everyone could communicate with deaf people. By the end of the year, he added, he hoped 1,000 people would learn sign language, equal to the 1,000 dictionaries that had been published.

The president said he envisaged a Maldives where selfishness was not a virtue and where people did not always seek out others who were like them. “What is lacking in one Maldivian should be compensated by another,” he said. At the end, students celebrated with a dance performance, throwing confetti into the air. Mariyam Rizwana, the first deaf teacher, ended the event by thanking those involved, adding that it was was “a new dawn for the deaf community.”

Municipality launches project to teach clergy sign language

Source Link - Municipality launches project to teach clergy sign language

The Istanbul municipality is sponsoring a course on sign language to ease communication with deaf and hearing-impaired citizens. A group of 40 imams from mosques across the city is now attending the course.

A group of 40 imams has voluntarily enrolled in a sign-language course in an attempt to foster better communication with hearing-impaired worshippers.

The imams volunteered for the course being run by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in response to a call from the office of the mufti (Islamic scholar) last April.

The course is being held at the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Services Directorate for Disabled People, or İSÖM, which is run by the Istanbul municipality.

The imams will attend classes once a week for three hours over the course of three months. They will receive certificates upon completion of the course, at which point it is expected that they will be able to communicate in sign language at a basic level.

Hüseyin Tohumcu, one of the imams to enroll in the course, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review he was pleased to learn sign language because it would allow him to help disabled Muslims practice their religion.

“We should reach out to disabled Muslim worshippers. Imams should address the religious needs of hearing-impaired worshippers as much as they do for able worshippers,” said Tohumcu, who preaches at a mosque in Istanbul’s Haznedar district.

İsmail Tüfekçi, another imam attending the course, said he started to communicate using sign language just three weeks into the course.

“The lessons are fruitful. We are learning 10 to 15 words every lesson. I believe I will improve my ability to communicate in a short time,” said Tüfekçi, an imam at Cumhuriyet Mosque in the city’s Kağıthane district.

Prior to enrolling in this course, Tüfekçi also attended a class on Braille to help him communicate with visually impaired Muslims.

Three of the instructors of the course are hearing impaired themselves.

Samet Demirbaş, one of the hearing-impaired teachers, believes that close dialogue between teacher and student is vital for the preachers to learn this special language in a short time.

“I have tried to encourage them to repeat every word. Therefore, we do not allow classes of more than 15 people,” said Demirbaş, who added that he was pleased to see increasing attention paid to the course.

“I do not know how many students I have met so far, but I am happy to teach them,” he said.

The course is part of an education program that has been implemented since 2004. Nearly 1,700 public employees – including police officers, nurses and municipal patrol staff – have previously enrolled in this course and learned sign language.

İSÖM expects at least 3,000 people take the class within the next two years.

Yunus Karacalı, deputy director of İSÖM, said he was pleased to see increasing interest in the course among people from different levels of society and different professional backgrounds.

“We are happy with the increasing attention given to the course. Anybody who wants to learn sign language can call us to register,” he said.

The ongoing campaign also aims to support the government’s efforts to help disabled citizens in society.

İSÖM officials, supported by the Turkish National Federation of the Deaf, have set up a committee to work on a guidebook, which they hope will serve as an acceptable model for future projects for people with hearing impairments in Turkey.

Ercüment Tanrıverdi, president of the Turkish National Federation of the Deaf, said the group hopes the guidebook, which is still being drafted, will broaden the use of sign language in Turkey.

When the guidebook is published, it will include many words, simple sentences, pictures and examples that make it easy to communicate with people who have hearing impairments.

“We have researched where hearing-impaired people communicate with others the most. For example, you may come across a disabled driver in traffic or a deaf patient at the hospital at any time,” Tanrıverdi said. “The words, sentences and dialogues have been specifically designed to remove difficulties in communicating with hearing-impaired people.”

Mattanawcook Academy students learn sign language, promote awareness

Source Link - Mattanawcook Academy students learn sign language, promote awareness

If you happen to meet any of the 39 members of Carrie Pierce’s American Sign Language classes at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, you’d be wise to avoid using the term “hearing-impaired.”

They really don’t like it.

“They’re not impaired — they’re deaf,” said senior Candice Osborne, 17, of Lincoln during an interview last week. “They’re deaf, they know that they’re deaf, and they like to be treated equally. They don’t want you to baby them.”

Deaf people — or those who live in “the community,” as the students say — feel that being called “hearing-impaired” smacks of condescension and the unequal treatment given those who are disabled, when all they really do that’s different from anybody else is speak with their hands, the students said. They also like the “d” in deaf to be capitalized.

“Don’t stare at them [when they sign],” Osborne said. “They regard that as an intrusion, like people being nosy.”

“And don’t yell at them,” said sophomore Jenna Brown, 15, of Lincoln. “They won’t be able to hear you any better. If you meet someone who is deaf and don’t know how to do sign language, tell them you don’t understand and that you will try your hardest to understand.”

This awareness of the sensitivities of deaf people, and the fact that it was among the first things mentioned by a half-dozen of Pierce’s students at the Mattanawcook Academy football game last Friday night, shows that the students are learning more than just ASL in Pierce’s classes.

They’re learning awareness, the culture of American deaf people, how to be more inclusive with the deaf, and a healthy feel for the sensibilities of those for whom signing is not just a second language — and that’s precisely the point, Pierce said.

Pierce, who is deaf, said with aid from Osborne’s translation that one of the goals of the class is to have her students, all of whom can hear, become more “understanding and accommodating to deaf people.”

This year, Pierce is teaching three ASL classes at MA. Students take the class for foreign language credit. It is part of the curriculum and meets every other day. Pierce also teaches adult education in Ellsworth and teaches two ASL classes at the University of Maine. She also runs a summer camp for deaf children and has a nature photography business.

One of the principles taught in Pierce’s classes is that English and ASL are separate languages. For example, when a student asked how to sign the phrase “you’re welcome,” Pierce explained that the sign is a thumbs up, or the sign for “all right” or “fine.” This prevents confusion with the sign for “welcome” when admitting someone to your home.

Friday’s football game was something of a milestone for Pierce and the two years of classes in ASL that she has taught at the Lincoln high school: It marked the first time that her students signed the national anthem before an athletic event.

The 10 students arrayed themselves on the field before the crowd and, after an announcement explaining their presence, “sang” the anthem in sign.

“I thought it was great,” said Julia Delano of Lincoln, who attended the game with her husband, Byron. “We actually have a cousin who is deaf, and I was thinking it would be great for her to have seen them doing that.”

“It was really different,” said Mike Farrell, 20, of Lincoln, a business management major at Husson University in Bangor. “We never had that in class when I was here.”

Pierce said she was proud of her students for their performance on the field and in the classroom, though sophomore Harlee Whitney, 15, of Lincoln said they were “crazy nervous” learning the translation for the anthem before the game.

“This is the first time it’s ever been done at a game here,” she said.

“We crammed it all in,” said 15-year-old sophomore Alycia Botting of Lincoln.

The students hope to sign the anthem at an MA basketball game next, they said.

They also want to continue learning and teaching sign language and promoting awareness of the needs of deaf people until the goal Pierce announced to her students in the first days of class — to have sign language so commonly known in the Lincoln Lakes region that she can shop here without any discomfort — is finally realized.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sign of promise: EPCC teaches sign language at early childhood center

Source Link - Sign of promise: EPCC teaches sign language at early childhood center

Ruby Ruiz was born deaf, but the condition wasn't diagnosed until she was 5.

A lifelong El Pasoan who now works with the deaf and those with hearing impediments, she says El Pasoans aren't very much aware of the deaf culture in the city.

Ruiz, 43, is a sign language instructor at El Paso Community College who is now working with a West Side early childhood learning center to teach its young students how to sign.

Many people with hearing problems are isolated and resistant to acknowledge their condition, Ruiz said. She wasn't introduced to sign language until her diagnosis. After graduating from Austin High School and starting college, Ruiz decided she wanted to become a sign language instructor.

"I decided to learn about the deaf culture and work as an interpreter, help them give feedback,"she said.

It is thought that about 4,000 people in El Paso are deaf or have a hearing impediment, Ruiz said.

This fall, Flying Colors Learning Center is implementing sign language in its curriculum.

"As they grow older, children will develop sign language," said Denise Leal, director of Flying Colors on the West Side.

The center takes care of about 200 children. At least two children are deaf or have a hearing impediment, Leal said.

She said implementing sign language instruction into the curriculum is a way to reach out to the deaf community.

Leal said Flying Colors decided to work with El Paso Community College to provide sign language training for the staff.

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Last week about 50 people attended a sign language workshop at Flying Colors, 600 E. Redd Road.

Sylvia Montelongo, a student at EPCC and vice president of its sign language club, said her club wants to partner with local agencies to promote sign language.

She said El Pasoans are not aware of the deaf community, while people with hearing problems tend to be isolated.

"They are in our community and they are productive citizens. I don't think a lot of people know about them," she said.

Montelongo said introducing children to sign language at an early age enables them to develop a broader vocabulary and helps them relate to people with a hearing problem.

"It's amazing for children! Because before they can talk, they can move their hands. They're able to get along with deaf children," Montelongo said.

Jeanette Lawrence, 33, said her 3- year-old, Alexa, enjoys showing her the new signing words she learns at Flying Colors.

"Apples" and "mama" were among the first words her daughter learned in sign language, she said.

Lawrence said sign language helps children without a hearing impediment improve their communication skills at an early age.

Michael Hicks, owner of Flying Colors Learning Center, said he hopes other centers follow up and introduce sign language to more young children.

He said sign language lessons have also been introduced at the Flying Colors center on the East Side.

Aileen B. Flores may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6362.

Mattanawcook Academy students learn sign language, promote awareness

Source Link - Mattanawcook Academy students learn sign language, promote awareness

If you happen to meet any of the 39 members of Carrie Pierce’s American Sign Language classes at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, you’d be wise to avoid using the term “hearing-impaired.”

They really don’t like it.

“They’re not impaired — they’re deaf,” said senior Candice Osborne, 17, of Lincoln during an interview last week. “They’re deaf, they know that they’re deaf, and they like to be treated equally. They don’t want you to baby them.”

Deaf people — or those who live in “the community,” as the students say — feel that being called “hearing-impaired” smacks of condescension and the unequal treatment given those who are disabled, when all they really do that’s different from anybody else is speak with their hands, the students said. They also like the “d” in deaf to be capitalized.

“Don’t stare at them [when they sign],” Osborne said. “They regard that as an intrusion, like people being nosy.”

“And don’t yell at them,” said sophomore Jenna Brown, 15, of Lincoln. “They won’t be able to hear you any better. If you meet someone who is deaf and don’t know how to do sign language, tell them you don’t understand and that you will try your hardest to understand.”

This awareness of the sensitivities of deaf people, and the fact that it was among the first things mentioned by a half-dozen of Pierce’s students at the Mattanawcook Academy football game last Friday night, shows that the students are learning more than just ASL in Pierce’s classes.

They’re learning awareness, the culture of American deaf people, how to be more inclusive with the deaf, and a healthy feel for the sensibilities of those for whom signing is not just a second language — and that’s precisely the point, Pierce said.

Pierce, who is deaf, said with aid from Osborne’s translation that one of the goals of the class is to have her students, all of whom can hear, become more “understanding and accommodating to deaf people.”

This year, Pierce is teaching three ASL classes at MA. Students take the class for foreign language credit. It is part of the curriculum and meets every other day. Pierce also teaches adult education in Ellsworth and teaches two ASL classes at the University of Maine. She also runs a summer camp for deaf children and has a nature photography business.

One of the principles taught in Pierce’s classes is that English and ASL are separate languages. For example, when a student asked how to sign the phrase “you’re welcome,” Pierce explained that the sign is a thumbs up, or the sign for “all right” or “fine.” This prevents confusion with the sign for “welcome” when admitting someone to your home.

Friday’s football game was something of a milestone for Pierce and the two years of classes in ASL that she has taught at the Lincoln high school: It marked the first time that her students signed the national anthem before an athletic event.

The 10 students arrayed themselves on the field before the crowd and, after an announcement explaining their presence, “sang” the anthem in sign.

“I thought it was great,” said Julia Delano of Lincoln, who attended the game with her husband, Byron. “We actually have a cousin who is deaf, and I was thinking it would be great for her to have seen them doing that.”

“It was really different,” said Mike Farrell, 20, of Lincoln, a business management major at Husson University in Bangor. “We never had that in class when I was here.”

Pierce said she was proud of her students for their performance on the field and in the classroom, though sophomore Harlee Whitney, 15, of Lincoln said they were “crazy nervous” learning the translation for the anthem before the game.

“This is the first time it’s ever been done at a game here,” she said.

“We crammed it all in,” said 15-year-old sophomore Alycia Botting of Lincoln.

The students hope to sign the anthem at an MA basketball game next, they said.

They also want to continue learning and teaching sign language and promoting awareness of the needs of deaf people until the goal Pierce announced to her students in the first days of class — to have sign language so commonly known in the Lincoln Lakes region that she can shop here without any discomfort — is finally realized.

Brown's Medicare bill could add hearing aids

Source Link - Brown's Medicare bill could add hearing aids

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced a bill Thursday that would make Medicare cover hearing aids, a provision that he says he'll try to incorporate into broader health-care reform legislation being crafted by Congress.

Hearing aids are excluded from Medicare's basic coverage even though 30 percent of adults ages 65-74 have impaired hearing, as do nearly half of those older than 75.

"Too many seniors go without hearing aids because they cannot afford them," the Democrat from Avon said in a news release. "Hearing impairment is a health and quality-of-life issue, and Medicare must be improved to cover hearing aids and other treatment options."

The devices typically cost from $500 to $5,000, and Brown's office estimated they would cost the government about $500 each if bought in bulk. Brown observed that the Department of Veterans Affairs covers hearing aids for its beneficiaries and that free or discounted hearing aids are available for public health-care patients in other industrialized countries including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Past legislative efforts to provide hearing aids to Medicare beneficiaries have stalled. AARP supports the idea, but Director of Federal Government Relations Nora Super predicts Brown will face difficulty unless he can find a way to pay for such an expensive benefit. She said many seniors participate in Medicare Advantage plans that pay for hearing aids.

"Cost is a huge issue associated with health-care reform, and unless Sen. Brown has an uncontroversial pay-for [way to pay for it], there may not be a strong chance of this passing," Super says.

Brown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak says her boss is examining several ways the hearing aid purchases could be funded and is discussing them with Democratic leaders.

Earlier this year, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette of Bainbridge Township co-sponsored similar legislation in the House.

LaTourette says that he backs having Medicare pay for hearing aids but that he isn't sure whether the idea stands much chance of being included in upcoming health-care legislation because the bills under discussion call for $400 million to $500 billion in Medicare cuts.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Video link puts deaf on phone

Source Link - Video link puts deaf on phone

Deaf people living in Northland are testing a system that allows them to talk on the phone using sign language.

The new video relay service (VRS) involves a sign-language interpreter acting as a link between the deaf or hearing impaired person using a video screen and the person on the other end of the phone line.

The system can be used through the internet or a videophone.

Earlier this month it was demonstrated at the Deaf Aotearoa office in Deveron St, Whangarei, as part of the nationwide, government-funded trial to gauge the likely uptake of the system.

Local co-ordinator Glenys Walkinshaw said many of the service's 200 Northland clients were keen to see the system operating as soon as possible.

The system has been available in some Western countries for many years.

"Anyone who doesn't have the right equipment at home can come and use ours," Ms Walkinshaw said.

Sign language is one of the three official languages of New Zealand and is used partially or fully by more than 29,000 people every day.

Advocacy group Deaf Aotearoa said the system would allow sign language users to fully communicate in their natural language.

Using full-motion video meant their facial expression and cues would be also be picked up by the interpreter to ensure nothing was lost in translation.

Deaf Aotearoa chief executive Rachel Noble said that, as well as making life easier in general, the service would open work opportunities for deaf people. Often the inability to use the telephone was a barrier to finding work.

"It is really about equality and ensuring that deaf people have access to the same services as hearing people. It is amazing that technology has advanced to this stage and we are very grateful to the Government for making this possible," Ms Noble said.

The five-month trial, which operates for four hours each weekday, will run until early November.

Help develop team to serve deaf people

Source Link - Help develop team to serve deaf people

Hearing-impaired residents will get the chance to express their views on West Berkshire Council’s support and services at three events in December.

The feedback will contribute to a review of the council’s facilities and help create a new, dedicated team in the area.

A qualified interpreter will attend the events and a range of equipment provided by the Royal National Institute for Deaf people will be on show.

Joe Mooney, West Berkshire executive councillor for community services, said: “The best way to ensure that our services are meeting local needs is by asking those who would benefit from them.

“I would urge anyone who has a hearing impairment to attend an event and give their views.”

The sessions will be held from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at Reading Deaf Centre, Cardiff Road, Central Reading, on Tuesday, December 1, Hungerford Day Centre on Thursday, December 3, and at the United Reformed Church Hall, West Street, Newbury, on Monday, December 7.

Charity offers new boost for deaf people

Source Link - Charity offers new boost for deaf people

A national charity aimed at improving the livelihoods of deaf people is to open a second branch in Suffolk, it emerged today.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains pooches to respond to specific sounds, enabling them to alert their deaf owners of danger or other noises.

The charity, which relies on donations, is launching its Ipswich branch with an open evening on November 3.

In the UK, nearly nine million people experience some degree of hearing loss - many of whom could benefit from a hearing dog.

A deaf owner is informed of noises by touch, with the dog using a paw to gain attention and then leading them back to the source of the sound.

If a fire alarm or smoke detector sounds, a hearing dog will lay down as an indication of danger.

Lara Mayhew, of Ipswich, was given a hearing dog in 2006 and believes that cross-terrier Jack's arrival, her confidence grew drastically.

She said: “My partner works shifts and Jack gives me the confidence to be in the house on my own because if there was a fire he would let me know, or if the doorbell rings Jack will tell me.

“Jack is my ears now and I wouldn't go anywhere without him. He's even been to weddings and worn a dickie bow!”

The open evening will give those seeking a hearing dog the chance to apply and find out more about the process - Lara and Jack will also be there giving visitors the opportunity to meet a trained hearing dog.

Currently the waiting period is at least two years - there are 11 people in Ipswich currently on the list.

Gill Yeates, regional fundraiser for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: “The charity can help to change so many people's lives.

“The dogs are trained from when they are puppies and live with volunteer families for up to six months.

“We train up to 150 dogs per year and all are trained to meet the needs of each recipient.”

The open evening for the Ipswich Branch of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is set to take place at Ipswich Library from 7pm.

For more information on hearing dogs or to donate, visit or contact Gill Yeates on 01353 665396.

Are you a deaf person who benefits from the help of a hearing dog? Tell us your story - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail [email protected]

Case Study:

Lara Mayhew, who suffers from profound deafness, was first drawn to the idea of a hearing dog when she was left alone in the changing room of a clothing shop, unaware that the fire alarm had gone off.

She applied for a dog after attending a fundraising event in Aldeburgh.

In 2006, Lara received a letter informing her that her hearing dog was now fully trained and ready to meet her.

Jack had been trained to meet all of Lara's needs so that he could work within her work environment as well as at home.

She said: “It has given me so much confidence since getting Jack three years ago, especially to be alone in the house.

“I tend not to burn the cooking now as all I have to do is put the cooker alarm on and Jack is there to tell me it's ready.

“Now, all my partner has to do is call Jack to get me instead of chasing around the house or garden to find me.”

Emoti-Chair brings music to the deaf

Source Link - Emoti-Chair brings music to the deaf

Listening to music is something that most of us take for granted.

I for one, consume music like it is going out of style. Whether it's listening to countless albums a day, hearing background music in halls or restaurants or attending concerts on a regular basis; listening to music is something that has become natural to my everyday experience, and I'm sure that many others can say the same.
The deaf and hard of hearing unfortunately aren't afforded that same luxury - but that has been something that Dr. Frank Russo, professor of psychology at Ryerson, has been researching and developing the latest technology that will allow the deaf and hard of hearing to feel the same emotions from musical performances through vibrations in his groundbreaking Emoti-Chair.

Russo, who is the director of the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) laboratory, has been working on the Emoti-Chair for the last three years. The Emoti-Chair's first prototype surfaced about two years ago, and on March 5, 2009, the chairs were used to host the First Concert for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Clinton's Tavern in Toronto.

Russo explained that the Emoti-Chairs allow the signals from the microphones on stage to come through the sound board. The signals are then filtered and separated into eight different bands ranging from high to low frequencies, which are sent to channels of vibrations embedded within the chair.

While the sound signal drives the vibration coils, there is very little processing of the sound, and that the real technological advancement lies in the filtering of the sound into the chair.

"The reason that the filtering is an innovation is that it allows you to feel the highs apart from the lows. If I was deaf and put my hand on an instrument or speaker and felt all the vibrations, all the vibration is all together in my hand, it's not separated out," said Russo.

"The low frequency vibration would mask the high frequency vibrations and I'm not going to get the full spectrum the way I would if I was hearing the signal. But by separating it out for them on their back, we can give the deaf and hard of hearing the full spectrum."

While their biggest event that the SMART lab put together was more of a rock concert, with Ontario alternative band Fox Jaws headlining the event - the event on Saturday Oct. 24 at The Music Gallery in Toronto was more of an intuitive experience with collaborators Array Music.

Array Music, who are considered to be Canada's leading contemporary music ensemble, took a special interest in the Emoti-Chair. They were invited to Ryerson's SMART lab to try out the chair and map out different ideas while trying to think of different ways they could lay focus on the chair's vibration rather than the sounds they were making.
"The dominant modality in pulling the program together was vibration. There are a few new pieces that have been composed and the rest of the program is existing pieces that seem to work well with vibration. The arrangement that has been used in the selection of instruments and their roles has been optimized for vibration," said Russo.
The Music Gallery opened an hour prior to the event to allow spectators to try out the Emoti-chairs and speak with the different people involved with the event. The chairs were very interesting and provided a sensory experience that was different from that of listening to music - but was still very rewarding. The familiarity of how I experience music was challenged, and it was strange to feel the different high and low tonalities coming through the chairs into my body, as opposed to the more direct route through my ears.

The performance's first set featured three songs chosen to highlight the vibrations that the chair gave off, and the second set consisted of four pieces distinctly constructed for the event.

As the performance went on, patrons who didn't have the opportunity to try out the chairs before-hand were invited to go and test out the chairs during the concert, and were also offered balloons as a low-tech substitution to the chairs.
Recently halls and theatres have included different assistive technology for the hearing impaired, but nothing quite at this scale. Russo stated that he would love to see the Emoti-Chair as the standard for this medium, but quickly added that "primarily we are researchers and that is a bit beyond us, but we are pursuing things like that. It's still pretty far off though".

"The technology is a simple variation of the old theme of speaker listening, which has been practiced by the members of the deaf community," explained Russo during his introduction to the performance. "What this ultimately means for the deaf community is an opening up of an ancient and universal, cultural, emotional expression."

Theft At Frederick School For The Deaf

Source Link - Theft At Frederick School For The Deaf

Police in Frederick are investigating the theft of a pickup truck, tools and cash from the Maryland School for the Deaf.

The break-in at the school's Career and Technology Building was reported Sunday morning.

Police say classrooms were ransacked and some property was destroyed.

They say a 1995 GMC truck belonging to a staff member was stolen from a garage in the building.

Hard-of-hearing student makes transition to Erie school

Source Link - Hard-of-hearing student makes transition to Erie school

Ayesha Austin wasn't sure she would like Grover Cleveland School when she started kindergarten there this fall.

The problem wasn't that she might not like school generally, but that she already liked another school very much.

Ayesha, 6, is profoundly hard of hearing and already was a veteran of four years of preschool at the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute in Erie. The institute runs northwestern Pennsylvania's only preschool for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Ayesha loved the school and teacher Cherie Rouse, but was ready to move on to elementary school.

On the first day of school at Grover Cleveland, Ayesha was teary-eyed. Not only was she in a new school, but in a school where almost all of the students can hear.

Now, two months later, Ayesha is happy and enjoying school again.

Grover Cleveland School houses the Erie School District's hearing support classes for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The children have their own teachers for lessons specific to them, such as learning the American Sign Language signs for "unit" and other mathematical terms. Then they spend most of the school day with hearing students in grade-level classes.

Ayesha, so far, is a star in both worlds.

"She's our smartest kindergartner, I think. I go into Mrs. Cleaver's (kindergarten) class and see Ayesha's hand up to answer all of the questions. I'm so proud of her," hearing support teacher Barb Duchini said.

Grover Cleveland's hearing students learn sign language so they can communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing classmates.

All of the students benefit from the interaction, Duchini said.

"They learn to talk to each other as kids and friends," she said.

Hearing students also benefit from special speakers used in classrooms with deaf or hearing-impaired students. Research has shown that the compact speaker systems can help all students hear better and master language skills in noisy classrooms, Duchini said.

Aides and interpreters sometimes assigned to classes with students also benefit the class as a whole.

"They focus, of course, on the deaf or hard-of-hearing child, but they're also an additional help in the classroom," Duchini said.

Ayesha no longer worries that she won't fit in at Grover Cleveland, although she can hear only very strong sounds, even with her hearing aids.

"I like it here," she said.

But she still misses the Barber National Institute and Rouse.

"People don't understand that we really develop a deeper bond with these kids," Rouse said. "It's not like they can communicate with everyone in the world so easily. They develop a stronger, deeper bond with people who can communicate with them. And Ayesha and I just clicked."

Ayesha is forming bonds with her new teachers and with new friends at Grover Cleveland.

But on Friday, she hopped up and down with excitement before going bowling with deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across Erie County. Once a month, the Erie County Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing sponsors special activities for children.

Ayesha hoped to see Rouse and some of her preschool friends at the bowling alley.

On other days, Ayesha said she enjoys being in her new school.

Duchini interpreted Ayesha's verdict -- that she especially likes her two teachers, but that there is one thing that she doesn't like at Grover Cleveland School.

"Lunch," Ayesha said.

Help for deaf schoolchildren

Source Link - Help for deaf schoolchildren

SCHOOLS will now be forced to take action to improve acoustics for deaf children after a campaign by Mid-Dorset MP Annette Brooke.

The new measures mean local authorities will not get funding for new schools unless the ones they already own pass acoustic testing.

The Sounds Good campaign was started by the National Deaf Children’s Society. Figures suggest that deaf children are 42 per cent less likely than their hearing peers to achieve five GCSEs at grades A* to C.

U.Va. Disability Awareness Week includes premiere of VSDB film

Source Link - U.Va. Disability Awareness Week includes premiere of VSDB film

For students at the University of Virginia, the focus is usually upon ability and achievement.

But beginning Monday, Student Council is partnering with the University Programs Council's Learning Needs and Evaluation Center to put the spotlight on the challenges that many people face. Disabilities Awareness Week will feature two film screenings and two guest speakers, including the premiere of "Spotlight: Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind."

Also, posters will be displayed around Grounds depicting celebrities who have overcome their disabilities, including Albert Einstein (delayed speech as a child), Tom Cruise (dyslexia), Thomas Edison (delayed reading as a child) and Robin Williams (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder).

People's disabilities are not always obvious, said Jason Shapiro, a third-year student in the McIntire School of Commerce, who has been the driving force behind the week.

About five students on Grounds get around in wheelchairs, Shapiro said. By contrast, Allison Anderson, director of the Learning Needs and Evaluation Center – which seeks to help students with all kinds of disabilities succeed at the University – said that about 500 students seek out the center's services in any given semester, many of them with conditions that are not readily visible, including physical, psychiatric and learning disabilities.

Shapiro, who has been planning the week since the spring as a member of Student Council's Civic Engagement Committee, said he was inspired by his brother, Mark, who has cerebral palsy. Mark Shapiro, now a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to have October declared Disability Awareness Month.

So far, plans for the week have been well received, Jason Shapiro said. "People who are involved with disability stuff on Grounds love it."

Here's the lineup:

• Monday, 7 p.m., Wilson Hall room 402: Dr. Paul Wichansky, a nationally known public speaker on disability awareness, will discuss his experience with cerebral palsy.

• Tuesday, 7 p.m., Minor Hall Auditorium: Premiere screening of "Spotlight: Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind," by deaf director Jennifer Witteborg.

• Wednesday, 7 p.m., Newcomb Hall Theater: Screening of "Music Within," the true story of Richard Pimentel's struggle with hearing loss and newfound devotion to people with disabilities. Admission is free.

• Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Cabell Hall room 138: U.Va alumna Sharon Pajka-West will discuss her experience with Meniere's disease and how it has impacted her teaching at Gallaudet University.

Paws for Coffee morning raises £260 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as Barney says farewell

Source Link - Paws for Coffee morning raises £260 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as Barney says farewell

A PAWS for Coffee morning raised £260 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and gave people a chance to say goodbye to canine celebrity Barney.

John and Deborah Maloney of Chatteris have been acting as volunteer puppy socialisers to Barney a 10-month-old Shih Tzu. Barney who is now off to start his advanced sound work training at the charity's headquarters in Buckinghamshire.

During his time in Chatteris Barney has become quite a celebrity at fundraising events, attending talks at local schools and visiting shops in the town.

Mr and Mrs Maloney organised the coffee morning at Chatteris Library and were delighted at the support.

"It was a real team effort with the regional fundraiser Gill Yeates coming along. It not only raised awareness of the charity but gave people a chance to say goodbye to Barney.

"We would like to thank everyone who came along and to the local businesses that gave raffle prizes."

Hearing dogs can change lives by alerting their owners to sounds others take for granted, providing greater independence, confidence and security.

Area resident awarded as deaf volunteer

Source Link - Area resident awarded as deaf volunteer

Caryn D. Keller of Parkersburg was awarded the West Virginia Association of the Deaf "Deaf Mountaineer Award" at the 2009 WVAD Conference held recently in Mineral Wells, W.Va.

The award is given to an individual who volunteers time and energy to provide a service of lasting benefit to the deaf community.

This was Keller's second award from the organization. She received the "President's Award" in 2005.

Keller, who is a 1999 graduate of Marietta College, currently serves as the WVAD Youth Program coordinator, Miss Deaf West Virginia Pageant director, media representative and graphic designer, and was one of three biannual conference planners. She is an RID-certified interpreter for Wood County Schools, a parent adviser for the SKI*HI program for children with hearing loss, and an interpreter mentor for the West Virginia Department of Education.

Mother Rescues Deaf Daughter From Fire

Source Link - Mother Rescues Deaf Daughter From Fire

A mother rushed to rescue her deaf daughter as their east side apartment went up in flames early Monday.

Jodi Reynolds and her daughter jumped into action when their Bexvie Avenue apartment caught fire, around 6:30 a.m., 10TV's Patrick Bell reported.

"Fire was shooting out the back window like crazy. And my daughter had already grabbed my granddaughter and got out," said Reynolds. "My other daughter can't even hear, so I had to go in the room and literally shake her - she had no clue."

Firefighters said they are familiar with complex.

The fire has been ruled arson

Reynolds says she heard arguing outside the building before the fire started and detectives are investigating.

"We've had several fires over the last couple of years - about three units burned, two I believe were arson," said battalion chief Bill Bishop.

While battling the fire, a Columbus firefighter broke his ankle.

New, moving or expanding: GrandStay opens deaf-friendly hotel

Source Link - New, moving or expanding: GrandStay opens deaf-friendly hotel

A St. Augusta-based hotel chain opened a hotel this month that became the first in the country to install strobe lights for deaf and hearing impaired in all its rooms.

GrandStay Residential Suites Hotel opened on Oct. 1 in Faribault. It installed the strobe lights because the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf is in Faribault, said Matt Williams, vice president of GrandStay Hospitality, the franchiser of GrandStay Residential Suites Hotels and Crossings by GrandStay Inn & Suites.

The strobe lights, in all 59 rooms, are a fire alarm for people who can’t hear well or at all.

Average GrandStay hotels have strobe lights in 10 percent of their rooms, Williams said. The only other two hotels in the country that have 100 percent strobe light alarms are affiliated with deaf colleges in Washington, D.C. and New York, according to a news release.

This is the 11th hotel the business has opened since 2000. It usually tries to open two per year, Williams said.

Despite a lagging hotel business in Minnesota, GrandStay has carved an extended-stay niche for itself. That’s one way it has continued to grow, Williams said.

It has properties in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and California.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center Newsletter - October 25, 2009


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated their website on hearing
aids :\

President Obama announced his support for an additional $250 Economic Recovery
Payment to the seniors, veterans and people with disabilities for 2010.

President Obama Announces New Initiatives During National Disability Employment
Awareness Month

"My Administration is committed to ensuring that all Americans have the chance
to fulfill their potential and contribute to our nation," said President Obama.
"Across this country, millions of people with disabilities are working or want
to work, and they should have access to the support and services they need to
succeed. As the nation's largest employer, the Federal Government and its
contractors can lead the way by implementing effective employment policies and
practices that increase opportunities and help workers achieve their full
potential. We must also rededicate ourselves to fostering an inclusive work
culture that welcomes the skills and talents of all qualified employees. That's
why I've asked the responsible agencies to develop new plans and policies to
help increase employment across America for people with disabilities."\

Brought to you by the Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center



We have lots of new items and our webstore count stands at over 530 items!

Lots of products for the deaf, and blind, and other disabilities. Remember your
parents, grand parents, brothers, sisters, family members, co-workers who need
adaptive equipment. Employers can shop here for equipment and accessories for
their hearing impaired workers.

Buy Here, Buy Now, Pay Less with our ADA kits! This includes long term savings
associated with ADA compliance. The ADA kits will be redesigned for the year
2010 and there will be new ADA kits for hotels, office, workspace, and they will
be slightly more expensive as the ones were offering now.

Stop by today to start
your shopping.



Albertsons Community Partner Program

You Must Re-link Your Card to Continue Giving!

If you are currently part of the Albertsons Community Partner program and use
your card to give 4% of all your purchases to the Mission, you will have to
re-link your card number for us to continue earning funds! Use your Preferred
Savings Card Number and link (or re-link) to "Orange County Deaf Advocacy
Center" at

The Mission's ID # is: 49001002038. You'll need to re-link your card every year
to keep earning 4% of all your purchases for Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center!

Please pass this notice around to your friends, relatives, co-workers, and
neighbors so they can link their cards as well.

Brought to you by The Orange Deafie Blog



Researchers Analyze The Reading Comprehension Processes Of Deaf Youngsters

A group of researchers at Seville University, headed by Isabel de los Reyes
Rodríguez Ortiz, is analysing the reading comprehension processes of deaf
youngsters, a factor closely linked to their level of expression, both verbal
and using sign language. The project is being funded by the Regional Ministry of
Innovation as a 2007 excellence project, with an amount of 53,891.72 euros; it
is scheduled to finalize in 2011.

Brought to you by Modern Deaf Communication



Get yourself an OCDAC credit card through a special program at

We get a $50 donation for each person who completes the signup.



Here is an excellent article "Why donors must do more than doling out hearing

Why donors should help Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center more?

That is because Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center has gotten a lot of deaf and
disabled off the streets. That is because Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center
trains people to become independent both on and off the jobs. That is because
there is a demand that continues to grow for our assistance and services. That
is because Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center is a recognized organization
striving hard to stand up for those who cant. That is because we just lost our
bid for a 3rd group home that would have made it a lot easier for us to continue
our mission to help others. The video of the home we were hoping to get is at

Brought to you by ASL News


Take a look and bookmark our new search page!
Http:// . It's a good source of information you
can use.



"Hear and Now" Released on DVD

"Hear and Now," a documentary featuring RIT/NTID retirees Paul and Sally Taylor
as they received cochlear implants, is now available on DVD. The film appeared
on HBO, earned a Peabody Award and was named Best Documentary by the audience at
the Sundance Film Festival.

Read the full story here:

Brought to you by the other Orange Deafie Blog at



The Orange County American Sign Language Meetup Group - - and the Orange County Deaf & Hearing
Impaired Meetup Group meets each 3rd Fridays of the

We are currently pondering a new locations for all of our meetup events because
our competition appears to have hijacked the excitement, prestige, and normalcy
of our cherished monthly gatherings.



HearForever personalizes the Hearing Conservation experience through a series of
new advertisements and a special microsite,

The ad series addresses the connections between human interactions and hearing
loss through thought-provoking images that question, inspire and empower people
to make healthy hearing decisions as part of everyday life. provides information on the latest advances, research and
discoveries of noise-induced hearing loss detection and prevention. The site is
an extensive source for educational, informative and motivational materials to
help prevent noise-induced hearing loss both on and off the job.

Brought to you by the Hearing For Life Foundation Http://



Tinnitus affects people with or without hearing loss.

Tinnitus is the ringing sensation that occurs in the ears. Severe tinnitus can
be painful and disable a person. Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center has two
people serving in a patient advocacy council. Orange County Deaf Advocacy
Center wants to help people retain their productivity by helping them manage

We are introducing a nutraceutical cocktail of Ginkgo Biloba, Zinc, and Garlic
to manage tinnitus (ringing) in the ears. New studies show that a combination
of these three working together helps manage tinnitus. We have the research
that suggest the cocktail helps manage tinnitus.

This cocktail doesn't create the flush reaction you get from using high dosage
of Niacin taken to manage tinnitus.

Tinnitus management kit contains Ginkgo Biloba, Zinc, Garlic, pill minders box,
carrying case, and 2 sets of ear plugs.

Kit is assembled by people with disabilities.

If you care about your ears, please shop through our paypal link below now

Tinnitus 2 month management kit $79.99 - Free Shipping On All Orders!

Refills each month $29.99 (Link will be mailed to you with your order)

The funds generated from this offering will be returned to the community in the
form of assisted housing, education, advocacy, free equipment, outreach, and
conference activities.

***These Statements have not been evaluated by the US FDA. This product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. There is no guarantee this
will help you manage tinnitus. This may work on some people and this may not
work on some people too.



The website has detoriated down to the point they now carry hate
vlogs like Dogmusher's vlogs sporting rifles with a text messages of hunting
down a black vlogger. You can see all that in the 4 pictures below.

Brought to you by Eye Fire Vlogs Http://


Please donate to Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center. We have a lot of work to
do on behalf of people with hearing and speech impairments and we have a
donation form ready for your use.

Donation form :\

Thank you very much for the time you've taken to read this newsletter and
clicking on the donation link above.



Send us your letters. Send your brickbats or boquets to tagboard7(at)
and we'll start including them starting November 2009.

Brought to you by Deaf Paradise Http://

**** DISCLAIMER ****

The OCDAC Newsletter is designed to share information of interest to people with
disabilities, their friends, associates, and relatives and promote advocacy in
the disability community. Information circulated herein does not necessarily
express the views of The Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center. The OCDAC
Newsletter is non-partisan. OCDAC Newsletter does not sell advertising space.

The Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center is a community based organization that
puts people with disabilities first in their advocacy for equal opportunities in
safety, health, and productive living.

The Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center provides services for disabled
individuals and their families in our community who need help in navigating the
social services maze. Every day people go without proper food, shelter, and
essential medical care every day due to a variety of factors including low
wages, job loss, injuries, illness, age, domestic violence, or divorce. While
all of us are susceptible to hard times, disabled individuals are at the most
risk. With the generous support of people like you, we are able to help many of
these families and individuals not only to meet essential daily needs, but to
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

From pizza chef to X-ray technician

Source Link - From pizza chef to X-ray technician

TARPON SPRINGS - and former swimming pool lifeguard and would-be medical imaging technologist - Katy Daniel-Rivera can't hear. Although profoundly deaf since birth, Daniel-Rivera is cooking up a lesson in the success that can be found in being positive, tenacious and dedicated to a dream.

Since most pizza kitchens are a beehive of activity in which the shouted word is a major means of communication, not being able to hear could be a professional negative in such an environment.

At Mama Lena's Italian Restaurant, however, the wait staff and kitchen personnel write out for Daniel-Rivera the special requests that deviate from the standard fare on the menu.

Tina Kouskoutis, who with her husband, attorney Michael Kouskoutis, owns the restaurant on Tarpon Avenue, is proud her staff was willing to make an accommodation to Daniel-Rivera's lack of hearing. When Daniel-Rivera, 28, interviewed for the job at Mama Lena's the staff told Kouskoutis they wanted to try and work with her.

Daniel-Rivera can read lips, but the staff's willingness to make concessions to her deafness is appreciated. "Everyone has been so nice" and welcomed her to the restaurant, she said.

Cooking has been her hobby since the native of Puerto Rico was a little girl. She gained an appreciation and learned the art from her grandfather, who was a chef all his life and her grandmother.

Cooking is just one of the things Daniel-Rivera enjoys.

"I love to meet new faces," she said. "I can learn and communicate many different ways. I want to make all customers happy and satisfied with their meal," she said.

Daniel-Rivera, however, is not planning to make the kitchen her permanent professional outpost, no matter how enjoyable the experience.

Instead, she is working toward a degree as a medical radiological technician at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Daniel-Rivera, who lives in Madeira Beach, has two years of study left.

"I love to help people with health care," she said. She said she communicates through facial expression, body language and lip reading.

There, too, she had to first prove herself. "It has been a dream and goal I've fought through because I am deaf. They finally accepted me," she said.

She credits a former instructor at Ultimate Medical Academy, in Clearwater, with teaching her to be positive, dedicated and determined. She said she remains a people person, both proud to be deaf and realizing her dreams.

Some people, however, mistakenly think she is ignoring them until they realize she is deaf and then they understand. It is not true that most people have difficulty communicating with the deaf, she said.

Time and time again she proves being deaf is not an insurmountable obstacle. A few years ago, she was an aquatics director at a swimming pool. She saved a boy from drowning in 14 feet of water because even though she couldn't hear a cry for help she never took her eyes off the pool, she said.

"The eyes are more important than the ears," she said.

Church, archdiocese turns attention to deaf

Source Link - Church, archdiocese turns attention to deaf

When the Vatican hosts a conference on increasing the role of deaf people in the Catholic Church Nov. 19 to 21, Eileen Colarusso will be watching on from the Archdiocese of Baltimore with great interest.

As coordinator of the archdiocese’s deaf ministry, Colarusso has been fighting for greater involvement amongst the deaf population.

“It's just huge that the 'voice' of the deaf community is going to be heard at the Vatican at the highest levels of the church,” Colarusso said. “Hopefully it will all trickle down to the local church.”

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry decided to dedicate its annual international conference this year to the condition, needs and experiences of deaf people, including deaf religious and laypeople and their families.

The theme of the gathering, "Ephphatha: Deaf People in the Life of the Church," recalls the Aramaic word meaning "be opened" that Jesus used to heal a deaf man.

According to Colarusso, a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that there were 7,638 people who claimed they could not hear in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1,295 of which said they were Catholic.

A separate survey done by the Gallaudet Research Institute, found that there were 6,110 people who identified themselves as culturally deaf in the archdiocese, which meant they spoke American Sign Language. That survey found that 1,036 of those people were Catholic.

While both surveys discovered more than 1,000 Catholics were in the archdiocese, Colarusso believes less than 200 regularly attend church.

She added that 95 percent of deaf people are born to hearing parents.

Although there is not one definitive reason for the lack of participation, Colarusso said there are a variety of factors. Some Christian denominations have offered services to deaf people that have proven attractive. Colarusso said she could not speak to what was offered in those outreaches.

Many deaf children attend state-run schools, where faith formation is non-existent.

Colarusso has been teaching an after-school religion class at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Columbia the last five years and is hoping to restart one soon at MSD’s Frederick campus.

A lack of sign language interpreters and signing priests also are reasons for disconnect, Colarusso said.

“It’s not anybody’s fault,” Colarusso added.

Colarusso said tremendous strides are being made at the parish level and that pastors are eager to learn more.

Sixteen churches in the archdiocese have sign language interpreters. According to Colarusso, there are 11 deaf priests currently in the United States, but none serve this archdiocese.

Father Michael Carrion, pastor of Baynesville’s Immaculate Heart of Mary, celebrates a Mass for deaf people in sign language at Shrine of the Little Flower, Baltimore.

“I really do believe that if there is a hearing or deaf priest who signs very well, then more deaf people are actively involved,” Colarusso said.

She hopes to stoke interest in signing amongst seminarians.

Children have attended regular religious education programs at St. Mark, Catonsville, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Ilchester, with the help of an interpreter.

St. John the Evangelist in Frederick is believed to have the largest deaf population in the archdiocese.

“They feel welcome there,” Colarusso said, adding that many deaf children receive sacraments there.

Ellicott City’s Church of the Resurrection has strong deaf involvement, including extraordinary ministers of the Holy Communion.

Colarusso has met with many parishes to offer help in reaching out to deaf Catholics, who can become lectors.

Deaf ministry, she said, is an important call for Catholics.

“As a church, we seek to evangelize,” Colarusso said. “We want to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ and his salvation. If they have been baptized Catholic, that is their baptismal right.”

Deaf exchange student from New Zealand spending senior year in Olathe

Source Link - Deaf exchange student from New Zealand spending senior year in Olathe

Most foreign exchange students attending high school thousands of miles from home experience newcomer jitters while adjusting to their host family’s country, language and customs.

But exchange student Fallon Simchowitz from New Zealand, who is the guest for the school year of Olathe residents Ron and Kim Symansky, faces a few additional challenges.

Simchowitz, 17, is deaf and so are the Symanskys and their three children. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem because they all communicate through sign language. But sign language, like spoken language, differs from country to country and even though New Zealanders and Americans speak English, many words have different meanings and spellings.

And the differences don’t end there.

Simchowitz communicates with British Sign Language, which uses an alphabet that signs with two hands. The Symansky family communicates with American Sign Language with an alphabet that signs using one hand.

Because of the differences in the languages, Simchowitz who is a senior at Kansas State School for the Deaf has become bilingual — in sign language.

“I wasn’t very good at ASL for the first few days,” Simchowitz said recently at KSD through interpreter Lori Colwell. “But now it’s no problem at all.”

Simchowitz recently communicated with her family in New Zealand via Web camera for the first time since she arrived in August. Her new language was somewhat confusing to them.

“I’ve gotten so used to ASL, I forgot to switch back to British Sign Language,” Simchowitz said.

The Symanskys have three children under the age of 11, and Simchowitz is the first exchange student they have sponsored. Both Ron and Kim Symansky are very involved in the deaf community. Ron is an associate professor at Johnson County Community College in the interpretive training program and also teaches American Sign Language. Kim is a sensory program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education. Her duties include ensuring that individuals with visual and/or hearing loss receive services available from the state.

Ron Symansky said having a teenager is fun and demanding.

“There are later curfews, more negotiations, less control and more shopping,” he said. “It’s preparing us for when our kids are teenagers.”

Simchowitz said that although she always has wanted to visit the United States, she didn’t know much about Kansas.

“When I told my friends I was coming to Kansas, they all teased me and said if I wanted to come home, I’d have to buy some ruby slippers and click them together,” she said.

Though Simchowitz misses her homeland and family, she loves being in this country.

“It’s wonderful here,” she said. “Deaf people are more socialized into the general culture. And the shopping is great. There are lots more fun girl clothes.”

Simchowitz, whose family in New Zealand also is deaf, has one older brother and said being part of a large family is fun — and different.

“I’m not used to being around little kids,” she said. “It’s been cool to be the older sister for a change.”

In addition to her studies at KSD, Simchowitz is involved in volleyball, basketball and cheerleading.

“I was pretty homesick at first and contacting my parents a lot,” said Simchowitz. “But I’m so busy now, it’s hard to be homesick.”

Simchowitz said there are challenges being so far away from home.

The time difference makes it tough to communicate with friends, she said. “And it’s cold here. It’s spring in New Zealand and it won’t be as cold there even later in the year.”

After graduating from high school at KSD, Simchowitz will head back to New Zealand in late June where she plans to attend a two-year technical college in her hometown of Auckland. Then she would like to attend Gaulladet University in Washington, D.C., which is one of the leading universities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Simchowitz would like to study early childhood development with a focus on counseling and psychology.

Pam Sexton is a district representative for the American Field Service and checks periodically on foreign exchange students in the Olathe and De Soto areas.

“The Symanskys and Fallon are doing so well together,” said Sexton. “The mutual sharing of their countries and cultures is beneficial for all and what the program is all about.”

Simchowitz said her parents were nervous about her going so far away for such a long time.

“We definitely made the right choice,” said Simchowitz. “I’m developing more confidence, becoming more independent and finding out a lot about myself. I’m so glad I ended up here and so proud to be part of this family. They are wonderful.”

The foreign exchange student program is sponsored by the American Field Service and operates in 50 countries. Students live with host families and attend secondary school full time for a semester or full year. Host families are selected through personal interviews and background checks. There are 77 foreign exchange students in the Kansas City area. For information, call Brenda Stoll at 816-804-3237 or visit

Hearing Aid Prices rolled back to 1990's prices

Source Link - Hearing Aid Prices rolled back to 1990's prices

Hearing Aids Are Getting Cheaper

Hearing loss is as common as dandruff, maybe more so, with nearly 30 million Americans suffering from some form of diminished hearing.

Yet, 80% or more avoid hearing aids for reasons that include embarrassment, disappointment with the amount of relief the product offers, and the expense. In fact, only about one in five people who need a hearing aid have one, according to Sergei Kochkin, executive director of the Better Hearing Institute in Arlington VA.

This may change as cheaper, more accessible devices become available.

Good thing too, as failing to treat hearing loss can have serious consequences. The National Council on the Aging a few years ago studied 2,300 hearing-impaired adults and found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and was less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids. The study was funded by a trade group, the Hearing Industries Association.

Audiologists' Lobbying Pays Off

Hearing aids have been expensive and hard to get since 1977, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted its Hearing Aid Rule. The rule required that consumers see a physician before buying a hearing aid.

Not surprisingly, this was a direct result of testimony from "audiologists," who warned that consumers would otherwise waste money on hearing aids when their hearing loss actually stemmed from a medical condition such as acoustical nerve tumors, infections, and plain old wax buildup. The rule also created an exception: Adults could bypass a doctor if they signed a waiver acknowledging the dangers of skipping a medical evaluation.

Medical evaluations, fitting sessions (with, who else, hearing aid specialists), and the battery of tests preceding them drove up the cost of hearing aids dramatically: $2,300 is the average cost of hearing aids, and for many Americans, insurance pays little or nothing.

Enter the Internet and

But the situation is changing rapidly. Cheaper hearing aids are suddenly easy to find, thanks to the Internet and mail-order sales alone jumped over 90% between 1997 and 2009, the most recent data available.

More and more companies are developing ways to sidestep the physician process and sell directly to the consumer. Waivers are one option; one Web-based wholesale outlet, requires customers to sign a waiver before the product can be shipped.

Another option is to market the product differently; some products are marketed as an "assisted-listening device," not a hearing aid, and are therefore not obligated to follow FDA standards. This is not to the consumer’s best interest to buy this way. Always buy a genuine hearing aid from sells several models of ready-to-wear hearing aids that come with five different ear tips, so customers can pick the best fit. For those who want a truly custom fit, offers materials to make ear impressions, which the customer then mails back to the company.

These personalized products are still considerably cheaper than traditional aids, and range from $295 to $695.

Cheaper Sometimes Is Better

While these products lack some of the features of custom hearing aids, many consumers feel the devices offer reasonable results at a reasonable price.

Dr. Mead Killion and his wife Gail, who both hold doctorates in audiology, believe this is just the case. Dr. Killion recently played two recordings before an audience of 50 audiologists. The first was a person speaking in cafeteria noise, amplified by a $149 over-the-counter device. The same speech was amplified again, this time through a popular $2,000 digital hearing aid. Surprisingly, the $149 device was rated the better product. "The point is, there are reasonably good OTC aids out there now," Dr. Killion said.

Devices obtained over the internet or through mail-order may vary greatly in quality, and there are several things to consider before making a purchase.


1) Check out the company. Frank of Pequannock, NJ, ordered hearing aid batteries online from Buyers Haven. When they never showed, he attempted to contact the company but found they listed no store location, only an email address. Marsha in Champlain, NE had much the same luck after ordering products through a Sunday paper. She had yet to receive anything from the company four months later. In the event of a problem, be sure the company can be easily contacted and the right persons held accountable and an 800 number here is’s # 1-888-847-4327.

2) Always visit a physician before buying any kind of listening device. By skipping a formal evaluation, you may fail to diagnose a serious problem, such as an infection, ear tumor, or excessive wax buildup. Nancy McKinney was diagnosed last year with mild, age-related hearing loss. Unhappy with each of the several aids she tried, McKinney returned to the audiologist and discovered she had collapsed ear canals.

Furthermore, a formal evaluation will provide a piece of information often taken for granted: whether the need for an actual hearing aid actually exists.

If the loss of hearing is not severe, an OTC product may be the best and least expensive bet. Dr. Mead Killion and his wife believe this is just the case. "There are a lot of uncomplicated hearing losses in the mild to moderate range that don't require a very sophisticated instrument," says Dr. Killion.

After arthritis and high blood pressure, hearing loss is the third-most-common chronic condition in older people, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This market is not going away anytime soon, and if OTC devices continue to push forward, high-end products may see price slashes in order to remain competitive. And that would be music to nearly everyone's ears.

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A subsidiary of Moreno Valley Hearing Aids.
In business for 30 years in California
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Moreno Valley, Ca. 92553