Activism is a spiritual effort for me. You close your eyes and stand in a roomful of angry people and find the balancing point; then you make a world dance on it.
Work still continues as we struggle to get to grips with the situation at Beth Israel Medical Center, which I blogged about here, here and here. When people began to send BIMC letters addressing their concerns regarding VRI, a friend of mine was contacted to go meet with the administration of that agency. I was invited to go along with advocate and friends Zlotte.
This was a pre-emptive attempt at education for myself and my community, especially underserved and disadvantaged Deaf people.
The meeting went as you'd expect. We brought two interpreters and met with the COO and Patient Services Representative, and also the woman in charge of the interpreting department. I can sift through semantics better and more quickly than anyone I know. They promised nothing and said they'd decided nothing - what were we concerned about? (Hearing people don't get that Deaf people gossip faster than lightspeed, and any business working with Deaf people had better stay on the up and up, or the old deaf grannies will be reading about it on the blogs these days.)
Our technique was mostly to ignore their denials. Instead we simply brought out legal points and social points. Deaf interpreters, educators, social workers and counselors described what people experienced and the problems with the technology. New problems came to light as we explored ones we already knew.
Bottom line? They took our feedback and will create a policy and share it with us in a few weeks. We asked for a draft, to provide feedback, but got a very haughty "No, feedback, what do you mean, feedback? I've never heard of this feedback stuff. Can you get it out in a restaurant?" So, we wait.
Which is fine. Another important technique is to remember the role and position of these people. But I have my own ideas about how VRI could be positively incorporated in a hospital, under a more Deaf motivation. And speaking truth to power is never out, right?
NEXT POST: ENSURING OUR HEALTH IS SAFE
This Friday night in NYC my darling Zlotte will be leading a really important discussion at Morton St.:
Important DIRC meeting Friday, January 19th! Your support is needed!
Are you now or have you ever been a patient at Beth Israel Hospital? Did you know that Beth Israel is planning to fire their sign language interpreters and switch to Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for all their Deaf patients?
How do you feel about using a VRI service during your medical appointments? Are you comfortable working with a TV screen when your doctor asks you how you're feeling? Will you trust the VRI interpreter to understand your sign language and your medical history? Do you want to work with a TV screen when you're getting serious information and instructions about your health?
When Jane Fernandes was hand-picked to be President of Gallaudet University her ASL skills came under discussion repeatedly. Hearing people didn't really understand what the problem with Jane was, and because it was a Deaf university, they pointed to what was different - her use of sign language and her Deafness. It was easier to accept what they already knew to be different as the problem, rather than seeking a true understanding of the issues. It was easier to find a reason to dismiss the concerns of the protest.
VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) uses videoconferencing equipment to present an interpreter on a TV screen. The interpreter is in a different city. When I went to a hospital in Brooklyn one day with a friend and found that they had been using VRI with him, I was curious. I had never seen it before. Another friend is doing a dissertation on the issues surrounding VRI, and I was excited to get my hands dirty, so to speak. My experience was abominable. The hospital staff took an hour to find the equipment, and another hour because "the guy who knows how to hook it up isn't here." The friend understood nothing on the screen, and I wound up having to "deaf interpret" everything. The friend was really frustrated. Why?
- He didn't understand a three-dimensional language in two dimensions.
- The technology was good, but this portable VRI technology was still not Sorensen - most VRI doesn't seem to be as high quality as what Deaf people use.
- They were talking about VERY personal things. Because he'd never met the interpreter before, my friend had no comfort level. Because the interpreter was on TV, he had no way to develop that comfort level.
- The terp itself sucked. He had no experience with the hospital staff or with this particular person and no connection to the person's history. In the past I've requested the same interpreter for my medical appointments because it makes things a lot easier when you don't have to take a half hour to teach the terp names for things. That's if the terp ASKS - they may just brave it out and fingerspell stuff, and because you (as a Deaf person) are LOOKING AT THE TV SCREEN you don't have an opportunity to try to lipread the doctor and suss out if the terp is correct.
- The terp didn't understand the patient. He was apparently from Minnesota, and didn't understand the NYC dialect of ASL. (There's correlations to this in spoken language - interpreters do not always understand spoken variation.)
- Erfo wants me to add that the Doctor was standing BEHIND the patient at this point and prattling on, then left the room. With no visual or audio connection to the patient, they had no reason to bring out their bedside manners.
I imagine that's how many hearing people felt about the Gallaudet protest. And like the Gallaudet protest, the underlying problems are very similar. But like the advertisement for the meeting on Friday states, do you feel comfortable telling a TV screen about your health? The most effective health care for Deaf people comes about when Deaf people's self-expressed boundaries, in terms of communication, are established and respected. VRI was initially created as a means of providing access to people in remote areas where there are few or no terps - not to become standard in big cities where hospitals have STAFF who are interpreters. It's expensive, in terms of money but especially time (there were four hospital staff standing around for an hour trying to hook up the television - certainly their time cost more than the interpreter!)
God. One day you KNOW some nurse is going to show up saying "Sorry, we couldn't find the terp, the television, or anything else, but... we did find this!" And when she pulls the signing puppet bear from behind her back and we complain, they'll say, hey, it's sign language: it's access... (Yeah, and they speak English on subway car announcements. Sure.)
Let me close on a personal note. The other week in Florida I was walking with my father on the side of the road. I asked if we could switch sides; he was puzzled and frustrated, but agreed. I noticed his frustration and asked if he understood why I wanted to move - he said yes, because we were now walking on the left side of the road, into oncoming traffic! I explained that as a Deaf person I could see traffic in front of me, but not hear it behind me, so I'd rather walk on this side so I could protect myself. His eyes cleared and he understood. (Then we got into an argument about why I had to be so bloody independent. But that's another story.)
Sometimes I really miss academia.
The world’s first sign language dictionary available from a mobile phone is launched today by the University of Bristol’s Centre for Deaf Studies.
Mobilesign.org is a video dictionary with over 5,000 British Sign Language signs. Produced by staff at the Centre for Deaf Studies, it is a mobile accessory to people who work with Deaf people, have Deaf customers or just want to learn to sign.
There is also help for parents with signs included that are specific to children like “Father Christmas”, “potty” and “naughty”.
...although why the University chose to showcase those particular three child-related words on its website, I have no idea. Read entire article here.
...and also this whole thing demonstrates how behind in technology we are in the states thanks to "capitalism" which should really be signed MONEY-MILK (just ask me for a demonstration...) Basically, this great technology has been around for AGES, but it would "cost too much" for companies to upgrade (read: we have to get rid of our old inventory) so we're stuck with obsolete crap. Do you know they already have mobile video phones in Japan?
I had jury duty yesterday and thought I'd document my experience, which may or may not show how good the NYC system is. I was contacted via mail on February 2nd for an appointment in the morning on Monday February 26th. Concerned about interpreters, but willing to serve cos I believe all the cheezy stuff about loving your country (go, country!) and the spirit of democracy (Weeha!) I immediately called the 1-800 line to discover that there was no easily available option for sign language interpreters - you had to call back during the week to get a live operator.
Does anyone else hate that? Maybe it's no problem for hearing people, but with the buffer time injected by relay, I hate having to make phone calls during the day. I work outside the office much of the time so VPs are not immediately available.
But on the website I found an e-mail address which got a prompt reply, even on a Sunday, and in a very short time I knew the name of my interpreter. So, okay. Good.
On the day I went to 100 Centre St., the location mentioned on my Juror Information Form, and easily found my juror room. One of the five televisions in the large room, which easily sat about 300 people, had closed captioning. I was able to find a seat in front of the TV, but since it was mounted on the ceiling, had to be lying almost flat on my back to read the words spoken by the Judge Judy look-alike advocating national responsibility. But as the terp said when I met up with her later, she was surprised even one had captioning on at all.
Yes, I said later, because she wasn't at 100 C. - apparently I was moved to 60 Centre St. and she believed I was late, when in fact I'd been trying to read closed captioning from 500 feet below. I'm SURE someone tried to contact me, saw it said no phone number, and let the matter drop. As Deaf people get older we realize how many of the problems in our lives have to do with the laziness of hearing people... but I digress.
Luckily 45 minutes after I arrived at 100, the juror facilitator came forth and with a short phone call I was directed to Julia in room 139 at 60 Centre St. Had I been there on time, I would have had to wait - the interpreter had just arrived. But I was lucky, I suppose - we found each other relatively quickly.
We went to the 4th floor to our jury room and ended up chatting, with much in common - one of those pleasant wonderful real live interpreter experiences you have sometimes when you meet up with a good conversationalist. We had seven hours to spend together, so again, lucky: people rarely consider personality in terms of interpreting, but it can make a huge difference.
I wasn't called today, and ended up dismissed. So that was my jury duty, relatively pleasant. I had some other appointments yesterday evening, so I took the time to walk in still-white city snow through the blatantly egotistic marble of the city hall complex and thought how nice it had been to sit and do nothing for an entire day but chat and relax.
My routine has been disrupted for a few weeks as I rearranged my personal life, learned to knit (one of my New Year's Resolutions. I guess I'm getting older: starting to keep them;) and became obsessed with the first and second seasons of M*A*S*H. (Now looking for a used copy of the third.)
Had a disappointment over the weekend - offered to film a bunch of testimonies about using VRI to share with the world the experiences of the people I saw at the DIRC meeting. Did manage to get one person on film, and promises of two more, but honestly, I want so much more... so I'm trying to figure out how to capture video from videophone and I want to offer to do interviews over VP about your personal experiences with VRI! If interested, e-mail me. I'm more interested in HONEST experiences than exaggerated terrible stories.*
Not mentioned on this website before, mostly because of blushing - I was nominated for Best Essayist in the Deafread awards. The award very deservedly went to Elisa of ElisaWrites, whose skill I have seen her develop and perfect over the past year. I had been hoping to show up at the banquet (at which, we were told firmly, we would get TWO free drinks, which in New York City is like half a month's rent at the prices in bars these days) but my ride got pinkeye.
I'll be sporadically blogging over the next few weeks till I get a routine settled again, then hopefully I'll get to try the vlog project. But - argh! - I have another filming project coming up also.
One final point - Breenie gives a good example of a cool Deafhood analysis, looking for her place, her relationship to others, where she came from as a person and a Deaf person and a woman... it's cool. She does this in context with the Gallaudet protest, which is cooler, and shows how one localized event can cause such pondering in individuals around the world
* Seriously - a honest experience is more than enough to show anyone why we have concerns about this. Really, just thinking about what would happen during a blackout or some other sort of emergency is enough to show anyone why we have concerns.
Some news from England:
COURAGEOUS Oliver Westbury is launching an expedition to become the first deaf person to reach the North Pole on foot. Oliver will trek 70 miles through one of the world's most hostile landscapes to raise money for deaf children.Want to help him reach his goal? Click here and donate!
But before he can start planning the challenge of a lifetime he needs to raise £27,000.
And speaking of England, University of Bristol PhD student Mike Gulliver has started his own blog, about his Deaf Studies research. Already he's posted links to lots of interesting information about Deaf communities worldwide, providing a refreshing change from American Deaf Culture:
Hi also to Miles who has mailed me about a presentation I’m doing this Friday at CDS in Bristol on ‘Who owns Deaf history’. Miles is the author of a vast amount of research into the Deaf community in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. There is a great reference bibliography here , information on South and South-West Asia, on Africa, and the Ottoman Court. Along with Groce’s information on Martha’s Vineyard, this is amazing stuff on early Deaf communities…
I've been reading up, especially on the African Deaf link. Here's a taste of some of the fascinating material available from Miles through the links above:
Some Saharan folk tales from Mali, involving a deaf wife, seem to emphasise the need for patience and understanding (Calame-Griaule, 1987, pp. 452-54, 459, 468), rather than assuming stupidity. While African folklore often links disability or deafness with negative or pejorative beliefs (Odebiyi & Togonu-Bickersteth, 1987; Devlieger, 1994; Sarr, 1981), the physician and ethnographer Hugh Stannus (1910, pp. 299-300) noted a more neutral or positive belief in Nyasaland. The mzimu, which is "a good spirit and does no harm", leaves a dying person's body and goes upward (heavenward, to Mlungu). "The only people to visit Mlungu and come back are occasionally children who die, for a short time their mzimu goes to Mlungu and returns; they live again, but are deaf-mutes."I've always been fascinated with the concept of a Deaf spirituality. For myself, spirituality has nothing to do with religion or gods, but rather how we try to understand each others' spirit. We each have personality, memories, a reality and perception of our own. How can we possibly understand another person's mind, without being that person? Stories, poetry, literature, art, vlogs are all attempts to do so - and so is research into history and anthropology, which by analyzing what people leave behind, tries to reconstruct the people themselves. Miles' research gives us an interesting glimpse into a not-often-seen literature:
The Kenyan author James Ngugi (Ngugi wa Thiong'o) wrote into A Grain of Wheat (1971, pp. 6-7) an admirable young deaf labourer, Gitogo, "handsome, strongly built", popular with other young men, who cared for his elderly mother, and "spoke with his hands". During a government raid on Gitogo's village, he ran to protect his mother. A soldier shouted "Stop!". Gitogo ran on and was shot. Apparently that character was based on Ngugi's own deaf step-brother Gitogo, shot by government troops in 1954 or 1955.  The lengthier battles of an intelligent Ghanaian woman, deafened in early adulthood, are depicted in a largely autobiographical novelette by Frances Serwaa Oteng (1997), set amidst the petty politics of a boarding school for deaf children.Fascinating. Check out this research - and do give Mike and Miles a shout-out from America - after all, the Deaf nation has many tribes!
You show up at your doctor’s office. In the past there was an interpreter there. The terp helped you through the intake process; if you had questions you could ask them whilst in the waiting room. If your doctor was late, the interpreter would tell you, and they would make sure that when the so-forgetful hearing people called your name, you would know. (You tell them you're Deaf every time you go. They always forget.)
Now they've decided to use VRI. This means no interpreter meets you at the office; the VRI system itself isn't very portable, requiring plugs and high-speed internet, so they wait till you're actually in the doctor's office to set it up. When you ask why they say it's a small clinic, they have no money, and VRI charges by the minute instead of the usual ASL-interpreter-two-hour-standard. Although you've mentioned accessibility is tax-deductible, they've convinced you to try this for a few months. But now any communication you attempt in the lobby is written; you can’t trust yourself to lipread whatever accent the receptionist has, and in any case they don’t have the patience or time to communicate. After a few short messages they ask you to sit down and be patient. You wait nervously on high alert in the waiting room, afraid to read your book, afraid to miss any movement in case it might be someone out of sight calling your name. You have questions about your insurance and how it works, but you have to wait until you see the doctor. You can speak and lipread pretty well, but you’re nervous about doing so in a medical situation – you do it now and then and they instantly expect you to do it all the time. You tell them you can't, not consistently, but they just nod, and you know they aren't really listening.
You get called in-they forget to come get you, again, but thank Goddess you were paying attention. A nurse writes (rolling her eyes with frustration; she repeatedly tried to speak to you until you fiercely pointed at the pad; she doesn’t want to take the time) that the equipment is on the way and will take another half hour. You have a book but are afraid to read in case someone calls you or something happens and you miss it. Doctor’s visits are important. This is your health at stake, and you’re very aware of how important health is. You wait nervously for an hour and when nothing happens you try to go outside in the hallway, look for someone to remind of your existence. A nurse walks by, sees you, says something like OH! and mouths ONE MINUTE – your insides grate at her patronizing expression, but at least someone’s doing something. Or that's what you tell yourself.
The doctor comes in and talks loudly and isn’t looking at you – you want to bang on the table and remind him that it says PT IS DEAF on the cover of your folder where you insisted on writing it several months ago in the vain hope it would remind people to be aware of your communication boundaries, but you know he would get pissed off and leave and write comments about PT INTRACTABLE in your folder again. So you smile and in a soft voice which he doesn’t hear at first you remind him to look at you when he speaks. He smiles and ignores you. You repeat your request. When he finally gets it he sighs, and you realize he’s frustrated again.
At this point you’re concentrating so hard on lipreading that you forget all your questions. Insurance? What's that? The equipment is on the way, or maybe not – you’re not sure. You’re trying so hard to catch all the words and make sense out of them – maybe a complete sentence will make more sense than just these few words? you think – that it’s hard to find the time to stop him. Finally you ask him to write down what he says and he just writes WAIT HERE on a piece of paper and goes off.
The equipment finally arrives and takes 15 minutes to set up, and another 20 to connect. The interpreter is tolerable, is totally new to you, since VRI interpreters are randomly selected. (You have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand they're not in town, so you have privacy of sorts; on the other hand, you have a new interpreter every doctor's appointment, so many more people know your medical situation. Also, the terp has to ask the doctor to spell out the names of every medically-related term he uses, sometimes several times. Since this has happened every time you've visited, you're kind of used to it - it's amazing the things you learn to get used to. But the doctor hasn't gotten used to it at all, and he stamps his foot impatiently; you're the one in the room, and you get the psychic brunt of his frustration. Deaf people see expressions the way hearing people see sirens.
The doctor informs you of your diagnosis rapidly, and, frustrated at the waste of time, rattles off a list of medications. By the time the VRI terp finishes spelling out everything, the doctor has taken off, and so has the nurse. You couldn’t stop them without taking your eyes off the VRI terp, you couldn’t ask any questions, and you didn’t have the chance to tell him about any new problems. You aren't sure you have the energy anyway: the terp doesn't seem to understand your fingerspelling unless you sign at a tiny fraction of your usual speed, and you have a sneaking suspicion the interpreter may not be interpreting what you say totally correctly. You're divided between paying attention and trying to judge the quality of communication through VRI. The doctor didn’t waste any more of his time making sure you understand what to do; in his opinion that’s the job of the interpreter. He’s fulfilled his responsibility and provided access. What more do you want?
What you want is to check the spelling of some of the meds, since the doctor’s handwriting on his prescription pad is about as legible as Egyptian heiroglyphs, but you can’t. The television is off; the technician has come to take it away. You’re angry, but also exhausted, and sick. You just want to go get the medications, hope they’re the right ones, and go to sleep. On the way out you have a bad scare: you left some document on the floor in the waiting room, and the receptionist, who unbeknownst to you had been screaming your name, came up behind you and jerked you roughly for attention, then pointed, annoyed, at the paper on the floor. Harried, you pick it up and leave, aware of all eyes on you.
On the way out you think fondly of the days when you had a live person and your entire trip was interpreted; when the same interpreter came to all your visits and knew your case and was able to help you far more effectively; when you didn't have to waste so much time on waiting for technology, and when your Deafness wasn't a point of embarrassment and frustration. Oh, people looked at you before, talking the small talk with the terp, but at least they were looking at something you could be proud of: ASL. You don't mind if they use the VRI when they have to, but to have to go through this again and again? Ugh. And the truth is, you know no more about your health than when you started.
NOTE: I think VRI is a powerful, wonderful tool which can and should be used when a live interpreter is not available. It has its place in our lives and rightly so, because there are far too few terps to suit the extant need. But I've heard and witnessed a lot of problems, and I compiled them into this fictional account. Can these problems be dealt with? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe this story is exaggeration. Maybe it's understating the case. But there are no unilateral studies of the use of VRI in a health care situation. The one study I found online compared VRI... to using tty-based relay systems. It's been used to show Deaf people prefer VRI. But it was not a comparison of VRI to a live interpreter at all! Anyone else have links to studies out there? I hope this fictional account helps us move forward in our understanding of the place and value of VRI, for both doctors and patients.
Today's Question, for Deaf Community Members:
How do you see things in the nation as a whole for Deaf people? Are Deaf people more likely or less likely to be employed today than ten years ago? Are Deaf people more or less likely to be moving up the income ladder today than ten years ago? Are more or less of your friends employed? Is this better or worse employment? Have any of your friends lost jobs this year? What are your feelings about the future: fear? Confidence?
I'll post my thoughts over the weekend. Maybe in a vlog, if I have time; I want to do more.
What present did you earmark for yourself this holiday season? Come on, we all do it: we see something we've really wanted, we go "Oh no, I shouldn't!" and we do. For me it was a Koie slingbag, "the must for the urban warrior who needs a simple, uncomplicated backpack..."
Thursday at work my friend RD, whose daughter is at Gallaudet now, stopped me to tell about Sophie, Miss Limousin of France. This go-getting Deaf girl was fighting for the crown of Miss France when an interpreter got in her way. Not to be floored, she kept her smile and chose to try speaking for herself when she encountered a barrier. Shane Feldman has the goods, and a link to the video.
It's funny. I keep thinking about the word assimilation while watching the film. In my head I always sort of interpret words: assimilation always comes across as a sign that looks like fitting you into our puzzle. A few times in the last weeks I've seen the "Hearing World" abomination around, again. I'm starting to understand why people say that. It is only partially about doubts about ASL and Deaf culture. Mostly it's because, in this world, you often have to give something up, to get something else done. Miss Limousin had to make such a choice - when the interpreter failed her, she needed to find some way to get her message across. Some might say she should have asked for her rights and fought for a certified interpreter; others might say she should do what is right in the moment. To me it was always clear that she was Deaf and she was a Person. She was very much in control. And in some ways, it was a good opportunity for her to show she would try no matter what. That took courage, I think. Would YOU be willing to use your voice in front of millions? *eep*
The Hearing World Abomination is this: when people say you must do X because you live in a Hearing World! When you're working in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and living in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and fighting your ass off to keep up with and even be better than the huge assortment of jerks in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!! you just can't help but wonder what all the fuss is. We hear the words every day, without explanation. (They said it was a man's world at one point, too.) None of this, you think, is actually designed to make me happy or feel comfortable or anything like that. We should be able to tell people what we need in terms of communication and have that respected, or at least have that start a discussion on how to handle communication needs. We should also fight to find answers of our own. It is essentially a problem of "How do I make sure the mirror is reflecting me properly?" How do you make sure YOU are coming through the way YOU want to be seen, when you are no longer in control of your own words? I'm sure soon people are going to criticize Limousin, either for speaking or for signing: someone always does. But whether she was speaking or signing, Sophie Vouzelaud was trying - with passion - to create a clear picture of her self for judges - something we struggle with every day, we Deaf people fighting to work in environments with a majority - in most cases a huge majority - of hearing people.
New York has a reasonably-sized interpreting community and though I am sometimes thirsty for communication I am never parched. I can go to a hospital and know I'll have at least some visits interpreted. (I think the rate in NY State is something like 60% of medical appointments are interpreted, disappointingly low in terms of simple volume - should we only understand 60% of our health information? Isn't 60% a losing grade in high school?) And I can figure out how to get interpreters for events and venues more easily than those in states with less people to justify the cost. But I have no way of guaranteeing an interpreter will be able to take my words in ASL and make them very palatable words in English. That 60% of appointments are filled by quite a variety of interpreters... now I'm a writer. I care about my words. It hurts me when I go to gender studies classes and sign "The determination of gender roles is entirely arbitrary, but certain types of biologically-determined behaviors which have been classified as part of those roles are not," and have this terped to (and I had to lipread every word of it, and wince) "I want to decide what is the gender role, is it maybe, is it definite, biology decides, we behave in class to divide those roles, don't we?"
This is where existential deafhood comes in. How do we find our own answers for this problem? Deaf studies and deafhood give our lives and existences validity. All of our experiences should be recorded because they all feed into and are fed by Deaf culture in some form - from acceptance to resistance to celebration. ("It is what it is," my younger sister says, in the Deep Voice which means she's just uttered something from the Lifetime Channel.) We struggle for a perfect way to make the worlds fit together, but they don't. They did not come cut from one and the same puzzle; their edges do not meet. There is no deaf world and there is no hearing world. There is one world, with many inhabitants.
And it's okay. You don't have to force them to fit. (You don't have to accept what happens because they don't fit, either.) You don't have to jam the thing that looks like a thumb into the piece that looks like it has an eye socket. You can make your own collage, shapes of your own device, pieces lying on top of each other in three dimensions, layer on layer. I respect Miss Limousin for her choice. (What else should she have done?) I regret she has to make it. She had to make it because the OTHER clients - the judges - had no understanding of, or way to assess, the level of skill of the LSF interpreter, who might look perfectly competent in spoken French. Both sides in this instance need to realize the interpreter is there for both people. That LSF terp was there for the judges as well as the candidate... just as an interpreter in the Deaf person's working environment is there for the employer as well as the employee. Terps aren't at fault here. There's not enough of them-even today. But-accepting the least-common-denominator of access isn't a solution. And we don't have to let ourselves be pushed into impossible situations - like that of Miss Limousin. I admire her strength. Vive la France!
(P.S. Happy Holidays.)
It seems we have finally achieved minority status: as erfo noted tonight, nigerians are now deafians:
UNITED KINGDOM ADOPTION AGENCY
British Deaf Association International
Headquarters: 60 Merriman Road
Blackheath London SE3 8RZ
Good day to you,
I am a representative of the UK Government in London. I will really love to pass this information to you and I hope you are the honest one that is ready and willing to take good care of 5-year-old deaf girl. Her mother came from unknown area in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire and they live in UK their mother MARIE HARTLEY died in Bomb Blast in London Terrorist Attacks on July 7TH 2005, and she left the sum of 3 million pounds in her account , now that she is no more the money automatically belongs to her only daughter, anyone that adopts the girls would be a beneficiary to the money inherited by the girl Named Elizabeth and when you convert the 3 million pounds into USA dollars its about 6.5million dollars.
We Are looking for an honest deaf male or female who is willing to adopt the girl and take good care of her and every 4 months the UK government will always come to check on the girl and how your taking good care of her. And such person will be given the three million pounds to take good care of the kids. Please write me back if you are interested so that we can contact the bank that whole the money as soon as possible and also contact the UK government so that they can sign and give you all the legal documents and also an agreement of adoption and legally keep the girl under your care, and also entrust the 3 million pounds the girl inherited from her parents in your care. Endeavor to contact me as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org, (email address left so the spambots can go nuts -ed.) so we can brief you on how to go about the adoption and also the requirements for the adoption. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
It's kind of cool that people now use us in spam. Maybe next we can get the Brooklyn Bridge.
387: Davila's Speech: with coffeeSo it has turned out to be the famous Dr. Robert Davila, who I unexpectedly like. (And sir, if there's any jobs available in your administration, let a man know!) Seriously, you can see video of his speech here, straight from Gallaudet. My thoughts as the man speaks:
There's some introductory speech (UPDATE: by Pamela Holmes, chair of the BOT), then Davila takes the stage at 19:34 (is it just me, or is Gallaudet intent on using outmoded video players? This was clunky...) He gave a very interesting speech.
He states he has to deal with the lack of open communication on campus by establishing a non-affiliated person for students/faculty to talk to, an email hotline (no word on if this is anonymous!), etc. etc. "We need to open things up for you. We need to make people feel like when they speak on this campus, they will be heard." (Yes, I did find the last sentence funny.) He wants to find ways to put such paying-attention systems into place, to aid his successor; Davila will, he states be president for 1 year.
This sounds good, but at this point I was reminded of Fernandes and Jordan repeatedly stating: We hear you. We just don't agree with you. And I remember reading that Glickman book on Deaf Health and Mental Health where the author stated he found his employees and clients were most comfortable when they were allowed to set the parameters of their own communication.
What I mean is there has to be more than listening, at Gallaudet. When a Deaf person can go to a hearing college, get an interpreter provided for full communication (like I had,) why go to Gallaudet if they can't understand all the teachers? The benefit is supposed to be barrier-free education. That's Gallaudet's value-added - what makes their education special for Deaf individuals. Gallaudet needs to get back to making the campus barrier-free. They need to go through the whole campus like a Deaf person and find out all the spots - like DPS which can't sign - and make them accessible. For so many reasons.
24:03 - Davila mentions a rumor going around in the blogs - already retracted by Ridor, as I noticed in my last post - that he is not supportive of ASL as a language. Kind of shows the power of reporting, doesn' t it? But also, Mr. Davila, as you say later, we're our own worst critics, and Ridor honestly and immediately retracted his statements.
Davila goes on to clearly - and honestly - explain the problems now facing Gallaudet, including the MSA problems. I was impressed with his speaking ability. His signing has personality, and he definitely has the Old Deaf running through him - not in a bad way - he's a pleasure to watch! He reminds me a little of Malzkuhn, and Doug Alker who was President of the BDA in England. Finally, a real leader, who isn't just reading from a script - he knows his subject, he looks at his audience... Could it be someone who signs well might be recognized by the world as a real leader?
We need to be our own worst critics because if we're not, other people will take that role - and that's not a position we want to be in. (38:21)Mr. Davila - this is exactly my philosophy. This is the blog philosophy - we have to work hard on our writing and positions. I wish you the best of luck at the University over the next couple of months. Remember you have young minds to guide and grow, not herd and control. This is not a madhouse with inmates; this is a school with young people. When people tell others about their boundaries and limitations, they need to be listened to - and if not agreed with, respected. When Jordan and Fernandes forgot that, they had already lost, though the protest hadn't begun.
Davila goes on to actually confront the PART report (something Fernandes and Jordan had yet to do) and state the first part of the plan to deal with it - is to collect information, which (if you read between the lines) is exactly what Fernandes and Jordan failed to do. Kudos to Davila for dealing with this!
Around 39:50 - talks about going back to Congress to get funding "restored?" Wants to take advantage of the Democratic Congress. I wonder if he could say a word about savedeaftheater?
40:30 - this seems like a big bombshell to me - there is information badly needed which Jordan doesn't have available or has not yet made available to Davila. This is starting to anger me, because I see a pattern. Ridor has been accusing the Jordan administration of corruption for a while. I have not gone that far. But the failure of the PART report is basically a failure of accountability, and if you see exactly what Gallaudet failed, it mostly has to do with honesty and providing accurate numbers and paperwork. Bascially, you get points for writing your name down if you show up, okay? That's what this is about. I feel terrible for Mr. Davila - it's a horrible thing to take over a job and be so far behind in the work your program needs to accomplish, and requires a lot of sleepless nights.
43:23 - has a deep respect for faculty governance systems. Was a member of many, and understands their importance. Will be setting up discussion panels. (I wonder, will he be sending letters to parents about the protest? Parents of Gallaudet Students, I mean, because I remember reading somewhere that Jordan never reached out to parents who wrote with their concerns about the protest. Davila may need to take over that part of continuing and resolving the Unity for Gallaudet protest.)
44:39 - nice comment from Davila - that both the other candidates for this position have skills that he wishes to tap in the pursuit of resolving the issues he faces on assuming leadership of the University. Seems they are already both involved. I think he's giving a message to people: We have 18 months. Let's get busy. (Update: Marshall has thrown his weight behind Davila.)
Can you tell I warmed up to Davila? I really did - he's obviously a mentor to a huge variety of minds, which is what a University is supposed to be about. He looked at his audience like an experienced professor and leader, and he spoke with emotion, even passion in some places. Could this be the man - this man who speaks before the Hill with such success, while still retaining an excellent ability to sign - be a model for students to achieve Deafhood? Will he remove the barriers which have risen on campus?
Brilliant Traces, by Cindy Lou Johnson. An oil worker's self-enforced isolation in a house in the Middle of Nowhere, Alaska, is disrupted by the arrival of an unbalanced woman in a bridal gown. Having had his peaceful limbo disrupted, Henry Harry refuses to allow Rosannah Deluce to leave until she finds reconcilation within herself. This latest production by the actor/director Frank Dattolo surprisingly pleases: the ethereal advertisements for the show made it seem like a bizarre trip (the insane bride, a la Lucia di Lammermoor, didn't help), but it's actually a tour-de-force of human psychology.
This play is performed in both English and ASL by New York Deaf Theater, and both translations are well-fashioned. Anne Tomasetti and Aaron Kubey provide the necessary character for this character-driven play-and then some! I was absolutely delighted by Tomasetti, who has the expressive range of Audrey Tautou and all of the charm; Kubey's performance resembles that of a more psychologically sophisticated version of Stanley from Streetcar, as his character convincingly moves from timid to terrifying. Indeed, the connection between the two actors strongly called A Streetcar Named Desire to mind, as their give-and-take of sanity and insanity goes from madness to lust to the kindness of strangers-a Streetcar where the prison of marriage is replaced by that of a blizzard, and this 'Blanche' arrives drunk-but quickly runs out of alcohol.
This is one of those well-directed productions which, adapted for ASL, finds clever ways to include voice interpretation which add, not detract, from the production. Two grey-costumed interpreters fade into the desolate, minimalist stage, seeming to represent the former lives of the characters (Kathy Walley, who voices for Tomasetti, even wears a slightly ruffled dress, hinting at the wedding dress Tomasetti takes off earlier in the stage.) Frank Todaro, for example, looks at the recumbent Tomasetti early in the production in a way which echoes the later looks of Kubey. That the two voice actors are speaking different language from the actors only enhances the weird ghostly connections. It emphasizes the bond between the two lost ones, as they dance verbally and physically on stage. Ordonez' costuming is also well-chosen; Tomasetti's dress is replaced by a plaid-and-jeans uniform matching Kubey's, hinting again at the prison-like nature of their exile.
Traces is a long piece-as one audience member said, it's weird (especially in this age of meaningless reality tv!) to see two people just relating for an hour and a half. The ending, however, more than satisfies, though free of resolution; the lights go off with madness in Rosannah's face. Tomasetti and Kubey pull off what must be an exhausting performance, keeping the audience interested and involved in a way which previous productions seem to have had trouble doing-this reviewer, despite a winter cold and a corneal abrasion, nonetheless squinted to catch every word. You could feel it in the audience when Henry kissed Rosannah. Their passion quite literally rattled the set - and the audience, which sat talking about what they'd seen a solid ten minutes after the lights went up. It's no wonder this production is sold out.
Brilliant Traces. Performed at the Gene Frankel Theater. 24 Bond Street New York, NY; NY Deaf Theatre.
So who will it be, friends and neighbors? Here's some first impressions after my first reading of their biographies and letters.
William Marshall, a dedicated leader of the Gallaudet University faculty, who has led the University Faculty Senate (the one whose votes of no confidence so harmed the Jordan/Fernandes position) for the last several years? His publications focus on adademic discipline, how to make a University run efficiently, dealing with politics and power structures. He would seem to be the "healing" option - the man who by familiarity with the community and academic world might be able to lead the Gallaudet community to understanding and healing from the political and social uproar of the past year. His plan includes structure for whoever takes over the Presidential position to ease into their role. He interestingly seems to have stopped publishing in 99 and not again until 2006 - wasn't this the time period Jane Fernandes was Dean of the University? It's probably meaningless coincidence... all in all he seems capable, slightly conservative, highly efficient. His ASL skills have come under attack (see for yourself) but I think this is possibly unfair-Marshall is hardly claiming to be a beautiful signer, unlike Jane Fernandes who Jordan called "fluent." And as Erfo says:
"Marshall doesn't sign too badly. He's got personality... and he obviously has a lot of Old Deaf running through him. I covered his face for part of the presentation; I'd say 70% legible... when any fluent signer gets on the stage at Gally legibility drops to abt 40%-60%."The worst people say of him that I've been able to see is that he is stiff and inflexible - but maybe Gallaudet needs the comfort of routine and a strong direction.
Robert Davila, a man who seems to play the center politically and has a fantastic fundraising track record, a respected academic leader of various institutions, a familiar face with Congress, a highly impressive resume... and extremely well known at Gallaudet (take this test!) He's the first Deaf and Hispanic man to receive a PhD in the United States, a feat which I applaud (and which my father would also; as an immigrant my father wasn't able to take advantage of education in America much.) Davila would seem to be the power option - the man who might be able to reconcile Gallaudet to the world and prepare for what, until a Democratic American majority took hold of the House and balanced the Senate, were hints and rumors of potential government cuts - such as those which rocked the world of Deaf Theatre. Perhaps his leadership qualities, diplomacy, political connections are the more important considerations.
Stephen Weiner was a guidance counselor at MSSD and a former New Yorker as well as a Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor in various other depts. Despite this, I don't know him very well - I was still revelling in being at a Deaf school for the first time in my life and annoying everyone with silly questions. At first glance, his resume doesn't appear as extensive as the other two candidates. Looking at it more closely helps you realize the structure is completely different. His research and publications are on Deaf clubs, Deaf people, Deaf society. I wonder if Weiner is meant to be the "community option" - the man who might reconcile Gallaudet to the extensive community (and its supporters) which turned out in the thousands to show support for their University during the protest. His having administrative experience is also as a member of Boards of various Deaf schools (including Lexington, which he himself attended), a doctorate in Education, and strong ties to the Deaf community. A review of his resume shows presentations nationally and internationally on a huge variety of subjects. His obvious commitment to his community might be what Gallaudet needs for the interim while the best Presidential candidate is sought.
Three very interesting people, who are also sort of refreshingly transparent. MishkaZena and Ridor also have their analysis (Ridor follows it up with a retraction.)
Why is this important? While the position will be short-lived, the Gallaudet community is hurting now - and needs treatment, counselling, the works. While the community is lying injured on the ground, people are hardening opinions about what happened. We need a voice to bring the community back together, prevent hemorrhaging of donations, maintain our political support, and keep the community on the path towards dealing with audism, both internal and external - and get the Gallaudet community ready for a new President and hopefully an upward climb. And as goes Gallaudet, so goes acceptance and opportunity for Deaf people around the nation. Sometimes we forget that without such a center of learning for Deaf people, we wouldn't have the exposure/visibility we do now. Regardless - they'll be announcing the leader soon.
Deaf in the City: No Pity Edition
Today's No Pity is directed at Roger Daltrey of the Who. In conjunction with the release of his new music CD Daltrey is talking about his work-related hearing loss:
Daltrey said: "If I'm playing anything at home, it's probably classical, mainly because I haven't got much hearing left.
"What I have got left, I want to keep." Daltrey is currently busy recording The Who's first studio album in 14 years with the only other surviving member, Pete Townshend.
Anyone wanna bet he's hoping for the "pity buy?" Not from DITC.
Exhausted today-last night was not conducive to sleep. Woke up around 2 and couldn't return to sleep. Sparkly Spanker was awake and working busily on her eyeBook (the deaf version muahahahahaha!) Managed to catch a bit of Embedded on IFC. I love IFC, the Comedy Channel, Lifetime, TLC... addict!
343: what is deafhood? the original definition
Yesterday I sat behind my office on a metal stair with the Demon Queen and talked a little about Deafhood. I explained what's been going on in the Deaf blogosphere, with a ton of extremists taking over the discussion. "But," she exclaimed, "hasn't anyone read the book?"
No. Nor is anyone quoting. So, since I have the book, and I need something to take my mind off of things, here's Dr. Ladd's definition of Deafhood. I cite the complete paragraph:
...I found myself coining a new label of 'Deafhood.' Deafhood is not, however, a 'static' medical condition like 'deafness.' Instead, it represents a process - the struggle by each Deaf child, Deaf family and Deaf adult to explain to themselves and each other their own existence in the world. In sharing their lives with each other as a community, and enacting those explanations rather than writing books about them, Deaf people are engaged in a daily praxis, a continuing internal and external dialogue. (p.3, "Understanding Deaf Culture" by Ladd)
Go back and reread that. It's a pretty complicated statement! First, let's look at the first three sentences. Summarize: Deafhood is a new word. Deafhood doesn't describe a specific medical state. Deafhood describes a process. You can call yourself hard of hearing, be a CI user, be a hearing person who is involved with the Deaf community. Your Deafhood comes from analyzing your relationship to the world, from a proactive analysis instead of passive reception. When you start figuring things out for yourself, in short.
What about the second half of that statement? What about "the struggle to explain our own existence?" What does that mean? When I was a Master's student at Bristol University, Professor Jim Kyle asked our introduction to Deaf Studies class: "What is Deaf culture?" He proceeded to ask us for Deaf clothes, Deaf music. We had to find items to validate our culture. Was there a Deaf food? Deaf water? There's Deaf theater and some Deaf actors, but Deaf culture is not always what hearing people think of as culture. My response was, people continually create and re-create culture. (Most of the things Kyle asked about were cultural artifacts anyway; only a tiny percentage of people still walk around wearing klompen.) Also, there are other cultures which surprise expectations, and cross boundaries between the physical and cultural.
We should not be forced to struggle to explain and justify our existence all the time. But Deaf people know this struggle. Anyone who has been asked "What is it like to be a Deaf person," anyone who's had to explain about interpreters or work out ways to take control of a communication situation before it takes control of you, we all know this. We have all had to summon the courage to speak up, to stand up for ourselves and for others. A lot of this courage comes from each other. I was a lot more passive before I had the massive dose of MSSD exposure!
Now, some people might argue that the reason many people are concerned about CI is that, like the children of oralism or even mainstreaming, many people who are isolated from the community do not reach the point where they can constructively analyze their own deafhood because they are continually "trying to be" instead of "being" - and because, like Ladd states, it is important to have dialogue to achieve praxis (praxis is the academic word for understanding/enlightenment, without the frills.)
I would like to state that this is because of an old saw: "Others see us better than we see ourselves." We need to be able to exchange our ideas with people who have gone through the same experiences. Deafhood can be internal, but this is limited. We need to be able to speak to others and have them understand, and speak back. Don't always have to say the same things. Just have to have a much better awareness of the why and how of our reactions - it means a lot.
It may also be why a high percentage of Deaf people marry other Deaf people. (Something like 80%.)
This dialogue is the key to finding Deafhood. Not rigidity. Not being stuck in your own idea of what it means to be a Deaf person, because you can never be sure whether that idea is 100% of the truth. Artists know this: that's why they push boundaries. It's the reason I have this blog: almost every post here, in some way or another, concerns my quest to retain my Deafhood while living my life. And that's one reason I really like working with shows that involve both Deaf/hearing people. Check out my YouTube Archive for some recent projects. Off to get coffee... feel like colombian roast this morning.
Something unfinished I thought I'd share during busy times.
The reason I'm pacing the cage is:
it doesn't matter how good we are, how well we speak(am I looking docile and sheeplike when I read lips?)
there will always be some form of discrimination
there will always be the need for independence
there is never the confidence that one's projected oneself clearly
there is never the freedom of being able to show emotion(if I show my anger on that or this issue - could I lose my job -)
I see these walls
bowing but not breaking
I paceand chew my enemies to dust -
like a lion: padded paws,
chin to ground. No loud sound
makes me raise my lidded eyes;
and when they lead me to the ring
and make me sing (O mighty roar)
Still I am looking at the floor
I tried out Blip.TV bec. my friend Brein over at Signcasts claims their formatting is better in terms of compression than YouTUBE. Pls share your opinion if you have a chance - thanks!
VLog'd my Sunday Morning Rant
It seems Ridor isn't the only one experiencing job discrimination - this gentleman in India is another sufferer. It seems the job market for Deaf people is just dwindling these days. I wrote to Erfo this morning:
In a sense I do think it's okay to ask people questions about how they'd handle situations. But I do think this was discrimination because a) it's a deaf agency; they're supposed to educate, not pamper hearing people's illusions and b) once Ridor got to know people they'd know to call back with relay. Heck, they could program his voicemail to get people to call back with relay. You can get TTY's which automatically respond with PLEASE CALL BACK VIA TTY. A couple people on his blog suggested video relay, but that wasn't, to me, the point. The point is they raised a specious objection to block a perfectly good candidate for a job... and in the process revealed exactly how discriminatory people can be.
Sometimes I think I should just suck it up and be a good Deaf person and go collect my SSI check. But noooooooo, I really love my job, I really think it's possible to be a Deaf person and a professional, so I continue to go out there and fight the good fight... even tho sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from saying what's on my mind...
But that's what a blog is for. Here's today's rant, in an experimental vlog - would LOVE comments and suggestions for improvement!
More soon. Back to baby-gazing.
347: Gallaudet; The Healthy Deaf Person
It's funny. I mentioned many times during the Gallaudet protest last Spring that it was Jane Fernandes who began to put out the word that the protest was about her not being Deaf enough. Even her aides are spreading the word. y3 has noticed the same thing, and Ridor points out that now the Student congress has rejected Jane Fernandes, the administration is objecting based on the fact that the faculty and students thought the interpreter wasn't good enough; that they are claiming AGAIN that people are trying to divide the Deaf community. It sounds very much like Republicans saying if people want to be bipartisan, they have to vote Republican... These statements do nothing but inflame people's feelings. They do not repair the damage to our community. And to me, the fact that the administration is upset because people claimed the interpreter wasn't good enough? Did anyone ask if the terp was certified? And why a terp was needed at Gallaudet University at ALL? What is Jane Fernandes' strategy for improving diversity and acceptance of diversity at Gallaudet? They actually used the phrase "purebloods" and "mudbloods" in a letter for Goddess' sake! They are fighting against the concept of Deafhood because Deafhood would remove these divisions by encouraging people to RESPECT each other's paths in life and supporting each other in examining those lives. This would help eliminate division and create community - isn't that what they want?
I don't know what will happen with the Presidency but for the sake of the students I hope they get the courage to protest the oppression of their freedom of speech. The fact that the administration isn't more concerned about interpreter quality feels like it has some connection with that. They don't want a dialogue. They want to give the appearance of dialogue, and let the community fight amongst themselves. It also shows disrespect to the interpreting community, which is based at Gallaudet.
And now for today's entry...
What does it mean to be a healthy Deaf person in America today?
For starters, stress reduction. Being Deaf automatically means we have higher stress due to daily communication difficulties. It's very important to identify ways to reduce stress. Do you need time alone? Do you need to improve your safety? Travelling is always stressful; alerts for changes of gate (as this blog by Taylor Mayer demonstrates) are often difficult to naviate, although this news that you can soon download software to your mobile phone so people in the station will alert you of changes sounds great.
Another way to reduce stress is to anticipate problems. Dr. Ladd in his book "Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood" describes a situation where a Deaf man who grew up in an Oral environment was astonished at the fact that all the older Deaf people he met had pad and pen ready for communication. These days I use my Blackberry to order drinks.
We also have to deal with the health issues in the hospital or with the doctor. Sadly, many doctors opt out of providing interpreters because they claim it places an undue burden on their small practices. Hospitals have better luck, but as Mishka Zena reports they don't always like to accomodate you, and sometimes their accomodations aren't satisfactory. Ridor was able to advocate for his father - but what do you do if you're a sick person on medication and alone? It really is important to have a card or something with your ID in your purse or wallet identifying you as Deaf. That way you might be able to get a terp, whether qualified or no, and having some access to communication means you can begin fighting for yourself (as well as your health.)
We also have to take care of our eyes. Deaf people must listen actively. We must use our eyes all the time. Our eyes work with muscles. They get exhausted. Interpreters get breaks every twenty minutes, but we do not. So many of my friends have declining eyesight - we must take basic measures of health to maintain our valuable eyesight! Taking multivitamins, eating your carrots, resting your eyes in the darkness, all of these are good skills to maintain eyesight. There are some tips to take care of your vision (and here's another good link for parents to share with kids.)
Why is this so important to me? Well, how else will you read this blog? Have a good weekend, may do another vlog then.
350: Concrete Audism
What are Audistic behaviors? My new book of the week is Glickman's "Mental Health Care of Deaf People: A Culturally Affirmative Approach." This awesome book has a list of abusive responses to deaf/Deaf people by hearing people which I would like to examine. I want to help further the discourse on Audism currently happening at Gallaudet and elsewhere. I reproduce a short list here, with my comments:
- Drawing erroneous and damning conclusions from inappropriate psychological testing. ("Do you hear voices?" "No, I'm Deaf.")
- Diagnosing deaf people as mentally retarded, autistic, or schizophrenic, and allowing them to languish in institutions. (I remember one woman from MSSD, very sweet, who had been in an institution for several years because nobody realized she was deaf.)
- Holding a medical conception of what it means to be deaf-deafness as a pathology, a handicap, and a tragedy-and therefore believing that deaf people need to be "fixed."
- Believing that deaf people are disabled not just in being unable to hear, but intellectually, emotionally, and morally. (I see this all the time.)
- Promoting the idea of the psychology of deafness, that deaf people are unintelligent, egocentric, concrete, irresponsible, impulsive, immature, paranoid, and so on. (Ironic! I often see the same people who complain about divisiveness in the Deaf community, go on to say that "All Deaf people are..." It's the same with women's studies: the men complain that they are being left out, then immediately go on to say "Well, all women do this and this," and don't see why the women are pissed off.)
- Actively discriminating against Deaf people in hiring and promotions. (Mostly because of access. I will be talking about this book's take on access, and my own attendance at a speech Glickman gave, as soon as I have the time.)
- Showing paternalism, pity and contempt toward Deaf people. (Sometimes, if you use an interpreter who is lousy and makes you sound like a petulant five-year-old... well, it's tough.)
- Excluding of the Deaf community from decision making on key matters, such as educational policies and medical procedures that pertain to Deaf people.
- Disempowering them around communication, resulting in communication isolation. (Happens all the time, especially in hospitals.)
Pick a number. Do you experience audism, based on these categories? How do you work against these ideas?