Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Maritime Sign Language

The deaf community in Nova Scotia is rallying to preserve a sign language that's unique to the region, according to the CBC. It's called "Maritime Sign Language" and it is still used by older people in Atlantic Canada. Since it isn't being handed down to the next generation, "There's a push to document MSL before it's lost."  Read more about the effort here.

On this date. at the South Pole

(image from NASA)
Ian Berry become the first deaf man to walk to the South Pole on this day (Dec. 31) in 2009. The UK native dragged a sled across 112 miles of ice to raise more than $40,000 for the National Deaf Children's Society. The 43-year-old reached the pole on New Year's Eve as part of a five person team. Read more about his adventure here.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

HoH boy creates video game for blind

A 12-year-old hard-of-hearing video-game designer has created a video game for blind and visually impaired children. WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida has a video report (no captions but text here).

Friday, December 27, 2019

Adapting Religious Services at Gally

Gallaudet University is adopting religious services to the school's deaf population by offering the services in American Sign Language and Arabic Sign Language. Religious News Service says, "Changes (to the Catholic mass) would be striking to anyone used to a Mass where the hearing are in the majority" and it is a similar experience for Muslims. Read the full story here.
A monument honoring Thomas Gallaudet is being restored at the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut. Gallaudet founded the school in 1817. The project should be completed this coming fall. Read more about it from Associated Press here.

Deaf & HoH attorneys sworn in

Chief Justice John Roberts used American Sign Language when he swore-in a group of 10 deaf and hard-of-hearing attorneys sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court Bar Association. That means they can argue cases before the nation's highest court. One of them is Azeema Akram, an administrative law judge at the Illinois Commerce Commission, who was diagnosed as hard of hearing at the age of three. WLS-TV in Chicago has her story in the video below.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Marlee Matlin vs Delta Airlines

Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin is calling out Delta Airlines for failing to provide captions for its videos during flights.

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability on airlines.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Inventing sign language for space

British sign language is receiving an astronomical update thanks to a unique collaboration between a space scientist and a group of deaf astronomers. The BBC video below explains more.

The Deaf are being 'excluded from astronomy'

An astrophysicist in the UK is leading a project to develop 50 new BSL signs to help explain her research. Olja Panic says, "The deaf community risks being excluded from aspects of modern science because the number of new advances is outpacing the development of sign language to explain them." Read the full story at Phys.org here.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Nyle DiMarco & Mariah Carey

Nyle DiMarco's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" ASL challenge got a thumbs up from Mariah Carey. Her song by that title hit #1 and she retweeted his video below, saying "This is Amazing!!!!!":

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Deaf History: Artist William Agnew

Amateur artist William Agnew died on this day (Dec 21) in 1914. The deaf painter created a series of pictures (none of which survived) which made him famous, showing Queen Victoria using finger spelling to communicate with a deaf woman on the Isle of Wight. Educated at the Glasgow Institution where he took a leadership role as an adult, Agnew opposed the oral system in favor of signing.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Deaf school gets fined over hazardous waste

image from Google Maps
The Oregon School for the Deaf is getting slapped with a $11,500 fine. State environmental regulators say the school has mismanaged hazardous waste. Read more from the Statesman Journal here.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Deaf refugees overcome language barrier

Sangita and Purna Kami are from Bhutan and both are deaf. Sangita has been deaf all her life while Purna became deaf after he fell from a tree at the age of eight. The deaf couple "met in a refugee camp in Bhutan and immigrated to the United States with limited ability to communicate." Find out more in this WXXI video below or read the story of the Kamis here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

ASL interpreters have a crucial role in the law

ASL Interpreters and Certified Deaf Interpreters play an important role in law enforcement and court interaction. The Post-Bulletin has more here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Happy Birthday, Curtis Pride!

Image from Gallaudet University
It's Curtis Pride's birthday. He was born 95% deaf on Dec 17, 1968, in Washington, D.C suburbs. In high school, he excelled in soccer, becoming a 1986 Parade Magazine High School All American soccer player. In college, at William and Mary, he was the starting point guard on the basketball team. The New York Mets drafted Pride in round 10 of the 1986 MLB draft.  The only deaf player in the major leagues during the modern era, Pride played for 11 years in the majors as an outfielder and pinch hitter and a dozen more in the minors. He hit 20 home runs in his 421 major league games with such teams as the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox,  Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Angels.  He was mainstreamed as a child, played multiple sports in high school, and graduated with a 3.6 GPA. Pride now coaches the Gallaudet University, baseball team. He told Parade Magazine in 1994, "I never let my deafness hold me back. I never feel sorry for myself. Never. I know I have a disability. I've accepted it. I can't worry about it. I want to make the most of my life. And I am." Pride He is currently the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University, a position he has held for a decade.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Audiologist wins national award

image from Oticon.com
An audiologist working at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School which is based on Gallaudet University’s campus in DC has won the 2019 Oticon Focus on People Award for Best Practitioner. The national award goes toward honoring individuals with hearing loss as well as hearing care professionals who open new possibilities for the hearing impaired community. The hearing loss of this year's winner, Jennifer Gaston, wasn't discovered until she was five years old. Read more about Jennifer here and about other award winners here.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Deafness in Three Movements

A new documentary about deafness premiered on HBO last night. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements is the story of Jonas Brodsky who began losing his hearing at the age of two like his grandmother. Only in Jonas case, his parents had the choice of giving him a cochlear implant. Read more about the film here or watch the trailer below.

It's OK to Point!

A video explaining some differences between hearing and Deaf culture from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. with ASL instructor Jack Volpe.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

ASL Program Proposed for Univ of Memphis

The University of Memphis is planning to become the only college in West Tennessee offering a degree program in ASL by the fall of 2021. The school only started offering undergraduate courses in ASL during the fall of 2015. Administrators expect to serve 40 majors each year and graduate 15 to 20 students each year. The only college in Tennessee with such a degree program is Maryville College. Read more about UM's plans here.

$2 Million Grant Goes to Cochlear Implant Research

A National Institutes of Health grant of $2 million will be used by a researcher at USC toward a "project aimed at helping the formerly deaf with cochlear implants regain their appreciation for music." Ray Goldsworthy (who uses a CI himself) will study:
The role pitch perception plays in music comprehension. The ability to determine pitch — to distinguish if one sound is higher or lower than the other — is severely limited in once-deaf people with cochlear implants and a big reason that music is hard for them to hear. Goldsworthy plans to help subjects regain this ability through training software he has developed. He will also investigate new ways of encoding improved pitch into the electrical stimulation patterns of the cochlear implant — this stimulation is how sound is recognized — and use brain imaging to understand the changes in the brain that occur with pitch training.
Read more from USC here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

In 2013: the fake interpreter at Mandela’s memorial service

During Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg on this date (Dec. 10) in 2013, a man pretending to interpret for the dignitaries that spoke was declared a fraud by South Africa's deaf federation. U.S. President Barack Obama was among the heads of state attending the service at the 95,000-seat football stadium when Thamsanqa Jantjie took to the stage. The incident raised security concerns and is an embarrassment for the South African government, Bruno Druchen, the National Director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, posted a statement on its Facebook, which reads in part:
The so-called “interpreter” who interpreted at the Official memorial service for late former president Nelson Mandela at FNB stadium has been dubbed the “fake interpreter” and the Deaf community is in outrage. This man is not, in fact, a recognized, professional South Sign Language Interpreter. He is not known by the Deaf Community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field... This ‘fake interpreter’ has made a mockery of South African Sign Language and has disgraced the South African Sign Language interpreting profession. The organizers of the memorial service, and indeed any event, should have contacted organizations who coordinate South African Sign Language interpreting services to secure a professional, trained experienced interpreter.
It turned out that Thamsanqa Jantjie was once charged with murder, according to a eNCA TV network that also said he has a history of lying and fraud. Jantjie admitted to being violent and claimed to have been "hallucinated during the memorial service as he was gesturing incoherently." Here's an early SkyNews report (with captions).

Happy Birthday, Thomas Gallaudet!

Born - Philadelphia on December 10, 1787

Family - Oldest of 12 children

College - Attended Yale at age 14, graduating with highest honors at 17

Ministry - Ordained in 1814, sometimes preaching at church

Deaf Interest - Became interested in deaf issues when he met a 9-year-old deaf neighbor

School - Founded The American School for the Deaf during 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut

Travels - Learned the manual form of sign language used in France when he visited

Marriage - In 1821, he married a former student and had two sons

Edward - Gallaudet's son who founded Gallaudet University in Washington, DC

Thomas - Ordained as an Episcopal priest, working to provide religious services for the deaf

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Ottoman Empire used a Secret Sign Language

Ottoman court signer from a  17th-century
costume book (via Wikimedia Commons)
"In the 1600s, the court of the Ottoman Empire employed some 40 deaf servants," professor Sara Scalenghe writes. "They were chosen not in spite of their deafness, but because of it. The deaf servants were favored companions of the sultan, and their facility in nonverbal communication made them indispensable to the court, where decorum restricted speech in the sultan’s presence." Scalenghe tells the facinating story of the deaf servants here

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Getting to Know Dr House

It was on this date (Dec. 7, 2012) that Dr. William F. House died in Oregon at the age of 89. Dr. House is credited with installing the first cochlear implant in 1961. He was told by experts the electric current he was using would destroy the ear, but that didn't stop him. He believed in what implants could do to change someone's life. Here's a little about him.
  • Known as the "father of neurotology."
  • He received his doctorate in dentistry from the University of California at  Berkeley.
  • Practiced medicine in Newport Beach, California until 2000, when he moved to Aurora, Oregon, next door to his son.
  • His cochlear implant was approved by the FDA in 1984.
  • When he started performing the cochlear surgery on children some claimed he was just after money.
  • His half-brother, Howard P. House founded the House Ear Institute which became the House Research Institute.
  • He completed some 3,000 implants throughout his career.
  • Developed a new approach to removing tumors on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain.
  • Created a new surgical procedure for Meniere's disease, an inner ear disorder contracted by Astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. He couldn't have flown to the moon had it not been for House's surgery. He wrote a memoir called The Struggles of a Medical Innovator

Friday, December 6, 2019

Looking back at Kitty O'Neil's Record

It was on this day (Dec. 6) in 1976 that professional stuntwoman Kitty O'Neil set a record for land speed by a female driver. It was in Oregon's Alvord Desert that Kitty hit 512 miles per hour.

Childhood diseases left her deaf and nearly killed her. She became a champion diver at a young age. Her work later as a Hollywood stuntwoman was featured in TV shows like Quincy, Baretta and The Bionic Woman along with movies like Smokey and the Bandit, The Blues Brothers and Airport '77. 

She set a record for the highest stunt fall by a woman (105 feet).  She has held as many as 22-speed records on land and water.

A movie was made about her life in 1979 titled Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story.  She died Nov. 2, 2018, from pneumonia at the age of 72. Read more about her amazing life in a Washington Post article here. Below is a video report on Kitty from the Midco Sports Network put together in 2015.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Deaf Actor plays characters not defined by his being Deaf

Russell Harvard, a third-generation Deaf man, is playing the roles of Link Deas and Boo Radley in Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It's the "first time the actor had played a character not defined by being Deaf." He tells Playbill
I think it simply means I’m good at what I do. It makes sense with Link Deas and Boo Radley because they share similar qualities. Both are outcasts in the community and good-hearted men who know what’s right and wrong...I’m an actor who happens to be Deaf, and I get to share the artistry of ASL with the audience of this landmark show.
To Kill a Mockingbird is in its second season at the Shubert Theatre. Read more from Playbill about Harvard here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

On this Date: Dimarco Wins Top Model

Nyle Dimarco
(image from ANTM video)
Nyle Dimarco won America's Next Top Model contest on this date (Dec. 4) in 2015. He was the first deaf contestant to do so. Afterward Dimarco told People magazine, "Being a deaf person on a television show alone is pretty groundbreaking, so it felt incredible just to be on the show – but to win it was amazing!" Read more of that interview here. Top Model introduced him with this video.