Thursday, January 30, 2020

Bank opens Branch for Deaf/HoH

The largest bank in the U.S. has opened its first branch designed to serve the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The JPMorgan Chase branch is located in Washington, DC near Gallaudet University and offers features like on-demand video, remote interpreting, T-loop Bluetooth technology, and digital screens with captions. Six of the branch’s nine employees are ASL fluent and three identify as deaf or hard of hearing. JPMorgan Chase is also putting a quarter of a million dollars to Gallaudet University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. Read more about the new branch from WAMU radio here.

On this date: A deaf man helps to stop a bank robbery

A deaf bank customer helped stop a bank robbery on this day (Jan 30) in 2003. A bank teller in Rochester, New York tipped off the man as he was going through the drive-through. The robber had entered a branch of HSBC yelled that he was robbing it, then jumped on a counter and pistol-whipped a teller. Another teller at the drive-up window just happened to be helping a deaf customer at that moment. She mouthed the words "we are being robbed." The lip-reading customer then drove to a nearby liquor store and called 911. Police nabbed the robbery suspect not far from the bank as he was trying to wash dye off his hands after a dye pack in the money bag had exploded. The injured teller suffered only minor injuries.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Hotline called 'Epic Failure' for Deaf community

New York City has a complaint and information hotline (311). But it does not work well for deaf and hard-of-hearing residents, according to Councilmember Fernando Cabrera. "Some people report waiting up to 45 minutes before connecting with someone who has a way to answer their questions, Cabrera said. He noted some folks have been hung up on by operators who assumed they were prank callers." Read more from The City newspaper here.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Getting to know audiologist Marion Downs

image from Marion Downs Hearing Center 
One of the people most responsible for newborn hearing screening in the U.S. was born this day (Jan. 26) in 1914. Audiologist Marion Downs published two books and over 100 articles on the topic during her lifetime. The Marion Downs Hearing Center opened nearly a decade ago at the University of Colorado Medical Center. WVXU radio in Cincinnati has more on this remarkable woman here. She was 100 years old when she died on Nov. 13, 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Insights into the history of sign language

A study of sign language in Europe has found that Spanish sign language is possibly the oldest in existence. Not only that, researchers say their findings support the belief that sign languages evolve just like spoken languages.
Despite dealing with fundamentally different data, the analogies between the evolution of sign languages and biological evolution are striking, especially when we look at the gain and loss of lineage-specific traits.
Read more from ZME Science here.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The UK prison system "fails" a deaf inmate

Tyrone Givans, who was profoundly deaf, killed himself while in a UK prison. His mother, Angela Augustin, told the Guardian, "Putting him in prison without hearing aids was like putting him in a hole in the ground." A jury found that "numerous systemic individual failures" led to his death. Read the entire story of what happened to Givans here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

On this date: Sorenson Dies

James LeVoy Sorenson
(image from Southern Utah University)
A driving force in the Deaf community died on this date (Jan. 20) in 2008. James LeVoy Sorenson passed away at a Salt Lake City hospital at the age of 86. Utah's richest man was estimated to be worth $4.5 billion by Forbes magazine. Perhaps best known for co-developing the first real-time computerized heart monitor and founding Sorenson Communication, his donations to Gallaudet University totaled more than $5 million.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Deaf doctoral student

Alexis Nye is deaf and working toward her Ph.D. in audiology at UNC-Chapel Hill. Born profoundly deaf, she was diagnosed at the age of six months. At the age of two years of age, she received her first cochlear implant and a second at age 16. Read more about her from the News & Record here or watch a video report about her from last year.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The History of Deaf Communities in Canada

Inuit Sign Language "has been an important part of the Inuit linguistic landscape." The Link newspaper takes a brief look at it here.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Recognizing ASL in Nebraska

A state lawmaker in Nebraska wants ASL to be legally recognized as a language. There are only five states that don't do so and Nebraska is one of them. State Senator Anna Wishart is trying to change that with bill LB839. You can read the bill here.

Getting to Know the First Teacher of the Deaf

A Spanish monk in the 16th century named Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520–1584) is recognized by most historians as the first teacher of deaf children, though some experts point to Spanish painter Juan Fernandez Navarrete, who lived in the earlier part of the century. Ponce de Leon was a Benedictine monk who took a vow of silence and developed a form of sign language to communicate. He apparently taught finger-spelling to deaf children who probably arrived at his monastery already knowing some home signs. Read more about Ponce de Leon in National Geographic Australia here.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

State to Split Deaf & Blind Schools

South Dakota’s School for the Deaf and School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will now have two separate superintendents. In the past few months, a series of investigative pieces have been published into how the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children in the state have been ignored for decades. Read more from the Argus Leader here.

Getting to Know Greg Hlibok

image from Gallaudet University
Greg Hlibok oversaw the FCC's Disability Rights Office from 2010 to 2016. Profoundly deaf since birth, Hlibok was the first deaf law student at Hofstra University. Hlibok is best known in the Deaf community as the student body president of Gallaudet University during the 1988 Deaf President Now protest. He serves on the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees and is currently the general counsel and compliance officer for video relay service provider ZVRS.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Getting to Know Hearing Tests

Here's what won't happen during a hearing test: No one will use a needle and there will be no request to strip off your clothes.

Here's what WILL happen: An audiologist will check to make sure you don’t have a build-up of wax in your ears before taking you into an acoustic testing chamber that cuts out outside noise.

You’ll put on headphones that cover your ears and listen to tones.

You’ll indicate when you first hear the tone.

He’ll start with a low tone at a very soft level and gradually increase the volume.

The same process will be used through ten different tones.

A second test involves placing a want behind your ear. This test how well you can hear sounds coming through your skull and not through your ears.

The results are indicated on what’s called an audiogram. It looks like a graph.

If you have some hearing loss – whether mild or significant, your audiologist may include speech recognition tests.

Using the headphones again, you repeat a word or sentence that you hear. The results should give the audiologist enough information to decide to recommend a hearing aid.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Dealership settles ADA lawsuit

A car dealership in Hawaii has agreed to pay $42,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit accusing it violating ADA law. "The EEOC alleged that Cutter Mazda failed to hire a deaf applicant due to his disability. Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual's disability." Read more about it from the EEOC here.

Airline Travel Tips for the Deaf & HoH

Make each airline agent aware of your situation at each stage of your trip.. from the booking agent all the way to the gate agent and flight attendants.

Arrange for pre-boarding and have a friend or family member escort you to the gate. Escorts can get a gate pass that will allow them through security and to the gate.

Airlines will often seat you at the front of a plane if you request it to read lips better or if you have a service dog with you.

Take a piece of paper with you explaining your situation and how you’d like to communicate. Show it especially to an agent when you arrive at the gate so that he or she can make sure you are aware of any important announcements such as a gate change.

Most airlines offer assistance for hard-of-hearing passengers over the phone.

Monday, January 6, 2020

American Girl doll with hearing aids

An 8-year-old Tennessee girl loves her new doll from American Girl; it wears a hearing aid like she does. WTVC-TV in Cleveland, Tennessee has a video report below or read the story here.

Getting to Know Hearing Loops

When you see a blue sign of a human ear that's a cue to hearing aid users that they can press a tiny button to hear a special broadcast sent directly to their device. This is called a hearing loop, a thin copper wire that radiates electromagnetic signals in a room. A tiny receiver called a telecoil built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants picks up the signal. With the flip of a switch on the device, sound comes through with greater clarity than can be heard by someone with normal hearing. This might be music, sound from a movie, a or a speaker. Hearing loops are better known in Europe than in the US, where only about a thousand have been installed in museums, stores, theaters, airports, and sports arenas.

The sign should have a "T" symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the ear symbol if there is an induction loop installed. If there is solely an ear with a slash in the middle of the ear, then the sign indicates there is some sort of hearing access but good luck trying to figure out what the site has. If there are dots/slashes running through the ear then the sign indicates that an assistive listening system is present but it could be an FM or Infrared system and headsets and/or neck loops may be available.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

GOP settles ADA lawsuit

Utah's Republican Party has settled a lawsuit filed by a deaf man and a woman who uses a wheelchair. They said the political organization failed to follow ADA law at its conventions and caucuses. Aaron Heineman wanted to participate in a caucus three years ago but the GOP failed to provide a qualified sign language interpreter. Eliza Stauffer said the state convention failed to include a designated area for her wheelchair. Read more about the case from the Daily Herald here.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate: Here’s what college is like for students with disabilities

Haben Girma is the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. She writes,"My personal experience with discrimination, as well as those I heard from others, sparked my desire to develop legal advocacy skills." Below is a CNBC video about her below and there is some background on her from Voice of America here.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Reconstructing spoken words from the brains of primates

Brown University researchers say they've been able to put together words from the brain signals of monkeys. They connected a computer directly to a monkey's brain and believe this "could be a step toward developing brain implants that may help people with hearing loss."Details are published in the journal Nature Communications Biology. Read more details here.

Three of Wyoming couple's kids undergo implant procedures

Three children of Jackie and Chris Isenberger went through cochlear implant procedures at the same time at Children's Hospital in Colorado. The parents defend their decision in an article published by The Denver Channel here.

On this date Grace Coolidge was born

Grace Anna Goodhue was born on January 3, 1879, in Burlington, Vermont. She's known to history as the wife of the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. What many people don't know is that she was a teacher of the deaf. As first lady, she worked hard to educate the public and invited Helen Keller to visit the White House. Helped by the President, Mrs. Collidge raised $2 million for the Clarke School for the Deaf. Read more about her life here

Getting to Know Service Animals

image from Wikimedia Commons
What is the legal definition of a service animal?  Therapy Animals are not legally defined by federal law but there is a legal definition for service animals in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Service animals are specifically trained to help the disability-related needs of their handlers and are not considered 'pets'.

Is using a service animal protected in public places? Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals in public places.

Does a guide dog have to be certified by the State to be an “official” guide dog? No. Any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. 

Can a business owner insist on proof of state certification before letting a service animal into the business? No. Certificates, licenses or other physical proof that a dog qualifies as a service animal.

What can a business owner ask the service dog handler? If the dog’s function is not apparent, then the ADA permits only two kinds of questions. The business owner can ask, “Is this dog required because of a disability?" and “What specific assistive task or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?”

Under what conditions can a service animal be excluded from a facility? Under ADA law, an animal can be excluded if it is a direct threat to the health or safety of other people or will disrupt the regular operation of the business. Handlers of service animals must obey local leash and vaccine laws and must have their dogs under control at all times. An example of an animal being a direct threat to public safety would be if the service animal was eating at tables or sitting on chairs meant for patrons. 

Can businesses hold service animal owners responsible for damage done by the animal? Yes. Service-dog handlers are responsible for property damage just like other patrons.

Can businesses require the owners of service animals to pay “pet fees” or segregate them into “animal-friendly” areas? Because service dogs are not pets, the U.S. Justice Department, which is the ADA’s primary enforcement authority, businesses cannot subject them to “pet fees” or segregation in “animal-friendly” areas.  

Does an animal have to be able to do anything to be a service animal?  Yes. A dog must be able to perform specific tasks that relate to a person’s disability. 

Are therapy animals protected in the same way? Therapy, emotional-support, and companion animals are considered pets and do not fall under the regulations provided by the ADA. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

What It's Like to Move to Music You Can't Hear

Gallaudet Dance Company has been performing for 65 years. Dance Magazine takes a look at the performance troupe here.

Getting to Know your hair cells

Clusters of hair cells
Hair cells play a critical role in our hearing. When they are damaged, doctors say they act like blades of grass. When someone walks on grass, the blades initially lie down and then bounce back up. but if you keep walking that same path over and over again, the grass will stay down. Hair cells are the same way, if you send waves of sound from the outside without opportunity for the cells to recover or you rip them up through excessive noise. Hair cells do not grow back.