Tuesday, June 30, 2020

MI company to pay $25K for ADA violations

A Michigan company has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit as well as ADA training and reports to the EEOC. The EEOC's lawsuit said Powerlink Facilities Management Services, instead of providing captioning in its orientation videos, didn't allow a deaf employee to begin work for several months. The failure to provide reasonable accommodations was an ADA violation. Read more details from the EEOC here.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

This day in history: 116 years ago

Helen Keller graduated with honors from Radcliffe College on June 28, 1904, 114 years ago today, becoming the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college with a B.A. Radcliffe was a women's liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a part of Harvard University.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Whatever Happened to.. Jane Fernandes

Jane Fernandes
image from guilford.edu

Jane Fernandes has announced she will step down as president of Guilford College after this academic year. She spent seven years at the school and will leave a year before her contract expires. In taking the position at the private Quaker college, she became the first deaf woman to lead a U.S. college or university. But alumni of Gallaudet University will remember her, not only as provost of the school from 2000-2006 but as someone who was appointed by the school's board to become president but was rejected by students (having only learned sign language as an adult). The board revoked the appointment on Oct 29, 2006, Read more about what happened in 2006 in a Washington Post article here. Read Fernandes' letter to Guilford explaining her plans here.

iOS 14 gives deaf users some valuable features

Apples' 14th operating system includes features useful to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  • Sound Recognition, which creates a notification whenever the phone detects common noises like sirens, car horns, doorbells, running water, and appliance beeps. 
  • There's also a "personal audiogram,” which allows you to adjust frequencies based on which ones you are able to hear. 
  • "Real Time Text" conversation has been around—it helps with conversations for those who are nonverbal people. But now users can be doing something else while using the app. 
  • FaceTime calls can now be set so that it will which between signers and not just verbal speakers.

Friday, June 26, 2020

On this date in 1889

The statue of Thomas Gallaudet that greets visitors to the university in the nation's capital that bears his name was unveiled on June 26, 1889. The work of sculptor Daniel Chester French, the bronze statue shows Gallaudet teaching a little girl, Alice Cogswell. She holds a book to her heart, with the alphabet running across the page. They are practicing the letter “A” of American Sign Language. She was a neighbor of the Gallaudets in Connecticut. Thomas noticed Alice did not play with the other children and inquired about her. After discovering she was deaf, Thomas Gallaudet asked to become her first teacher, which he did. This was the first in a series of events that lead to the founding of the first permanent school for the deaf in America and the establishment of what is now Gallaudet University.

Some believe there are mistakes on the statue, but university officials say this is not the case. The chair has only one arm and one straight leg. This was a type of chair common in Gallaudet's day. The chair is not hollow underneath, in order to support the weight of the statue's plaster model. However, the statue was delivered late because French found several mistakes he wanted to correct, including making Gallaudet's legs too short. The text on the statue includes a reference to the "United-States." It was not uncommon for a hyphen to be used at the time, though was considered old fashioned, even in 1889. However, the statue is not consistent because the phrasing on the other side does not include a hyphen. Also, there are periods included in some of the text that is not included on other parts of the statue.

Happy Birthday, Signmark

Deaf Finnish rap artist Signmark (Marko Vuoriheimo) was born on this day (June 26) in Helsinki, Finland in 1978. The child of deaf parents, Signmark stumbled into Hip Hop music while translating songs into sign. He felt a connection between the rappers hand gestures and sign language. He now works with other artists who sing as he signs, becoming the first deaf rapper to sign with a major label. His first album was released in 2006. Signmark came in second in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Website accessibility study

Many websites are not accessible, according to a company called accessiBe. They tested 10,000,000 websites for accessibility compliance and found:

98% of menus failed
83% of buttons
71% of forms
52% of images
89% of pop-ups.

Read more here.

Starbucks to open 1st signing store in Japan

image from Starbucks.com
Starbucks Coffee is opening its first store in Japan with baristas who know sign language. The store will open on Saturday in Kunitachi, a city in the western part of Tokyo. Nearly the entire staff of 25 is deaf. This will be the fifth "signing store" for the company Others are located in Malaysia, the US and China. Read more here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Looking Back.. 17 years ago: Big River Debuts

On this date (July 23) in 2003, a revival of Big River opened on Broadway with a cast of hearing and deaf actors. Roger Miller's 1985 musical about Huck Finn was the first Broadway show to do so since the 1980's Children of a Lesser God. The show was a co-production of the Roundabout Theater Company and West Hollywood's Deaf West Theater. Big River won 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Here's a video of that 2004 Tony Awards ceremony. 

Getting to Know the Father of the Internet

Vinton Cerf
It was on this date (June 23) 1943 that Vinton Cerf, who is hard of hearing, was born in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Cerf and his colleague, Robert Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. In 2004, the pair were given the ACM Alan M. Turing award, which is sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of Computer Science." In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Cerf and Kahn the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the US government. Cern now works for Google as its chief Internet evangelist, looking for and promoting new technologies and services. What many do not know, is that Cerf was partly motivated by his frustration with communication with other researchers. He is quoted as saying, “In creating the Internet with my colleagues, in part, I wanted to help people with hearing loss as well as other communication difficulties. Written communication is a tremendous help for me, and so when electronic mail was invented in ’71, I got very excited about it, thinking that the hard-of-hearing community could really use this.” Cerf has hearing loss as does his wife, who had hearing loss due to spinal meningitis at the age of three. She received her first cochlear implant in 1996 and a second implant in her other ear nearly a decade later. They met at the office of a hearing aid specialist and married in 1966. Cerf joined the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet University in 1997 until 2005. He spoke at Gallaudet's 145th Commencement in 2017. You can read what he said here.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Videoconferencing Tips

Here are some tips from Carolyn Ginsburg Stern, the assistant director of outreach and strategic initiatives at the Center for Hearing and Communication, published in The Hearing Journal, about making videoconferences more accessible:

  • Sit in a well-lit space to brighten your face and avoid backlighting, such as light shining through a window behind a workstation.
  • Eliminate background noise. Use a high-quality microphone, headset/microphone combo, or earbuds.  
  • When you're not speaking, put your microphone on mute to reduce background noise
  • Speak in turn and state your name before speaking.
  • Project your voice succinctly and articulately, and avoid fillers such as “so” and “um.”
  • People with hearing loss have a hard time keeping up with spontaneous discussions and details, so try not to sway from the agenda and type your questions or clarifications in the chat feature of the videoconferencing tool you are using.

More info at The Hearing Journal here

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Marvel is looking for a Deaf Actress

Marvel is reportedly searching for a deaf, Native American First Nations, Indigenous or Latinx actress for a role in an upcoming Disney+ series. Speculation is that Disney could be planning to introduce the Daredevil character Echo to one of its shows. Originally an adversary for The Man Without Fear, Echo became a hero herself, becoming Avenger Maya Lopez in the New Avengers and then a help to Wolverine and Moon Knight. Read more here.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Twitter offers audio option--without making the audio accessible

Twitter is rolling out a new audio option that allows users to record as much as 140 seconds of audio to post as a tweet. But the social network failed to make the feature accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. After an outcry, the designer behind the product, Maya Patterson, admitted it was “huge error” and the team is “working to fix this as soon as possible." Here's her tweet:
Only a few users have the option so far but it is expected to be widely available in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

FedEx will pay $3.3 million dollars to settle an ADA complaint

FedEx will pay $3.3 million dollars to settle a complaint filed with the EEOC. "Seventeen deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals filed Charges of Discrimination against FedEx, which the EEOC then consolidated as part of a nationwide investigation of potential ADA violations."FedEx has agreed to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers with access to live and video remote interpreters captioned videos, scanning equipment with non-audible cues such as vibrations and provide training for managers on ADA compliance. Read more here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

1st Transgender Student Graduates from Rochester School for the Deaf

"If it wasn't for RSD, I wouldn't be the person I am today," Cori Moquette told Spectrum News. Read more about Moquette here.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Masks & VRIs can prevent Deaf individuals from accessing treatment

Bridget Nitsch opted for a natural birth but wasn’t due for a few days--but the baby came anyway. But
Bridget Nitsch and her partner, who are both Deaf, couldn’t reach 911 until connecting with Bridget Nitsch’s mother through a video call. By the time the paramedics arrived, the baby’s head was halfway out. Bridget Nitsch and her partner can read lips with American Sign Language, but the paramedics refused to take off their masks or gloves due to COVID-19 precautions.“They were talking, but there was no communication,” Nitsch said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t speech-read anything they were saying, because of the masks. And then the baby came out.”
Read more in the Daily Northwestern.

On this Day: First Deaf Computer PhD

image from Gallaudet.edu
It was on this date, June 15, 2008, that Karen Alkoby became the first deaf woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in computer science. She graduated from Chicago's DePaul University, helping to pioneer a computer-animated dictionary. Alkoby’s dissertation involved determining how the human brain interprets shapes like those made by hands in ASL. This may help with the creation of an ASL-to-English dictionary. She now teaches computer science at Gallaudet University

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Deaf Black lives matter group honors Black deaf sanitation workers

Several dozen deaf black people joined together to march in Memphis yesterday. Besides protesting against police brutality and systemic racism, they also honored black deaf sanitation workers who marched before them. Read the full story at the Commercial Appeal here and watch the video below from WJHL-TV News channel 11.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Judge rules on lawsuit filed by deaf inmates in Illinois

The Illinois prison system is not following through on its agreement to accommodate deaf prisoners. That's the finding of a federal judge who says the Illinois Department of Corrections is out of compliance with a 2018 settlement agreement. It said that deaf prisoners would get auditory exams after failed hearing tests. The judge is ordering the dept. of corrections to pay attorney fees of the deaf prisoners who sued. Read more about the case in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Gally suspends frat House over racist photo

Gallaudet University has suspended its oldest fraternity. A 1988 photo has come to light showing members of the Kappa Gamma chapter doing what appears to be Nazi salutes. Current members of the Gallaudet chapter have condemned the photo. In 2014, the fraternity was criticized when members wore robes resembling Ku Klux Klan robes. President Roberta Cordano told the campus in a video, “They have become the face of systemic racism in our community, with photographs of the salute and use of robes being shared on social media. This behavior is unacceptable." Watch the entire video below. You can read the text of video here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Deaf demonstrators say they face dangers at protests

Members of Portland's deaf community are taking to the streets like many others are doing. But as KATU-TV has learned, safety can become a concern. Here is a video report here.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter signs

ASL interpreter Rorri Burton breaks down how to sign “Black Lives Matter” in ASL and explains why not everyone signs it the same way.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The lockdown's impact on deaf children in the UK

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant access to many support services is limited, and deaf youngsters are even more vulnerable, write a group of health and disability experts. Read more in the Guardian here.

Getting to know: Canada's first deaf Priest

Matthew Hysell
Canada's first deaf Roman Catholic priest was ordained in 2012. Raised a Baptist in Michigan, Matthew Hysell lost his hearing after a bout with meningitis as a toddler. He made the decision to become a priest as a teenager after reading about the priesthood in school. He graduated from City University in New York, then earned a master's in theology from a California program. He celebrates mass using sign language. He was as Associate Pastor at Corpus Christi Parish with responsibility for St. Mark’s Catholic Community of the Deaf. He is now pursuing a doctorate at the Dominican University College in Ottawa. Mysell also cofounded the Mark Seven Bible Institute located at Camp Mark Seven in Old Forge, New York. Here's a video about Hysell when he first became a priest.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Meet the deaf fitness instructor calling for more accessibility in gyms and on social media

India Morse believes that the fitness industry isn't inclusive enough. She says, "Usually the major barrier in the fitness industry is the fact that the classes are always based in such dark environments. Fitness classes tend to be very dependent on having music to go along with the vibe but in all honesty, they often forget about the importance of being visual." Morse also believes Instagram should be doing more to cater for the deaf community. Read more at Inside here.

Friday, June 5, 2020

A Video of Life in a 1950s Deaf School

Here is a video filmed in 1954 at the UK's Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

33 years ago: Implant history

image from Cochlear.com 
On June 4, 1987 Holly McDonell (now Holly Taylor) of Sydney became the first child to receive a commercial multi-channel cochlear implant system (Nucleus made by Cochlear, LTD). The four-year-old became profoundly deaf from bacterial meningitis. Holly still has her original implant and had several sounds processor upgrades. The Daily Telegraph takes a look at what's happened in the 30 years since in an article here (subscription required).

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Tips on How to Speak to Deaf People

* Make sure you have eye contact with the person before speaking
* If there is an interpreter, speak to and look at the deaf person—not at the interpreter
* Face the person to whom you are speaking (that helps with lip-reading)
* Stand in good lighting and avoid standing so that light is on the face of the deaf person
* Avoid background noise whenever possible
* Move your mouth to articulate your words but don’t exaggerate them
* Speak a little louder and slower than normal—but don’t shout or drag
* Keep your hands away from your face—particularly your mouth
* Use lots of facial expressions and body movements
* If something is unclear, rather than just repeating the same thing, rephrase thoughts in shorter and simple sentences

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Louisiana School for the Deaf Gets New Director

Heather Laine is the new Director of Louisiana School for the Deaf. She earned a degree at Gallaudet University and later earned an advanced degree in deaf education at Cal State Northridge. She worked as a teacher of the deaf in Los Angeles before eventually becoming principal at Arizona's Sequoia Deaf School. Here is the official announcement.


Hotel Settles Service Dog complaint

A Connecticut Quality Inn has reached a settlement over its refusal to allow a guest to bring a service dog into its dining room. The settlement includes $1,000 in compensation and requires:
The Quality Inn Mystic-Groton to permit service animals in all areas of the hotel that members of the public and other hotel guests are allowed to go, including in its dining room during meal service. Additionally, the hotel will post signage indicating “Service Animals Welcome,” will implement a “Service Animal Policy,” and will train its managers and employees regarding the policy.
Read more about it here.

More than 110 years ago

Here is a bit of history. The paragraph below as published in the June 1907 issue of Scientific American magazine—more than 110 years ago:
The loss of the sense of hearing should not necessarily mean deprivation of the power of speech. Is it only within recent years that we have come to realize this fact, and in up-to-date institutions the old –fashioned finger alphabet is now unknown. Every child is taught to speak in the natural way by means of the vocal organs. The four or five years of the primary course are devoted almost exclusively to the acquirement of language and numbers.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Hearing Journal

The June issue of The Hearing Journal is out. It's a well-respected academic journal and the articles are free. Read here articles that include "tips to make videoconferences more hearing-friendly and improve the experience for everyone, not just for the person with hearing loss." There's also information on fluctuating hearing loss, the "Expanding Insurance Coverage of Teleaudiology" and making audiology work during COVID-19 and beyond."

On this day: the 1st Deaf NFL Player was Born

Bonnie Sloan
On this date (June 1) in 1948, Bonnie Sloan was born in Tennessee. At the age of 25, Bonnie would become the first deaf player in the NFL when he ran onto the field for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973.  His career only lasted one season, thanks to knee injuries, but he had made his mark. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder came out of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he was the first player to bench press 500 pounds. Sloan was an All-Ohio Valley Conference defensive tackle at the college. The City of Hendersonville, Tennessee recently honored him by declaring an August day in 2013 as Bonnie Sloan Day. Read more about Sloan here.