Thursday, July 2, 2020

Getting to Know: Cochlear Limited

You could have bought stock in Cochlear Limited at the turn of the century for about $10. A few days ago the stock was worth more than $133 a share.  Cochlear Limited is the biggest of the three companies that dominate the cochlear implant market. More than a quarter of a million people have a Cochlear implant. Based in Australia, Cochlear Limited does most of its business in Europe and the U.S. through more than a dozen subsidiaries. With a billion dollars in annual revenue, the company features brands like Nucleus and Baha. More than a quarter of a million people have one of its implants. It employs more than 4000 people. Read more here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

On this day in history: 27 year ago

It was 27 years ago today (July 1, 1993) that the FCC requires all U.S. analog television receivers with screens 13 inches or larger to include built-in decoder circuitry that could display closed captioning.

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

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 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.