Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Getting to Know: The Father of the Internet

Vinton Cerf
It was on this date (June 23) 1943 that Vinton Cerf 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.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Deaf Republic


Hard-of-hearing poet Ilya Kaminsky has written a new book called Deaf Republic. Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union and his new book, which is really a collection of poems, imagines deafness as a collective form of resistance against a military regime. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Baseball ASL Culture Night in Oregon

A minor league baseball team in Oregon is holding the team's first-ever ASL Culture Night this evening. The Medford Rogues home game "will feature ASL translation for all of the PA announcements, as well as fun facts about deaf culture. Half of the proceeds raised through the game’s ticket raffle will be donated to Crater High School’s Deaf Academic Bowl team." Here's a video report from the Mail Tribune or read the story here.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

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 PhD in computer science. She graduated from DePaul University in Chicago, 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 a ASL-to-English dictionary. She now teaches computer science at Gallaudet University.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Deaf-owned Business Thriving

A deaf-owned Austin-based virtual mailbox service just scanned their millionth piece of mail this month after five years in business. KXAN-TV has a video report (or read the story here).

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Deaf woman concerned over note from Portland drive-thru

A deaf Dunkin' Donuts customer in Maine says she was told not to use the drive-thru, even though she had done so many times. Read the story from WMTW-TV here.
image from WMTW-TV video

Friday, June 7, 2019

Getting to know: Canada's first deaf Priest

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 but is leaving his post as Associate Pastor at Corpus Christi Parish with responsibility for St. Mark’s Catholic Community of the Deaf, to pursue 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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

a Video of Life in a 1950s Deaf School

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

32 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.