Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Your Tax Check

The IRS has produced its first public service announcements in video form using ASL. There are three clips called Economic Stimulus Payment Basics. It’s about the free checks that are coming to taxpayers from the federal government in hopes of stimulating the economy. Here’s one of them.

The other videos can be seen at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) website. Or just go the IRS website for more info.

Canadians with Hearing Loss

Around 10% of Canadians have some form of hearing loss and about 1% have profound hearing loss and use sign language, according to the Canadian Hearing Society.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Creating a new ASL sign

A YouTube search is underway for a American Sign Language symbol to represent the word poverty. The idea is the brainchild of the English Interpretation department at Columbia College Chicago. Faculty member and deaf performing artist Peter Cook says there are ASL signs for rich and poor, access but not one covering poverty. You can make a video suggestion between now and April 23rd.. The students and faculty Columbia's ASL - English Interpretation degree program will look through the entries and pass the best along to a national team of ASL linguists. They will pick a winner to be announced in May. Here’s a video where Cook explains how to participate:

Brain Surgery

Doctors at University of North Carolina Hospitals are using a new surgery to help patients who find out cochlea implants don’t work for them. Clinical trials are bypassing the cochlea and going straight to the brain stem. The surgery may someday help children born without cochlea or without certain cochlear nerves. The only two places conducting the trials are UNC and the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles.

$2.2 Million Fine

Federal regulators want to sock a cochlear implant and hearing aid maker with a $2.2 million fine. The Food and Drug Administration says Advanced Bionics has committed manufacturing violations by not following safety standards that put patients at risk. The California-based company had no comment on the recommendation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sexual Attacks Trial

A trial is underway in Sioux Falls involving the South Dakota School for the Deaf. A 17-year-old male student is accused of sexually assaulting four former students. The lawsuit accuses school officials of knowing about the repeated rape and sodomy attacks but doing nothing in response. The school’s lawyers say the claims were not specific and police officers were called to investigate the allegations. They also say the abuse was not reported within the two year statute of limitations.

Matlin Survives Cut

Marlee Matlin survived the first cut of Dancing with the Stars. The deaf actress is competing on season 6 of the ABC show with the likes of Adam Carolla, Jason Taylor, Kristi Yamaguchi and Priscilla Presley. The first two stars to be eliminated were Penn Jillette and Monica Seles. Matlin will perform the tango or jive on next week’s show.

Hearing Aid Costs

Most hearing aids for children are not covered by insurance. They can run between $1,000 and $3,000 a set, which must be changed every few years as children grow. Batteries can add about $600 a month to that amount because they must be switched every two to three days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

ASL Virtual Tours

A global positioning system has added sign language to its virtual tours. The GPS Ranger is a handheld device with a four-inch LCD screen. It uses a tool developed by BarZ Adventures of Austin, Texas that allows captioning and American Sign Language options to accompany virtual tours. The technology was launched this month along with a multimedia tour of the Texas capital with the help of CSD (Communication Service for the Deaf). The tour is available from the The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau for $11.95. It will soon be available in other cities as well. More Info

Grace's Law

A bill making its way through the New Jersey legislature would require health insurance companies to provide $1000 in coverage for hearing aids every two years for children under age of 16. Grace’s Law is named for Grace Gleba. The 8-year-old girl has a severe hearing impairment. Her mother, Jeanine Gleba started lobbying lawmakers to pass the bill nine years ago. It’s now in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Hearing Loss at Birth

Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the US, occurring in three out of every 1,000 newborns. Roughly 12,000 babies are born each year with permanent hearing loss.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deaf Pilot Sued over Accident

Jeffery Willoughby and his teenage daughter are suing a deaf pilot along with plane manufacturer Cessna for $1 million. Also named in the suit is Katama Airfield in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Willoughbys were passengers on a plane being flown into the airport by Alec Naiman, a member of the Deaf Pilots Association when it crashed leaving all three with serious injuries. Willoughby is himself an association member and because he lives in O'Fallon, Missouri, the case was filed in St. Louis. Willoughby blames the crash on the lack of communication between the Airfield and Naiman. A plane already on the runway forced Naiman to pull up too quickly. The pilot of the plane on the ground had tried to reach Naiman on the radio.

New Canadian Sign Language Program

The University of Alberta and Lakeland College in Canada are together starting a training program for sign-language interpreters this fall. The move is in response to the shortage of interpreters in the country caused by the increased number of deaf students moving into regular schools and universities as well as requirements that hospitals provide interpreters. This will only be the 5th such program offered at a college in Canada. The Alberta program will start with 16 students. Applicants must be fluent in ASL and have taken a deaf-studies program. It will take them two years to earn a degree.

Screening Bill Moves Forward

Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill that would make newborn hearing screenings mandatory. Committees in both the House and Senate voted in favor of it. It now goes to the House government operations committee. Nearly 90% of the 85,000 babies are screened already but that still leaves many that are not.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

1st Deaf NBA Player

The NBA has its first legally Deaf player. Lance Allred will soon hit the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6’11” center who’s been working out for the last two seasons with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League (or D-league). He made the league's All-Star team, averaging more than 16 points and 10 rebounds a game. Allred may play a critical role for the Cavs because the team’s frontcourt combination of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace are fighting back problems. As a senior at Weber State, Allred was the third best rebounder in the entire NCAA. He playing hoops in Europe before joining the Stampedge. Born with only 25% hearing, Allred now has cochlear implants. Born in Salt Lake City, he didn't play his first organized basketball game until he was an eighth grader.

Ballroom Dance Winner

Heather Wagley has won more than 50 ballroom dancing contests in the last decade – and the judges never know she is deaf. Her next competition will be the San Francisco Open DanceSport on March 28. Heather partners with instructor Larry Nemeth of Cleveland’s American Dance Exchange. She count steps and looks Nemeth for guidance, watching his lips for instructions, like slow or quick.

Marlee Dancing

If you missed seeing deaf actress Marlee Matlin on Dancing with the Stars you can watch her first dancing effort online.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Court Terps

A survey conducted in 2007 found 38% of the 1400 state courts have sign language interpreters available and 31% of the courts were outfitted with assisted listening devices. In areas with more than half a million people, the number that provided interpreters rose to 88%. Source: Center for Jury Studies

Deaf Juror Gets Respect

Two sign language interpreters took turns translating the four days of proceedings in a recent Atlanta murder trial for one of the jurors. Keith Davis had been called to jury duty twice but the deaf man had never been selected. He got the call on the third go-round making it a first for him as well as the judge, both attorneys and the other jurors. They told the local media they were impressed with what Davis was able to pick up on nonverbally and how much he contributed to the deliberations. Davis didn't learn sign language until he was nearly 20 years old because he was sent to a school that taught lip reading. The outcome: jurors convicted the defendant. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Matlin on Dancing with the Stars

Marlee Matlin got the third most points of the women contestants on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars last night. The 42-year-old deaf actress has an Oscar to her credit but has never danced professionally. She’s been working seven hours a day with partner and show newcomer Fabian Sanchez. The professional dancer says Matlin is great to work with because she is very sensitive to his lead, since she is not trying to follow the rhythm herself. One of Matlin’s daughter (she has four) is a devoted fan of the show and encouraged her mom to become a contestant. Matlin is competing against radio host Adam Carolla, magician Penn Jillette, pro football player Jason Taylor, tennis champ Monica Seles, Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi, singer Mario and actors Steve Guttenberg, Shannon Elizabeth, Christian de la Fuente, Priscilla Presley and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Taking Control

A New York financial advisor is adding a sign-language interpreter to her internet-based finance program for women. Beth Blecker’s Taking Control airs Tuesdays on Achieved shows can be downloaded for later listening. Recent topics include taxes, retirement and taking control of spending.

Deaf Education Bill Stopped

South Dakota’s governor has vetoed a bill that would have required the state to provide the same level of funding for deaf and hard of hearing schools. Mike Rounds claims it would have conflicted with federal law. The bill’s sponsor, Dell Rapids Democrat Dan Ahlers, says it is frustrating to parents because they are unable to provide an adequate education to their children.

$2 Million Study: Kids & Math

A new study may shine some light on why Deaf and hard-of-hearing students tend to lag behind their hearing peers in math. The National Institutes of Health is giving the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf more than $2 million to test more than 1000 students. Researchers will spend four years trying to better understand how deaf and hard-of-hearing students learn math. They say the studies have suggested simply improving communication is not enough to level the playing field and hope this research will reveal the missing piece.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eliminating Deafness

Researchers say advances in genetic research over the next 50 years will make most hearing loss preventable or curable. John House who leads the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles says it is only a matter of time before scientists are able to regenerate the cochlear hair cells that allow us to hear. After the genes responsible for age-related hearing loss are discovered, researches should be able to manipulate those genes to prevent and treat hearing lose. There is already some success at regrowing hair cells in rats. House says within the next 20 years, treatments will eliminate significant hearing loss for nearly a third of those who develop problems by age 60. Eventually, hearing loss may become an unheard-of problem.

March 13, 1988

On this day, 20 years ago the Deaf President Now movement succeeds. I King Jordan became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University. Also, Deaf History Month begins today and runs through April 15.

Tree Wise

Antoinette Abbamonte’s first book tells the story of a boy with deaf parents. The deaf actress pulls from her own experiences as she describes how the boy teaches his friends about Deaf Culture with the help of a special tree. Tree Wise is aimed at elementary age children and has a future on the stage. The National Theater of the Deaf plans to produce a play based on the book.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Closed-Captioning in Digital

Analog and digital TVs use different methods to provide closed captions. An analog TV decodes the closed-caption information, displaying it on the screen. But a HDTV using an HDMI cable uses the device you are attaching to provide the closed-captioning. And that’s the case whether it is a DVD player or cable or satellite TV set-top box. To make them work together, you’ll have to make sure closed-captioning is turned on for the player or set-top box, as well as for the digital TV. If you still have problems, call your cable or satellite provider.

Hearing Damage Comes Fast

Nine-out-of-ten young people who had spent the night at a club or loud bar had hearing damage – after just one night. The study by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People in the United Kingdom found nearly all of them had symptoms of dull hearing, ringing in the ears and over-sensitivity to sound. The charity is launching a competition for fashionable earplugs as a result since only 3% of youth wear them.

New Construction at School

The Maryland School for the Deaf is getting a new elementary school. The new building is southeast of the main campus in Frederick. Along with the school, a 72,000-square-foot Family Education Complex is going up. It will host sports and academic competitions in its gym and include a cafeteria, an audiology and speech center and an elementary and a family education school for babies. The $20 million project should be finished by the end of the year and classes start in 2009.

Champion Basketball Team

For the first time in history, a deaf team has won the New England Preps Schools Athletic Conference girls’ basketball title. The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts won the NEPSAC Class D girls' basketball championship with a 43-35 win over Chase Collegiate of Waterbury, Connecticut. The Learning Center’s team is coached by Brad Crowell who is hearing but knows sign language. His team went 28-1 this year, dominated opponents and only losing three games in the past three seasons. The New England Preparatory School Athletic Council tournament committee had refused to recognize the Lady Ghosts until last year.

Dog Gets Approval from Commissioner

John Cave may soon be able to take his hearing dog to class. The principle of W. Tresper Clarke High in New York had refused to let the deaf 15-year-old bring his yellow labrador retriever to the school citing health reason. The state's commissioner of human rights has now ruled differently and overturned a rule by a federal judge last year. But the ban stays in place until the East Meadow School District completes its appeal. Cave still will have help from a sign language interpreter and a student "note-taker".

Jordan Snubbed

The folks at Gallyprotest noted in a press release they were not inviting I King Jordan to their banquet Monday on the Gallaudet campus even though the gathering is in celebration of the events that swept him into office. Twenty years ago the Deaf President Now protest led to his selection as the first deaf president for the school. But many in the Deaf community parted ways with Jordan over his successor and policies near the end of his tenure.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Minds of Musicians

Brain scans are showing musicians reveal themselves when they improvise. The research comes from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Scientists say the scans show the medial prefrontal cortex lights up when musicians improvise. That’s the same part of the brain that responds when someone asks you to tell something about yourself. Details are in the Public Library of Science ONE.

Protests in Buffalo

More than two dozen students at St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York refused to attend classes after a favorite teacher was fired. Math teacher Nettie Brewer has been at the school for nearly 5 years but the principle choose not to recommend her for tenure and refused to explain why. The principle reacted to the protest by cancelling all after school activities for next week.

Hearing Aids Planted in the Brain

The nonprofit House Ear Institute in Los Angeles is working on digital hearing aids that put sound directly into the brain. Nearly a dozen procedures that involve penetrating the surface of the cochlear nucleus right into the brain. Researchers hope the auditory brainstem implant will be ready for use in people with residual hearing in another 5 years. While analog hearing aids amplify all sound, digital can be nuanced to be more selective. Tiny computers can screen out noise and amplify pertinent sounds.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Early Helen Keller Photo

It could be the earliest photograph of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. The newly discovered image was taken in 1888, a year after Sullivan was hired to teach Keller. It shows 8-year-old Helen Keller holding Sullivan’s hand and a doll during a summer vacation in Brewster, Massachusetts. The New England Historic Genealogical Society now has the photo that was tucked inside an album of a friend of her family for more than century. Keller was left blind and deaf after an illness as a toddler. Sullivan later taught her to spell into her hand.

Earphones to Protest Your Hearing

A British company says it’s come up with a way to provide music lovers great audio at a low volume – a combination necessary for protecting hearing. Advanced Communication Solutions is offering custom-molded earphones for $1000. With nearly all external noise blocked out, listeners can drop the volume of MP3 player by half.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

West Regional Academic Bowl

The Montana School for the Deaf and Blind is headed to the National Academic Bowl for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing after winning first place in the West Regional. The four member team beat out teams from 13 states in Colorado Springs. Montana won best sportsmanship and took home the bowl's Most Valuable Player award.

Murder Arrest After 27 Years

Gary Albert is in jail for killing a disabled teenager 27 years ago. The Chicago-area deaf man is being held on one million dollars bond. Prosecutors say the he fatally stabbed high school girlfriend Dawn Niles several dozen times in 1981. They say she had recently discovered that she was three months pregnant by Albert before her death. Her body was found in a pond a few days after her disappearance. Authorities reopened the case in response to letters from her friends. They arrested Albert after conducting a new round of interviews and made use of technology not available at the time of the murder.

Getting Real with Pro Soccer

A former Gallaudet University midfielder is vying for a spot on the United Soccer Leagues’ newest Second-Division team, the Real Maryland Monarchs. Matthew Ebi joined the team in early tryouts and has practiced with it ever since. While he Ebi hasn’t found a roster spot, he has made an impression with his enthusiastic attitude. Play begins for the pro soccer team on April 20.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Horseradish Fire Alarm

Your next smoke alarm could alert you to trouble by sending off a strong odor. Researchers at Japan’ Shiga University of Medical Science Hospital say their research shows the smell of horseradish can usually wake people from the deepest sleep and they say it is especially effective in waking up people who are impaired people. The equipment seals the odor inside a can and sprays them out when triggered by smoke. The product could be on the market in two years.

Special Exhibit

The Horry County Museum in Conway, South Carolina is hosting a special exhibit on the history of the deaf community from the 1800s until the present. The exhibit is in honor of National Deaf History Month (between March 13 and April 15). It’s an effort supported by the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind's Coastal Regional Outreach Center.

Tracking a Virus

Doctors at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte are planning to use a $1 million grant to study a virus that leads to hearing lose in one-out-of-10 people who contract it. And more than eight-out-of-10 adults will get that virus by the time they are 40 years old. The good news for adults is that it can go unnoticed. But babies aren’t so lucky. The infection is called congenital Cytomegalovirus or CMV and is spread to the child by the mother during pregnancy. And there’s no treatment for it. The goal of the study will be to track the infection in newborns and follow them with hearing tests for three years.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Transcribers Return

Transcribers are back on the job at Central Washington University after five of them walked off in a dispute over how long they had to work without breaks. The transcribers wanted two people to cover each 50-minute class but the school said the budget would not allow it. Two claims of physical problems from repetitive motion injuries have been filed recently. Transcribers attend class with deaf and hard of hearing students and type the instructors’ lectures into a computer.

Florida Cut Backs

The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is being told by the state to cut $1.7 million from its $46 million budget. The St. Augustine school educates nearly 900 students, many of whom live in campus. Administrators are telling teachers to stop all spending unless absolutely necessary while they determine where to cut back. They say one of the first things to go will be field trips.

School Director Resigns

The director of the North Carolina School for the Deaf has unexpectedly resigned. Controversy has swirled around the school after it went into lockdown to prevent a protest on campus. Linda Lindsey spoke to students last Sunday in an effort to discourage them from participating in the gathering planned for the next day. Only a few of them turned out for the protest and those that did were suspended, along with several employees. One of the students complaints is that Lindsey is not fluent in American Sign Language. She will now moving into another state position with Education Services at the state capital. School principal Janet McDaniel will take over as interim director.