Wednesday, September 30, 2020

YouTube ends its community captions feature

We warned you back in July that YouTube was planning to discontinue its community captions. And it did so on Monday, despite complaints from the Deaf community including an online petition with more than half-a-million signatures. The feature allowed viewers to add subtitles but YouTube says it wasn't used enough. According to YouTube, they decided to deactivate the said feature because it is rarely used and plagued by spam and abuse. “You can still use your own captions, automatic captions, and third-party tools and services,” YouTube said in an update on its help page here. But the Google automated are often full of errors.

The origin of Nicaraguan Sign Language tells us a lot about language creation

When linguists discovered deaf children in Nicaragua using a sign language they created on their own, researchers had a unique way to study the development of language. Public Radio International takes a look at how this happened here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Watch the Presidential Debate in ASL

The first debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden takes place this evening (Tues., Sept. 29) starting at 9 pm, Eastern at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is the moderator. Watch it live in ASL on the Facebook page and the DPAN website.  DPAN stands for Deaf Professional Artists Network. It was founded by Sean Forbes and Joel Martin to support deaf and hard-of-hearing performers.

On this date... 29 years ago

On Sept 26, 1991, a major TV show debuted that—for the first time—featured a deaf or hard of hearing actor in a lead role. The NBC police drama Reasonable Doubts ran from 1991–1993 and starred Academy-Award winner Marlee Matlin as Tess Kaufman, a prosecutor who fought for the rights of the accused. She portrayed a lawyer who happened to be deaf—instead of just a deaf lawyer. In 1994, she joined the cast of Picket Fences for a couple of seasons. The Seinfeld TV show made a nod to Reasonable Doubts during an episode called The Pitch. When Jerry and George visit NBC they sit under a poster showing Mark Harmon and Marlee Matlin was on the wall of Seinfeld episode.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

20 years ago today: Murder at Gallaudet

It was on this day (Sept 27)  in 2000 that Joseph Mesa, Jr. beat Eric Plunkett to death in his Gallaudet dorm room. The killing put the school in a state of panic, with some students withdrawing from the school rather than living in a situation where they knew a murderer was living among them. The terror came to an end in February of the next year when Mesa turned himself into police-but not before he killed again. Mesa stabbed Benjamin Varner in his Gallaudet dorm room more than a dozen times. In July of 2002, the 22-year-old from Guam pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, telling jurors he saw hands wearing black gloves that told him in sign language to kill. Jurors convicted Mesa on all counts and a Washington, DC judge sentenced him to six life terms without the possibility of parole. Mesa began serving time at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California near San Francisco, a high-security facility.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Profile of a School Counselor

Cookie Brand explains in this video from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, how she became a school counselor at the Kerugoya School for the Deaf in Kenya.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Judge: White House Must include Sign Language interpreters at Covid Briefings

The White House must provide sign language interpreters at briefings related to COVID-19, a federal judge has ruled. The Trump administration has the choice of either putting an interpreter physically near the speaker or by putting an interpreter, located elsewhere, within the frame. DC District Court Judge James Boasberg wrote: The National Association of the Deaf had sued on behalf of five deaf people. NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum said:
Sign language and accurate captioning are both essential and crucial to ensuring all deaf and hard of hearing people are well informed and are able to make better decisions on how to stay safe from the pandemic. The judge’s order sets a great precedent to achieve this goal of full accessibility.
The NAD has put out a news release with more info here.  

Deaf U Trailer

Back in July we told you abot a new Netflix documentary called Deaf U that debuts on Oct. 9. Netflix has just released a new trailer for the show.

DC could soon get office for deaf and hard of hearing

There may soon be an office dedicated to the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C. The D.C. Council voted unanimously to pass the “Office On Deaf and Hard of Hearing Establishment Amendment Act of 2019” yesterday. The bill would "create an office to advocate for legislation and policies that address the needs of the city’s deaf, deafblind and hard-of-hearing communities,” according to the DCist. The bill still needs the mayor to sign on off on it. Read more about the office here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

New Zoom Accessibility options

Zoom added some accessibility options today to its video-conference software that will help ASL interpreters. Users can now pin and spotlight multiple video screens at a time--that way someone signing can be pinned alongside the speaker so they are always in view. In the grid view, users can rearrange video windows so that the interpreter is on the screen wherever they want to see them. Jen Hill explains how to use the features in this video. 

Railroad failed to accommodate deaf conductor

A federal appeals court is unanimously overturning a lower court ruling and reinstating the claim of a deaf train conductor. The lawsuit of Mark Mlsna said Union Pacific Railroad Company did not reasonably accommodate him. Union Pacific had given Mlsna a hearing test which he did not pass without his hearing aids and the company rejected his custom-made hearing protection device. As a result, Mlsna was fired and he filed an ADA-based lawsuit. The suit was dismissed by a district court judge, despite the fact his experience and knowledge as a train conductor was not in dispute. This was overturned with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which wrote:
Because genuine issues of fact exist as to whether Union Pacific reasonably accommodated Mlsna’s hearing disability, Union Pacific should not have received summary judgment.
You can read the full final opinion here.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Deaf U on Netflix

Deaf U will debut on Netflix three weeks from today (Oct. 9). It is part of a series called 7 Incredible Real Stories The docuseries follows Gallaudet students through their daily life. Here is the trailer:

Thursday, September 17, 2020

On this day in History.. the first deaf Miss America

On this date (Sept. 17) in 1994, Heather Whitestone of Alabama became the first deaf Miss America.

History's Deaf Astronomer

On this date (Sept 17) in 1764, John Goodricke was born in the Netherlands, though he lived most of his life in England. Goodricke only survived to the age of 21, but the deaf astronomer made a major impact on his field. Working with Edward Pigott, Goodricke learned to measure the variation of light coming from stars. This would eventually lead astronomers to figure out the distance of galaxies from the earth. While still a teenager, the Royal Society of London gave him the Copley Medal, making him the youngest person to be given its highest honor. Goodricke lost his hearing after a bout with a childhood disease, which might have been scarlet fever. He studied at the first school for deaf children in the British Isles, Thomas Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh. Goodricke went on to study for three years at the Warrington Academy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Deaf Poet Sahera Khan

Deaf poet Sahera Khan invites viewers behind the scenes of making her video BSL poem Hurts Me followed by a reading of the poem with voiceover is provided by Kuli Kohli.

Deaf Woman files complaint against political group over terp

Mary Harman says she signed up for to attend a "She Should Run" event but denied her request for a sign language interpreter. "She Should Run" is a women's political organization that encorages women to run for political office. Harman has filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington, DC. Read the details of the controversy from BuzzFeedNews.

View this post on Instagram

Businesses and organizations, STOP violating the ADA and understand your legal obligations. Stop forcing people with disabilities to explain the law to you and fight for their basic human rights to be enforced. ****PLEASE SHARE **** TRANSCRIPT: @sheshouldrun, which claims to work to get more women from ALL backgrounds to run for office, refused to provide an ASL interpreter for a public live webinar despite repeated requests. I explained to them several times that it was unlawful discrimination to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation, but they continued denying my request. They said that they were “unable to provide an ASL interpreter,” but would try to provide live captioning. I emphasized that I needed an ASL interpreter for the webinar, as this is how I normally access conferences and webinars. When I told them I would have to file a complaint against them on the basis of discrimination with the Office for Civil Rights in D.C., they ignored me. To add insult to injury, the captioning was inaccurate and severely lagged to the point I had to leave the webinar. How can an organization claim to be for all women if they exclude women with disabilities, which make up a significant percentage of the population? Guess I’ll have to file a complaint so that other deaf/hard of hearing women won’t be subjected to such blatant discrimination by @sheshouldrun in the future. It’s 2020. Stop violating the ADA and understand your legal obligations. Stop having to make people with disabilities explain the law to you and fight for their basic rights to be enforced. [Video Description]: Mary is signing as she sits on a gray chair in front of wooden soft white blinds. She is wearing a black short-sleeved shirt with her hair tied back in a low bun, a few pieces of hair framing her face. Captioning by @angelamariaotg UPDATE - 8/15/20 - after private and public efforts to resolve the discriminatory issue failed, I filed a formal complaint against She Should Run for discrimination on the basis of disability with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

A post shared by Mary Harman Whited (@maryharman) on

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Deaf students at Arizona school: virtual with obstacles

Sequoia Deaf School in Mesa, Arizona has more than 50 students in grades K through 12 and is offering them distant learning starting next month. KTAR radio news takes a look at some of the issues they face here.

Monday, September 14, 2020

UBC to offer ASL for credit

The University of British Columbia will offer the university's first accredited American Sign Language course for credit. It will be taught by Nigel Howard, an adjunct professor in linguistics at UBC. Read more at Global News.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Judge: White House may have to include interpreters at coronavirus briefings

The White House may have to provide ASL interpretation at its televised news briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge has ruled. The National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit over the issue on behalf of five deaf people. A hearing next Thursday will deal with the issue of how to implement the order. 
The US government had argued that ASL interpretation isn't needed because there is closed captioning on livestreams of the updates and videos of past briefings with transcripts of the briefings. In his ruling Judge James Boasberg wrote: 
Closed captioning and transcripts may constitute a reasonable accommodation under some circumstances, but not here. As another court explained in rejecting a state government’s similar arguments, these “accommodations — however well-intentioned — simply do not provide ‘meaningful access in the circumstances [presented] here.’ 
You can read the judges ruling here.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Gazes of Novice & Native Signers are Different

If it seems like a beginner and fluent signers are looking in different places when they watch someone use ASL—you are right. Eye movement indicates how well a person can understand sign language, according to a new study. The study comes out of the Center for Sensory, Perceptual, and Cognitive Ecology (SPaCE Center) at the NTID (National Technical Institute for the Deaf) in Rochester. Rain Bosworth, an assistant professor, and researcher found that the gaze is greatly affected by a user's language expertise. Fluent signers watch a person's face while novices focus on the hands. Bosworth said:
This fits with what we know about research that shows that signers have very good peripheral vision, especially from the lower visual field. Expert signers look at the face and utilize their peripheral vision for catching the fine details of moving handshapes.
Details of the study are published in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. or read more about the study in Science Daily. Below is a video illustration of the results:

What the U.S. civil rights fight and Deaf history have in common

Mission Network News spoke with Mark Sorenson of DOOR International abot injustices faced by the Deaf community in the US. Sorenson says:
The Black struggle for civil rights has really had an impact on the Deaf community in many ways throughout the years. Actually, the push for Black freedom and equality began America’s journey towards becoming a true democracy. They fought for rights for Black people initially, and then that had an impact on the women’s rights movement, and eventually on disability rights efforts as well.
Read the full interview here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Network to Promote Deaf-Led Sign Language Research

Melissa Malzkuhn

Gallaudet University is looking for ways to promote Deaf-led research and innovation in sign language technology. The school is launching a professional network to support this type of research. The network is called CREST, which stands for Cultivating Research and Equity in Sign-related Technology. The National Science Foundation is providing funding and founded by Melissa Malzkuhn, who started Gallaudet's Motion Light Lab, and Lorna Quandt, the lab's science director. Quandt said in a press release:
Lorna Quandt
There is new research coming out every day in this field. Now, with CREST, we have the opportunity to bring together top researchers and resources from across the world, not only to accelerate cutting-edge technologies for the broader deaf community but most importantly to ensure they are developed authentically from the start with deaf input and representation.
Read more about it here.

Virtual Learning Brings Extra Challenges For Blind or Deaf Students

Video cueing and sign language interpretation are being offered for online classes for deaf students, according to all local school districts surveyed by NBC4 in the Washington, DC-area. “For the more than 3,000 blind or deaf students who will be attending public schools (in the DC-area) virtually this fall, distance learning creates an added complication for those students, their families and their teachers.“ Read more about what NBC4 found in their investigation here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Lou Brock's special friendship with young deaf girl

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock passed away Sunday at the age of 81. He left behind many good memories—especially for a young deaf girl he met years ago. KSDK-TV has a video report below. Or read the story here.

DC’s first Deaf-owned-and-operated restaurant opens

The opening of a Washington, DC location for Mozzeria Pizza has created some buzz in the nation's capital.  WDCW-TV has a video report below or read the story here.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Deaf prosecutor has long fought for justice

A homicide prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney's office, was driven to help others after nothing happened when she was raped as a child. Janine Madera was left deaf, in part, to the abuse she suffered. She told the Orange County Register that this is one of the reasons she now advocates for those who have no voice: 
I didn’t get my day in court. Nobody spoke for me. I had no voice. I feel a lot of shame in myself for not ensuring justice even as my rational mind knows it is not my fault.

Read the full story here or watch the video below:


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Deaf school faces allegations from former students & staff

More than a dozen former students and staff spanning decades say students "were verbally berated by leaders and shamed publicly" at Georgia's Harvest Baptist Church of the Deaf.  Read the full story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press here.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Deaf-owned pizzeria opens near Gally

The deaf-owned pizzeria Mozzeria, is opening a location in Washington, D.C. this weekend. The new outlet will be close to the campus of Gallaudet University. Mozzeria founders Melody and Russ Stein met while they were students at Gallaudet.

Friday, September 4, 2020

The challenges faced by the deaf during the pandemic

NBC-6 in Miami takes a look in a video report at the challenges faced by the deaf during the pandemic #deaf

Thursday, September 3, 2020

A first for a deaf teacher in Ohio

Anthony Coy-Gonzalez
A teacher from the Ohio School for the Deaf has been named that state’s teacher of the year. Anthony Coy-Gonzalez teaches upper elementary students at the school in Columbus. This is the first time an Ohio School for the Deaf teacher has received the honor. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria said: 
I’m blown away by Anthony Coy-Gonzalez’s commitment to his students and their success. He models persistence, hard work, positive attitude, and civic-mindedness. He brings an energy and enthusiasm to the classroom that is infectious not only among his students but among his colleagues as well.  
Read more about the honor from the Ohio Department of Education here

(image from the Ohio Dept of Education)

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Push For Diversity Among Deaf Interpreters

The Texas Standard radio show reports that a "disproportionately small number of deaf interpreters are people of color...Nationwide, 87% of interpreters are white, while only 13% are people of color, based on a 2018 report." This has lead to a diversity push among deaf interpreters. Texas Standard has an audio report here and there is an accompanying text article but no transcript of the audio. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

ASL & Implants

A professor of deaf education and a researcher at the University of Tennessee make their case for why they believe sign language is vital for all deaf babies, regardless of cochlear implant plans here. Kimberly Wolbers and Leala Holcomb write: 
It is a misconception that learning sign language hinders spoken language development for implanted children. Research shows the opposite to be true. Deaf children of deaf parents, whose first language is sign language, end up having better spoken language skills once they are implanted than deaf children of hearing parents who did not learn sign language.