Thursday, December 31, 2020

On this date at the South Pole

(image from NASA)
Ian Berry became the first deaf man to walk to the South Pole on this day (Dec. 31, 2009). The UK native dragged a sled across 112 miles of ice to raise more than $40,000 for the National Deaf Children's Society. The 43-year-old reached the pole on New Year's Eve as part of a five-person team.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

All Californians will soon be able to text 911 for help

Every dispatch center in California must accept text message requests for help starting Friday. The new 2021 law (AB 1168) will make California’s 911 emergency dispatch system more robust to serve the deaf as well as those in rural parts of the state. Some counties do not have the option in place yet but are working on changing their system. Other Counties already have such a service in place, such as Sacramento County which set up a text-to-911 service in 2018. You can read the text of the bill here.

A film called CODA

A film called CODA will debut at the next Sundance Film Festival. The director and screenwriter is Si├ón Heder and the film is about a hearing child--the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her family's reliance on her to be their connection to the outside world. Emilia Jones plays the hearing girl and Marlee Matlin is one of the co-stars. CODA will debut on Jan. 30 and tickets for the film festival, which has been moved online, go on sale on Jan. 7 and you can buy them here. Below is a preview.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Saved by a mask

A Virginia man says his face mask may have saved his life. When someone started shooting at Roanoke’s Valley View Mall Saturday night, employees at one of the stores saw that Clint Colquhoun’s mask identified him as deaf. That is when the pulled him to safety. Read more from WDBJ here.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The promises and pitfalls of Neurotech

Neurotech attempts to "connect human brains to machines, computers and mobile phones." The goal is to develop therapies for neurological diseases and mental illnesses. Examples include cochlear implants for the deaf and hard of hearing, and deep-brain stimulators that assist people with Parkinson’s disease to regain functional mobility. But there is a problem with this advancing technology. As Scientific American puts it:
There are no widely accepted regulations or guardrails yet when it comes to neurotech’s development or deployment. We need them—we need them bad. We must have principles and policies around neurotech, technology safeguards, and national and international regulations.
Read more here.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Meet two Amazon Deaf employees

Two Deaf employees are thriving at an Amazon facility in Albany, according to an article in the Times-Union. One is from Brazil and one is from the Phillipines. They are among the half dozen deaf employees at the company’s Schodack facility. Read more here.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

SF gay chorus using ASL

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus is not only going virtual this holiday season, but the 300-member chorus will also perform "Silent Night" while using ASL. Read more about it from NBC News here or watch a preview below.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Helen Keller you didn't know

The popular understanding of deaf-blind activist Helen Keller concerns "her efforts to communicate as a child, and not about the work she did as an adult." Olivia B. Waxman writes:
They don’t learn that she co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920; that she was an early supporter of the NAACP, and an opponent of lynchings; that she was an early proponent of birth control.
Read more about the Helen Keller you didn't know in a TIME magazine article here.

All the Alter Boy songs performed in Auslan

The Australian pop band Alter Boy includes three deaf members. All their songs performed in Auslan (Australian sign language). Lead singer Molly says:
We use lots of sub and bass tones so that deaf folks can feel the beat, as well as visual performance and Australian sign language (Auslan). Another common misconception is that deaf people can't play instruments or sing. We are just as talented and as untalented as the rest of you.
Read the full interview here. Below is one of their videos:

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New Orleans now offers emergency texting

The deaf and hard of hearing in New Orleans can now communicate with first responders using video and texts when they call 911. You can read more here or watch the video below:

Monday, December 21, 2020

Deaf History: Artist William Agnew

Amateur artist William Agnew died on this day (Dec 21) in 1914. The deaf painter created a series of pictures (none of which survived) which made him famous, showing Queen Victoria using finger spelling to communicate with a deaf woman on the Isle of Wight. Educated at the Glasgow Institution where he took a leadership role as an adult, Agnew opposed the oral system in favor of signing.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

NBC is developing a drama based on Nyle DiMarco’s Life

The life of deaf model, actor and activist Nyle DiMarco has inspired the creation of a drama about a deaf family called Look at Me. The show would be produced for NBC by Neil Meron, who also produced the films Chicago and Hairspray>. Read more details from Deadline here.

TechRadar: “Accessibility should not be an afterthought“

TechRadar takes a look at some recent develops in social media that leaves out entire communities--particularly Twitters expansion into audio. Read the story here.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Deaf Actors come together to Protest against a miniseries called THE STAND

Henry Zaga as Nick Andros
A protest statement has been released that was signed by many deaf actors. The 70 70 signatories are against the casting of a hearing actor to play a Deaf character on the new CBS All Access limited series The Stand. The series is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. The statement reads in part: 

We will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.

The letter says "not one Deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role" of the deaf character." Deaf Austin posted more:

Here is the trailer for the CBS miniseries:

Deaf dancer wears haptic vest to feel music

London-based dancer and choreographer Chris Fonseca uses a tactile audio platform called SubPac to feel music through pulses against his body rather than soundwaves in his ear. Here is a CNN report about Fonseca.

Happy Birthday, Curtis Pride!

Image from Gallaudet University
It's Curtis Pride's birthday. He was born 95% deaf on Dec 17, 1968, in the Washington, D.C suburbs. In high school, he excelled in soccer, becoming a 1986 Parade Magazine High School All American soccer player. In college, at William and Mary, he was the starting point guard on the basketball team. The New York Mets drafted Pride in round 10 of the 1986 MLB draft.  The only deaf player in the major leagues during the modern era, Pride played for 11 years in the majors as an outfielder and pinch hitter and a dozen more in the minors. He hit 20 home runs in his 421 major league games with such teams as the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Angels.  He was mainstreamed as a child, played multiple sports in high school, and graduated with a 3.6 GPA. Pride now coaches the Gallaudet University, baseball team. He told Parade Magazine in 1994, "I never let my deafness hold me back. I never feel sorry for myself. Never. I know I have a disability. I've accepted it. I can't worry about it. I want to make the most of my life. And I am." In 2015, Pride was named MLB's Ambassador For Inclusion. He is currently the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University, a position he has held for a decade.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" in ASL

Noah Buchholz is a PhD student at Princeton Theological Seminary, doing interdisciplinary research on the topics of liberation theology, postcolonial theory, and Deaf studies. He is also is a Certified Deaf Interpreter and ASL-English translator who served as Assistant Professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies at Bethel College. Enjoy "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" with him in ASL.

A unique business triangle in DC

Branches of two giant corporations and a local restaurant are all cleverly designed to serve the large, local deaf community. Read more in The Hill here.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Variety calls ‘Sound of Metal’ an Oscar-Worthy ‘Wake-Up’ to Deaf Culture

Variety gives a glowing review to the new Amazon film Sound of Metal. Director Darius Marder is quoted as saying:
Movies that try to appropriate deaf culture and represent it without proper connections are pretty offensive. Deaf people always remember when someone pretends to be deaf. But I have noticed a generous spirit in the deaf culture. They’re not looking to tear things down. The deaf community unfortunately has gotten used to being ignored and dismissed. They are moving from feeling grateful that people even notice that they exist, to realizing that they should be noticed.
Read the full story here.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Texas School For The Deaf’s Football Team Wins State Championship For 1st Time

The NBC Today Show takes a look at how the Texas School for the Deaf became state football champions last night.

It's OK to Point!

A video explaining some differences between hearing and Deaf culture from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. with ASL instructor Jack Volpe.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Deaf community members see lead role in Sound of Metal as Hollywood milestone

Sound of Metal focuses on a musician's journey into the deaf community. Riz Ahmed’s performance is already creating some Oscar buzz but it’s the depiction of the deaf characters that many say is long overdue. Paul Raci, who stars in the film as a deaf instructor says the deaf community is "tired of being portrayed falsely." Read more from the CBC here. Below is a CBC video report:

Thursday, December 10, 2020

In 2013: the fake interpreter at Mandela’s memorial service

During Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg on this date (Dec. 10) in 2013, a man pretending to interpret for the dignitaries that spoke was declared a fraud by South Africa's deaf federation. U.S. President Barack Obama was among the heads of state attending the service at the 95,000-seat football stadium when Thamsanqa Jantjie took to the stage. The incident raised security concerns and is an embarrassment for the South African government, Bruno Druchen, the National Director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, posted a statement on its Facebook, which reads in part:
The so-called “interpreter” who interpreted at the Official memorial service for late former president Nelson Mandela at FNB stadium has been dubbed the “fake interpreter” and the Deaf community is in outrage. This man is not, in fact, a recognized, professional South Sign Language Interpreter. He is not known by the Deaf Community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field... This ‘fake interpreter’ has made a mockery of South African Sign Language and has disgraced the South African Sign Language interpreting profession. The organizers of the memorial service, and indeed any event, should have contacted organizations who coordinate South African Sign Language interpreting services to secure a professional, trained experienced interpreter.
It turned out that Thamsanqa Jantjie was once charged with murder, according to an eNCA TV network that also said he has a history of lying and fraud. Jantjie admitted to being violent and claimed to have been "hallucinated during the memorial service as he was gesturing incoherently." Here's an early SkyNews report (with captions).

Happy Birthday, Thomas Gallaudet!

Born - Philadelphia on December 10, 1787

Family - Oldest of 12 children

College - Attended Yale at age 14, graduating with highest honors at 17

Ministry - Ordained in 1814, sometimes preaching at church

Deaf Interest - Became interested in deaf issues when he met a 9-year-old deaf neighbor

School - Founded The American School for the Deaf during 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut

Travels - Learned the manual form of sign language used in France when he visited

Marriage - In 1821, he married a former student and had two sons

Edward - Gallaudet's son who founded Gallaudet University in Washington, DC

Thomas - Ordained as an Episcopal priest, working to provide religious services for the deaf

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Paul Raci is getting rave reviews

Paul Raci is “drawing raves for his performance as a deafened alcohol counselor in Sound of Metal. A member of Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles, Raci is also the lead singer for Black Sabbath tribute band Hands of Doom ASL ROCK, a band that performs in American Sign Language.“ Paul talks about what this movie captures about the deaf experience in an IndieWire article here.

The Ottoman Empire used a Secret Sign Language

Ottoman court signer from a  17th-century
costume book (via Wikimedia Commons)
"In the 1600s, the court of the Ottoman Empire employed some 40 deaf servants," professor Sara Scalenghe writes. "They were chosen not in spite of their deafness, but because of it. The deaf servants were favored companions of the sultan, and their facility in nonverbal communication made them indispensable to the court, where decorum restricted speech in the sultan’s presence." Scalenghe tells the facinating story of the deaf servants here

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Sound of Metal

The film Sound of Metal tells the story of a heavy-metal drummer who loses his hearing and finds acceptance in the Deaf community. It picked up awards at the Zurich Film Festival and Sunset Film Circle Awards and is available on Amazon Prime video. Some of the acting is silent and in ASL and the entire movie is open captioned. The star of the film, Riz Ahmed, said, "Once I became more fluent in ASL, I found myself getting really emotional speaking about certain topics in a way I might not have if I had been verbally communicating about them.” A USA Today article explains how the filmmakers sought to honor Deaf culture. You can read it here.

What to do if face masks are being worn in your child’s school

The National Deaf Children's Society offers advice in this video to British parents on the difficulties for deaf children attending schools where face coverings are used in classrooms or in communal areas.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Getting to Know Dr House

It was on this date (Dec. 7, 2012) that Dr. William F. House died in Oregon at the age of 89. Dr. House is credited with installing the first cochlear implant in 1961. He was told by experts the electric current he was using would destroy the ear, but that didn't stop him. He believed in what implants could do to change someone's life. Here's a little about him:
  • Known as the "father of neurotology."
  • He received his doctorate in dentistry from the University of California at  Berkeley.
  • Practiced medicine in Newport Beach, California until 2000, when he moved to Aurora, Oregon, next door to his son.
  • His cochlear implant was approved by the FDA in 1984.
  • When he started performing the cochlear surgery on children some claimed he was just after money.
  • His half-brother, Howard P. House founded the House Ear Institute which became the House Research Institute.
  • He completed some 3,000 implants throughout his career.
  • Developed a new approach to removing tumors on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain.
  • Created a new surgical procedure for Meniere's disease, an inner ear disorder contracted by Astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. He couldn't have flown to the moon had it not been for House's surgery. He wrote a memoir called The Struggles of a Medical Innovator.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Looking back: Kitty O'Neil's Record

It was on this day (Dec. 6) in 1976 that professional stuntwoman Kitty O'Neil set a record for land speed by a female driver. It was in Oregon's Alvord Desert that Kitty hit 512 miles per hour. Her women's absolute land speed record stood until 2019.

Childhood diseases left her deaf and nearly killed her. She became a champion diver at a young age. Her work later as a Hollywood stuntwoman was featured in TV shows like Quincy, Baretta and The Bionic Woman along with movies like Smokey and the Bandit, The Blues Brothers and Airport '77. 

She set a record for the highest stunt fall by a woman (105 feet).  She has held as many as 22-speed records on land and water.

A movie was made about her life in 1979 titled Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story.  She died Nov. 2, 2018, from pneumonia at the age of 72. Read more about her amazing life in a Washington Post article here. Below is a video report on Kitty from the Midco Sports Network put together in 2015.

Friday, December 4, 2020

On this Date 5 years ago: Dimarco Wins Top Model

Nyle Dimarco
(image from ANTM video)
Nyle Dimarco won America's Next Top Model contest on this date (Dec. 4) in 2015. He was the first deaf contestant to do so. Afterward Dimarco told People magazine, "Being a deaf person on a television show alone is pretty groundbreaking, so it felt incredible just to be on the show – but to win it was amazing!" Read more of that interview here. Top Model introduced him with this video.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

NYPD using sign to connect with the community

A New York Police officer is building relationships with the Deaf community by using his first language on the job--American Sign Language. Officer Angel Familia of the 9th precinct gives a greeting in sign language in a video tweeted by the police department.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Cape Coral doctor now makes patients heard

David Shropshire has been profoundly deaf since the age of two. That did not stop him from becoming an audiologist. Find out more in a video report from WBBH-TV in Fort Myers here.