Monday, September 16, 2013

Occupy ASL: The Planets vlog

This video was created mostly for entertainment purposes, but I'd love to see it start a revolution! Too often we Deaf people aren't fully empowered to occupy, play with, and use ASL. In this video, I use the process of name-signing our solar system's planets (all 8, plus Pluto!) and hope to see others beginning to get more creative with ASL. The video's not perfect - you'll see some weird artifacts - but it's fun, and sometimes that's more important!

Why start with the planets? They're always there and always have been. We see them in the night sky, slipping by, but we don't have name signs for the worlds. As a lover of astronomy, this has always bothered me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Captioning on You bet - and it's awesome!

Two years ago nothing was captioned on PBS due to a "persistent captioning bug," as I wrote in an editorial for DeafEcho. Today the website is completely different - and if you have kids, or teach Deaf/Hard of Hearing students in schools, should be a regular stop in your search for teaching materials. In contrast to CNN's website, which we reviewed last week, it's now almost impossible for me to find anything WITHOUT captions on PBS! The captions are beautiful, the programs are interesting–and PBS should be lauded for their attention to detail and inclusion. GO TO and explore NOW!

Some videos of interest:
  • The March. Witness the compelling and dramatic story of the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his stirring "I Have a Dream” speech. This watershed event in the Civil Rights Movement helped change the face of America. 
  • The Last Refuge. Will America have any pristine land left?
There's still one or two videos - particularly older videos - without captioning. If you find one of these, simply click on report a problem - the problem reporting system is simple and easy! Enjoy watching.

It's really nice to write a POSITIVE captioning review for once...

9•6•2013: Deaf News Roundup

Today: a followup on Michael Argenyi's lawsuit and other national and international Deaf news from the US, Scotland, South Africa and Zambia.
  • Michael Argenyi won his case! A federal district court in Omaha ruled that Creighton University violated the ADA by not providing this medical student what he needed to compete equally. We blogged about Michael's case and other medical issues here. This is the second in a line of medical education-related lawsuits Deaf people have won; Jessica Wells also won a lawsuit against her nursing program.
Also in the US:
From Scotland:  From South Africa:
  • Deaf Awareness Week begins. Read about the causes and thoughts of South African Deaf people. (Will coincide with the first international Deaf Cricket League.)
From Zambia: 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Captioning on Not quite

It's been a long-time frustration to me that doesn't provide captioned videos. In February 2012 CNN was arguing that being required to provide captioning infringes on CNN's right to free speech. So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I went to CNN's site today to check for information about Syria–to see that CNN is now showing a CC button next to the video controls on its website. I was even able to get the captioning to turn on for a live video on CNN's front page.

Unfortunately, that was the only video I could find which provided captioning. I clicked several on the website, including older videos, but the rest all said there were no captioning tracks available. 

Image: the CNN video player, with the settings highlighted to show a "captions unavailable" message. In the background, a blonde girl with a grey t-shirt laughs at the camera.
Image: Anderson Cooper's show on CNN. Also showing the "Captions Unavailable" message.

This is unfortunate, because the one captioned video I saw looked incredible and integrated the captions clearly and cleanly, using a television-like style. I could imagine being able to play such videos for a bilingual classroom for Deaf and hard of hearing students and discuss current events. As it is, we're still waiting for CNN to get totally with it. CNN, make it happen! Until then, you'll get a disappointing rating.
Image: John Kerry speaking to the Senate about the Syria issue in the news in the online CNN media player. Captioning is visible in the image, and the menu is activated to show English is chosen.
One out of five clicks of half-hearted excitement for one working video. Anyone have better reports than I do?

Language Learning While Deaf

Many Deaf people I know are like me and grew up in a multilingual family which was told to speak only one language - English - in the home, in order to make me speak English. In my case, I began to learn Spanish and Arabic as a small child, then my family changed - and as a result, I learned no ASL or other foreign languages for a while.

In school Spanish, French and German were offered. Until my last year in a hearing school, however, none of these were available to me. Instead, I was taken out of classes for speech 'lessons' - and I learned to speak English as well as read and write it. I also learned some signing, because audiology's dirty secret is that a little ASL goes a long way towards making English comprehensible. We're used to working with very little, we Deaf children. In the end they let me take some French classes - one of the languages I had no family connection to!

So when my friends introduced me to Duolingo, an app for iPad and iPhone, I had reservations - but was quickly overjoyed. The app is designed to help people learn six languages, mostly European (I'm hoping they add more in the future, but it's a start.) Users play decoding games where you're forced to figure out how words work together. It's a strategizing process that makes you learn and remember not only new vocabulary but declensions, grammar and phrases. You have the option of using a microphone or speaker if you like, or turning them off, and questions and types of questions will adapt themselves to your needs. And it's ENTIRELY FREE. I am now able to read and decipher many articles in El Diario, a popular New York newspaper. (In any language, the news is depressing, but at least I'm learning!) I hope to one day go to Puerto Rico and be able to converse with my relatives, who are an interesting mix. Best way, people say, is to go there and learn–but a foundation won't hurt.

Compare this to Rosetta Stone, which is a commercial program costing anywhere from $100-$500, depending on what elements you purchase. . I have tried this program and found it unusable. Other writers, like Louise Sattler, have tried to simulate using the program "from the Deaf perspective" and found it usable; maybe I should give it a second try. Sattler says there's continual text and captioning, but hearing people are often able to fill in blanks which we Deaf people don't even know exist, so I'm hesitant to take her word for it.

I still have some issues; I am Puerto Rican, not Spanish, so some of the words, grammar etc. are different. Like many Puerto Ricans, I am part Taino, and their language has blended somewhat with Spanish to create a new hybrid, so I am going online to make up for these gaps and differences.

How do you learn foreign languages?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reclaim Deaf Power: Interpreters

I saw a post on facebook through Facundo Element; they suggest a fantastic idea: a website to evaluate ASL interpreters and interpreting agencies.

I think this is a fantastic idea because, unfortunately, when it comes to interpreters, we aren't the consumers. The consumers are the colleges or employer who pays for the interpreter. The agency creates a contract with those employers, and interpreters show up to work with the Deaf client. But how much say do Deaf clients have in who they work with? What happens when the interpreter isn't doing too well?

Theoretically, a student ought to be able to complain and tell their college or employer the interpreter's not qualified. Theoretically, you ought to be able to change that interpreter. Practically, however, agencies etc. create contracts with specific services. Often they look for the cheapest possible, and don't want to give this cheapness up.

I remember in college earning my BA I was called into a provost's office and asked to teach other students fingerspelling. They were having problems finding interpreters for chemistry. I protested, successfully, but I was so amazed they'd stoop so low to save a few bucks. (Imagine taking organic chemistry and having lectures.... spelled.)

Another time, ten years or so later while getting my Master's in New York, two interpreters I worked with sadly told me they'd have to stop. They were amazing, highly qualified, but their agency hadn't paid them for two solid months. I complained to the administration, but the hiring of those interpreters was subject to contract with the specific agency. I might have been able to steer them to a reputable agency who treated both clients and interpreters well, but we both lost that opportunity.

The point is there's a missing link in the consumer chain. I think it's time for Deaf people to reclaim their power: we need some medium for evaluating interpreters and especially their agencies. A professional website with professional, polite but honest reviews could make this happen, and go some way to repairing the missing link.


8•27•2013 Tuesday Deaf News Roundup

Today's roundup focuses on education, sports, and issues in the UK and US.

In Education:

In Sports:

In the UK:

In the US: