Banned From Using the Internet?

By Jean F. Andrews

What if you are deaf, serve time in prison and are released with the stipulation that you are banned from using a cell phone or the Internet? Could you survive?

Yes, but with great difficulty.

English: VodafoneEgypt role in cell phone/Inte...

VodafoneEgypt role in cell phone/Internet blackout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that some released deaf inmates are banned from cell phone use and the Internet? This is a typical punishment for deaf persons who have committed crimes such as viewing child pornography online even though they may have never solicited a minor online or met a minor through online interaction.

Computer and cell phone technology is a luxury for hearing people. But for deaf persons, computer technology is a necessity for safety and survival as well as for daily communication needs in a world of hearing people who do not know sign language.

As hearing persons, you and I can pick up the cell phone and call our spouses, children, colleagues or doctors or contact an emergency service (911) with a simple voice-call on the telephone. This is not so for deaf persons who cannot hear or speak. Deaf people like do use cell phone technology as we do but instead rely on texting and use of a special online relay operator.

English: A Deaf, Hard-Of-Hearing or Speech-Imp...

A Deaf person at her workplace, communicating with a hearing person via a Video Interpreter, using a webcam and a program on her computer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While you and I can also ask any hearing-speaking persons around us for assistance if we need it, this is not so for deaf people. Deafness is a devastating physical condition that isolates deaf people from hearing society because few hearing people know sign language. The Internet has been a miracle for deaf users because it opens the doors to communication in a hearing world and provides access through texting, videoconferencing and online relay operators. With the Internet, they can access signing relay operators who act as go-betweens between the deaf world and the hearing-speaking world. Or they can communicate directly with deaf friends using cell phone or computer Internet videoconferencing.

English: A cell phone tower in Palatine, Illin...

A cell phone tower in Palatine, Illinois, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For deaf people to adapt to every day life, they must use the internet to communicate with family, doctors, offices, make phone calls through an online relay operator who translates their signs into text messages for others, for job searches, for emergency purposes, and so on.

Judges and prosecuting attorneys may not know how the deaf person uses texting and online relay services for their everyday life.

In fact, the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides protection for telephone use for deaf individuals. Because auditory cell phones excludes deaf persons from using them, they are entitled to accommodations such as cell phones for texting and use of the Internet for online relay operators.

Today, there is software available that can be placed on the released deaf criminal offender’s computer or text cell phone that will monitor his or her use of the computer, Internet and cell phone texting.

Deaf persons should not be denied cell phone, texting device and computer use with the Internet. For deaf people, the internet is a necessity, not a luxury as it is for hearing persons.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

How to Promote Early Reading Acquisition: First Promote ASL

By Jean F. Andrews

XO Sign Language

XO Sign Language (Photo credit: Wayan Vota)

Reading continues to be one of the major obstacles for deaf adults in obtaining their Constitutional Rights. Reading court and legal documents is next to impossible. Even with a sign language interpreter the concepts are difficult to grasp.

In the ivory tower the debate is whether the reading process is qualitatively similar or qualitatively different than for hearing children. While the jury is still out on this theoretical argument, the reality is that the majority of deaf adults are busy learning two languages throughout their lives.

Learning sign language

Learning sign language (Photo credit: daveynin)

ASL is typically acquired quickly and English – reading and writing – is learned as it is mediated by the visual ASL. This ASL to English process happens too late for many deaf adults. An early ASL /English program is one answer to ensuring early reading acquisition.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Department Chair of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

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Terrell Brittain Advocates for Deaf Renters

By Jean F. Andrews

Deaf people are treated unfairly by housing leasing staff, according to a front-page story in the Houston ChronicleJanuary 27, 2014 by news reporter Jayme Fraser. In fact, office managers are reported to have rudely hung up on deaf inquirers who call in using relay interpreters. Why is this situation still happening in this era of Civil Rights and the American with Disabilities Act? Fraser further reports that the National Fair Housing Alliance organization is collecting cases where more deaf people, seeking housing, were treated unfairly. Fraser interviews Terrell Brittain, a young, articulate deaf professional who has a master’s degree in Deaf Education, and is currently employed as a professor of American Sign Language Interpretation at the University of Houston. Brittain recounts his bad experiences and rude treatment when trying to contact leasing office staff, both while he was in college as well as now – as a professional. Fraser quotes Harold Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association for the Deaf who attributes this case and others to “a problem with poor training.”

Poor staff training is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much deeper. While Brittain’s treatment by the leasing office staff was inexcusable and illegal, fortunately for Brittain, he has the communication skills and education to confront the leasing officials in order to clearly articulate this complaint. Many deaf adults seeking housing are not as fortunate. These deaf adults are functionally illiterate. They are the victims of a poor educational system that postponed their exposure to a visually based sign language and failed to teach them to read and write. Consequently, many are underemployed or unemployed.

They have difficulty articulating their needs and seeking their Constitutional Rights. Many of these deaf adults get caught up in the criminal justice system and are unable to defend themselves because they do not have the background knowledge or communication skills to work with an attorney and understand their trial.  If you go to Huntsville State Prison and interview deaf inmates there, you will find out what Dr. Katrina Miller, professor of Rehabilitation counseling at Emporia State University, found out in her study of 99 Deaf Prisoners in Huntsville State prison.

Dr. Miller found that many deaf inmates incarcerated there, told her they did not have interpreters during their trials and do not know why they are in prison. Unlike Terrell Brittain, who can communicate his complaint and seek a legal resolution, many deaf adults struggle to obtain their Constitutional Rights with more serious consequence than no roof over their heads; they can face a life behind bars.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Department Chair of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

[Editor's note: You may notice something different in Dr. Andrews' bio. She is now the Chair of her department. Please join DeafInPrison.com in congratulating Dr. Andrews on this well deserved promotion. --BitcoDavid]

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Supporter Contribution by Dr. Damara Paris

By Jean F. Andrews

[Author's Note: Dr. Paris is an assistant professor in the Dept of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University. She has done research with Native American Deaf Communities. -- Jean Andrews]

Native American and Deaf Communities: Parallels of Oppression

Damara Paris, Ed.D, CRC, NCC

English: A collage of Native Americans dressed...

English: A collage of Native Americans dressed in European attire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, the news has been rife with reports about the Washington Redskins and the controversy over their usage of “redskin” as their mascot. Native Americans began protesting in earnest during the Washington Redskin/Denver Bronco game and more protests are scheduled during future games. A good article to review about the historical connotation of the term “redskin” can be found here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/09/09/220654611/are-you-ready-for-some-controversy-the-history-of-redskin

In many ways, there are parallels in how members of the Native American and Deaf communities have experienced oppression. It was not long ago that the Deaf community campaigned against offensive terms such deaf and dumb, deaf-mute and hearing-impaired. While increasingly infrequent in usage, such labels still crop up in the media.

These two distinct communities have endured tactics to homogenize their cultures into the majority, or dominant, community. In 1880, the infamous Milan conference passed a resolution that deaf students should be taught through oral methods, banning sign language in schools. For almost a hundred years, the native language of deaf individuals were suppressed, and reports of punishments of students who used sign language ranged from authority figures hitting their hands with rulers to banishment in isolating rooms.

This Census Bureau map depicts the locations o...

This Census Bureau map depicts the locations of Native Americans in the United States as of 2000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1879, one of the first Indian boarding schools (Carlisle in Pennsylvania) was established to remove Native American children (often forcibly and under threat of jailing their parents) from their tribal communities into schools that expected students to change their clothing, cut their hair, and discontinue use of their native languages. Many of these schools, under the guise of helping Native Americans assimilate into the European-American culture, would quell resistance of students through starvation, physical beatings and public humiliation. Many of these children were quite young when separated from their families, and were not allowed to contact them until after they graduated. Once they became adults, they did not return to their tribes and many of the customs and languages became dormant, or disappeared altogether.

English: "American Sign Language" in...

American Sign Language in Stokoe Notation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attempts at genocide impacted both cultures. Native Americans often refer to stories about settlers giving smallpox blankets to tribes to reduce their numbers, with some historians debunking these stories as myths. There has been documentation, however, of at least one incident shortly after the French and Indian War ended in 1763 in which a British general suggested to one of his subordinates that they use diseased-ridden blankets to reduce the Native American population. An outbreak occurred near Fort Pitt shortly after this dialogue occurred (Knollenberg, 1954). The prevailing viewpoint in the mid-1800’s was that the “only good Indian was a dead Indian” (Meider, 1993). Whether from smallpox blankets or war, the drastic reduction of the number of Native Americans over the centuries cannot be ignored.

This is not dissimilar to the Eugenics perspective in the 1800’s in which advancement of the human race was a key priority. One of the most famous eugenicists, Alexander Graham Bell, published articles that actively discouraged marriage between Deaf people in order to reduce the inheritance of deafness (Edwards, 2007). There have been published reports about the abuse, sterilization, and murder of deaf individuals during the Holocaust from 1933-1945 in Hitler’s quest for a master race (Ryan, 2005).

This poster (from around 1938) reads: "60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People's community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too. Read '[A] New People', the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP." Image: Wikipedia

This poster (from around 1938) reads: “60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too. Read ‘[A] New People’, the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP.” Image: Wikipedia

There is one more historical characteristic that Native Americans and Deaf community members share. Diligence. Despite the efforts of dominant communities to weed them out, both cultures have survived and even thrived. Thanks in part to William Stokoe whose breakthrough research demonstrated American Sign Language (ASL) was a true language, Deaf people have become empowered to use their native language. As a result, they have transcended societal perceptions to become doctors, lawyers, researchers and professors. There is a resurgence of Native traditions, and some of the tribes have fared better as they have become empowered to establish businesses. Tribal historians are documenting languages with increased urgency before they are lost altogether.
And there is evidence that these two cultures have actually intersected. Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), shared by both deaf and hearing members of tribes in what was formerly known as the Plains, has been studied for its contributions to ASL (see http://helenair.com/lifestyles/tribal-hand-talk-considered-an-endangered-language/article_da41d7a8-a6a4-11df-9ff4-001cc4c03286.html). As two cultures that have visual languages in common, it is a pleasant discovery that approximately 30% of PISL can be found in ASL.

Edwards, R.A.R. (2007). Chasing Aleck: The story of a dorm. The Public Historian, 29 (3), pp.
87-104.
Knollenberg, B. (1954). General Amherst and germ warfare. The Mississippi Valley Historical
Review, 41 (3), pp. 489-94.
Meider, W. (1993). “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”: History and meaning of a
proverbial stereotype. The Journal of American Folklore, 106 (419), pp.38-60.
Ryan, D. F. (2005). Deaf people in Hitler’s Europe: Conducting oral history interviews with deaf
Holocaust survivors. Public Historian, 27(2), 43-52.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

[Editor's note: DeafInPrison.com is very grateful to Dr. Paris for this wonderful contribution. In researching this article for the edit, I discovered that other than one of her references came from Jstor.org. Sadly, jstor is not a free service, and if you wished to do further study on your own, you would need an account. I did look for copies of these texts on Wikipedia and on Amazon, but they were not to be found. Hey, I don't run the Internet - I just work there. -- BitcoDavid]

It Takes Time to be an ASL/English Bilingual

By Jean F. Andrews

The sign for Learn. Image: Lifeprint

Learning ASL and English does not happen quickly. It takes time as do all first language and second language learning. Delays in language learning is a fact in many deaf persons’ lives. But it does not have to be. Being deaf does not cause a language delay. It is the lack of access to language in the environment that causes the language delay. According to many studies, having Deaf parents who sign as well as accept their child’s deafness provide the best environment for language learning. According to Dr. David Geeslin, bilingual/bicultural environments that are set up in classrooms replicate the same home environment that Deaf parents provide. In his study at the Indiana School for the deaf, he found that it takes seven or more years for deaf children of hearing parents to show academic growth on standardized achievement tests.

Many Deaf inmates typically have language histories that show they were not signing until junior high or even high school.  Such delays in sign exposure severely restrict their abilities to use an interpreter when working with their attorney or understanding the courtroom proceedings. Simply put, they don’t have the language skills nor the conceptual and world knowledge base accumulated by hearing children through hours and even years of  parent, teacher and peer conversations.

Some prisons have a critical mass of deaf prisoners and have created their own bilingual/bicultural communities within the prisons. But these are few. Judges often ask defense lawyers, how can you get your deaf client linguistically competent to stand trial? An easy answer is; it takes time to be an ASL/English Bilingual.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Reading and Deaf Researchers

By Jean F. Andrews

Portrait of John Bulwer

John Bulwer, 17th c linguist who proposed a manual alphabet for the Deaf

Since I’ve been in higher education, I’ve seen an increase in numbers of graduate students who are deaf apply to deaf education programs. I have also seen the increase in the hiring of professors who are deaf in different institutions where I have worked. The topics of their research papers are typically related to Deaf culture, and to the use of ASL and fingerspelling in the teaching of reading. If literacy is to improve, it will take deaf researchers to provide us with insights on how to use ASL and fingerspelling to teach English reading.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

The Role of Deaf Professors In Higher Education

By Jean F. Andrews

As more and more deaf individuals earn degrees in higher education at the doctorate level, they are entering high education as professors and administrators. Oftentimes, they experience both physical and attitudinal barriers. Professors who are deaf provide role modeling for deaf undergraduate and graduate students. But working in an environment where majority of faculty and administrators are hearing, non-signers poses subtle and not so subtle challenges. Dr. Damara Paris shares her experiences in this article published by Lamar University Press.
Here is the link. Deaf Is Just an Adjective

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Mac’s Reach Exceeded His Grasp

By Jean F. Andrews

It was the end of August, 1974 and I was sitting in a crowded classroom next to 25 other students at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel’s College) in the bottom basement of the campus library. The professor, dressed casually in a light blue guayabera, walked into the classroom, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote down a list of the variables that make up a psychology of deafness.
His lecture style was intense; however, his southern accent relaxed the serious tone of his lecture. I looked down and flipped over my textbook, They Grow In Silence, and noticed the author’s picture. It was the professor standing in front of me. The only other authors I knew were dead, like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, W.B. Yeats. I had graduated from an English department the year before and now I was in a graduate program in Deaf Education. I had wanted to be English teacher but it was 1974 and the teaching jobs in regular education were taken up by young men dodging the Viet Nam draft. I had taken an ASL class in my senior year of college and thought that teaching deaf children through sign language would make for an interesting career.

I looked around the room and saw 10 to 12 of the students who were deaf and that a sign language interpreter was translating the professor’s lecture. Mac signed fluently and signed when students asked him questions. He frequently asked the deaf students to share their frustrating and lonely experiences growing up deaf. He talked a lot about his wife, Edith Vernon’s experience growing up deaf as well. Magically, Mac transformed the classroom into a platform for stories about the experiences of deaf people – the most unusual that I had ever heard or read about. And his papers, available to us in the library, on the Role of Deaf Teachers and understanding the Group Minority Dynamics of Deaf Culture were exciting to read. Mac weaved Deaf Rights into the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements way before ADA and IDEA made their impact.

That year Mac turned me and several of my classmates into published writers, movie stars and scholars. He published our papers in the American Annals of the Deaf. He cast us in documentaries he was making about deafness. And when we stopped by his office, he had a list of graduate programs at a variety of universities where he encouraged many of us to further our education and to get our Ph.Ds. Many of us in that classroom and in other classes taught by Mac, did just that. We went on to be college professors, researchers, CEOs of technology companies, psychologists, social workers, deaf-blind specialists, forensic specialists, mental health professionals, writers and administrators at schools for the deaf.

Mac’s gentle and consistent support was always only a phone call, a letter or an email away.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” said the poet, Robert Browning. And Mac’s reach extended beyond his grasp of the time we students spent with him in that crowded classroom 39 years ago.
Mac’s reach extended beyond us college students too. His research, writings, speeches, and advocacy have resulted in better lives for generations of Deaf people.

And we all lost a dear friend and colleague, whose humor, humanity, humility and vitality we will never forget.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

The Child First Campaign/Alice Cogswell Act, Read About It And Vote

By Jean F. Andrews

Mr. Conservative (School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)

Mr. Conservative
(School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)

Dr. Ron Stern, superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf, spoke to the Texas Association of the Deaf in Galveston, Texas on August 3, 2013 about the Child First Campaign. This is a national movement that is working toward ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing children receive full access to educational, language, communication, and socially appropriate programming through multiple pathways of language learning. Fundamental to the Child First campaign, is that at the IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting where each child’s unique needs are determined, parents need to be informed of educational options for their child that include multiple pathways of learning.

Readers may wonder why such a movement is necessary. Wasn’t IDEA or Individuals With Disabilities Act supposed to do just that?

Unfortunately, IDEA has failed to deliver its promises of accessible education for deaf and hard of hearing children. Indeed, the concept of “inclusion” has been misinterpreted and misapplied to deaf and hard of hearing children.

Inclusion has become a big illusion, a bigger delusion and the biggest exclusion for many deaf and hard of hearing children in the history of Deaf Education.

As part of its Child First campaign, the Conference of Educational Administrators for
School for the Deaf (CEASD) has developed a proposed bill called the Alice Cogswell Act of 2013. If passed, this bill would amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to “promote and better ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Parents, devastated with finding out their child is deaf, are prey to promises by uninformed doctors, audiologists, super-funded organizations who say that if the child get early implants and engages in rigorous, monolingual English oral only training by early childhood their deaf child will no longer need special education services.

While these professionals are filled with well-intentioned fervor their position lacks science.

Studies in the science of language learning (psycholinguistics), language rules (linguistics), cognition (thinking skills), emergent literacy, and social emotional development (social skills) have demonstrated that deaf and hard of hearing children need multiple pathways for language learning, academic achievement and socio-emotional growth. To limit the child to just one pathway, is simply not supported by science.

This is not to say implants and hearing aids don’t provide some benefit to speech production. In some cases they do. But it is only one pathway and rarely is this pathway fully opened because of the hearing loss. Even with the best cochlear implant surgery and outcomes, and the best speech and auditory training, still many children fail to develop speech or language.

Indeed, speech is speech. Speech is not language. Speech does not ensure thinking skills. Speech does not ensure emotional and social happiness. Nor does speech ensure academic achievement. Speech, language, thinking, emergent literacy, academic achievement and social emotional growth come about through multiple pathways of language learning.

Speech is only one avenue. Deaf and hard of hearing children need multiple avenues.

Deaf adults know this. They have “lived the journey down multiple avenues.” Any program involving deaf and hard of hearing children should always include deaf adults at every stage of development from early intervention to higher education. If they don’t contain deaf adults, parents should be suspicious that important information is being held back from them.

Indeed, to exclude the Deaf community in educational programming is losing a major resource.

What the Child First Campaign wants to ensure is that parents are informed that there are multiple pathways to language and emergent literacy learning for their deaf and hard of hearing child. Educational programming that reflect the multiple pathways of language learning need to be brought to the table at the IEP meeting.

LifePrint.com Sign for prison.

LifePrint.com. Sign for prison.

Why would DeafInPrison.com readers be interested in the Child First campaign? In my assessments of Deaf inmates, I have found that many are victims of poor educational practices that limited their access to both signing and English. Consequently, when jailed or imprisoned, it is difficult for them to get their Constitutional Rights. They are not able to read legal documents like Miranda, the Guilty Plea Questionnaire, and Inmate handbooks that describe the rules and their rights. Deaf inmates have difficulty understanding interpreters because of their impoverished sign skills as well as they have difficulty working with their lawyers. Most of these Deaf inmates have language and literacy histories where they were limited to only one pathway to language learning in their homes and in their early schooling.

To learn more, go to www.ceasd.org. Consider voting for the Child First Campaign/Alice Cogswell Act on the website to ensure that parents are informed of the multiple pathways for speech, language, emergent literacy, thinking and social skills for their deaf and hard of hearing child.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

How To Learn About Deaf Culture? Read Tom Holcomb’s Introduction to American Deaf Culture

By Jean F. Andrews

Tom Holcomb, writer-scholar-teacher who is Deaf, captures the heart, mind and soul of the Deaf community in his book, Introduction to American Deaf Culture.

Respect me as a member of a cultural-linguistic group, don’t pity me as a member of a group of disabled individuals.

While sign languages are not universal as each country has its own indigenous sign language, Deaf people worldwide have universal shared experiences that few know about.  These include adopting similar solutions for effective living in a dominant hear-centric society, the use of a sign language, the congregation of like-minded deaf people, and the sharing of information.

Holcomb begins each chapter with a painting or drawing of a Deaf artist and ends with a poem written by a Deaf poet.  Readers will also learn about the vibrant culture of Deaf people, its history and heritage, sports, organizations and leisure activities, the politics in education, their feelings, aspirations and goals,  protective legislation and laws for Deaf rights, policies that have harmed deaf children such as the history of the exclusion of Deaf teachers and the keeping of ASL and how information about Deaf culture is routinely kept from parents with newly diagnosed deaf children.

The book has its uplifting parts. For instance, Holcomb inspirationally chronicles the journeys and accomplishments of diverse Deaf Americans as well as international Deaf people. Readers will also learn how technology has been a boon and bane. Videophones , text pagers, email, instant messaging, VRS, VRI, captioning, voice recognition technology and the like have provided access to communication but cochlear surgeries, auditory technology such as cochlear implants, hearing aids, and genetic engineering have sought to eradicate the Deaf culture as well as stimulate the economy by capitalizing on treatments for deafness for financial gain.   Parents and professionals interested in Deaf culture will benefit from this book.

Medical school students, doctors, audiologists and Au.D. candidates and other professionals who unknowingly impose “contrived solutions” on Deaf people rather than involving Deaf adults in decisions affecting young deaf children may find this book refreshing and enlightening.

The book is available through Amazon.com by going here.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Dumbing Down Deaf Education

By Jean F. Andrews

Bush signing "No Child Left Standing" Law Image Credit: Weld for Birmingham

Bush signing “No Child Left Standing” Law
Image Credit: Weld for Birmingham

Following the NCLB mandates for achievement testing, linking teacher salaries to student test scores, the National reading Panel, the Common Core Standards and other expert panels–what is next to further dumb down deaf education?

Where are graphic arts? Painting and sculpture? Reader’s theater? The dramatic arts including dancing? What about ASL literature, ASL poetry and ASL storytelling? Quality English children’s literature translated to ASL? Deaf history? Math, science and social studies curriculum that is accessible in two languages—ASL and English?

Instant Mannequin by ADNA

Instant Mannequin by ADNA

Today, we are narrowly focusing our vision in deaf education to fit a non-existent cardboard deaf child who has a high-test score on a standardized test primarily in English. Our tax dollars pour into institutions that continue to deprive and delay deaf children’s early acquisition of both ASL and English. Public education for deaf children is fragmented. Our deaf children are Deaf culturally illiterate. Instead of capitalizing on deaf children’s visual learning strengths we sabotage their success by focusing on what they can’t do—hear like hearing children.

We also obstruct our own desires as teachers for success in the classroom by providing deaf children with a curriculum that does not teach, motivate or provide enjoyment of learning, but instead focuses on teaching to a state test. We fail to motivate children by our knee-jerk response to every “expert panel” and law that comes down the pike. Such misguided educational efforts are “shooting ourselves in the foot.” They simply don’t work. Blaming the “deafness” is an easy answer instead of looking critically at our educational institutions stale with convention and lacking in innovation.

Image Credit: Author Joyce Oroz

Image Credit: Author Joyce Oroz

Seldom, do we ask the critical questions–are these laws and panel recommendations necessary to teaching deaf children how to think, to express themselves in ASL and English, to feel at home in “Deaf” and hearing worlds? Do they motivate deaf children to want to enjoy life long independent learning? Do they motivate deaf students to go back into the Deaf community as leaders to solve the English literacy and other educational challenges that hearing professionals have been unable to solve?

While we are skilled in obtaining grant monies from the government for projects, many project managers fail to include culturally Deaf researchers who may very well assist in solving these challenges of underachievement and illiteracy.

Priorities in deaf education need shifting to include both languages–ASL and English– from early childhood to postsecondary and professional training.  Indeed, we need earlier and continuous bilingual and bicultural education to provide full access to both the languages and cultures across all levels of schooling.

We need to include more culturally Deaf researchers are part of our research teams. To not to include Deaf professionals at all levels of research and training is negligent. Inclusive strategies as these may very well stop the rising tides of the dumbing down of deaf education.

[Editor's Note: We thank Jean for this excellent post. Another area in which we are involved, and one which you can help, is the #Keep ASL in Schools campaign. A video is currently in production, and I have been chosen to handle the editing chores. Click on the link to learn more, and to join the campaign. -- BitcoDavid]

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Casualties of our Educational System: The Illiterate Deaf Inmate

By Jean F. Andrews

Teaching a deaf child how to read and write is an area that has perplexed befuddled and flummoxed deaf educators for hundreds of years. Why is reading so difficult to teach? What is it about the alphabetic code of English traps deaf children, youth and adults into lives of illiteracy? Is hearing really necessary to learn to read?

Interestingly, deaf children of deaf parents learn to read more easily than most deaf children of hearing parents. This is because deaf children with deaf parents learn sign language early and upon this language base they can build English language skills in reading and writing. By logical extension, it would seem that deaf children would only need to be taught sign, then base English on that sign. But this does not always happen so smoothly. This is because most deaf children are learning both sign and English at the same time and this slows their development.

Another aspect of learning to read and write revolves around classroom instruction. In preschool and kindergarten classes there is a lot of  matching activities where children match letters to sounds, words to pictures, signs to words, rather than having children read storybooks and texts. Now there is nothing wrong with these matching games as children often enjoy them.  But the focus of quality reading instruction should focus around shared book reading–both provided by the teaching in translations of stories into sign, and by independent book reading by the child on their own. But how can a deaf child read a book if he or she does not have the vocabulary?  That is the Catch-22. Indeed, many deaf children do not have the vocabulary to independently read storybooks on their own. However, there are picture books with simple words and simple phrases that teachers and parents can use develop in children a love and enjoyment of holding a book, or an e-book, and reading a story.

There are numerous reading paradigms that reading researchers bring to the table, in the journals and at conferences. For instance, do deaf children use phonology or do deaf children bypass phonology and go directly to print? Do signing deaf children use a special kind of visual phonology, using the repetition and rhythmic features of ASL and fingerspelling? Neuroscientist Laura-Ann Petitto thinks so. Petitto and her work with other cognitive scientists, linguists and psycholinguists, bilingual researchers, literacy researchers and neuroscientists at the Visual Language Learning Lab ( VL2 lab) at Gallaudet are producing research findings that may send reading instruction into new exciting directions.

Today, while researchers in deaf education are seemingly oceans apart, in their views about reading acquisition and development, they are in the same boat. Deaf educators do have common ground. Their common ground is that they agree of the harsh penalties and social injustices we impose on the Deaf community when we do not teach young deaf children how to sign, read, write, think and reason. And one only has to visit a deaf inmate in a state prison or city jail to meet these casualties of our educational system, whom we failed to teach how to read.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

In A Prison Times Three

By Jean F. Andrews

While some children learn to read effortlessly and on their own, I had to wait until the first grade. After my teacher taught me the 26 letters of the alphabet with the sounds they make, and taught me 20 to 30 sight words, she handed me a primer, my first book. Before my very eyes, the magic of story unfolded. I lurched forward through the talk to print connections, put it all together, until it made sense, I was on my way. Reading took me to worlds far and wide, real and imagined. And I have not put a book down since.

My ease in learning to read is not so with most deaf and hard of hearing children.

Book Club for Youth in Federal Prison - Global Giving

Book Club for Youth in Federal Prison – Global Giving

For them it is a lifelong struggle to access visual language–both signed and written. The struggle begins at home in a sound-base environment and continues to school, another sound-based setting and if they have scrapes with the law, it continues into still another sound- based setting, the prison.

My colleague, who organized a book club for hearing inmates in our town’s prison, says his book club is transforming minds. Inmates read books and get together with him to discuss ideas from the novels and share their own experiences about situations and characters they read about. Not a bad way to spend their time while they are doing time.

But if you are deaf, it’s a different story.

The 3 Weird Sisters from Macbeth. Afana.org

The 3 Weird Sisters from Macbeth. Afana.org

Most deaf inmates can’t read beyond the second grade level. It would be impossible for deaf inmates who are illiterate to get into the biography of Malcolm X or To Kill A Mockingbird or Macbeth or read Robert Frost’s poetry. My colleague’s prison book club has created a shared humanity, an oxymoron in such an incapacitating and punitive setting as the prison.

While deaf inmates reading levels are lower than the average reading level of most deaf high school leavers which is 3rd to 4th grade, still deaf non-offenders have information sources around them through the Internet, YouTube, VRS, their signing deaf and hearing friends, signing hearing friends, Deaf sports, and Deaf associations and ASL/English bilingual e-books.

Alex Dixon - Flickr

Alex Dixon – Flickr

Not so, for deaf inmates.

Deaf inmates live in cells without books or signing companions. Not only are they locked up physically; they are locked within the prison of illiteracy and within the prison without signers. It is prison times three.

What a terrible, excruciating lonely and cruel existence.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Picture Glossaries in Jail: Do They Work?

By Jean F. Andrews

"Jail" in Sign Image: LifePrint.com

“Jail” in Sign
Image: LifePrint.com

“A picture is worth a thousand words. ” While this is true most of the time such as in family and nature photography, pictures don’t tell the whole story for the Deaf or ELL (English as a Second Language) offender. To address their language needs, jail and prisons officials are hiring graphic art designers to develop glossy, picture aids to assist the Deaf and ELL inmates. For instance, one jail in the south developed a pamphlet made up of a glossary of 25 terms such as “correctional officer,” “jails,” “pat down search,” “bail bond”—all illustrated with one colored picture for each term, followed by the word presented in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, and Haitian-Creole. These materials I would term “good will” materials as

they show awareness and respect for the offenders’ primary language.

Sign for "Interpret" In ASL, one would add the sign for "person" to signify an interpreter. Image: LifePrint.com

Sign for “Interpret” In ASL, one would add the sign for “person” to signify an interpreter. Image: LifePrint.com

But these pictionaries don’t really provide the access that Deaf and ELL offenders need. During the jail intake procedures and during the offenders’ stay in jail there is a basic need for more in-depth, 2-way communication between the

inmate and the jail officers. Deaf and ELL offenders need qualified interpreters to explain to them the jail inmate handbook as well as the procedures for grievances while in jail. If they are sexually or physically assaulted, they need to know the procedures in getting help.

In short, picture glossaries “look good” to the outsider. But nothing replaces the need for qualified sign language interpreters for Deaf offenders, and other language interpreters for the ELL offenders.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Probation Forms and the Deaf Offender: A Complex Matter With a Simple Solution

By Jean F. Andrews

Re-Offender

Re-Offender (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Probation is a court order that allows a person convicted of a crime to remain out of jail. An individual on probation must follow certain court-ordered procedures and keep from getting into trouble with the law. Probation violations both occur when an individual either breaks the rules or fails to keep the terms of their probation, including getting arrested for another offense. Probation violations have significant consequences and penalties. When a probation violation occurs, it may result in the person returning back to jail.
For obvious reasons, offenders must understand the conditions of their probation and work with their probation officer to make sure these conditions are met on time. For instance, a court may mandate drug treatment or an anger management class, depending on the charges. For deaf offenders who are illiterate, understanding the conditions of probation, particularly reading the probation forms can be a nightmare. More often than not, deaf offenders are not provided with qualified interpreters consistently throughout their probation meetings. Further, the deaf offender may not be able to read the probation forms he or she must sign detailing the conditions for probation because they read below the 3rd grade reading level. And when the deaf offender takes the forms home, she or he cannot refer to them as a memory aid because forms are written at the 9th grade reading level or above as I found with one readability analysis of one probation form. That means you would need at least a high school reading level to comprehend this form.

Look. Even on a demo form, the perp is a Black male No comedy like reality. -- BitcoDavid. Photo courtesy of Quick-Court

Look. Even on a demo form, the perp is a Black male No comedy like reality. — BitcoDavid. Photo courtesy of Quick-Court.

To illustrate the linguistic complexity of probation forms, here is a sample sentence with a feared consequence.
Failure to answer all questions honestly or failing to fill out the forms by due date could result in a warrant for your arrest.
How can a deaf offender fill out the form honestly? How can he fill it out at all if he does not understand what he is reading? Such scenarios as this one are common. In one case, a deaf offender on probation was not aware of the fee schedule change as his probation officer failed to explain it to him and the deaf individual could not read the form he was given with the fee schedule changes listed on it. In another instance, an offender on probation was required to go to Anger Management classes but she could not get an interpreter nor could she read the class textbook which was written at the 9th grade reading level.

Probation forms are filled with difficult vocabulary such as termination, requirements, receipt, written confirmation, brackets, regarding, issued, self-addressed stamped envelope, cashiers check, that a deaf offender with a low reading level would have difficulty understanding. The probation forms are also filled with complex sentence structures, if-then cause and effect clauses, time clauses, sequencing, structures which low level reading deaf offenders stumble through. As such, both the linguistic complexity and the content of the forms with its sequencing of events and ideas on what the deaf offender should do, should not do, and the when and where the forms must be filled out and what conditions need to be made are complex and confusing for the deaf offender. Hearing offenders who are illiterate can simply ask a family member or the probation officer to explain the rules because they have a shared spoken language. However, deaf offenders are “up the creek without a paddle,” when such probation forms are placed in front of them and they are not provided with a qualified sign language interpreter. They are left to flounder and fail and oftentimes they end up back in jail because they did not understand the conditions for probation.

The solution is simple: Provide qualified sign language interpreters in all interactions with signing deaf offenders and probation officers.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

[Editor's note: Jean has touched on many important issues with this piece, but another probation / parole issue that needs mentioning is the use of urinalysis for drug testing. These tests are known to be wildly inaccurate - all the more so when administered by a non-professional such as a probation officer or cop. Something as mundane as a poppy-seed bagel can be enough to get an offender violated and sent back to jail. People should know that they have the right to refuse a urinalysis test, and instead to opt for a blood test administered by a medical professional. --BitcoDavid]

 

Deaf – Blind Inmates: Are They Being Served Appropriately in Jail?

By Jean F. Andrews

According to a recent newsletter by HEARD, as of March 31, 2013, there are 407 deaf and deaf-blind prisoners in 38 states, Washington, D.C. and in the Federal Bureau of Prisoners. Within these numbers, we do not know exactly how many are deaf-blind or deaf and visually-impaired inmates there are in prison.

Deaf-blind and deaf-visually impaired inmates are most vulnerable to human rights abuses and often do not receive adequate accommodations in jails and prison. Take for example, the case of Ms. Jones, an African-American deaf-visually impaired woman who has been incarcerated numerous times, mostly for misdemeanors. Ms. Jones is profoundly deaf , has limited vision in both eyes, uses American Sign Language (ASL) as her primary language, and reads at the second grade level. To effectively use a sign language interpreter, the interpreter must sign very close to Ms. Jones’ face. She can use a videophone but she must be situated very close to the screen to see the signs of the other person.

At each of her arrests, Ms. Jones was not provided with an interpreter. In her last arrest, she was charged with possessing drugs but none were ever recovered and she did not have an interpreter during the arrest to tell her side of the story. While in jail, she was not provided an interpreter during the booking or during the medical intake. She was not able to explain that she was diabetic and took insulin, and spent three days in jail without her insulin. While in jail she was given a copy of the inmate handbook and a number of forms to sign but she could not read them given her low reading level of second grade. No interpreter was provided to translate these documents. Consequently, she did not learn about the rules she was required to follow while in jail but instead had to depend on another inmate who had rudimentary fingerspelling skills. Upon release, she frequently violated her probation because she did not understand the fees and regulations she had to follow. Because she did not understand the rules of her probation, she violated them and was subsequently jailed.

Ms. Jones’ story points to the inequities of the criminal justice system particularly for those inmates who have more than one disability. Ms. Jones’ deafness, visual impairment, and diabetic condition combine to make special accommodations necessary in order for her to have her rights as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Policy  in jails and prisoners need to reflect awareness of these unique needs of deaf, deaf-blind, and deaf and medically fragile inmates,  and include training for jail officials in order to ensure deaf blind inmates are given their Constitutional Rights.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Texting, Chat Rooms and the Deaf Sex Offender

By Jean F. Andrews

Even though many deaf adults read below the third grade level, there are cases where they regularly use texting and enter chat rooms to engage in conversations with people they have not met. There have been cases where deaf adults have engaged in conversations with hearing minors for purposes of sexual encounters.

Some deaf adults are often not aware of the legal consequences of soliciting sex from minors. Some deaf adults have been victims of sting operations. These situations pose challenges for the courts because on one hand these deaf adults may be linguistically incompetent to answer questions from the arresting officer or detective, to understand the Miranda Warning, as to work effectively with an attorney and to stand trial.

When charged with the sex offense they may not understand the consequences of pleading guilty and having to register as a sex offender. They do not understand the repercussions being a registered sex offender has on their living arrangements and job prospects. To complicate matters, there are psycho-social as well as linguistic factors that must be considered if they are to receive a fair hearing or trial. Most attorneys and judges are not familiar with these complex factors. Instead, they often assume if the deaf person can use a texting device and can enter a chat room, then they are literate in the English language.

Texting and chat room conversations do not require high levels of literacy and this type of discourse is radically different than the discourse in the jail, prison and courtroom. The picture gets even more complex if the deaf person is sent to a treatment program. There are few facilities in the country that specialize in the deaf sexual offender. Most facilities are designed for the hearing offender with staff that have no knowledge of deaf culture, ways of visual teaching and learning, and do not provide accessible information through a qualified interpreter.

At issue here, is not whether the deaf person is guilty or not of the offense. The critical issue is that a deaf offender must be provided the same access to communication and information as the hearing offender from arrest, to incarceration, to trial, to probation and parole. English is typically not the most effective mode of communication for the deaf offender even though they use texting devices and enter chat rooms regularly for social reasons, both legally and illegally.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Book Review of Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthologogy of Deaf Characters in Literature by Edna Edith Sayers, Galluadet University Press (2012).

By Jean F. Andrews

CHOICE is a publication which reviews books for academic settings. This book appeared in the April 2013 issue of CHOICE.

Outcasts and angels: the new anthology of deaf characters in literature, ed. by Edna Edith Sayers. Gallaudet, 2012. 361p bibl afp ISBN 9781563685392 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9781563685408 e-book, $35.00

 

User:ProtoplasmaKid explaining Wikipedia and W...

Explaining Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects for deaf and hearing impaired children through an interpreter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fiction helps readers know and understand cultures other than their own in more empathetic and compassionate ways than informational nonfiction can’t accomplish. This anthology does just that. Edna Sayers (Professor of English at Gallaudet Univ.) gathered 32 short stories published from 1729 to 2009 that feature deaf characters. Through clever plotting and character creation, the authors of these stories reveal attitudes of hearing people toward sign language, the challenges and limitations of lip-reading, the difficulty of understanding deaf speech, and the infantilization of deaf people.

Sayers notes that the only story in this anthology that advocates for signing is Joanne Greenberg‘s And Sarah Laughed. Sayers also offers writers a useful formula for what she calls a “nonexploitative treatment” of deaf characters in literature: there are at least two deaf characters in a story, these deaf characters converse with each other, and their topic of conversation is about something other than being deaf or the deaf community. This stimulating compilation of short stories with deaf characters will endear, enlighten, provoke, and amuse all readers. This book is highly recommended for undergraduates and graduate students; professionals; general readers.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

BICS and CALP

By Jean F. Andrews

National Summit at the University of Maryland ...

National Summit at the University of Maryland Speaks to Vital U.S. Language Needs (Photo credit: University of Maryland Press Releases)

Jim Cummins the bilingual scholar and writer makes a distinction between Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). The reality for most deaf children (except those from deaf parents) is that they are learning BICS in sign and English. At the same time they are learning CALP in sign and English, that is how to sign complex, abstract information as well as how to read and write English. This just begins their frustration and struggle in finding environments both at home and at school where they have enough language exposure to fully acquire their languages in both BICS and CALP.

One tragic consequence of this derailed language learning journey  is that they stumble into adulthood with impoverished language proficiencies in both signing and in English which closes employment and higher education doors for them. And if deaf youth and adults  have interactions with police, jails and the courts, they are at high risk of not obtaining their Constitutional Rights because they do not have the ability nor the language abilities to understand what is going on around them. They do not understand the BICS or the CALP of the police or jail officers.

Oftentimes they will have enough BICS (social communication) to get by especially in routine, repetitive activities such as giving their name, address and birthday.  With their compliant head nods, and meager speech skills and writing skills they may give the appearance to police and jail officials they are understanding everything around them. What they have is BICS in spoken language, but they do not have the CALP language skills to cope with booking, classification, the medical interview or even understand the inmates’ handbook without the aid of a qualified sign language interpreter. Jail officials and police often overlook this fact because they are focused in only on the social speech and note writing the deaf person is capable of, in other words, the deaf person’s BICS or social communication.

Here is yet another example of the the increasing documented scenarios, that demonstrate how the police and jail officials do not understand the complex language and communication situation of deaf inmates.

See
Feds Probe Denver for Violating Deaf Prisoner Rights – from the Colorado Independent

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Should We Care Beyond The School Yard?

By Jean F. Andrews

Is there a connection between early child abuse and adult criminal behavior among deaf and hard of hearing persons?

Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood...

Among more than 1,400 adult females, childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased likelihood of drug dependence, alcohol dependence, and psychiatric disorders. The associations are expressed as odds ratios: for example, women who experienced nongenital sexual abuse in childhood were 2.93 times more likely to suffer drug dependence as adults than were women who were not abused. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While exact statistics on this question are hard to find, from 10 cases of deaf youths in juvenile facilities around the country, it was found that 6 out of the 10 were abused by a parent, a relative or a by a neighbor. The deaf youths in turn physically or sexually abused a younger child then found themselves in a juvenile corrections facility. Thus, at one end of the spectrum we have deaf children who were physically, emotionally, communicatively and sexually abused. When they became youth and adults they act out by aggressively and physically bullying or assaulting or sexually molesting younger children.

English: Conceptual diagram showing relationsh...

English: Conceptual diagram showing relationship between adult sexual interest in children, pedophilia, and child sexual abuse. These distinct concepts overlap, but academics and clinicians consider them separate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the core are two key issues according to Dr. Harold Johnson, professor of special education at Michigan State University. In his research he has found that deaf children often do not have the ability to report the abuse because they do not have the language skills. In addition, caring adults, particularly teachers around them lack of awareness to pick up on the cues of the abused child.

According to Dr. Johnson, awareness and building a knowledge base about childhood abuse is critical for teachers and teacher-educators. Dr. Johnson, a professor of special education in Michigan State University’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education has focused his research, training and writing on how web-based technologies and resources can be used to reduce isolation, facilitate collaboration, recognize excellence, and enhance teaching/learning within K–20 deaf education. He also has investigated the maltreatment of children with disabilities, particularly those with hearing losses.

English: The grave of Lisa Launders

The grave of Lisa Launders. On November 1, 1987, Joel Steinberg delivered several blows to Lisa’s head and then he and Hedda Nussbaum waited over 12 hours to call for help. Lisa did not die that day, she died three days later from severe brain injuries. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Johnson has provided outstanding resources for schools, administrators, parents and families to address the heinous crime of the abuses of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Such work can lead to preventive measures that have the potential of curtailing the growth of deaf adults in jails and prisons who after being victims as children, become the victimizers as adults.

***

Dr. Johnson’s resources are:

http://deafed-childabuse-neglect-col.wiki.educ.msu.edu/Presentations

Protecting the Most Vulnerable From Abuse

http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2012/121120/Protecting-the-Most-Vulnerable-From-Abuse.htm

The Risk & Prevention of Maltreatment of Children w/Disabilities

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/prevenres/focus/pdf

http://www.handsandvoices.org/resources/OUR/Index.htm

http://deafed-childabuse-neglect-col.wiki.edu.msu.edu/Bright+Spot+-+Home+Page.

***

At the other end of the spectrum are the deaf children and youth who do not receive proper treatment and end up as adults in the criminal justice system. If not appropriately rehabilitated, they become repeat offenders and as adults, they are incarcerated in Federal or state prisons where interpreters and accessible rehabilitative services may not be provided. Most of these deaf adults have low reading levels and low signing levels which further compounds their difficulties in prison and getting their Constitutional Rights in court.

If teachers, interpreters, social workers, counselors and psychologists-in-training could see both ends of the spectrum—Dr. Johnson’s work on child abuse preventive measures and www.deafinprison.com’s work on deaf adults who fall through the cracks and become adult offenders, then professors in teacher-education and other professional programs could make a significant contribution in educating the next generation of professionals in prevention, and when prevention fails, to care for the victims and victimizers beyond the school yard.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

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