Shanna Groves Stops By for Cyber-Tour

By BitcoDavid

The Lipreading Mom, Shanna Groves

The Lipreading Mom, Shanna Groves

Shanna Groves, prolific author, hearing loss activist, Internet personality and Show Me Your Ears diva, has graciously offered to provide this Supporter Contribution in the form of a cyber-book tour. She and I collaborated laboriously and came up with the following for your edification and delight.

Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. In the years since, she and her husband added two more children who provide creative fodder for writing. Her books include Lip Reader and the just-released Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. The philosophy, “One person can make a difference; it takes many people to make the difference permanent,” inspired a blog,, that advocates for hearing loss awareness through projects such as the Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign, Show Me Your Ears, and Stop Hearing Loss Bullying. She speaks and teaches classes on hearing health, lip reading, and creative writing to people of all ages. Learn more at

BD: Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in writing.

SG: My first foray into writing was in middle school when I joined the yearbook staff. One day while laying out a yearbook page, I learned that I had won the Outstanding English Student Award for my school. A gigantic trophy and tons of writing confidence followed. I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and developed quite a memory for people I had met and places seen. All those memories came in handy years later when I put a magazine editing career on hold to become an aspiring novelist. It was a good thing I knew how to write because it helped channel my feelings about living with progressive hearing loss into words for others to read.

What lead you to write Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom?

Biographies and memoirs are my favorite genre of books, and I wanted to write one for years. A writing instructor once asked what was so special about my life that it warranted a book. It took eight years for my life story to materialize into Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. I had to live life, not just write about it, in order to have a story worth telling. My book is about living with hearing loss while taking care of children, living with depression, and trying to make sense out of a progressive health issue. Writing this book was my therapy. Each chapter invites the reader on roller-coaster experiences that may surprise, educate, and inspire them.

Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode. How do you begin your writing process?

The library is my writing muse. I go there once a week to browse the shelves for new and old books, and I check out a stack of them to read almost simultaneously until one grabs my interest—then I read that one to completion. That is how I discovered Maya Angelou’s work and the life-changing power of her creative nonfiction and memoirs. I journal and blog about what I’ve read, and other writers’ stories inspire my own words to flow onto the page. My goal when writing a book is to park myself in front of the computer to write a minimum of 20 minutes a day, five days a week. I don’t edit what I write, nor do I read the previous day’s writing, until the entire book is complete.

Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?

When writing my first book, Lip Reader, I posted each chapter to a private blog read by a small group of writers who offered feedback and helpful suggestions. For Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, I worked with another writer, who helped me polish each chapter before submitting to the publisher. Mostly, I’ve found writing a book to be a solitary experience.

What is Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom about?
In 2001, I became a new mom to a healthy seven-pound boy. While on maternity leave, I noticed a persistent ringing sound inside my ears and went to a doctor. The diagnosis: progressive hearing loss in both ears; cause unknown. My book spans the first six years of my life as a hard of hearing mom. How could I take care of my babies if I couldn’t hear their cries from the other room? Would I become completely deaf and, if so, how would I communicate with my children? The doorbell’s chime, the phone ringing, and my toddler’s first words were silent to my ears. After two years of denial, I began wearing hearing aids—but I didn’t like them at first. They magnified the sounds I didn’t want to hear—temper tantrums! Eventually, I learned to navigate the uncertain waters of hearing loss with my sanity and humor barely intact. I became an online hearing loss community advocate, known as Lipreading Mom. This wasn’t my lifelong plan in the beginning, but it is something I have come to embrace now. Besides being a wife and mom, I believe my purpose on earth is to tell this story.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

While writing, I had to make sure that the book didn’t take up too much of my time or concentration. My children and husband needed me. Oftentimes, I had to force myself away from the computer to do the afternoon school carpool or start dinner. I experienced guilt if I wasn’t writing and guilt when I wasn’t there for my family. As moms, I’ve learned we are tougher on ourselves than anyone—and I’m still working on this whole mom guilt thing.

Now that Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is out in bookstores, do you have any projects you’re currently working on?

I am developing a series of lesson plans on lip reading for people with hearing loss. My goal is to combine the book and blog writing with creating meaningful teaching materials to help others with hearing loss. Eventually, I would like to also develop video lesson plans to teach lip reading online and by DVD.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
My older kids and I are antique and flea market store enthusiasts. We like to find treasures at bargain prices. My oldest boy and I have chatted about opening our own antique store booth some day, but that’s a far-off dream!

Where can readers find your book?
Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, as well as at

Anything else you would like to add?
Three hearing loss awareness projects I am excited about are:

- Show Me Your Ears: This is my online photo gallery of people who wear cochlear implants and hearing aids, children with hearing loss, and even a few animal ears! The goal is to make hearing loss awareness a fun and visual experience. To date, there are more than 200 ‘ears’ on display at

- Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign: I have partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) to develop an email campaign to encourage networks and websites to caption 100-percent of their online videos so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have full access to them. Visit the campaign page at

- Stop Hearing Loss Bullying: As a person with hearing loss, I have experienced teasing, name calling, and outright bullying—and I am not alone. In schools, communities, and the workplace, people with hearing loss may experience ridiculing and prejudice because of their hearing ability. This campaign has an online petition and is working on a series of videos to heighten awareness that people who can’t hear deserve respect and that hearing loss bullying is wrong. Learn more at

Do you sign, or have you ever considered learning – perhaps teaching the kids?

Yes, my younger daughter and I have used sign with one another since she was a year old (she is 8 now). My sons know very well the signs for ‘I love you’ and ‘Stop’.

We kidded each other a while back about lipreading in the rear view, while driving. While I know you don’t do that anymore, can you think of any other examples where your hearing loss posed a safety threat?

When a person can’t hear her child screaming from the backyard, that is a safety concern. My eyes are my ears.

Cover shot

Cover shot

AUTHOR: Shanna Groves

BOOK TITLE: Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom






BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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.

A Deaf Policeman Heard the Noise…

By BitcoDavid

Oaxaca Mexico now has a contingent of [d]eaf police officers, to monitor the non-audio equipped surveillance cameras that watch goings on in parking lots, markets and on streets. The belief being that these natural lipreaders will be able to observe conversations and other indications of criminal activity.

Known as Angels of Silence the city of Oaxaca has hired them based on their heightened vision and ability to read lips.

The 230 surveillance cameras in Oaxaca’s historic center and surrounding area provide feeds for the Police’s Command and Communication Control Center (C4). A team of 20 deaf police officers monitors the cameras in search of suspicious activities. (Courtesy of the Public Safety Secretariat of Oaxaca)

The 230 surveillance cameras in Oaxaca’s historic center and surrounding area provide feeds for the Police’s Command and Communication Control Center (C4). A team of 20 deaf police officers monitors the cameras in search of suspicious activities. (Courtesy of the Public Safety Secretariat of Oaxaca)

Well, I’m certainly glad that these people are getting work, but I think the city’s in for a rude awakening when they discover that Deaf do not have heightened visual acuity, nor are they born lipreaders. And even if they were, lipreading isn’t magic. Even the best lipreader isn’t going to be able to discern a conversation from a surveillance camera – on a darkened street during the wee hours. It’s not like most criminals plan their nefarious activities at high noon.

Marsha Graham from AnotherBoomerBlog is an exceptional lipreader. And yet, when I talk with her, I need to be looking straight at her, and I can’t be doing all the things Hearies do, like smoke cigars, chew gum, drink coffee, eat, pick our noses… etc. I doubt the Oaxaca criminal population will be looking – clean shaven and empty mouthed – directly at these cameras.

Our contributor, Dr. Jean F. Andrews had this to say.

The lipreading ability is exaggerated. And to give press to this hurts the deaf community in the criminal justice system. I just came off a case where police and detectives assumed the deaf woman was lipreading as they read her Miranda rights, and did not provide her with an interpreter. So, it promulgates the myth that deaf are expert lipreaders. The prosecutor in the case even swayed the judge on this issue.

If you’d like to read more on this, go to

English: Seen from the main facada of the ex-C...

Seen from the main facada of the ex-Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in Oaxaca city, Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Lipreading: What It Is, What It Isn’t

By Jean F. Andrews

I read a children’s story about a deaf boy who purportedly was able to lipread a warning through a heavy snow and wind storm from the back of a ferry boat as he and his classmates were traveling to school on the mainland. The deaf boy was able to lipread the man at the dock who was saying, “Go back! Go back!” Of course, they did and he was declared a hero. There is also a story about a Texas hero, Deaf Smith who helped to win the Texas Independence War in a series of battles against the Mexicans in 1836. As the story goes, Deaf Smith was a spy for the Texans and amazingly lipread the Mexican soldiers’ battle plans while perched in a tree overlooking the Mexican’s camp. Deaf Smith’s heroic deeds lead to the capture of Santa Ana, the Mexican general. And recently, there was an article about Mexico hiring deaf policemen who, according to the hyperbole in the article, were hired as they were using their lipreading skills to catch drug dealers.

Image Courtesy of Shanna Groves, the LipreadingMom.

Such tales, though entertaining, are misleading. They create a public perception of the general public toward lipreading. They cause the public to think that lipreading or speech reading is an effective mode of communication for deaf persons and that it is almost as effecting as hearing.
The deaf boy on the boat used visual clues such as the man’s body language to tell the boat captain to turn back the boat. And of course there were the weather clues! As for Deaf Smith, he was an experienced spy who understood the movements of the Mexican army. According to the historian, Dr. Steve Baldwin who has studied and written extensively about Deaf Smith from oil paintings, letters and archival literature, the hero Deaf Smith was postlingually deaf, married a woman from Mexico so he spoke fluent Spanish, and often disguised himself as a drunk and went undetected into the Mexican’s camps to study their movements. While there are folk legends that he lipread the enemy, his expertise as spy overrode the so-called lipreading skills. Now as for the deaf Mexican police, I would assume that they were using more than lipreading but they understood the behaviors, movements and culture of the drug dealers. Thus, it is not lipreading abilities per se, but the surrounding body language and other areas of expertise the deaf persons’ bring to the communication event.
What is lipreading?

Erastus "Deaf" Smith was a scout for...

Erastus “Deaf” Smith was a scout for the Texas Army in the Texas Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lipreading is the ability to understand conversational speech visually and without sound as it appears on the lips in order to comprehend a message and carry on a conversation.
Why is it difficult?
Lipreading is difficult because 42 sounds (phonemes) that make up English are either invisible or look like other sounds on the lips. The vowels are the most difficult to lipread because they are formed in the mouth out of view. The other one-third of the 42 sounds must to grasped quickly as they soon disappear from the lips.
What are obstacles to lipreading?
For one, sounds appearing on the lips are ambiguous. In addition, people may move their heads while talking, they may have a beard or moustache, be chewing gum, have protruding teeth, or may be eating. The lighting may be poor in the room. Further the deaf person may be tired. Deaf students in our program tell us many times, that late in the afternoons or during evening classes, their eyes are very tired of looking at signing as well as trying to lipread.
Who are the successful lipreaders?
The deaf boy in the boat, Deaf Smith, and the deaf Mexican policemen would not win awards for their lipreading! Indeed, research has shown that it is not deaf people who have studied and relied on lipreading for 12 to 16 years who are the good lipreaders, but that it is hearing college sophomores who are the best lipreaders. Why is this so? It is because lipreading depends a lot on guesswork and filling in the gaps or missing words to make sense of the sentences. College hearing sophomores have a command of the English language so they can easily lipread. For deaf people who do not have a command of English, lipreading is most difficult.
Lipreading is not related to intelligence. Persons will vary on their aptitude to lipread. Lipreading is more useful for those who have residual hearing or are hard of hearing. It is not useful for persons with profound and severe hearing losses, particularly those whose losses are congenital. If a person can add lipreading to amplification then lipreading abilities will increase.
In sum, lipreading is an inadequate form of communication for deaf persons and for many hard of hearing persons. It can be of some use if the words are familiar and are used in a routine context such as, “coffee?” “cream and sugar?” However, when the communication exchange becomes more complex as when a deaf suspect is given the Miranda Warning, then lipreading is inadequate.

And of course it’s even harder to read lips with your face pushed into a car hood.

Why do judges and prosecuting attorneys have difficulty with this concept? One reason is that when they view a videotape of a deaf person being interviewed by a detective or policeman, they hear the police and detective’s spoken language, see the questions in written form, look at the deaf suspects attempts and writing, and they assume that the deaf person with lipreading and written communication is understanding the interaction of being informed of their Constitutional Rights through Miranda. To further complicate the situation, when the deaf suspects nod and say yes, this further misleads the hearing officers and judges into thinking the deaf person is comprehending.
Such is not the case. Lipreading is not effective as a mode of communication by itself or even with writing, especially in cases involving Miranda and deaf persons.
Simms, D. (2009). NTID Speechreading: CID Everyday Sentences Test. RIT: Rochester, NY.
Vernon, M. & Andrews, J. (1990). The Psychology of Deafness: Understanding Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. New York: Longman. (pp. 100-103).

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

Crossing the Line: Guest Post by Cynthia Dixon

Cynthia Dixon is a Blogger and a huge supporter of She’s been invaluable to us with her efforts on behalf of the Felix project – #JusticeForFelix.

Her musings on life within the Deaf and HoH communities can be found at: and of course, her RSS feed is available in our Sidebar.

From the 4Ears4Eyes Web site:

Image courtesy of

Four Ears, Four Eyes.  This describes me, Cindy Dixon.  My hearing loss ranges from mild to profound, depending on the frequencies.  Without glasses, I’m

legally blind.* You could say I’m a “lite” version of Helen Keller. Fortunately, my vision is perfect with lenses, and though hearing aids help to a certain extent, they will never give me normal hearing. 

Hearing loss is not funny, but I believe having a sense of humor is a huge asset in dealing with deafness.  Read my stories to see a different perspective on deafness, whether you’re hearing, hard of hearing, or deaf.    
*My vision is 20/800 – I need to be 20 feet away to see something a person with 20/20 vision can see at 800 feet.


All my life, I’ve been labeled hard of hearing. Fitted with hearing aids at eleven years of age, I accepted this label without question. But at this point in my life, I’m beginning to question it because it doesn’t seem to fit me anymore. Coping techniques that worked in the past are no longer working, and my children tell me more often that I’m shouting, not speaking. Here’s the most recent wake-up call:

I was in the kitchen, preparing breakfast without wearing my hearing aids. My son, Super Hearing Boy, was in the living room.

“Hey – do you want jelly on your toast?”


“Tell me if you want jelly on your toast!”

More silence.

“Okay, guess not.”

A minute later, my son appears, his eyes incredulous.

“Mom! I answered you twice at the top of my lungs! You are really deaf!”

Super Hearing Boy used the Bark Code, low-pitched sounds barked at me to indicate a response to a question. In the past, this code worked all over the house – even through closed doors. The ability to use this code maintained the illusion that my hearing loss wasn’t so bad, after all. But now it’s failing me.

Who am I? Am I hard of hearing, or am I deaf? I’ve always thought that the word “deaf” meant “a total inability to hear sound.” Do I have the “right” to call myself deaf even though I can hear low frequency sounds, or would that be a lie?

Recent online interactions with other deaf/hard of hearing people have shown me there is diversity in those who call themselves “deaf.” Deaf people speak, talk on the phone with the right equipment, play an instrument, and yes, even play in bands. Deaf people do these things. Deaf people – like me.

Do Deaf people dream in ASL?

Often they do, but it depends on how long they have been deaf and what form of communication is natural to them. You can often see deaf people who are sleeping, talking to themselves in their sleep in full or half formed sign. Many report that the characters in their dreams use the same range of sign – regional professional or technical signs – and with the range of skill as I’ve seen in them while awake.

Deaf friends have told me that they dream they can hear, but since they don’t really know what that entails, or how speech sounds, they imagine some pretty bizarre things.

I have a friend whose parents I had known for quite a few years. I was sad when her mother died. And one day, I was talking to her about her family and I said, “I really miss your mother. We had quite a few telephone visits – and I always knew it was she, as soon as I picked up the phone. She had a very pleasant roughness to her voice. A texture that was unique.”

My friend looked at me in surprise and said, “Are you telling me that people have different voices?”

I told her that not only are our voices different, but most of our emotions were shown in the voice, and not as she had imagined, in face or body language. This surprised her. I also told her that we sometimes play or express other moods with our voices conveying one thing and our body language, another.

Think about what it must be like in prison, where voices are kept dead flat – which translates into dead flat ASL.

AnotherBoomerBlog’s Quiz for Hearies

I’ve been meaning to reblog this for some time. It’s humorous and educational at the same time – and that’s a rare combination.

D.  If I come to your restaurant and mention I am HoH do you:

  1. Quickly get me a braille menu?
  2. Get me a wheelchair?
  3. Get me a pen and paper?
  4. Get me a menu, then face me when you talk to me and speak distinctly?

Here’s the link to Marsha’s Page.

I’ll add the obligatory essay question.

1) In 500 words – Do Deaf schizophrenics hear their voices in ASL?


Just Visiting

The grounds are beautiful at the facilities I visit at the State Prison, Department Of Correction. I walk past careful beds of flowers, not a weed in sight. There are no trees or shrubs, though, nothing to interfere with the line of sight. We, the visiting group, go through the main door and into a small reception area with armed officers, two women, one man. Others come and go. They check my name and take my driver’s license, which they say they will return when we leave. They pat us down. No homemade treats are allowed. The other members of the party are checked out and we are sent through a door that clangs behind us. There is another steel door ahead of us, not yet open, so we stand between the doors, crowded into the space, maybe ten feet square, holding what we have brought. This is the moment when the unique experience of prison is made plain to me. The officers are unsmiling and show no emotion – their faces are blank and there is none of the anxiety-easing small talk of normal interchange. As visitors, we are potential sources of trouble. The door ahead of us is opened and clangs shut behind us. Ahead is a corridor whose walls have lists of rules and announcements: There will be a class beginning in Bible study on Thursday in room etc. GED classes will begin again next week. The prison newsletter is open for submissions.

We walk to a room led by a guard who opens the doors for us. The prisoners, in green scrubs are already there. The halls have a smell of disinfectant. This room is slightly better.

We are here to conduct Jewish services in the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the two stellar holidays of the Jewish year. We are bringing sealed supermarket items for a holiday meal. There can be nothing special, nothing handmade. We sit with the prisoners, one and one at the table, chatting for a few minutes. The prayer service begins. We take turns reading.

The room is square and large enough for the 12 of us to sit comfortably on the not very comfortable chairs. It is lit with florescent tubes and faint light from barred windows so dirty that the light comes through them filtered and muzzy.

In the middle of the service, two guards come in. Immediately, the prisoners stand and go to one end of the room, facing the center. A list is read. Each man responds to the number with his own number. The prisoners show no expressions of annoyance or impatience that this rare time with us has been interrupted. The speed with which they respond lets us know that no expressions of irritation or words of impatience are tolerated, even though the guards knew we were here and could have put off the count until we left.

The count completed, the guards leave and we go back to our service and then give out the paper plates and plastic spoons, which will later be collected. We unwrap the less than appetizing food and begin to eat. We have been chatting all the while. Have they been able to light candles for Sabbath prayers? No. What have they watched or read that they have liked lately? Sometimes we laugh together. Newspapers and entertainment programs are scanned here, and edited to weed out acts of violence. We answer questions if we can. Partisan political news is expunged. What is or is not allowed the prisoners changes from day to day and no complaints about this are tolerated. Little planning can be counted on, few plans made. This keeps the escape rate low, but it also infantilizes the inmates.

There is, at all times, a low-key but constant tension in the prison. No one is at ease. Our meal over, we embrace the prisoners and knock on the door – we have been locked in – and the guard opens it an escorts us back the way we have come and to the office. We get our driver’s licenses back and anything that was taken from us as being potentially dangerous or forbidden. Three hours have passed. It feels like all day.

As I think of what a deaf prisoner might experience, especially if no other Deaf are in the facility, I realize how easily misinterpretations can occur. Deaf people use lots of physical actions, signs and expressions. Even when they are not using Sign for speaking, they tend to gesture, to give and reflect facial and body movements, their only ways of understanding emotion and motivation. No one lip-reads that well. The deadpan prison expression in guards and inmates gives them no clues as to what is being requested or implied. There is every kind of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The physicality – gestures, facial expressiveness and simple inability to hear are all, contrary to prison culture. Deaf people depend on cues not given in the prison subculture. No wonder their behavior write-ups and bad reports are double those of ordinary inmates. No wonder their sentences are ramped up due to bad behavior.






More Noise, More Hearing Loss –

More Noise, More Hearing Loss –

An interesting article on hearing loss and noise pollution.

Deaf Illinois inmates sue for access to interpreters – Peoria, IL –


Deaf Illinois inmates sue for access to interpreters – Peoria, IL –

I’m looking for an update to this story. Will keep you posted.

Deaf Couple Sue Over Treatment by Officers

They need policies and procedures for folks who are deaf. People just assume that a deaf person understands what they are saying.

Kevin Williams, an attorney for Timothy Siaki

[Editor's note: The following is a transcribed article by Monte Whaley of the Denver Post - dated 11/26/2011.]

When Adams County sheriff’s deputies knocked down the motel-room door of a deaf couple, slammed the man to the ground and locked him in jail for 25 days without providing a sign-language interpreter, they violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal lawsuit says.

Lawyers for Timothy Siaki claim the man was not provided an interpreter until he went to court on Domestic assault charges last year. Siaki eventually was cleared of the charges, said Kevin Williams, an attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Siaki and his fiancée, Kimberlee Moore.

“There were 25 days of his life that he had access to nothing – no information on why he was being held, no information about his case or what was going to happen to him,” Williams said.

SUIT: Man held for 25 days, allegedly with no ability to communicate

The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition advocacy group is also a plaintiff in the suit. Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr is named as the defendant.

An Adams County Sheriff’s Office spokesman on Friday did not have any comment on the lawsuit, saying officials needed to review it first.

The suit asks for damages for Siaki and Moore and to find that Adams County is violating the ADA by not providing an interpreter nor auxiliary aids for deaf suspects during their arrest and booking process.

The suit clams Adams County also does not provide aids and services to deaf inmates to communicate with people outside the jail while the same privileges are provided for those with normal hearing.

“They need policies and procedures for folks who are deaf,” Williams said. “People just assume that a deaf person understands what they are saying.”

Williams said the coalition recently settled a similar case against the Lakewood Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The settlements require very specific policies for compliance with the ADA to ensure deaf people can communicate with police officers and jail deputies.

According to the lawsuit, Siaki and Moore were staying at a Super 8 Motel at 5888 Broadway on May 14, 2010 when they began arguing.

Both communicate by American Sign Language, as Siaki does not speak, read or write English. He also does not read lips. Moore has a limited ability to speak, read and write in English and can occasionally read lips the suit said.

Like many deaf people, Siaki and Moore both “verbalize sounds which, to a person who is not deaf or who is unfamiliar, may sound like the deaf person is speaking loudly or abruptly,” according to the suit.

Their fight resulted in a noise complaint. Two Adams County deputies broke down the motel room door, entered with their guns drawn and ordered Siaki to the floor, the suit said.

Both deputies learned after their arrival that Siaki was deaf. But since he was unable to understand the deputies’ commands, one of the deputies grabbed Siaki’s left arm and forced him to the floor.

The deputy also said Siaki refused to write down his version of the events. Moore, meanwhile, tried to tell the deputies that Siaki did not hurt her but could not because she was not provided an interpreter or any aids.

The two were separated, and Siaki was evaluated by medical intake personnel at the jail. Still, he was not provided a sign-language interpreter.

Siaki stayed in jail fr0m May 15 until June 10, unable to comprehend jail policies and procedures, the suit said.

He was eventually assigned a public defender, and he was cleared in the criminal case, Williams said.

“To this day,” he said, “we don’t know why he was held for 25 days.”







A Couple of Quick Anecdotes

No Tour In Vietnam

Johny Ramos, who went to the school for the deaf in St.Augustine, was inducted by mistake into the service during the Vietnam War. Since he didn’t understand that his deafness would have made him exempt, he reported for duty. Later, my friend asked him how he had passed his medical examination.

“I’m okay, physically,” Johny told him, “When I saw the man ahead of me doing something, I did the same.  When the questions came, I nodded where he had nodded and shook my head where he had.”

“What about the hearing test?”

“I looked at the examiner’s eyes. His pupils contracted when he heard the sound, I was supposed to hear.  Then, I raised my hand.”

“What about your training?”

“I just followed whatever I saw going on around me.  When the guy in front of me got up, I got up.  When he threw  up, I threw up. Marching, sleeping, pissing, I just followed along.”

Johny was on the train to the airport to take him to his deployment, when his parents finally rang the bell on him.

Not Invited To The Riot


College kids were rioting in  those days, so the kids at Gallaudet, the world’s only college for the deaf, decided they needed to be part of what was going on.  Gallaudet is in Washington, D. C. the political heart of the country.  Why shouldn’t they be out there with those other students?

When they saw the students running and carrying signs, they followed along.  Two deaf students, somehow got separated from the group and missed the arrival of the police.  Someone threw a Molotov cocktail from a roof. The police thought the deaf students did it.

Came the words: “Stop or I’ll shoot!”

This was to happen over the years more than a few times, two of which were done by private individuals when they thought deaf people were trespassing. How much more dangerous is it for deaf people in prison, where a guard’s order is not immediately carried out?

What I’ve Learned Thus Far

When the owner of this Blog, contracted me to build and manage the site, it was not because of my knowledge of the Deaf community, nor my understanding of the struggle of Deaf prisoners.

I’m not a psychologist, an attorney or an ASL interpreter. I’m an engineer, who recently discovered he has a penchant for writing. I was given this opportunity because I had the requisite Internet skills to help bring the owner’s vision to fruition.

In fact, it had never really occurred to me that there were deaf people in prison. Oh, I rather figured a certain percentage of the prison population might well be deaf, since the prison population in America is a microcosm of the overall population. Nevertheless, it never actually occurred to me that there may be a significant number, or that these people would bear an inordinate amount of the suffering that is prison life.

Since having begun this project however, I have learned a lot. Too much in fact, for the scope of this article – so I’d like to focus on two of the major lessons learned.

I’ll begin with a quick anecdote. This week, I had the opportunity to interview a deaf female victim of legal abuse. This unique experience was made possible by a relay service. The deaf individual signs into a video camera – videophone device, which is sent – via the Internet – to an interpreter. The interpreter reads the sign and speaks to a relay operator, who in turn speaks to me. When I speak, the whole process is reversed. This is truly a miraculous system, and it makes communication that would otherwise be impossible – commonplace.

During our conversation, at one point, I asked her why she hadn’t told the arresting officers a certain pertinent fact that would have helped her cause. There was a long pause at the other end of the phone – and not due to the relay operator’s delay lag.

After a moment, I heard the operator’s voice in the interrogative. “Tell?”

Here’s my point. I’ve learned that Deafness isn’t merely an inability to hear. More often, it’s an inability to communicate. If you were born deaf, chances are quite good that you never learned how to speak. Not only, can you not understand those whom you’re trying to talk to, but they can’t understand you. They may think you’re drunk, high on drugs or just plain stupid. They may confuse your fear and frustration with violence. In a job – like police work – where these people are constantly faced with life or death realities, the reaction to someone grunting and waving their arms around might well be one of self-defense.

Growing up, we learned to read and write by sitting in a class with others our age as they learned those same skills. We’d sound out words and the teachers would orally correct us when we made a mistake. The process of learning to read and write became homogenous with the process of learning to speak – and to hear. Not true for the Deaf.

Many Deaf receive their early schooling through something known as mainstreaming – being sent to a normal public school, alongside hearing children. These students find it exceedingly difficult, and not simply because the curriculum isn’t designed for those who cannot speak or hear English, but also because of the cruelty and unsociability of the other students. Alas, I myself – too young to know any better – am guilty of that very act.

A minority perhaps but nonetheless a surprising number of Deaf, are illiterate. Think of the horror of this. You’re being arrested. For what, you don’t know. In fact, you may not even understand the concept of arrest at all. First thing – they cuff your hands behind your back. The only communication you know is now gone. It’s as if they had gagged you with duct tape. All kinds of shouting, hitting and intimidations are going on – and not only can you not understand them, but they cannot understand you. Finally, they figure out that you’re deaf. They search the cruiser and come up with a postage stamp sized scrap of paper and a pen that doesn’t work. They tell you to write what you have to say, but you can’t write! You’ve been raised speaking with your hands – speaking as a first language – something completely alien to them.

Even those individuals who speak a foreign language have the advantage over you, because they’ve managed to pick up enough broken English to get by, and the chances that someone in the police station speaks Spanish, German or French are far better than the chances they speak Sign.

Lip-reading? Well, I’ve learned that lip-reading is about as effective as crossing the Rockies on a bicycle. You can do it, but it ain’t gonna be easy.

Here’s the 2nd big lesson for me. In trying to find contributors, stories, and other content for this Blog, I’ve discovered that there is a whole world of people out there, who have something to say, but lack either access to the Internet, or the skills to use it. There are people who have stories to tell, who want to contribute, who want to enlighten and entertain. Many of these people are far more comfortable, hand writing a letter and mailing it, than they are setting up avatars and logging in to Web sites.

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