Mainstreaming 30 Years Later

By Joanne Greenberg

123/365 Deaf awareness week

(Photo credit: clogsilk)

Mainstreaming blew in during the ’70s and ’80s on the same wind as the breaking up of state mental hospitals, and with the same emotions; end the stigma, expand what is “normal” to include everyone. Differences will disappear and a better society will result. The “gesturing” and facial expressions shouldn’t be a barrier between the hearing and the Deaf. At the same time, American Sign had been shown to be an authentic language, and not simply a set of gestures. Deaf people were moved into the public schools, along with other handicapped children. Blind, learning disabled, etc.

The parents of these children, were the first to demand this inclusion. The Deaf form a special subculture different from all others. Army brats, circus children, Amish children are raised in their subcultures from their babyhood, to be adults in those subcultures. But the parents of Deaf children are overwhelmingly hearing. The only faintly, comparable example might be the raising of Gay children by straight parents. But the language they both speak is the same, so even that example fails.

Gallaudet University baseball team (then: Nati...

Gallaudet University baseball team (then: National Deaf-Mute College), 1886. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parents of these children wanted ‘normal’ kids. They also tacitly accepted the use of Sign language. Why not use what was then called, ‘the least restrictive environment,’ which had been urged by the reformers? Why not send an interpreter with every Deaf child, to interpret what was said in class? The idea was well meant, certainly. Was it naive? Certainly. Who interprets the school bathroom? The playground? The cliques? The socializing? The after-school? Unless their parents are Deaf, the students enter the school as foreigners from birth.

English: A Video Interpreter sign used at vide...

A Video Interpreter sign used at videophone stations in public places where a Deaf, Hard-Of-Hearing or Speech-Impaired can communicate with a hearing person via a Video Relay Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not referring here, to HOH kids, some of whom, with powerful hearing aids and lots of backup can make it through mainstreaming in local schools.

The parents of Deaf children, are faced with a hard choice. Send the child away to residential school, at a young age – where she will be admitted into a world, over which they (her parents) have no control – and which are foreign to them. Or keep her at home, where she will stay, uncomprehending and being passed along from class to class. Many of these children are tolerated, but very seldom accepted.

Interpreters translate, they do not explain. An interpreter cannot stop classroom instruction to make sure that the concepts familiar to all hearing children, are made clear to the single Deaf child, who may be in the class. Who needs an explanation of the difference between rights and right, between contract and contract, between running out of coffee and running for office? Is there time for an interpreter to separate the demotic ‘cool’ from a word meaning a degree of temperature.

Deaf people go to prisons and mental hospitals, at a higher rate than the hearing. This is not surprising, given the lack of communication between the hearing and Deaf environments. Kids learn passively – by osmosis – attitudes and expectations of the world around them. Without early, constant specific attention and education, Deaf children miss cultural as well as intellectual messages, and information. Nobody consciously teaches the hearing child his culture, or subculture. These he internalizes at an early age. Schools for the Deaf can accomplish this, better than mainstream schools – even with the best interpreters available.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Six Factors for Linguistic Incompetence

 By Jean F. Andrews
Deborah Parkin - Susan Spiritus Gallery

Deborah Parkin – Susan Spiritus Gallery

I’ve been in court, when both judges and prosecuting attorneys were not familiar with the term linguistic incompetence, and how it related to a deaf defendant’s case. They were familiar with the term, mental incompetence. Mental incompetence is defined as the inability is of a person to make or carry out important decisions, or is psychotic or of an unsound mind, either consistently or sporadically, by reason of mental disabilities such as cognitive disabilities, schizophrenia, and dementia.

But linguistic incompetence or the lack of language ability to understand the court proceedings or inability to have the language to even work with one’s attorney baffles the court. Attorneys often will request competency hearings prior to a trial or a hearing to address the issue of linguistic incompetence of the deaf defendant head on. This is wise to get this issue out in the open.

Justine Beckett -

Justine Beckett –

These six factors may clarify for attorneys, judges and other court officials about the term, linguistic incompetence. Since deafness is a low incident disability, most juridical officials may never have encountered a deaf defendant. But today we are seeing more and more deaf persons involved with legal matters so this information may be useful and helpful in a future case.

The first factor contributing to linguistic incompetence is the lack of early, consistent and fluent sign language. Many of us are familiar with Victor, the Wild Child of Averyron who was found in the woods in France, in 1797. He was a teenager and had no language. Or we may have read about Genie, a girl who was strapped to a potty seat and locked in a closet until she was rescued in later childhood. Both Victor and Genie were not able to learn much language even after years of training. But their lack of language access was combined with emotional and physical neglect and abuse. Similar to Victor and Genie, there are many deaf persons who by nature of their deafness are physically isolated from daily communication and language. These modern day closet deaf adults, by nature of their parents not learning to sign or only learning a few basic signs and gestures, grow up severely language impoverished. Consequently, they are not able to defend themselves in court.

Jan Brewer signs bill on use of school isolation rooms. Az Capitol Times

Jan Brewer signs bill on use of school isolation rooms. Az Capitol Times

A second major factor contributing to linguistic incompetence is the poor educational training many deaf children and youth experience in our public schools. Inclusion, or the mainstreaming and including of deaf children with hearing children, has been termed the “great delusion.” Many children leave these schools with an inferior education, and inability to communicate in sign or in English. Because residential schools provide a rich linguistic and cultural environment, many of these schools do a better job of providing round-the-clock language access, however most parents use residential schools as a last resort, sending their deaf youth there when they reach the teenage years, after they have already failed out in the public schools.

A third major contributory factor to linguistic incompetence stems from the isolation that families impose on deaf youth, by keeping them sheltered and isolated at home, without additional training and education. This happens more frequently in Third World countries. However, in my clinical practice, I have come across about 10 such deaf adults, more often who live in rural areas. Though well intended, their families keep their deaf adult child at home, live off of their SSI, and create an even more isolated environment where the deaf adults live without language, and are prevented from getting the skills to learn a job or become independent.

A fourth major contributing factor to linguistic incompetence is the 2.9 or below reading grade level. The ability to read is related to language, type of instruction, and motivation. Many of these linguistically incompetent deaf adults can’t read and this creates major obstacles from the arrest, the booking, the trial and on through rehabilitation.

E. Gibson Photography -

E. Gibson Photography –

The presence of a language and learning disability in addition to deafness, is the fifth contributing factor to linguistic incompetence. Some of the deaf adults that I have tested, could very well have an undiagnosed sign language disability in addition to their low reading levels. Most have average non-verbal intelligence abilities, but some do not. Their non-verbal IQ dips below 80 which signals low cognitive skills.

Finally, the sixth major contributing factor to linguistic incompetence is poor, underdeveloped sign language skills, that would not allow them to effectively use a sign language interpreter or even a CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter).

These six factors can inform the judge, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys and other criminal justice officials. What is at stake here are the Constitutional Rights of the deaf defendant. Understanding the deaf defendant and linguistic incompetence will provide the court system with the understanding of the obstacles that deaf defendants face.

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

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.


By BitcoDavid

As a full third of Americans hunker down and prepare for Armageddon Storm 2014, I thought I might talk about some of my New Years resolutions. Now, I’m not a big resolution guy. I find that people tend to hit the ground running, but lose steam after about a month or so, leaving the resolution to gather dust in the basement, next to the treadmill and the Ab Buster. Conversely, I think if developing a specific habit is desired, it can be started anytime, and there is no need to await a new year. That  being said, we constantly reinvent and reapply ourselves, and Jan 2 is as good a time as any, to again pick up the bit, dig in our heels and renew our commitments.

First and foremost of course, would be Felix. I have no control over the plethora of factors effecting Felix’s release, but I can renew my commitment to his cause. We have only 300 more signatures to go, before we can send Felix’s petition off to my 2 favorite Republicans, Pam Bondi and Rick Scott. At the same time, Pat Bliss and a Pro Bono attorney are working on a clemency hearing for Felix. In fact, Pat should be returning from Florida soon, and hopefully she’ll have some news for us. In the meantime, we at can double down and continue writing about Felix and his case, and keep beating the drum for you – our readers – to sign his petition.

Then there’s ASL. I would like to be conversational by this time next year. In fact, assuming that Dr. Twersky Glasner has another symposium this year, I’d like to be able to enjoy my lunch while signing away like a pro. No more banishment to the Hearie Table – population 1. I can learn to sign one-handed, so I can eat veggie wraps with the other.

De Niro in Raging Bull. Image: Andy's Film Blog

De Niro in Raging Bull. Image: Andy’s Film Blog

Of course some resolutions are more personal. I want to get better at inside fighting, and keeping my guard up on attack. I stay in pocket well, when I’m on the defensive, but I tend to drop my guard when I move in for a combination. And this coming Summer, I’d like to run a few more races than I did last year. 3 short years from the staring window, and I’m a boxer and a runner. Not bad huh? I think I’m the oldest guy at my gym.

Anyway, we have our work cut out for us. Happy New Year, and I wish us all success in 2014. Let’s make this the year that was.

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.

Related articles

I Review the “Little Books” ASL Discs

By BitcoDavid

The 3 stages of difficulty in learning ASL – for me, anyway – are 1) memorizing the vocabulary, 2) learning the grammar and 3) reading other people’s Sign. In other words, it’s more difficult for me to understand other people when they Sign to me, than it is for me to learn how to Sign to them. In order to better facilitate my learning to read Sign, I set out to find some learning aids.

Most videos are just too advanced for a beginner like myself, to make heads or tails of. Sure, you can pick up a word here and there, but for the most part, it’s like watching a foreign film with out the subtitles. You might be able to put together what’s going on, but not by listening to the dialog.

Well, our contributor Jean F. Andrews sent me 3 DVDs called “The Alabama Early Literacy Concept Study.” These are Signed interpretations of a series of children’s books called “The Little Books.” Here, ASL pros are signing bare-bones simple concepts, to little children. Their Signs are exaggerated for ease of understanding in pre-language aged children. There is no text or audio voice over. It’s simply a man or woman Signing, while showing pictures that a child can understand.

This overly exaggerated and extremely slow Sign is exactly what I need. It can serve as an opportunity for me to develop the habit of picking out words from other Signers. Now obviously, these concepts are pretty mundane. Stuff like why you need to get dressed before you can go to school, or how red apples are sweet, while green ones are sour. But that’s the level of Sign that a beginner needs.

In writing this article, I – naturally – looked for a link to the AELCS, but couldn’t find anything. Apparently, the creators of these awesome discs have chosen not to publish or sell them, online. And that’s too bad, because I think these things will make a great resource, not only for pre-language aged Deaf kids, but for anyone trying to learn ASL. I do not own this intellectual property, but if it is at all possible, I will try and post or upload the ISOs of these discs on Then, anybody who wants them can just download and burn them.

So, today’s Sign Hour was spent watching ASL Storytellers Sign to little kids. Not only did I get some practice reading Sign, I now realize how important it is to always get dressed before you leave for school.

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.

In a Related Story…

By BitcoDavid

Our contributor, Jean F. Andrews wrote this as a response to a comment on her last post. After reading it, I thought our readers who had not seen the original comment thread, would be interested in it. It may be useful to those of us who are not parents of Deaf children – but are interested in learning Sign – because she mentions Adapted Little Books. I’m thinking said books could be useful to Baby Signers like myself. I did a couple of different searches, and couldn’t find any exact reference to what Jean writes of, but I’ll get her to spill the beans for us. I think a see Spot run kind of thing might be just the ticket. I can translate Les Miserables down the road.

Yes there are many advantages to early access to ASL and that is well documented in the research literature.

However, we must not loss sight of the fact that our aim is to help children who do not have this early advantage. They come to school at age six or seven and their parents are often so frustrated with speech and hearing clinics who despite the best intentions have not been able to promote a basic language with their deaf children. In our reading acquisition research with families we have found them to be simply busy…with work, with family life, that many do not have the time to learn another language. It is a challenge of our profession to provide parents with training that fits into their schedule such as through YouTube, videophones, and the internet. One strategy we have found is using “Adapted Little Books,” These are short English phrase books that are translated into ASL (short stories about 2 to 3 minutes) that build a common core vocabulary in ASL and in English. These materials are free to parents and teachers.
Our deaf children are learning ASL and English at the same time and this is our teaching reality that we must address. Instead of saying…”you should have…or if only you were a deaf mother…etc. etc. Those are dead-end thoughts.

Meanwhile, from the Christ on a Crutch Desk comes this little nugget.

ABC reports that a New Jersey public school has threatened a 12 year-old girl with suspension if she continues using ASL to communicate with her friends on the school bus. got the story from Chazz Griffith, a member of the #Keep ASL In Schools Video Group on FaceBook.

School officials have threatened a hearing-impaired girl with suspension if she uses sign language to talk to her friends on the school bus, the girl’s parents say.

Danica Lesko and her parents say sign language is the only way to for the 12-year-old to communicate, especially while riding to school on a noisy bus.

But officials at Stonybrook School — which is not a school for the hearing-impaired — and district officials in Branchburg, N.J., apparently believe signing is a safety hazard. They have sent a letter to the Lesko family ordering Danica to stop using sign language on the school bus or risk a three-day suspension.

The March 30 letter from her principal that said Danica was “doing sign language after being told it wasn’t allowed on the bus.”

The Leskos may file a lawsuit over the sign language ban, claiming officials are violating Danica’s civil rights and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“She has a hearing problem, and now she’s being punished for using sign language,” Mary Ann Lesko, Danica’s mother, told The Star-Ledger of Newark. “It’s absurd.”

Danica’s parents told the paper that other students who rode to school with their daughter made fun of her, and refused to stay in their seats as they teased other girls who were using sign language. They said school officials are singling out Danica and not addressing those who should really be reprimanded.

Schools Officials: Safety First

In a statement released through the school district’s attorney, David Rubin, the Branchburg Board of Education refused to discuss the details of Danica’s case, saying only that its version of events differs from the parents’ version.

However, the board insisted it has not violated anyone’s rights and is only trying to protect other students who must ride on the school bus.

“The Board is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to all students with disabilities, and is satisfied that there has been no violation of that policy in this case,” officials said in the statement. “The Board is also committed to assuring the safety of all students who travel on District buses, and will continue to take appropriate steps to accomplish that goal.”

One deaf-rights advocate said Danica’s parents have a strong basis for a lawsuit because sign language could be a considered a foreign language, and school officials could be violating the girl’s First Amendment right to communicate.

“Why should there be a ban?” asked Charlotte Karras, outreach coordinator for the Edison, N.J.-based Alliance for Disabled in Action. “It’s a violation of her communication rights. She’s said it’s the only way she can communicate with her friends … It’s [the ban] against the ADA and violates the First Amendment and her family can file a discrimination suit citing the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Karras said her organization would be willing to help the Leskos with any legal action.

Danica’s parents say she began losing her hearing last November, when a classmate allegedly shot a bottle rocket near her ear. They have already sued the Branchburg School District over that incident.

Block quoted in full from ABC news. I always endeavor to bring you original content, and if I take a news story from another source, I usually rewrite the story with citations, rather than simply reprint the entire story. In this case however, I feel it’s important enough to present it in this format.

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.

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.

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.

When Will They Ever Learn…

By Jean F. Andrews

In their popular 1960’s folk song, Peter, Paul and Mary sing the ballad, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” In the ballad, is the echoing refrain, “When Will They Ever Learn,” that points a firm finger at a society engaged in the Viet Nam War, wondering sadly, Where have all the flowers, soldiers and graveyards gone?  This sweet refrain, can also be applied to the many police departments across the country in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado who repeatedly refuse to give deaf suspects and inmates sign language interpreters during questioning as well as during important events during the arrest and jail intake, processing, orientation and during needed educational and rehabilitation services. Consequently, across the country, police departments have repeated lost legal cases and have had to pay hefty settlements costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mary Travers' obituary page.

Mary Travers’ obituary page.

There is an easy solution.

Simply make it the police department policy to do the following as recommended by the Department of Justice.

A police officer, upon discovering an individual is deaf, by law, must offer the individual an opportunity to request a sign language interpreter. One way the officer may do so is by providing the deaf individual with a visual representation (illustrated below) allowing the deaf individual to make a choice. It depicts the ADA recognized symbol for sign language and includes two hands signing “yes” and “no”. The deaf individual can select “yes” or “no” by pointing to, circling, or signing the choice.

Picture in when Will They Ever Learn.doc

Deaf individuals too would be wise to copy this visual and keep in their wallet in the event they are stopped by a policeman.



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

Two Quick Stories

By Joanne Greenberg

A lifetime of working with the Deaf has given me a wealth of great memories and stories to share. Here are 2 quick ones that come to mind.

I was in the nursing home, watching deafened elders scratching spidery words on paper. Many of the words were unreadable. A group was sitting, silent and isolated, in chairs along the wall. Isolation in old-age is a terrible thing to bear, I thought. I got to a fragile old man, with whom I communicated, by howling into his ear.

“I have a gift for all of you!” I shouted. “I can come up here and teach you sign language. Even if you are slow, or have arthritic fingers, you will be able to communicate with one another.” He waved me away.

“We may be low,” he growled, “being here, but we’re not that low.”

“Does that mean you’d rather be mute and isolated than use a beautiful and fluent language, to speak to one another?”

“Our dignity is all we have here,” he said, with a look of great distaste. “We don’t flap our hands around, gesturing.”

Before that conversation, I never would have believed that there was such a stigma connected with using Sign language. I thought the urge to speak and be understood could overcome any negative feelings about a strange manner of communication.

As America’s population ages, with people living longer than ever before, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevelent – and more problematic. Evidence now exists tying age related hearing loss to dementia. This story takes place back in the mid-Seventies. I know that acceptance of ASL has increased dramatically, and that’s great. But the language is still somewhat stigmatized, in particular among the elderly who struggle to come to grips with all the losses – physical and mental – that aging brings.


A Deaf girl was driving me to a class. She had asked me to interpret it, and we were on time. Suddenly, she signalled left, and pulled over to the side of the street. We waited. In a moment, I could hear a siren, but barely and far in the distance. Soon, the sound became louder, then stopped suddenly. Just as I was about to ask her, why she had pulled over, a fire truck – lights only – sped past us.

“Why did you pull over? I could barely hear that siren. And it stopped, well before the fire engine came by.”

“I saw all the people on the sidewalk, a few blocks back, and they all turned to see something coming,” she said. “It would have been either the fire or the police department – so naturally, I pulled over.”

We waited for a few moments, and then were on our way.

There are many forms of deafness. Some Deaf hear better than we do, but in a different frequency range. I have often heard stories of Deaf people hearing a crying baby or a siren, when no one else could. This however, represents a different skill set. This young woman had trained herself to pay attention to stimulus that we might ignore, knowing that what her ears couldn’t tell her, her eyes could. What matters here is not what she could see, but rather what additional information she could glean from what she saw. A valuable skill indeed.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Booking, Medical/Psychological intake, and Classification: Why a Live Interpreter is Critical

By Jean F. Andrews

While it is commonly accepted to provide interpreters in court, deaf suspects and offenders still struggle to get sign interpreters for arrest, booking, medical/psychological intakes, classification, grievance committee meetings and for translation of the inmate handbook. Most vulnerable are hard of hearing persons who use sign language, and profoundly deaf persons with minimal social speech skills.

A dangerous trend seen in some police departments and jails is the use of video productions that are used in place of live interpreters. These videos are useful for review purposes but because they are not interactive, the video product does not allow the deaf person to ask questions to clarify misunderstandings. The videos give police and jail officials the false impression they are meeting ADA requirements. They are not. ADA is clear. The law mandates the Deaf person must have access to information in the same manner as a hearing person. So slick videos, charades and gestures with jail and police officers speaking slowly do not meet the letter of the law.

Granted, jails cannot provide sign interpreters 24/7, but they should be providing live sign language interpreters during times where interactive communication is critical – situations such as the booking, medical/psychological intake, classification and translation of the inmate handbook.

Police and jail officials can avoid costly lawsuits if they put in place policies that require live interpreters in these situations.

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

Rosenblum: Sign language supporter awaits White House response

By Jean F. Andrews

[Jean's note: This article was sent to me by Julie Evans, freelance writer.]

    • Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM
    • Star Tribune (Minneapolis daily paper)
    • January 21, 2013 – 8:47 PM

Adrean Clark insists she’s not an activist, just a hard-working mother who wants to right a wrong. That’s the best kind of activist in my book.

After several pleasant e-mail exchanges, I met Clark last week at a bakery, where we communicated by writing back and forth in her college-rule notebook. If the experience was tedious, the gracious Clark never let on, likely due to years of practice in patience.

Clark, 33, was born deaf to parents who believed that signing would forever lock their daughter into second-class status. So they pushed her to speak and didn’t seek out resources that would help them see American Sign Language (ASL) “as belonging to them, as part of our country’s values,” Clark said.

Clark pushed back in her gentle, focused way — all the way to the White House.

English: An example of a possible header for t...

An example of a possible header for the prospective ASL Wikipedia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In November, Clark drafted a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website (petitions.whitehouse. gov) to recognize ASL as an official language, including in schools. Some states already allow students to take ASL as a language, but Clark hopes to broaden that option (and get schools to stop calling this homegrown language “foreign”).

She needed 25,000 signatures in 30 days to be taken seriously. She has nearly 32,000 signatures from Washington state to Washington, D.C. It’s an even more impressive feat after one peruses hundreds of petitions on topics from climate change to legalizing marijuana to firearms. Few come close to the support hers has drawn.

Clark is now awaiting a White House response, which a spokeswoman confirmed is coming. Clark knows she might get something like Thank you so much for your impressive effort instead of We’ll get right on it. But she’s thrilled to have tapped into a passion shared by a growing number of people, both deaf and hearing.

“This isn’t about me,” she insisted. “I just happened to hit on something the community needs.”

Clark “is big-hearted and idealistic,” said longtime friend and deaf activist Jeannette Johnson. “She isn’t really the type to be confrontational, but when she takes up a cause, she will commit fully to it.”

Johnson met Clark at Gallaudet University when they were freshmen, then reconnected through the deaf social-media world a few years ago. Together, they are creating a nonprofit organization called ASL for America (

“ASL is the ‘in’ thing right now,” Johnson said, pointing to ABC Family‘s “Switched at Birth,” which features a main character who signs. Baby Sign is quickly becoming a cottage industry and signing also is helpful to people with Down syndrome and autism, she said.

And during Hurricane Sandy, a surprising star arose — Lydia Callis, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sign-language interpreter.

“It’s entering the public’s consciousness that ASL is more than just a pretty thing using your hands,” Johnson said. “It’s beautiful, expressive, complex and a ‘language.’ I think people are starting to understand that.”

Clark was born in North Carolina to parents who took the advice of experts and focused on speech and lipreading. But Clark came to breakfast in tears most mornings because she couldn’t communicate.

Her mother finally borrowed a book of signs and the two learned them together. “We’d sign ‘egg’ and ‘more’ and all the good things,” Clark said. “Breakfast became much more calm and positive after that.”

Yet, outside of that kitchen, Clark was discouraged from signing, and praised when she spoke or wrote English. “I wanted to fit in, so I felt embarrassed to sign in public,” she said.

All that changed in high school, when Clark attended the North Carolina School for the Deaf. Her best friend “was a complete ASL geek,” who introduced Clark to the signing styles of famous people, including Patrick Graybill, Clayton Valli, Ella Mae Lentz and Manny Hernandez.

“It was a thrill to see the language come alive in their hands, and to feel a part of a unique linguistic community,” she said.

Those role models encouraged her to release her own creativity. Clark began cartooning and illustrating and is now the author of seven books, including “How to Write American Sign Language” (

Clark is married to John Lee Clark, an editor and writer of poetry who is deaf and blind. They live in Burnsville with their 13-year-old and 9-year-old twin boys, whom they home-school. The three boys are skilled at ASL, but they’re not the only people Clark is happy to teach.

The morning we met, a painter had stopped by the Clarks’ home. She taught him how to sign the word for “dry.”

“He picked it up quickly,” she said.

We all can, and Clark hopes we’ll consider it. “If every American learned ASL and English from birth,” she said, “imagine the amazing heights we could reach through our new linguistic powers.”


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

How Cool is This!

By BitcoDavid

I received the following e-mail the other day.

Hello David

I work for, a site that provides info on education and job opportunities for students in speech pathology and relevant fields.

Since American Sign Language and other forms of signed communication are so useful for speech pathologists, we thought it would be useful to our readers to explore some of the best sites on ASL, sign interpretation, and other forms of communication used by those with speech disabilities.

To that end, we’re compiling a list of the Best Sign Language Resources for Speech Pathologists, and deafinprison has been nominated for inclusion!

We’re still open for nominations, so if you know of another great sign language website that would be useful in a speech pathologist’s studies or career, please email me a link!

Warm Regards,


Well, you know it’s not the award, it’s the nomination – as they say. I’ll have to rent a tux. And there better be red M&Ms in the dressing room.

All kidding aside, I am pleased that they have seen our site, and that they chose it as one of their resources for students and professionals in the field of speech pathology.

If any of you can think of a site that they may also be interested in knowing about, feel free to send a link by clicking “here.”

Again, thank you for the recognition. We here at the massive Plaza are all atwitter.

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.

An Excellent Video From DeafInc

By BitcoDavid

This video is geared towards Police officers to help them communicate with Deaf individuals. It is a wealth of valuable information for all of us however. It’s extremely well made, making use of split screen and P.O.V. shots. It’s fully captioned and narrated in ASL. Well worth the watch.

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. Celebrates its 200th Post!

Image credit – like ya gotta ask?

Deaf – The Sonny Liston of Blog Sites, has published 200 posts. I’m telling you, there were times I didn’t think we’d ever make it this far. A lot of people, a lot of support, and a ton of machinery have worked in concert to make us a reality.

I’m grateful to our phenomenal contributors, our awesome supporters and followers, WordPress and ImageWorks.

I’m also grateful to HEARD, SolitaryWatch and the slew of utterly amazing Blog sites – too many to mention – who have been so supportive and helpful to us. You know who you are, and if you don’t, just take a stroll down our sidebars.

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blacks and Whites Use Different Sign

The September 18th edition of the Washington Post – Health & Science section reports that even in the language of the deaf, race makes a difference. This story by Frances Stead Sellers of the Washington Post:

Carolyn McCaskill remembers exactly when she discovered that she couldn’t understand white people. It was 1968, she was 15 years old, and she and nine other deaf black students had just enrolled in an integrated school for the deaf in Talledega, Ala.

When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost.

Image courtesy of Washington Post

What intrigues McCaskill and other experts in deaf culture today is the degree to which distinct signing systems — one for whites and another for blacks — evolved and continue to coexist, even at Gallaudet University, where black and white students study and socialize together and where McCaskill is now a professor of deaf studies.

Full graphic from Washington Post

You can learn more by clicking on the following link:




Deaf Awareness Week – Day 3

This is Marlee. She’d give some lucky Human an awful lot of love. has set up a whole Web site devoted to finding homes for deaf dogs and cats, in celebration of Deaf Awareness Week. Page after page of wonderful, loving, rescue animals that need a little extra attention, because they’re deaf. Research has shown that teaching deaf dogs to follow basic Sign language commands isn’t difficult at all.

PetFinder. com is a huge organization, and I applaud them for using Deaf Awareness Week as an opportunity to help not only these wonderful and needy animals, but to help us as well. Deaf or hearing, there’s nothing in this world that can love you like a dog. These animals have 50 millennia of breeding specifically for that purpose – to love Humans.

I’m glad to help support them in this worthy cause – and at this most propitious of times.

The good news is that as I click through these links, I find a surprising number of animals that have already been adopted. So, although that means the pool is diminishing, it also means that these forgotten members of our society have been saved. And in the world of animal rescue, where there are far too few no-kill shelters, those dogs and cats that aren’t adopted quickly – are far too often, destroyed.

I have always been a supporter of PetFinder. com, but I really love the idea of having a drive to rescue deaf animals during Deaf Awareness Week. It speaks volumes as to the amount of heart this organization’s executives have.

Congratulations, – gives you two thumbs up.

You Learn Lessons in Some Strange Places

I was at my endocrinologist‘s clinic this morning – wowing him with my stellar

Speak Out: Sign language interpretation

Speak Out: Sign language interpretation (Photo credit: Grant Neufeld)

physicality – when an interesting exchange took place. It appears, that his patient immediately after me, required an interpreter. “Sign language?” I asked, obsessive individual that I’m known to be. “Nope, Spanish,” he said. “Problem is, they won’t wait – they’re such prima donnas,” he lamented.

He went on to tell me that that the interpreters and translators, employed by the hospital will stay as long as necessary when they’re actually doing their job, but they will only spend 15 minutes in the waiting room. “Then, they just up and split. They don’t care that we may have a problem case that’s holding up everybody else. They don’t get how hard it is, being a doctor, I guess.”

“No,” says I. “That’s not it at all. It’s the hospital itself. The bean counters upstairs feel that if an interpreter is sitting on her fundament in the waiting room, she’s not earning her pay. I’ll bet you anything they’re told they won’t be paid for time not actually interpreting.”

I went to the U.S. Department of Labor site, and found this link:

English: pictures of 2 sign language interpret...

Two sign language interpreters working together as a team for a student association meeting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Hunter Spanjer, 3-Year-Old Deaf Boy, Told By Preschool To Change Way He Signs His Name (VIDEO) – From Huffington Post

This story originally appeared in the Huffington Post, and was brought to my attention by HEARD. The article contains a video which is not captioned, but you can read the story as well.

In a move blasted by rights groups, a 3-year-old-deaf boy has been told by his Nebraska school district to change the way he signs his name because the gesture resembles shooting a gun.

Apparently, the boy’s name in Sign looks somehow similar to a weapon – although I can’t quite imagine how.

Hunter Spanjer uses the standard S.E.E., Signing Exact English. He crosses his index and middle fingers and waves them slightly to signify his name. And, Grand Island Public Schools‘ policy forbids any “instrument” that “looks like a weapon,” reported NCN.

You can read the rest of this story at Huffington Post:

Learning sign language

Learning sign language (Photo credit: daveynin)



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