A Quick Update

By Jean F. Andrews

Recently, I covered the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf, in Greece. Here’s an update on that story.

The French Sign Language (LSF) vocabulary word...

The French Sign Language (LSF) vocabulary word, letter or number “international” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Maryland Bulletin (Spring, 2015, p. 12), James E. Tucker, Superintent of the Maryland School for the deaf  in Frederick, Maryland wrote about the recent lack of sign language interpreters at the 22nd International Education of the Deaf Congress held in Athens, Greece in July of 2015.

While there were over 650 presentations from scholars from around the world, they were not accessible to the 122 Deaf participants because 40% of the sessions did not have International Interpreters. The Deaf attendees drafted a resolution for future conferences to provide universal language access to participants in International Sign Language and English (printed, captioned and spoken) and included guidelines for the scheduling and budgeting of for qualified International interpreters as well as real-time captioning

English: Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece. Fra...

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

World Federation of Sign Language Interpreters Facebook page can be found at:



Also see: http://wfdeaf.org

Here’s the two organization’s statement on the Mandela Memorial.

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

ICED and Interpreters

By Jean F. Andrews

Surrounded by the Acropolis and other stunning Greek monuments, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf held their 22nd annual conference, titled Educating Diverse Learners; Many Ways, One Goal, on July 6 to July 9, 2015. It was the stage for more than 700 researchers. It was a revitalizing intellectual experience, only to be rounded out – post-conference – with invigorating swims in the salty, green Aegean.

Contour map of the Aegean, with names

Contour map of the Aegean, with names (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although the informational load was overwhelming, it was an expansive learning experience. The ICED planners provided a well-thought out research agenda, the conference was organized, the hotel was comfortable and the staff were friendly and helpful.

While coaching a former student in the hotel lobby for her later presentation, I noticed a group of 30 to 40 deaf persons. They were angry over the fact that there were not enough interpreters present. Some were even told they should have brought their own interpreters.

English: President George H. W. Bush signs the...

President George H. W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 into law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Deaf colleagues, such a large Deaf attendance was not anticipated by the ICED planners. And while they had the Herculean task of providing interpretations in international sign (Gestuno) as well as other sign languages from around the world – a most difficult challenge, both economically and pragmatically – still, many Deaf persons were left out of sessions because there were no interpreters. The Deaf scholars had no choice but to use self-advocacy and complain. And the ICED staff responded by soliciting volunteer interpreters during the conference.

Even so, the lack of interpreters has no place at a deaf education conference, regional, national or international. In the U.S., public health and correctional agencies, and even educational institutions, are being whacked with hefty fines for not complying with the ADA, by providing accessible and effective communication, which often includes the use of sign language interpreters.

Preventive action is needed both nationally and internationally. One solution is for conference planners to have a Deaf person introduce every hearing presenter and have a hearing person introduce every Deaf presenter. With both a Deaf and hearing person on center stage for every presentation, this would assist the conference planners in making sure that equal access is provided with sign language interpreters. This would also ensure that every Deaf and hearing researchers’ findings would fall on “Deaf and hearing eyes” and “Deaf and hearing ears.” Expensive, yes, but it is priority #1 if we are to continue to advance in deaf education.

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

More on Si5S

By BitcoDavid

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

A few months ago, we did a piece on Si5S, a written form of ASL. Si5S deserves your attention because it nullifies the argument that ASL isn’t a language due to the fact that it has no written form. But its relevance goes beyond that. For one thing, it can help non-Signers learn the language. Because this isn’t a hieroglyphic writing system – but rather a method for notating actual signs – ASL students can use it as a mnemonic aid for learning physical signs. In fact, an essential part of learning your first language – be it English, or whatever – was your learning to read and write. You had some limited speaking skills from as early as about 2-years of age, but you didn’t become conversational in your native language, until you could read.

A segment of the several-hundred-odd characters are intentionally left handed. If the writer signs with his left hand dominant, he would use these characters rather than their right-handed counterparts. The reader would know that the writer is left-handed.

I recently acquired the official Si5S textbook, by the system’s creative team, Robert Arnold Augustus, Elsie Ritchie and Suzanne Stecker and edited by Elisa Abenchuchan Vita. I have only skimmed through it in the past few hours, but I’m beginning to understand it much better than I did when I wrote the original piece.

This is not fingerspelling, although all 26 fingerspelling characters are represented. It is also not – as I said above – a hieroglyphic representational writing system. The characters don’t represent things, like trees or bridges. They represent signs.

Notice the upper left character in the above graphic. On top, you see the hand as it would look, being viewed by someone looking at a signer. On the bottom, you see the Si5S character for that handshape. The character is reversed, because Si5S is written from the writer’s perspective. The symbols represent what the actual signer is seeing. The character’s foundation is something that looks somewhat like a musical half note. That represents the thumb contacting the finger tips in a O-hand posture. The staff of the half note represents the index finger – sticking up. The smaller vertical mark represents the pinky finger. Finally, the little dash inside the circle represents the thumb – folded over. If that dash were sticking out to the left, this would be the written form of the sign for “I love you.”

But those are static images. Si5S includes diacritical marks to show movement, location and direction. The sign for “tell you” is a different sign from the one for “you tell me.” Similarly, the characters for those signs reflect that difference.

Above is a graphic that shows the stationary views of the potential poses for the basic open palm. Each alteration to the primary U-shape shows the position of the fingers. In a writing environment, these symbols would be accompanied with more marks to indicate the other parameters of an ASL sign.

As I said, the book contains a massive number of characters – far more than English writing. Each character represents a movement or a handshape as used in signed ASL.

Si5S is a game-changer. This brilliant system could not only change the lives of native ASL signers, but could change the way hearing people learn sign.

You can learn more here, here or here

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.

Treating Drug Abuse in the Deaf Community

By Supporter Contributor Emily Syane

This is a chart showing trends in arrests for ...

This is a chart showing trends in arrests for drug abuse violations divided by age groups from 1970-2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the media and social networks teem with inspirational stories about deaf individuals and the deaf community, few people outside the community know about its dark side. One such topic few people discuss it drug abuse. Deaf and hard of hearing people are at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, especially the youth. Isolation, unemployment, and communication problems – these are just some of the reasons deaf people get into drugs. Some may try drugs “to fit in” and soon find themselves addicted. Many family members ignore problems. They may think they can simply wipe away drug problems, using a magic toxin wash to wipe the slate clean. Rehab is the only answer, but few facilities can cope with deaf patients.

What are they or family members to do? Regular rehab programs and treatments may not work. Although many of these programs have been around for decades and have been proven effective, few are geared toward deaf drug addicts and some are even counterintuitive. Most treatments require group therapy sessions, which not all deaf people can join. Some facilitates May not have an ASL translator around all the time and sometimes, there are some issues people with regular hearing will not understand. They may miss out on many of the interactions in facilities and might not be able to express themselves fully.

Image courtesy: Dailymail.co.uk

Image courtesy: Dailymail.co.uk

What would be an ideal scenario? The Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals (MCDPDHHI) is a good example. This facility has a special program that meets the needs of HHI and deaf people and helps them get the treatment they need. The facility has three phases in treatment:

Phase 1: Assessment

Like any type of treatment facility, the patient must first go through an evaluation. Their medical histories and backgrounds are reviewed, but also the patients’ drug abuse history, social history, and of course, a communication assessment.

Treatment Art Card.

Treatment Art Card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Phase 2: Primary Treatment

The second phase consists of many standard items found in regular rehab facilities. The center uses the 12 Steps and teaches this to their patients, with modifications to fit the needs of their patients. The family is also involved in the treatment and is invited to join some sessions. Many drug issues are related to family issues so this phase is important. Behavioral contracts are also a part of this process. Patients are given guidelines on how they should behave and how they can help make the treatment progress better.

Phase 3: After Care and Extended Care

As with any treatment program, the real work comes when the patient has to go back out into the real world. The patient now has to go back out and try to be on their own and stop themselves from going off the wagon. The center will arrange for patients to join 12 Step meetings, go to relapse prevention classes, and have a therapist fluent in ASL to help them. For those who need assistance, the center may also help them find a halfway house or perhaps vocational assistance so they can slowly integrate back into society.

Places like the Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals are few and far between. Not many people understand and give priority to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, which is why more education, and less prosecution, is needed when dealing with people who abuse drugs.

Emily Syane is a health blogger and customer service representative for YourCleanDrugScreen; she loves to write a blog about life, career, and anything about new research. She is doing a job as secretarial assistance at body Detoxification Company www.synergydetox.com
Get in touch with Twitter & YouTube


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Conversation at the Supermarket

By Joanne Greenberg

I was standing near the onions trying to figure out which kind I wanted, when I spotted a neighbor who greeted me. During our chat, she mentioned that her husband had new hearing aids. “They cost a mint, but he never wears them. I’m exhausted by his saying. ‘What?’ all the time and having to repeat myself 3 or 4 times before he gets what I’m asking him, and I’m almost howling. All our incidental conversation has been lost, the little back-and-forth that’s half the fun of being with someone.”

I nodded. “Same here,” I said. I was aware of movement behind me. I turned and there were 4 women, all nodding, and then they all broke out with similar stories about hearing loss and the fact that the person isolated by it isn’t the only one suffering.

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.

I Meet McCay Vernon

By Joanne Greenberg

About 40 years ago, a man called me up on the telephone. “I read your book, In This Sign, and I think you would be the one to work on a film I have in mind.”

I was annoyed. “I’ve never written a script,” I said.

He went on. “I have a grant to make a film about the effect of deafness on the families of deaf children.”

That was easy. Who was this clown? “I’m not interested in children,” I said. “My interest is in deaf adults. If I were to write the script for such a film, I’d have to know about the effect they have on families.”

“What if I got 20 or 30 sets of parents of deaf children to meet with you and talk about their experiences so that you would learn about them?”

“Sure,” I said, knowing it would never happen.

The next week he called again. “I have a a group of 30 set up in Denver, but you need to tell me when you will be free.”

I told him, scarcely believing what he said.

“I’ll be there to introduce you, ” he said, “so that we can tell them of the plan.”

I picked up McCay Vernon at his hotel and we started out, getting hugely lost in the wilds of downtown Denver, ending up at a Safeway Truck depot. He was patience personified. We got to the meeting late, but not too late.

The meeting was a revelation to me. We made the film. At first, I realized that the ordinary speech couldn’t be used, even though I had 3 hours of tapes to listen to. I made a script using bis of this and that and summarizing what I had heard. Our EXT problem was that using the parents themselves resulted in an artificial and stilted feeling and McCay finally went to a local (Westminster, Maryland) drama group. The film won a prize and I had a 40 year friendship with one of the most gifted, genuine, human people I would ever meet.

One of his gifts was, that he could sense what you were best at, and that would be the task he’d assign you. Most people – when putting together a project – will pick any warm body for a given task, but McCay had an almost 6th sense for assigning people the work at which they were best suited.

We did many projects together. I miss him deeply.

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.

ASL Kids do Wizard of Oz

By BitcoDavid

Have a half an hour to kill, and wanna have some great fun? You’ll love this ASL version of the Wizard of Oz, performed by Eyes Alive! they are an elementary school performing arts group at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. The kids are just great, and it’s good practice receiving Sign. Enjoy.

In order to help me improve my skills at receiving (reading) other people’s Sign, I watch a lot of ASL videos on YouTube. I stumbled upon this, and loved it so much, I decided to post it. These kids are amazingly talented, for Grade school, and the Sign is exceedingly watchable. The video has an interpreted audio track, and subtitles. So everybody can enjoy it.

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.

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