Outcasts and Angels: Stories featuring the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, for about the past 3 weeks, I’ve been working to translate and caption the video “What is ASL?” by Deaf activist and Signing whiz, Lilcoco Love. But she’s a native Signer, and I’m… well… I’m me. It’s an awesome video, and she’s got a lot to say. About ASL, Deaf culture, and the belief by some English speakers and even some Deaf, that ASL hampers English and reading development. We’re friends on FaceBook now, and I’m hoping that not only can I get her help with the video, but perhaps I can get her to write a piece for us, or even to record a new video. I’ll keep you posted, either way.

In the meantime, there’s this:

I originally posted this on ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – our FaceBook group – and received some interesting comments. my comment was about how the girl in the video, sits down with an ASL book, spends one night in the diner, studying it – and is a Signing genius the following night. In my post, I said that I’ve been struggling with immersion level learning, for at least 2 years now, and I’m not as good as this girl, after a night of cramming. I go on to say, that I thought I’d have this knocked out in about 6 months, and my tutor, Randy Tweedie, tells me that I’m still looking at about 4 more years to become conversational.

ASL in family

ASL in family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, let me stress that ASL is a language, and just as you wouldn’t attempt to learn German, or Japanese – from a book, overnight – nor can you learn ASL that way. Furthermore, since ASL is not a spoken or written language, it’s actually even harder for 2nd language users to learn.

But, I’m a cynic.

On the other hand, I also received a comment that really hit home. This commenter simply asked, “Why doesn’t the Deaf kid ever save the Hearing kid?”

Really. Why are there so few strong Deaf leads in literature and film? Well, there are. You just need to know where to look for them. Enter “Outcasts and Angels - The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. This book, edited by Edna Edith Sayers, features short stories written around Deaf characters. And best of all, our publisher, Joanne Greenberg has 2 entries. She’s joined by such names as Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, Flannery O’Connor, Juozas Grušas and Julian Barnes.

It is available through Amazon, or from Gallaudet Press.

But wait. There’s more. For those of you who follow us on FaceBook, you might get a kick out of Jack’s new page. That’s right. Everybody’s favorite Internet Rock star and Dog-about-Town – Jack – now has his very own FaceBook page. There’ll be no living with him now.

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.

Latest from Pat Bliss

By BitcoDavid

Pat Bliss sent me the following via e-mail:

Felix arrived at the Wakulla prison yesterday to begin his new venture in Special Programming known as a transitional program or Lifer’s Program. He was sent there by the parole commission at his parole hearing in November 2014. It is an 18 month program. Last we talked, he is looking forward to it so he can prove to the parole commission what he can accomplish. In our talk he also mentioned how much he appreciated the support of those in the free world – a hope someday he will be there too. Here is his new address:

Felix Garcia #482246
Wakulla Correctional Institute – Annex
110 Melaleuca Drive
Crawfordville, FL 32327

Just so you all know, our clemency action is still inline to be heard before the Clemency Board, our approximate wait is about another 3-4 years. However we – the legal team – are still active in tying to get Felix’s case heard early, which is possible under Clemency Rule 17. Hence, all the publicity that was – and will be – coming forth highlighting this case.

In response to the USDOJ investigation into the deaths of 346 inmates – during 2014 – in Florida, Governor Rick Scott has brought on Julie Jones, as the first female Secretary of the DOC, in the state’s history.

FlNewsServ

According to News Service Florida‘s Dara Kam, Ms. Jones held her first conference with state legislature on Tuesday, January 20th.  In it, she asked for more money, and more gubernatorial oversight. She pointed to an understaffed and besieged DOC, crumbling infrastructure, an overwhelming increase in mentally ill inmates, and private vendors who are failing to fulfill their contracts, as some of the causes for the department’s dysfunction.

Quote Jones:

“Staffing is key to lowering the temperature in these facilities. It’s going to take all hands on deck and it’s going to take a true change in how we look at the role of the corrections officers and also the expectations of what those corrections officers, what services, they deliver to those inmates. Quite frankly, it’s a service. They’re there to keep them happy and they’re there to keep them healthy … and do it in such a way that they enter the facility in the same way that they exit the facility. And we’re not doing that.”

Over the past 4 years, the state legislature has cut over over 1 billion dollars from the budget, and laid off over 1000 COs and employees of the DOC. They have shifted numerous services that were performed in-house, over to private concessionaires – including health care. Jones is looking for about 35 million of those funds to be restored, a return to previous employment levels and for the renegotiation of contracts with outside vendors. She is also seeking new and improved training for COs in dealing with the mentally ill and senior inmates. I found no mention of the Deaf, in the NSF article.

In her comments regarding infrastructure, for which she is seeking 15 million in additional funds, she mentioned one facility that was built in 1913, and is still in use.

Greg Evers With Tractor

Greg Evers With Tractor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman, Greg Evers (R) stated that he thinks “…the legislature has a cross to bear.” He was speaking on the recent spate of corruption charges, the investigations by both the USDOJ, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as Whistleblower lawsuits filed by individuals who claimed they were targeted for retribution by prison guards and authorities.

Quote Evers:

“I can tell you how far we will go. We will go to the point that when you go to prison that you will be given the opportunity to enter the Department of Corrections. You will be allowed to rehabilitate yourself … and you will come out alive on the other side and not leave the prison in a body bag,”

Above all, Jones is working to either renegotiate, re-bid or terminate relationships with private health care providers and the private prison industry. She said she believes that private prisons tend to cherry pick inmates and facilities, and that the standard of health care provided by private industry is below state norms.

The Florida DOC health care system, as provided by Corizon Health and Wexford Health Services, has been under Federal Court oversight since 2000, and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, for a decade prior to that.

To see the original article, go here:

http://www.newsserviceflorida.com/

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.

Pam Bondi, What Say You?

By BitcoDavid

People often ask me why I write so much about the Florida DOC. Perhaps the best answer would be that it’s the single worst corrections system in the United States – and nowadays, that’s the same as saying in Uganda.

Growing up, I was taught that here, in the U.S., we don’t torture, we don’t murder, we don’t wrongfully incarcerate – in short, that we are an exceptional nation. I was taught that we fight our wars with honor, and that we treat our inmates with compassion. I was taught that we were a shining city on a hill. Perhaps that was true once, but it certainly isn’t anymore.

The Miami Herald reports that in 2014 alone, guards and COs. oversaw the deaths of 346 inmates. Some of those deaths were due to aging prison populations, but the lions share result from the use of force by prison employees. The U.S.D.O.J. has initiated an investigation.

From Addicting Info:

One such example is that of Jerry Washington, a man serving life for a variety of charges, including attempted murder, armed robbery and burglary who was found dead after reporting several correctional officers for sexual assault late last year. He had written to his family fearing for his life, claiming that the officers had marked him for death, that he was to be the victim of the next “pick-a-n*****-Friday” to be held, referencing the old slavery term for torturing or killing a slave in order to keep the others in line.

Another case is that of Randall Jordan-Aparo who, in a scene eerily reminiscent of those found during World War II, was forced to strip, thrown into a sealed room, which was then was filled with gas, killing him. The gas in the room appears to have been so thick that he was reportedly covered in orange residue. Of course the officers claimed that filling a room with noxious gas to the point it painted the victim the color of a spray tan had nothing to do with his death, and it was a random fluke caused by an unknown and mysterious medical condition.

Additional abuses include sexual assault, beatings, deprivation of medical services and food, taking of inmates’ clothing and seclusion. Guards have been accused of selling inmates for sex, smuggling contraband in and out of facilities, and theft of supplies.

Florida’s prison system is the 3rd most populous in the country. It’s annual budget is 2.1B, and it houses over 100,000 people. The cliché Southern Sheriff with his infamous – y’all in big trouble now, boy – isn’t a joke, anymore.

Help for this post came from Addicting Info and Miami Herald.

And of course, if you work in Florida, in the DOC or the DOJ, or if you’re Pam Bondi, we here at DeafInPrison.com welcome your rebuttal. Just click our Authors page, and shoot me a piece. I’ll be glad to publish 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.

SI5S Provides the Ability to Write in ASL

By BitcoDavid

Can you read this

 

It’s written in an ASL finger spelling font, that is available for free download, from Gallaudet via LifePrint. This is useable as a novelty font, allowing the user to write English in the ASL finger spelling alphabet. But what if Sign actually had its own alphabet – or Digibet, if you will?

For 12 years now, Robert Augustus has been working to create a universal and reliable writing system for ASL. He calls his system si5s. The digibet consists of 80 characters as well as diacritical marks and grammatical symbols.

Some argue that ASL is not indeed a unique language, because it has no written form. There have been several attempts at creating written Sign language, but these tend to be hieroglyphic, and have not been widely adopted.

I’m not a neurobiologist. All I really know about brains, is that they taste great, sauteed in olive oil. But in order to understand this concept, you need to know that spoken language takes place in a part of your brain, aptly named the language center. The more spoken languages one learns, the more brain area is occupied. This forces the creation of new pathways, and makes learning non-language sciences easier. In short, the more spoken languages you learn, the higher your I.Q. becomes.

But ASL is not a spoken language. It’s a visual one. So it takes place in a different area within the brain. In native signers, this visual center creates innate links to the language center, but those of us who learn ASL as a 2nd language have much more difficulty forging those cerebral links. This is why learning Sign is so much harder than learning say, French or German. It’s easy to memorize vocabulary, but we still need to translate internally, that vocabulary back into an auditory form. We need to sub-vocalize, much as we do when we read.

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)

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)

But this system, si5s, can change everything. Writing is the basis of teaching, and learning. Writing is how Mankind records his thoughts and ideas. Writing is how we convey information without having to relay it directly to our audience. Writing is the foundation of the Internet, and without it, computers as we know them could not exist. Even the computer itself, speaks and internal numeric language, and that language is internally recorded in a text format. If a written form of ASL could be adopted, and taught in Deaf schools alongside of traditional Sign, it would have untold benefits.

It would facilitate faster learning for both Deaf and Hearing ASL users. In fact, if Deaf children were taught ASL and si5s in conjunction with English reading and writing, we’d raise a generation of non-aural geniuses, who would probably go on to develop things like Warp Drive and personal teleportation. Maybe even time travel. Who knows?

si5s Logo

The logo includes the symbol that represents the handshape used to sign “3D”, alluding to the three-dimensional nature of this language and the need for the written system to express that nature.

Here’s a link to Augustus’ page:

http://www.si5s.org/

You can order the complete textbook here:

http://www.si5s.org/store/

You can download his font package in .zip format, but it unzips to a series of .gif images, and you won’t be able to use it as an embedded Truetype font. That doesn’t matter however, because using this system is not writing in English. In the above example, I wrote an English sentence (Can you read this?) in finger spelling font. Using si5s would be beneficial in learning – and writing in – ASL, but not for writing English.

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.

Short Survey Helps HEARD and Deaf Inmates

By BitcoDavid

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image - Wikipedia

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image – Wikipedia

The Internet has been a huge boon to the Deaf Community, and it can be leveraged into a great asset for Deaf inmates as well. One major problem facing the Deaf in prison, is access to telecommunications. There are numerous factors that go into this problem. Numbering among them are, time required to place calls, cost of calling out, and availability of useable technology.

About 75 years ago, a system was invented by which the Deaf could use the telephone. That system was known as TTY. TTY stands for Teletypewriter. This is a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and a LED or LCD readout. The system translates voice into text, for the Deaf user to read. The receiver must also have a TTY terminal. TTYs have a separate number, and the Deaf user can only call other TTY machines. The ADA states that TTY phones must be made available to Deaf inmates, and most facilities do have them.

The problem is that most modern Deaf, can’t use them. People raised with ASL as a first language, may not be able to read – or read well enough to utilize the machine. Even well educated Deaf – those with a Baccalaureate reading level, or above – are not likely to be familiar with – or to use – these machines. You may be an excellent driver, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drive a Model “T” Ford.

The analogy is apt. We’ve had generations to become accustomed to automatic transmissions, electric starters, fuel injection and even turn signals. The Model “T” had none of these.  So, a law stating that you are entitled to your own Model “T” will be of little benefit to you.

The modern equivalent of the TTY system, is Video Relay. This system works by utilizing an interpreter to read the Deaf caller’s Sign, and translate it into English for the Hearing receiver. It is slightly slower than normal full duplex communication, due to the time required by the interpreter, but by comparison to TTY, our analogous Model “T” becomes a McLaren Corvette.

If the caller and the receiver both Sign, then Skype and other Internet alternatives would be even better.

OLPC: XO internet access

OLPC: XO internet access. Image – Wikipedia

The problem is that most jails and prison facilities in this country, don’t have VR, and don’t allow Internet access. To the Deaf, this is tantamount to Solitary Confinement. Even if a Deaf inmate can learn to master the clunky, unreliable and inaccurate TTY system, he is charged at the same exploitative rate, as his hearing counterparts. But a TTY call can take up to 10X longer. The cost of such a call, can be staggering.

HEARD has been working for several years now, on getting Corrections Departments to begin using VR, and so has DeafInPrison.com. Beyond that, I would like to see Deaf and Hearing inmates alike, allowed limited Internet access. They’ve been doing just that, in Sweden for a decade now, and it has worked out very well. Classes, support groups and even social networks could be established that would greatly benefit inmates, and in so doing, benefit society as a whole. And for the Deaf, it would allow them the same freedom in communication with family and friends, that is afforded the Hearing. It could also be used to take control away from exploitative Telecom companies, and reduce the cost of making or receiving calls, behind bars.

Most people are aware of the high currency value afforded cigarettes, in prison society. But what many do not know, is that phone time holds a similar value. The price gouging Telecoms set this situation in motion. Inmates are commonly victimized – beaten, robbed or even killed – for their phone cards. Free Internet access could change that.

I have included a link below, to a short survey by HEARD. I took it. It only takes about 15 seconds to complete, and the aggregate data will help HEARD in their work with the FCC and other organizations responsible for prison Telecommunications.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5ef6628ab98fb3b95eaa08a7a&id=4a471a595e&e=7c38cfb9e6

or

http://goo.gl/hnWnvk

I urge you to take this survey, share it on FaceBook, Twitter and other social networks, comment and write to some or all of the organizations listed on the site. We need to address these problems if we’re ever to attain inmate equality.

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.

Skype and the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Skype

Skype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video Relay is a godsend for the Deaf community. It allows those who cannot speak or hear, to engage in phone conversations with those who can. And it does so with far greater ease and speed, than its predecessor, TTY. But Video Relay has its drawbacks as well. It’s slower than full duplex communication, because an interpreter must relay the data back and forth. It requires subscription to a service. That subscription may or may not be free to the Deaf user, but a service is required nonetheless. Lastly, Video Relay requires specialized equipment – a Videophone.

The Internet has offered a number of alternatives to Video Relay, but so far, few of them have been widely accepted. Most of these services and sites are designed around Hearing users, but can be modified or adapted for use by the Deaf. This doesn’t hold true however, with Skype. While not actually designed for ASL, the system is amazingly ASL-friendly.

skype phone

skype phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s where this service shines in Deaf or ASL user communication. It allows the user to establish a video call on a PC, laptop, tablet or cellphone. In short, you can see one another, which means you can sign to one another. For PCs you would of course, need a separate outboard webcam.

The Deaf community embraced this technology years ago. Every Deaf person I know, uses Skype – and they’re more married to their smartphones, than Hearing teens. I often see Deaf people signing – one handed – to their phones.

Video-call

Video-call (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But for us – the Hearing signer – Skype also offers benefits. We can use it as another tool in our arsenal of learning aids. If you can find a Deaf person, interpreter, ASL tutor, or practicing student who’s willing to Skype with you, you’ll have a convenient and free study method. Furthermore, since Skype is Cloud based, and works in conjunction with FaceBook and Twitter, you can find people to sign with, whom you don’t personally know.

As a part of my system upgrade, I will be installing it on all 3 of my workstations. I see potential uses on this site, our FaceBook group – ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – and in my personal ASL-er’s life as well.

In the meantime, I’d like to take a moment to thank Randy Tweedie, for offering to tutor me in Sign, and Chris Majeskey, for setting it up for me. Both are from Beverly School for the Deaf. With their help, maybe someday,  I’ll sign as well as I fight.

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.

 

2014 in Review

By BitcoDavid

I hope you all had a great New Years holiday. Since my days of wearing lampshades have gone the way of the pterodactyl, my last vice consists entirely of food. Like all Jews, to me the last day of the year means one thing and one thing  only – Chinese! I’ll be running a lot of laps, and doing a ton of crunches, to pay the tab for all those fried dumplings and scallion pancakes.

Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

It was a difficult but rewarding year. Felix Garcia got a shot at clemency, and a shot at parole. Though neither worked out the way we had hoped, we did see a few small victories in his case. Sachs Media contacted me to write a letter for the parole board – and I not only worked on it for hours, but spent a fortune over-nighting it to Florida – only to have it go unread, at the hearing. Thankfully, my readers here, did read it, so I don’t feel the work was wasted.

We had a great Supporter Contribution from an attorney who presented an argument for why he believes Felix should not be released. Pat Bliss handled our rebuttal. Although we disagree with his premise, we welcomed his objective and informative input. DeafInPrison.com is always looking for well written and thoughtful alternatives to our point of view. This particular attorney was reticent about coming forward and speaking his mind, in the decidedly Left Wing Blogosphere. I helped him create a screen-name and guaranteed his anonymity. A courtesy we will always extend. On the other hand, if you want some 80,000 people knowing who you are, we’re able to help with that as well.

It hasn’t been a good year for the police. An individual for whom I hold great respect and admiration – MadMike – promised me a piece from the pro-police perspective. He’s a former law enforcement professional, and a university professor. To add just a soupçon of irony, the school he teaches at, is none other than Kent State. He’s working on a post, as we speak, and I’m sure it will be emotionally moving and highly edifying.

I’ve had a number of personal ASL adventures. A total stranger walked up to me at Northshore Mall, after Meetup, and signed “You Deaf?” to me.

DeafInPrison.com / Google Images

DeafInPrison.com / Google Images

Even more impressive, was that he thought I was lying when I signed back, “No – Hearing.” I attended a holiday party where some were Hearing and some were Deaf, but the rule was, voices off. I was there – and signing – for a good 4 hours. I even gave a Deaf man a ride home. Think about how significant that is. I followed route directions, from a person who cannot talk. I’ve had 2 sections of “Conversational ASL,” at Beverly School for the Deaf, and am in the process of getting a Sign tutor. Someday, I might be able to do all these posts in Signed video.

Speaking of video. We are about 3 quarters of the way through our complete system upgrade. Some machines haven’t been replaced for 8 years. 8 years to a computer is like 15 to a dog. My video editor is now a quad core Xeon, with 3 SSDs and 6G of DDR 1066. Many of you already have better tech than that, but if you saw the poor old workhorse that I was using, you’d get what an upgrade this is. I built my video editor 8 years ago, with parts that were bordering on obsolete – back then. And it wasn’t without a tear or two, that I waved goodbye, as the big green truck hauled it to its final rest.

I'll never tell.

I’ll never tell.

My mail server and my main workstation are the last two machines to go. That should happen this coming month. We’re running Win7 Pro, and although it’s 15 years late, we’re finally in the 21st century. LED projection, and then of course teleportation are my next challenges.

Most people are glad to see a year go, and pin their hopes on the coming one. While I do have really high hopes for 2015, I can’t call 2014 a bad year. In fact, from the point of view of DeafInPrison.com – it’s been a great year.

Here’s WordPress’ annual report.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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