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Category Archives: Deaf Access

5 Deaf Accessibility Solutions We Hope to See in 2018

Our society was designed from the ground up to accommodate the needs of able-bodied individuals, so there are times when everyday situations can become a struggle for those who are deaf. There are barriers to basic access that limit the rights and freedoms of those who can not hear, subtly perpetuating an existing structure of oppression.

Even with all our modern technology, progressive innovators have failed to address some of the real problems that persist when it comes to accessibility. Below are 5 accessibility issues that could use more attention in 2018.

5 Deaf Accessibility Solutions We Hope to See

1) Movie Theater Captioning

new-deaf-access-solutions-2018This past month, actor and activist Nyle DiMarco tweeted about his unfortunate experience at AMC Cinemas after attending a screening of the much anticipated Black Panther movie. Frustrated with the wild inconsistency of the captioning, which was dropping entire blocks of dialogue, DiMarco left the theater only ten minutes into the film. Hundreds of other deaf individuals joined DiMarco’s Twitter thread to share their own stories of failed captioning systems and culturally incompetent employees at cinemas; most concluding with a resignation that movie theaters are still not friendly places for deaf or otherwise disabled patrons.

Movie theaters are a place of public accommodation where people from all walks of life are entitled to share an experience. A culturally significant film such as Black Panther, or a film that elicits rabid fandom like the Star Wars series, can be meaningful to people’s lives. Everyone deserves to share in that excitement and collective social moment if they so choose.

The closed captioning devices that deaf movie-goers are given to use make it difficult to focus on both the film, which is in the background, and the screen, which is in the foreground. The constant shift in focus can be exhausting, and can also cause the viewer to miss a great deal of the action in the movie. Captioning glasses offer a similar experience.

When reading tweets in the thread started by DiMarco, it becomes clear that open captioning (with the transcript right on the screen) is the preferred accommodation for deaf audiences. But movie theaters do not want to scare off the much larger audience of hearing people by offering all showings with open captions. Captioned showings are offered infrequently, typically at odd times, and there are even reported instances of movie theaters actually turning off the captioned version after hearing viewers complain.

We live in a time of liquid HD film and 3D IMAX cinematography and hologram performers, but deaf people can’t just enjoy a simple night at the movies. Wouldn’t it be great to see an elegant technological solution that meets the needs of deaf audiences while maintaining appeal to mainstream patrons?

2) Text-based Emergency Alerts and Service Lines

new-deaf-access-solutions-2018-bAlthough its true that programs like text-911 and text emergency alerts are beginning to roll out across the country, they are still embarrassingly unreliable considering the availability of technological resources in this era. Emergency management systems continue to malfunction, for example the alarming recent false missile alert that was sent out to mobile phones in Hawaii, which was not corrected by a follow-up text for a full 38 minutes.

Those who can hear have more immediate access to updates during emergency situations, which literally places deaf people at a disadvantage for survival. What kind of innovative modern federal emergency alert and management solutions could be created if this issue was granted the kinds of intellectual resources, research funding, and priority that it deserves?

3) Interpreted Concerts and Performances

new-deaf-accessibility-solutions-1bThis is a fact that was for too long hidden, covered up, and denied, so it deserves to be repeated with great frequency: people who are d/Deaf deserve full access to the cultural arts!

People who are deaf deserve access to every moment of shared collective joy, pain, awe, introspection, and outward rage that can be elicited through performance. To deny a person this experience is to deny them access to the very culture in which they live and the possibility of meaningful human connection. From Broadway shows, to the national anthem at a baseball game, to a pop concert, and everything in between, each and every person in attendance should be able to share in the energy.

This is an accessibility issue that can be resolved without the use of robotics or engineering! For those who use ASL to communicate, a properly placed, qualified sign language interpreter is the best option for full access, and if possible, hiring a deaf interpreter or trained performer. Yet there remains a stubborn set of barriers when it comes to access for the performing arts, namely a lack of cultural competency when it comes to accommodating a deaf audience. Often those organizing and hosting cultural events overlook their ADA obligation to provide equal access when creating a budget for the production, then find themselves scrambling to find the funding for accommodations.

Performing arts are an outlet for self expression; a way to explore complex human emotions and taboo topics. Theaters, venues, and even musicians themselves are being pressured to evolve to meet the demands of culturally aware audiences, who value inclusion.

4) Video phone services in jails and prisons

new-deaf-accessibility-solutions-jail-prison-2The rights of deaf inmates are extremely limited and often violated. There are thousands of deaf prisoners all across the country — a number of them wrongfully convicted — yet less than 10 prisons in the United States have video phones.

Inmates are routinely denied access to their families, friends and legal counsel because effective communication technologies are not present, or because the staff does not know how to operate or “supervise” calls on the outdated and unreliable equipment. Incarcerated deaf people grow increasingly isolated.

As inmates, deaf people are left out of orientations and safety meetings, and denied possibilities for social interaction. Prison televisions without captioning remove yet another line to the outside world. Deaf prisoners are denied access to post-secondary education and extracurricular activities. The end result is emotional withdrawal and deteriorating mental health.

The increase of civil rights activism in our country paired with the constant evolution of technologies could truly benefit prisoners who are deaf. Technological developers seeking a way to “give back” or solve a real social problem should consider assisting this extremely marginalized and silenced segment of the population.

5) Public and private transportation

new-deaf-access-solutions-notifications-emergencies-2018-bIt’s hard to believe that it’s 2018 and we still haven’t found a consistent and effective means of communicating time, gate, and route changes for major transportation methods. Deaf people still frequently miss train and plane announcements, which often happen at the last minute. Visual notifications at airports can lag, and airport staff are not all trained to be culturally aware when interacting with a lost passenger who is deaf.

Transportations apps are great in theory, but in-practice they’re often glitchy, not updated in real-time, or cannot be accessed while traveling underground. This not only impacts deaf passengers. For example: if a flight boards 30 minutes early, any passengers who have just stepped out to get some fresh air or who are in a smoking area can very easily miss the overhead announcement. Transportation companion apps are rarely innovative or even user-friendly. Sometimes the apps work smoothly and as intended, then other times the apps crash or close out at critical moments, leaving travelers without the tools they need. For passengers who can not hear, this can be very confusing and frustrating.

If airlines and public transportation companies hope to regain the numbers they continue to lose, they may want to make a serious investment in the way they digitally connect with passengers. Making transportation a seamless and integrated experience in people’s lives can help more people experience the benefits of traveling.

new-deaf-communication-tech-devices-accessibility-solutions-3bIntricate robotic communication devices, such as “sign language gloves” and intuitive interpreting apps, have always captivated the minds of innovators looking to help bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing world. If advanced to a stage of development where they functioned as intended, these types of devices would offer an interesting new option for deaf and hearing individuals to communicate in one-to-one, or maybe even small group settings. However, most people who are actively involved with the deaf community know that navigating the language barrier during calm, planned personal interactions isn’t the most pressing accessibility issue that people who are d/Deaf/Hard of hearing face.

Perhaps before developing all sorts of high-tech “solutions,” ambitious innovators could slow down and take a moment to understand the real problems faced by the deaf and disabled communities. They could help to level the playing field for these communities moving forward. By creating genuine connections with the people that they hope to help, socially-minded individuals in the STEM fields can truly begin to change the world.

Promoting Inclusive Events to Reach Deaf Audiences


So you’ve planned an event: choose a date, gave it an official name, rented a space, perhaps you rented tables and chairs, and booked speakers or performers. It’s happening! Recognizing the value of creating an inclusive space, you even took the steps to ensure communication access by hiring ASL interpreters. But since so many events are NOT inclusive, how can you get the message out there to the deaf community that they are welcomed at your event?

Placing emphasis on equal access, some organizations now book interpreting services for their events without knowing for sure whether there will be any deaf attendees. These efforts are obviously well-intentioned, but unless d/Deaf/HoH individuals are made aware that the event is happening and that interpreters will be provided, it does not have the kind of impact that it could.

Ways to Promote Inclusive Events to Reach Deaf Audiences

To help event-planners and organizers more effectively reach the d/Deaf community, here are some suggestions for promoting your next inclusive event.


There is nothing wrong with using classic advertising outlets to reach deaf audiences, in fact it’s a great idea! When promoting your event in mainstream newspapers, independent papers, in magazines, or on TV, be sure it gets highlighted that interpreters will be provided. Include the logo for ASL interpreter on any graphics. If you send a press kit, place emphasis on importance of inclusion and equal communication access. Make sure any literature about the event includes this information near the top so writers and editors don’t miss it.


deaf-hoh-inclusivity-events-parties-03To reach the deaf population within your community, create eye-catching fliers and distribute them in areas that get heavy traffic. Libraries, gyms, coffee shops, community centers or schools (especially schools for the deaf) are good places to start. Make sure your flier prominently includes the fact that ASL interpreters and/or other access will be provided. Try using the logo for ASL interpreter somewhere that it can easily be seen.


deaf-hoh-inclusivity-events-parties-social-01While Deaf Clubs are not as popular as they once were, searching “Deaf Club [your city name]” on the internet may still be an easy way to connect with the local deaf community. If there is a website, social media page, or message board for a local Deaf Club, try reaching out with information about your event. See if you can find the right person to help you distribute the information effectively. You may also want to search “Deaf Events [your city name]” or “Deaf Meetup [your city name],” which is a site popularly used by the community to organize informal gatherings. If you find there is a local group of deaf individuals who get together for coffee, ask if you could drop off some promotional materials at their next meeting. Ask around at any local churches that offer ASL interpreted prayer to see if they have deaf congregation members that might be interested in your event. Or maybe there’s a Deaf yoga group? A little networking can go a long way!

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has chapters in every state, as well as active junior chapters in some state — NAD would be a good point of contact if you were organizing a political rally or large public event of that sort. The NAD website has links to state organizations.


deaf-hoh-inclusivity-events-parties-05The widespread use of social media has made is easier than ever for individuals who are deaf to stay connected, both with each other and with the majority hearing culture. If you don’t know where to start, Facebook is an excellent tool for promoting your event to the local community. First: create an “Event” page using your brand’s Facebook page, if you have not already done so. Include all the relevant details about the event, and make sure it clearly states that ASL interpreters will be provided. Promote this event on your brand/ organization’s Facebook page on a regular basis to make sure your fans see it. You might want to “pin” the post to the top of you page.

Overall, advertising on Facebook is relatively inexpensive and makes it easy to get your message out there. To test the waters a little bit, try making a “Boosted Post” on your organization’s Facebook page.

  1. Find or create an appealing graphic to use as your ad. Do NOT use an event flier covered in text because Facebook will not allow you to boost the post if there is too much text on the image. High quality stock images can definitely be used for this purpose, and a small amount of text (perhaps just the event name and date) should be ok.
  2. Now create an alluring caption for the image that entices people to learn more about what you are doing. This content should include the DATE, TIME, and LOCATION. Copy the Facebook URL for the “Event” page that you already created and then paste it at either the start or end of your caption. Make sure you include this link! I suggest saying something like “Learn More Here: [Event Page Link]”
  3. Go ahead and post it!
  4. Click “Boost Post.” In this menu, you can get as specific or broad as you’d like with regards to who the boosted post is seen by. You can narrow it down by city, region, interests, education, and more. Play around with these settings to tailor your audience. Then choose how much money you will spend to boost the post (even $10 or $20 can go a long way), and the duration of time that it will be promoted for. And that should be it!

deaf-hoh-inclusivity-events-parties-06If you have more time and are looking to foster a deeper connection to the deaf online community, try following the #Deaf hashtag for a while, follow deaf individuals, and observe public discussions on all different outlets. Soon, you will be able to start identifying the more active influencers. Engage these individuals, use your own platform to share their messages, and develop a solid repertoire. Then, the next time you have an event to promote, these individuals will be more likely to reciprocate and share your information with their audiences. Investing in these mutually beneficial relationships can be worth it in the long run.

One example of this in NYC would be the Deaf NYC News Facebook page.


Individuals who are deaf are out there living their lives around you at all times, and they enjoy all sorts of different things— so feel free to get creative with marketing. The “Deaf community” isn’t some stereotype box that people fit neatly into, and “Deaf Clubs” aren’t the only place you’ll find deaf people.

deaf-hoh-inclusivity-events-parties-02For example: if you were promoting an upcoming musical event with ASL interpreters, you would want this message to reach deaf music-lovers. Maybe you could contact local college music programs, open mic nights, or music shops to see if they could put the word out there for you, too. If you were organizing an ASL interpreted art event, it might be a good idea to connect with local schools, arts and craft stores, museums, galleries, and prominent local artists to help spread the news. Be sure to emphasize that interpreting services will be provided!

Building communication access into your event is a progressive step toward creating an inclusive society. But after so many years of being forgotten about by hearing event organizers, people who are deaf can not safely assume interpreters will be available. When offering equal access for an event, it is important that the promotions and marketing make it clear that ASL interpreting services will be provided.

It is also crucial that news about your event reaches members of the local deaf community. Don’t get discouraged if your first event does not attract dozens of individuals who are deaf. Consistency is key! Over time, as you regularly provide interpreters and advertise communication access, word will spread and your organization will earn a reputation for being deaf-friendly.

SignNexus interpreting services is pleased to offer qualified interpreters in New York City and New Jersey for a wide variety or entertainment or professional events. We make the process for securing interpreters and providing equal access as simple as possible. LCIS offers quality services for deaf consumers with a strong emphasis on client satisfaction.

Stop Making Excuses and Start Captioning All Your Videos

deaf-hoh-video-captioning-info-01bImagine this: you sit down on Sunday evening to stream a popular TV program– that show everyone will be discussing tomorrow. When the show starts, however, all the characters are using a completely foreign language. You can’t understand a thing! There are no subtitles and no closed captioning. Everyone on your Twitter feed is chatting about the program, but you aren’t able to follow the plot! This frustrating scenario is common for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Media technology is rapidly evolving, yet accessibility continues to lag behind.

In the year 2015, audism still dictates who is granted access to information and culture. Audism is the belief that those who have the sense of hearing are superior to those who do not, and it can cause oppression in even the most subtle ways.

netflix-deaf-hoh-video-captioning-info-02The 9th Circuit Federal appeals court recently ruled that Netflix is not a “place of public accommodation“, and therefore not subject to regulation under Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires public entities to provide appropriate accommodations for those who have different abilities. As I read news stories about this Netflix court “victory,” it becomes clear to me that our supposedly progressive society still actively promotes an ableist monoculture.

deaf-hoh-video-captioning-info-03It is estimated that one in every six people on Earth experiences some degree of hearing loss; that number grows to one in three for individuals over 65 years old. These are people who deserve the same access to new media and pop culture as everyone else, and closed captioning helps provide that. Closed captioning doesn’t just serve individuals who are Deaf/HoH, closed captioning is helpful for those with autism and intellectual developmental disorders, making it easier to follow along with the video. Additionally, many closed captioning users are non-native speakers who utilize the text to help learn the spoken language. Have you ever tried to watch a sports game in a noisy bar? This is an example where closed captioning is helpful for everyone.

deaf-hoh-video-closed-captioning-info-02bThe first closed captioning appeared on PBS stations in 1972, more than 20 years after hearing Americans had come to rely on TV as a source of news and entertainment. During this turbulent time in American history, television was forming culture and shaping public opinion, but Deaf individuals had to seek out this information in other ways. In 1979 the National Captioning Institute was created to work with TV networks to provide closed captioning, which was only available if the viewer purchased an expensive set-top decoder box: a barrier for many people. The Television Decoder Circuitry Act was passed in 1990, giving the Federal Communications Commission oversight of closed captioning. The Television Decoder Circuitry Act required almost all television receivers sold or manufactured have the built-in ability to display closed captioning by July 1, 1993. This act was later expanded upon to include regulations for digital television sets.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Deaf advocates and other groups fought for closed captioning access on broadcast TV. Now, in the age of the Internet, we are faced with the same struggles all over again. The Internet has become our touchstone, the place where culture lives and propegates, and people who are deaf/HoH are once again getting left behind.

deaf-hoh-video-captioning-info-06It took over a decade for the FCC to begin regulating Internet broadcast. The FCC admits “laws were not able to keep up with the fast paced technological changes that our society has witnessed over the past decade.” The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 was introduced to help make Broadband products and services available to people with disabilities, and to provide better access for people with disabilities to view video programming on the television and Internet. In March 2015, the very FCC mandated the first ever quality standards for captioned programming. The laws are in place, but it continues to be an uphill battle to make major video content providers value their diverse audiences.

facetime-deaf-hoh-video-captioning-07bWhile certain online companies scramble to catch up, or make excuses for not providing adequate captioning, other entities are embracing the opportunity to break down communication barriers. Apple is one company that has gone above and beyond to welcome diverse users. By creating products with excellent built-in accessibility, and providing outstanding accessibility support, Apple really sets the bar for inclusion. Kickstarter recently launched it’s new video captioning initiative with the tag line “creativity is for everyone.” Kickstarter is one of the largest crowdfunding sites on the web; countless individuals have had their projects funded by other people around the world using this platform. By making it easy for people who are deaf to access these opportunities, Kickstarter helps open the door for future deaf innovators and entrepreneurs.

In an era where we can work remotely, make new friends, and get much of our news from the Internet, it’s time we call the web what it really is: a place of public accommodation. By not providing closed captions for online video content, whether it is a YouTube channel or an online class, content providers are denying millions of people access to cultural information, further contributing to their oppression. The very thing the ADA was designed to protect against. The technology to provide captioning is readily available. Instead of designing future tech with the idea that all people are hearing, companies should look to hire deaf employees, engage in company-wide cultural competency training, and adjust their values to reflect a multicultural society.

2014: Deaf Culture Totally Had a Moment

This past year was a very visible one for Deaf Culture and American Sign Language. From viral videos to late night TV appearances, mainstream audiences just couldn’t get enough of Deaf superstars or their fascinating visual language. As we leave 2014, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable Deaf pop culture moments of this year, and hope that 2015 brings even more awareness!

claire-koch-youtube20. KODA Signs Holiday Concert for Deaf Parents:

Okay, technically this happened in December 2013, but it’s so cute I couldn’t leave it out! Kindergartener Claire Koch decided to use ASL at her school holiday concert to make sure her Deaf family members could enjoy the performance, and it was adorable. So adorable, that the video her mother posted went viral with over 8 million views to date!

studiofeed-music-backpack-0219. New Technologies Present New Possibilities:

Each year, new technologies emerge which attempt to simplify and improve the lives of deaf individuals. A number of companies are working on different sign-to-speech translation solutions; while others are taking creative approaches to speech-to-text. One of my favorite ideas of 2014 is the StudioFeed music backpack, which turns music into a full body experience.

atlanta_pride_david_cowan18. Deaf Interpreter demonstrates what equal access really looks like at Atlanta PRIDE:

Deaf interpreter David Cowan is a known favorite among Deaf LBGT individuals for his expressive and appropriately flamboyant work each year at Atlanta PRIDE. Across the country, PRIDE festivals tout themselves as all-inclusive events. Hiring a Deaf Interpreter that deaf/HoH audiences adore is a beautiful example of equality.

santa-claus-speaking-in-asl17. People in Costumes Using ASL with Kids:

From mall Santas to baseball mascots— the people behind the characters have been doing their diversity homework! This year, there were a number of heartwarming stories and videos featuring deaf children who are overjoyed to discover that their favorite characters can communicate with them using ASL. Learning even a few simple phrases can help deaf kids feel included!


nick_news_with_linda_ellerbee-now-hear-this-0516. “Now Hear This” Premiers on Nickelodeon

It was pretty inspiring to see a children’s television network take a genuine interest in Deaf Culture. This Nick News special focused on the lives of several deaf young people across the country, and showcased how there are many different ways to be a deaf person in a hearing world.

jonathan-lamberton-asl-nyc-ebloa-press-conference-0615. Deaf Interpreter goes Viral After NYC Ebola Press Conference

As Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered critical information to the citizens of New York regarding the Ebola virus, Deaf Interpreter Jonathan Lamberton addressed the deaf population. Many hearing individuals were fascinated by Lamberton’s dramatic signing style, as it was the first time they had ever seen a Deaf Interpreter in action.

fargo-deaf-character-asl14. Popular TV Show “Fargo” Casts a Deaf Character who Uses ASL:

When creating characters for the FX series Fargo (based on the Coen brother’s film), the show’s creators decided to stray from the usual formula by writing a deaf character into the story. The character, played by actor Russell Harvard, is not included in the show to address deaf issues or explore Deaf culture; he is simply a normal character who happens to be deaf. Hopefully other programs will follow suit, as there are many talented deaf actors out there and all audiences deserve to see more diversity on screen!

derrick-coleman-deaf-athlete-pro-sports-0813. Deaf Athletes in Professional Sports:

Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman gained superstar status not only for his impressive athleticism, but because he proved that deafness does not have to be a barrier in professional sports. Coaches and scouts have taken note, and are now offering more deaf athletes the opportunities they deserve.

robert-panara-deaf-pioneer12. Deaf Pioneers Leave Their Legacy:

Legendary Phyllis Frelich was the inspiration for, and the original star of, “Children of a Lesser God,” a revolutionary piece which introduced audiences to a complex, nuanced deaf character in a lead role. It won a Tony award for best play, and was later adapted into a film which won Marlee Matlin an Oscar. Frelich passed away this year, but her groundbreaking work has inspired and paved the way for generations of deaf performers to come.
In 2014, we also lost professor, writer, and poet Robert Panara. Panara helped translate classic works of literature into ASL, and was instrumental in the establishment of deaf studies higher education curriculum.

11. Violations of Deaf Citizens Rights Gain Mainstream Attention:

The tragic and deplorable treatment of deaf/HoH individuals by the criminal justice system is finally being exposed, thanks to the information age. Stories about deaf people being beaten by cops, wrongfully convicted, and abused in jail were widely read and shared across the internet; leading to an increase in awareness and outrage. While this is not exactly a victory, and certainly not cause for celebration, it has provided visibility to a very real problem and strengthened advocacy efforts.

aclu-heard-know-your-rights-videos10. Marlee Matlin partners with ACLU and HEARD for #KnowYourRights videos:

To help deaf citizens better understand and protect their legal rights, award-winning Deaf actress Marlee Matlin teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union and Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf to create a series of videos. The videos represent a larger movement within the Deaf community for self-empowerment through education. The internet amplifies the power of minority voices, exposes injustice, and provides resources for assertive self advocacy!

MARK-VILLAVER-MOM-DANCE-BATTLE-deaf-129. Professional Dancer and His Deaf Mother Prove Music is for EVERYONE!

Mark Villaver, a hearing dancer, and his Deaf mother share their love of music and dancing in one of the most FUN videos of 2014! Some people mistakenly think deaf people can’t enjoy music. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

8. FCC Cracks Down on Captioning:

The internet has come to the forefront of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, closed captioning was often neglected when providers made the technology leap; leaving deaf individuals without online access to programming. In 2014 deadlines were set which require providers to caption all shows and video clips, and guidelines were established to guarantee the quality of captions. Over the next few years, we will see all major video content providers moving toward accessibility. Additionally, airlines and other places of public accommodation are feeling increased pressure to provide equal access for deaf patrons.

deaf-med-student-wins-legal-battle-147. Deaf Med Student Wins Legal Battle

After a lengthy court battle, it was determined that devoted deaf med students have the same right to attend medical school as hearing students. We call this a 2014 victory. Hopefully this will lead to more hardworking deaf young people pursuing careers in the medical field.


6. “The Tribe” Indie Film About Deaf Students Wins Over Critics:

The film, which is all sign language without subtitles, was critically acclaimed at Cannes and has won a number of prestigious awards. The lack of captions serves to alienate hearing viewers– who are accustomed to the privilege of communication access– yet the film is engaging enough to keep all audiences along for the ride.

signs-deaf-restaurant-concept-toronto5. Signs Restaurant Opens in Toronto:

This fun concept for a restaurant creates a comfortable place for deaf diners; provides jobs for deaf food industry workers; and helps hearing people get a “taste” of what it’s like to be on the other side of the language barrier. The success of this endeavor may open the door for future deaf-focused businesses.

text-to-911-equal-access-deaf-hoh4. Text to 911 Rolls Out:

On August 8, 2014 the FCC adopted an order requiring wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to deliver emergency texts to 911 call centers. Equal access to emergency services was long overdue!

asl-rap-battle-jimmy-kimmel-live-173. ASL Rap Battle On Jimmy Kimmel Live:

This video instantly went viral because both deaf and hearing audiences love watching expressive ASL paired with hip hop beats. Sign language lends itself so well to the poetry and rhythm of raps. The two incredible interpreters skillfully turned spoken word into visual language, and Deaf performer Jo Rose Benfield wowed people with her enthusiastic interpretations.

deaf-super-heroes-a2. Deaf Superheroes Demonstrate the Power of Diversity:

Throughout pop culture history, superheroes have struggled against the odds to save the day. Until recently, however, superheroes have been notoriously privileged individuals— white and able-bodied— deaf-super-heroes-bwith very few deviations from the norm. In 2014, we saw diversity creeping into the fantasy world of good and evil when audiences were introduced to Deaf superheroes like Blue Ear and Superdeafy. These fictional heroes provide real life role models for Deaf children, demonstrating that deafness is only a minor obstacle to overcome on the way to greatness.


camp-mark-seven-happy1. Camp Mark Seven Goes Viral with “Happy” video:

If you haven’t seen this amazing upbeat video online, you must be living under a rock! Camp Mark Seven Deaf Film Camp  nearly broke the internet with their cheerful ASL rendition of Pharrell Williams smash hit “Happy.” Camp Mark Seven teaches young deaf filmmakers how to write, direct, and produce their own films; which helps integrate more deaf voices in pop culture and Hollywood. The video has millions of views online and made people all across America stop and smile. Haven’t seen it?Well what are you waiting for… Get Happy !

2014 was an impressive year for deafness in the media, and these are only a few of the many pop culture moments! Of course we still have a long way to go, but when Deaf Culture becomes more visible, Deaf issues start getting the attention they deserve. By amplifying the voices of the community, and highlighting the accomplishments of deaf individuals, we can help the world see that deafness is not a barrier– merely a small obstacle on the way to greatness!

Have a safe and happy New Year!

If you are interested in learning about Deaf culture and American Sign Language, I have extended a special deal on ASL training. From now until JANUARY 7, schedule 3 personal ASL lessons for only $150. Learn on your own time, at your own convenience. We can meet in person in NYC or via video chat. No matter what level your skills are, from beginner to fluency, we can work together to discover the beautiful silent world of ASL!

Deaf Interpreter Goes Viral

doctor-patient-asl-communicationLast week, Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the citizens of New York to discuss the city’s first confirmed case of Ebola. During the press conference the mayor’s ASL interpreter, Jonathan Lamberton, gained a bit of attention on the Internet. Most of the commentary centered around Lamberton’s expressiveness, which is actually just part of sign language, but missed the most compelling aspect of this particular interpreter: he is Deaf.

For hearing people who do not have any experience with Deaf culture, it might be hard to understand how Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI) are used, and why they are necessary. In this instance, the CDI was working as a team with a hearing interpreter who sat in the audience. The hearing interpreter was signing the message to Lamberton, who was interpreting it on camera. But why have two interpreters?

american-sign-language-interpreterNew York City is truly a melting pot with people of all ethnic backgrounds, education levels, and ability. In times when peoples’ health or lives might be in danger, communication becomes absolutely critical. There is no room for miscommunication when state officials are addressing the public safety.

Utilizing an interpreter whose native language is ASL can be a good match when your audience is unknown. While a high quality hearing interpreter may be able to do a great job, a CDI has the ability to reach ASL users on every level. This ensures that the message is conveyed to a broad audience.

lydia-callis-asl-bloomberg-press-conferenceDeaf people who use sign language to communicate may read and write English quite well; or they may not know English at all. Many deaf people have excellent ASL skills, while others only know informal sign languages called “home signs.” Additionally, in a large city like New York there is a whole audience of foreign born deaf people for whom ASL is a second language.

Deaf interpreters come from a background of visual language, so they are able to “let go” of the English form more easily. Because sign language is their native language, deaf interpreters can communicate with deaf consumers on a level that other interpreters just may not be able to get to. CDIs tend to be more intuitive when it comes to foreign sign languages, informal signs, and translating cross cultural messages.

Imagine you’re an older person who immigrated here from Cambodia at a time when that country did not have any official sign language. The language you’ve used your whole life is a combination of signs and gestures which does not correlate in any way to ASL. A hearing sign language interpreter might have a very challenging time interpreting your doctor’s appointment, finding it difficult to explain technical terms in a way you understand. Our ethical obligation as interpreters is to ensure the deaf consumer receives the service they deserve. This is one example where a CDI could be called in.

asl-interpreter-nycDelivering health and safety information is an important role, not an entertainment event. It puts a lot of pressure on ASL interpreters when their performance is judged not only by deaf consumers, but by hearing audiences who have little understanding of the job at hand.

During the press conference, one Twitter user claimed that everyone around him thought the interpreter was “faking it” like the infamous Nelson Mandela memorial interpreter. Other hearing commenters critiqued the deaf interpreter’s signing style, as if he was putting on a show for them. When an interpreter’s signing does not match the speaker’s vocalizations, or the signing is very passionate, it does not mean the interpreter is making up a language or just acting. Sign language interpreters exist to serve the needs of deaf consumers in the best and most ethical way they are able.

american-sign-languageIt’s wonderful when sign language gets so much Internet attention, because it provides new opportunities for mainstream society to become educated about Deaf culture. I think it is important that when general audiences to see ASL interpreters in the media, they understand the true the function we serve.

Working with Sign Language Interpreters: The DOs and DON’Ts

If you do not regularly work with sign language interpreters, you may not know that there are certain rules and expectations. To get the most out of having an ASL interpreter present, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about what exactly an interpreter does, and how they facilitate communication. To avoid complicating the conversation,… Continue Reading

Deaf Rights: What You Need to Know

Working in the Deaf community, I’ve noticed a great deal of confusion surrounding the legal rights of the Deaf. Both Deaf and hearing individuals have difficulty understanding what accommodations deaf people are entitled to, and how exactly those needs get met. I recently had a chance to discuss these important issues with Sheryl Eisenberg-Michalowski, who… Continue Reading

Can Digital Devices Replace Interpreters?

While walking the streets of New York, nearly every person I see is staring down at a screen, fully engaged with digital devices. Through technology, our world has become incredibly connected; yet disconnected at the same time. There is comfort in being able to communicate without regard to time or distance but, somehow all this… Continue Reading

Inclusion For All

New York City has so many incredible Summer street festivals, art exhibits, and cultural events to enjoy. Now, imagine how many shows you would go to if you had to contact the event organizers weeks in advance, explain that you need special accommodations, and possibly even explain how to secure those resources. This is the… Continue Reading

Creating Deaf Accessibility In The Workplace 

When interviewing for a job, you only get one chance at a good first impression. You try to wear the right clothes, mentally prepare, and hope you have all the right answers. But what if none of that mattered? What if you didn’t get the job because of the color of your eyes? Or because… Continue Reading