Tag Archives: ASL

ASL Unlocking Communication

asl-communication-faqs-sign-language-info-01What is American Sign Language? Is it a culture? Is it an identity? Is it a foreign language? Is it an art form? Is it for Deaf people only? ASL fills a variety of roles in different people’s lives, but most importantly: it is a communication tool. ASL is emotional expression, it is connection; it is a way for humans to build meaningful relationships.

asl-communication-faqs-sign-language-info-02The use of sign language has been discovered all around the world in areas where groups of Deaf people have had the opportunity to interact with one another. Nicaraguan sign language spontaneously emerged in the 1970s, after it was developed by deaf Nicaraguan school children. In Martha’s Vineyard, MA, from the early 18th century until the mid-20th century, there was an unusually large deaf population among the island’s residents. This led to the development of Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), a unique form of sign that all island residents knew and utilized, regardless of whether they were deaf or hearing!

why-i-sign-hashtag-asl-info-03Last month Stacy Abrams, a Family Mentor Program Coordinator at Arizona Schools for the Deaf/Blind and the Arizona Early Intervention Program, launched the viral video campaign called Why I Sign #WhyISign. According to Abrams, she started the campaign “to inspire families everywhere to share their personal stories of why they elect to sign with their Deaf children.” #WhyISign quickly caught on with the Deaf community as parents, children, and whole families shared what ASL means to them. These personal and passionate videos depict hundreds of members of the Deaf community explaining in their own words why they choose to use ASL with their family and friends. The campaign also appealed to a number of hearing individuals such as parents of Deaf children, Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs), Deaf school employees, and sign language interpreters; all of whom consider ASL an important part of their lives.

why-i-sign-asl-faqs-info-04#WhyISign was so powerful because of the community pride it generated and the incredible diversity of ASL users that it showcased. The campaign also brought an important issue to the forefront: giving deaf children access to signed languages.

Research has shown that learning to sign improves cognitive and linguistic development skills in both deaf and hearing infants. Because babies develop basic motor functions before they are able to orally communicate, knowing certain signs can help children express their wants and needs, thus reducing frustrations. Unfortunately, this seems less clear-cut for parents who decide to go the oral or cochlear implant route for their child, as these parents tend to worry that teaching their child signs will prevent them from acquiring spoken language skills. Recent studies however have shown that this fear is unfounded, and in fact learning ASL “may mitigate negative effects of early auditory deprivation for spoken language development.”

asl-communication-faqs-sign-language-info-05Peter Hauser, a deaf clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor in the American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Department at NTID, has been studying how exactly deaf people’s brains are wired. Hauser’s research indicates that not having comfortable access to language from a very early age can delay the development of executive functions in the brain— this includes emotions, impulse control, memory, and thought organization. Sign language provides deaf/ HoH children who are learning to communicate orally with another (potentially more effective) way to sort through their own thoughts while they learn English.

Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) is a national campaign by ASL4Deaf Kids, which aims to end language deprivation amongst Deaf children in the United States. This growing movement, which features celebrity spokesperson Nyle DiMarco, recently helped pass SB 210 in California: a bill designed to help assess and support literacy amongst deaf young people. LEAD-K promotes an integrated approach where deaf/ HoH children are offered both ASL and English, and not made to choose between the two languages.

asl-communication-children-faqs-info-06Some people believe that signed languages will die out as medical technology alters the social landscape of deafness. Members of the Deaf community and deaf allies are working hard to change this perception. As the previously mentioned research suggests, teaching ASL to deaf/ HoH children is actually beneficial to language acquisition, as well as their emotional development, and it has been linked to long-term educational success.

April 15 is asl-communication-kids-faqs-info-07celebrated as National ASL Day and marks the last day of Deaf History Month. On April 15, 1817, the first school for the deaf in the United States opened and the language we know as ASL began to form— born from a mix of Native American Signs, French Signs, and Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language. ASL is a language created right in America by deaf Americans for deaf Americans. It is the key to a visual culture that has its own folk tales, stories, and sense of humor. Offering yet another tool to figure out this crazy world, sign language is the birthright of every deaf child.

Getting Involved in the Deaf Community

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-01So you’re interested in Deaf culture and want to connect with the larger community. Great! But how do you go about taking that first step?

Everyone has been in a situation where they feel completely out of place. Maybe it was the first day in a new school or at a new job. These moments, as uncomfortable as they might seem, often provide us opportunities for personal growth. For hearing people, the thought of entering a Deaf space — a place where all conversations happen in American Sign Language— can be a little intimidating. Ultimately, however, stepping outside of ones’ comfort zone is a priceless experience that has the potential to open our minds to a whole new reality.

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-02If you are nervous or shy, just take it slow. A good first step is to get involved in an online community where Deaf people dictate the conversation. This is an excellent way to “get to know” people without feeling too much social pressure. The way you connect with others will depend on your personal and professional interests. Try searching the #Deaf hashtag on Twitter, or find an active community on Facebook or LinkedIn. Follow the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), World Federation of the Deaf, Deaf Nation, and Deaf World as a place to get started.

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-03The internet has given deaf people a public voice like never before! From online discussions you can get a feel for the tones people use to communicate with each other, the types of things they find funny, and what issues they find important. Like and share content created by deaf individuals to amplify their voices, and don’t be afraid to follow new people and jump in on discussions if you have something to contribute. Help bring attention to issues that are “hot topics” or in need of support. Pay attention to what is being discussed, what rumors are going around, and what events are coming up in your area.

Be sure to add some Deaf-created content to your RSS Feed or Blogroll to get educated while exploring the many dimensions of Deaf culture. Follow news and views from d/Deaf/ HoH activist Rikki Poytner, watch the hilarious “Don’t Shoot the Messenger,” or explore any number of other YouTube channels for videos that help bridge the culture gap. “Fridays” is a new ASL web series about two deaf best friends just trying to figure out life and relationships, it’s written and produced by Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman. For cute and totally relevant comics about Deaf and CODA life, follow “That Deaf Guy” Matt Daigle.

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-05Getting involved with the online community will make it easier to take the next step, which is to get out and meet new people! Some people find that using Meetup, a site and mobile app that allows users to form groups and arrange meetings, offers a comfortable transition between online discussion and in-person engagement. Look for a Meetup group in your area and, if there isn’t one, create a group! You never know, there might be other likeminded individuals who are looking for the exact same thing.

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-07If meeting people off the internet isn’t up your alley, there are plenty of other options to connect with the Deaf community. Try Google searching for a Deaf coffee chat or Deaf club in your city. If you live near Rochester, NY, check out the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) campus. Or, if you live near Washington, DC, look for events at Gallaudet University. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local deaf organizations or the local interpreter training program for more information, you will find that most people are happy to help.

Attending Deaf Expos is an awesome way to meet new people and immerse yourself to an environment where ASL is the primary language. These expos are growing in popularity, making their way from major cities to more regional venues. Learn about all the services, events, and cool things happening within the Deaf community. Another option is to find out if there is an ASL Slam or Deaf cultural events coming up nearby. Maybe there’s a monthly Deaf coffee meetup, or another type of casual social meeting that is open to the public. There are deaf-owned and operated restaurants popping up in major North American cities, such as Mozzeria in San Francisco, Signs in Toronto, and DeaFined in Vancouver where you communicate with mostly deaf waitstaff. Remember that it’s perfectly natural to be nervous the first time you do something, but that should never prevent you from seizing the opportunity to expand your horizons.

getting-involved-with-deaf-hoh-community-08If you are training to be an ASL interpreter, sign up with your local RID chapter. It helps to not only be connected with the Deaf community, but also to participate in the Interpreting community. Learn about upcoming workshops and events. Meet other interpreters from all backgrounds, expertise, and experience levels. If anyone understands how scary it can be to push yourself outside your comfort zone, it’s others who work in this field.

If you want to get involved with the Deaf community, there is no reason not to. Deaf people spend their lives marginalized by the hearing majority culture, so taking the initiative to form a connection is generally appreciated. Start by practicing your ASL and learning about the different methods of deaf-hearing communication, which will lessen any anxiety about engaging new people. Educate yourself on Deaf issues, understand what it means to be an ally, and attend an upcoming event in your area. Then just find a friendly face in the room, and strike up a conversation!

If you are in an interpreter training program and looking for ways to get involved with the Deaf community, consider mentoring through LC Interpreting Services. Our mentorship programs are individually designed to offer exactly what you need to feel confident as an intepreter, from strengthening skills to providing guidance, and everything in between!

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Conference Interpreting

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-01Picture this: you’re attending a lecture from a highly respected professional in your field. The lecture was well publicized and draws a large regional or national audience. When this person takes the stage to speak, however, you can hardly understand a word they say. Your peers are jotting down notes and nodding their heads in agreement, but you feel completely lost. When the lecture ends, the other attendees all begin discussing the topics amongst themselves, but once again you are left out of the conversation.

This frustrating experience might be all to familiar for conference attendees who are deaf. Organizing a conference takes a great deal of preparation, but one thing that frequently gets overlooked is the quality of sign language interpreters. After investing months of energy into creating a successful event, it only makes sense to provide equal access for all individuals. When experts take the stage to address the audience, their precise message should be clear to everyone in attendance. When attendees are debating hot industry topics and building their networks, people who are deaf deserve reliable access to the conversations around them.

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-02Providing qualified Platform Interpreters, also known as Conference Interpreters, helps ensure that people who are deaf can access and participate equally in organized events such as lectures, seminars, workshops, trainings, and professional development events. The services of these interpreters will be utilized during formal presentations, breakout sessions, and all social opportunities throughout the conference. High quality Platform Interpreters possess a skill set which enables them to accurately communicate the important and often specific information being presented in real-time.

Fluent in ASL/ English

 deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-03People around the world watched on television as the interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral signed nonsense to deaf South Africans. It was a very public example of an unfortunate problem. This type of service is unacceptable, and it is the responsibility of event organizers to make sure that deaf attendees get the quality of communication access that they deserve.

Basic fluency in the spoken and signed languages is a good start but, above and beyond that, qualified Conference Interpreters will be certified professionals with strong language skills and experience. They will also understand any topical vocabulary and common industry phrases. Since most conference interpreting happens simultaneously, meaning the interpreter is providing interpretation at the same time the message is being delivered, they must have a firm grasp of the overall message so they can follow along with the speakers.

Preparedness

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-04Simultaneous interpreting can be a real challenge without sufficient preparation. To accurately represent both event speakers and deaf consumers, qualified Conference Interpreters will do their homework. They will research the mission of the organization and the intention of the event. They will learn the names of the presenters and a little bit about their background. A great Platform Interpreter will request conference documents, multimedia, and speakers notes in advance. They know the speaker’s motives and are able to faithfully deliver their message.

A high quality Conference Interpreter learns how the event will be set up and how the schedule is expected to flow before the interpreting assignment begins. They know the best place to sit or stand during each portion of the conference and will educate the organizers to be sure they are placed in such a way that deaf attendees have full access to the speaker, presentation, or group.

Multitasking

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-05Conferences are whirlwind events which can overwhelm individuals who aren’t skilled at managing multiple tasks. Interpreters will be utilized during all the different presentations, breakout sessions, workshops, socializing, and networking possibilities

Qualified Conference Interpreters should be flexible, yet organized to meet the needs of deaf consumers. They are confident in their preparation, yet able to roll with the changes that are often inevitable in a large coordinated event.

Team Player

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-06Depending on the length of the event, the type of event, and the number of deaf attendees present, interpreters will be working in a team of at least two, possibly more ASL interpreters. Supporting the team is one of the most important roles of a Conference Interpreter. Interpreters must communicate their needs while meeting the expectations of other interpreters and deaf consumers.

The interpreting team should be well-coordinated and always working together to ensure accurate and clear communication access.

Qualified Conference interpreters keep one another informed and on point. They will also advocate for the use of CDIs whenever appropriate.

Educator

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-07Qualified Conference Interpreters will ensure they have adequate working conditions. This includes contacting the event organizer and letting them know the technical requirements or providing service. Interpreters should also be ready to educate hearing entities about the basic function of an ASL interpreter and how to work with one. In some instances, interpreters must advocate to be on stage, on camera, or near a presenter.

Sense of Boundaries

deaf-equal-access-events-conferences-08A good Platform Interpreter knows his or her limits and will not take on an assignment outside the scope of their skill set. Additionally, they will not accept an assignment where they feel a personal bias or ethical conflict might prevent them from effectively facilitating communication.

 

LC Interpreting Service is pleased to offer qualified Conference Interpreters in New York City 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.

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References:

http://aiic.net/page/628/practical-guide-for-professional-conference-interpreters/lang/1

http://www.streetleverage.com/2011/07/conference-interpreting-there-are-rules-of-engagement/

http://www.streetleverage.com/2013/12/sign-language-interpreters-how-to-avoid-being-abandoned-at-the-microphone/

http://asnwonline.com/coordinating-interpreters-for-conferences/

 

 

Name Signs — What’s That About?

deaf-hoh-what-are-name-signs-01Everyone at the office calls your Deaf coworker Diane, but she is better known in the Deaf community as “Bright.” Bright is a genuine person who is always smiling and positive. Her cheerful name sign captures her personality way better than the name “Diane” ever could!

deaf-hoh-what-are-name-signs-02Many hearing people are surprised to learn that the Deaf community has it’s own unique naming system. The only true way to get a name sign is to be given one by individuals who are deaf, since ASL is their native language. Name signs come in all forms. Some are based on the person’s birth name or initials, for example, someone named Amy could be an “A” that moves down the side of the face to signify long hair. Some are based on their physical features or personality traits, such as Dimples or Motivated.  And other name signs might be based on the person’s interests, like Dance or Star.

deaf-hoh-what-are-name-signs-03Once you have a name sign, good luck changing it on your own! On the other hand, deaf people might change your name sign if they feel a different name suits you better. For example, I was given a name sign by my mother who is deaf. My original name sign is an “L” that is waving, because as a child I was always waving at everyone. Once I moved to New York City and became involved in a much larger Deaf community, people began referring to me as “LC,” which identifies me by my initials so I can not be confused with someone else who has the same name sign. In my intimate circles, I remain true to my birth name sign, but in NYC my name sign has evolved.

deaf-hoh-what-are-name-signs-04Name signs are personally inspired and usually reflect some aspect of the individual. Those in the Deaf community know, this can be both a good and a bad thing. When people discuss you in ASL using your name sign, your reputation precedes you. Before people even meet you, they have an idea of who you are based on your name sign. Journalist Charlie Swinbourne explained how one of his deaf colleagues became known as Murder in an unfortunate re-naming incident. Some deaf friends thought it would be humorous one night to change the individuals last name from “Burder” to “Murder” and it ended up sticking. Although he was formerly known as Smooth, because of his skill with the ladies, he stopped getting dates once his new name got around. As one might expect, being called Murder can really impact a person’s life!

An ASL name is so much more than a nickname, it becomes a major part of your Deaf identity. Because an individual can not simply change their own name sign, these names carry a history and personality all their own. Each facial expression and classifier, which is a descriptive handshape, gives a little insight into who the individual is and how they are viewed by others. Take my deaf niece Jaisy, for example, who is known as Same. When Jaisy was just a newborn, her big sister took one look at her and signed “same” because the baby had the same hair and eye color as her. Her name is Jaisy, but people who know her use the sign for “same” to represent her in conversation. When she gets a little older, her mother will give her a new sign name that is more appropriate for her growing personality.

While it might seem like a novelty to hearing people, having an ASL name is very meaningful for those in the Deaf community, and it could even be considered an honor. Name signs are not used on documents and they are not spoken out loud. They are created and used exclusively by members of Deaf culture. These names aren’t just given out to anyone — they are a right of passage into the Deaf community. A name sign means you’re an active ASL user who is worthy of being more than B-O-B, or L-Y-D-I-A (finger spelled). To have a name sign means you are officially part of the Deaf world.

Raising A Deaf Child

Baby Sign Language NYC

After months of worrying about nursery colors and baby names, the big day has finally arrived! Your healthy bundle of joy is born with 10 fingers and 10 toes; crying and cooing in your arms. The baby is beautiful, your family is complete, everything feels perfect! Fast forward a few months down the road when, during a routine checkup, your pediatrician informs you that your infant can not hear. Suddenly, you’ve become the parent of a deaf child. What now?

Baby Sign Language

Discovering that a child is deaf can stir up a wide range of emotions in new parents. Most commonly, they feel shock, sorrow, and helplessness. Unfortunately, because many doctors deliver this news as a medical “diagnosis,” parents automatically believe that their child is ill. Or, worse, disabled! It causes a chain reaction of guilt, sadness, and fear. How will you raise your deaf child? You wonder if he or she will be able to have a good life. You wonder if you can “fix” them.

This topic is close to my heart because my grandparentsdeaf-children-asl learned that my mother was deaf when she was less than a year old. At that time, they didn’t know any deaf people, and had no idea what it would mean to raise a deaf child in a hearing world. My grandparents worried that their daughter would not be able to have a happy childhood, or a normal adolescence. Would she have friends? Would she be able to drive a car? Would she be able to laugh and have fun? There are so many misconceptions. Of course, as time went on, they discovered that deaf kids definitely can do all these things, and excel at them!

Selecting a method of communication for your child majorly influences where he or she will fit into society, and is critical to psychological development. There are several communication options to consider, depending on the child’s degree of hearing loss. Some parents choose to teach their deaf child to speak English using hearing aids and intensive speech training. In this approach, the child does not identify as deaf, and does not learn deaf communication.

ASL Cochlear Implant

Another option is the controversial, and increasingly popular cochlear implant– a fairly invasive surgical procedure where an electronic device is implanted into the baby’s head to simulate the sound-processing of a functioning ear. Modern science has come a long way with these prosthetics and, although the child will never experience hearing the same way as a non-deaf person would, they can technically hear. With many years of language therapy, cochlear implant patients can be nearly indistinguishable from their hearing peers. But communicating in the hearing world will never be simple for them, because science simply has not been able to replicate the subtle and specific nuances of our natural senses. These children are prone to rely on lip-reading and facial cues, and many require a number of educational resources to keep up with their peers in school. Parents are likely to consider this surgical procedure to “remedy” their child’s deafness because they want to make sure their child speaks and understands the same language they do. This is understandable, but is it what is really best for your deaf child?

As any deaf person will proudly tell you, deafness is an identity, not an impairment. They do not consider deafness a problem that needs to be “fixed.” Deaf culture is active, full of positive role models; and ASL is a rich, constantly evolving language. Another option for teaching your deaf child to communicate is to enroll him or her into a residential school. Deaf residential schools are staffed by deaf teachers fluent in ASL, who work with deaf toddlers all the way through high school to educate them in a way that is focused on their individual learning styles. Allowing your child to be deaf, to learn sign language, and to integrate with other deaf people is a great way to promote an atmosphere of equality, independence, and nurturing. The drawback of residential schools, of course, is that deaf children are separated from their parents. Fortunately, many have reported that the atmosphere of deaf culture fosters great mentor relationships at these institutions.

Being that I come from three generations of deafness, there is a high possibility that I may have deaf or HoH children, and I have to be prepared to teach my children both ASL and American English. If you wish to speak the same language as your deaf child, why not learn the language that was created just for them? Total communication strategy focuses on integrating both ASL and speech therapy, to provide opportunity, without altering the child’s identity. Embracing deaf culture as a family seems to me like a great compromise for helping your kids adjust to the world using all the tools available! Spoken communication is important in our audio world, but it is also extremely important for deaf children to be able to sign with their peers so they can communicate freely, and feel connected. If they decide not to speak out loud or sign later in life, that would be their choice. My guess would be they will cherish both hearing and deaf culture, and embrace both for the rest of their lives. Bilingualism is such a fantastic way to see the world through different eyes, and provides a real advantage to your deaf child! Now that I have provided you with the current options the choice is ultimately left in your hands. What will you decide to do?

Weaving the fabric

As illustrated by the attention I received for interpreting during Hurricane Sandy, deaf communication really fascinates the hearing population! Growing up a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), it took me a long time to accept the wonderment others experience when they see sign language being used.When I was young, I ‘d become frustrated when patrons… Continue Reading