Tag Archives: hard of hearing

Deaf and Hearing World: Bridging the Cultural Gap

Most people know, of course, that a language difference exists between people who are deaf and those who can hear. People who are deaf communicate using a variety of strategies, ranging from lip reading and speaking, to writing notes, using gestures, or communicating via American Sign Language. Deafness can be a different experience for every person, and people come from all backgrounds and walks of life. So when we bridge only the communication gap between a deaf and a hearing person, there is still a lot of room for cultural misunderstanding!In America, many people who are deaf prefer using the visual language of ASL to communicate. These individuals consider themselves members of Deaf Culture, a linguistic minority group that has it’s own unique traditions, jokes, stories, and cultural norms. Deaf culture has no age, gender, race, or religious barriers, and members of Deaf culture frequently exist within several other intersecting cultural identities. To create truly effective communication with the Deaf community, hearing individuals must come to a greater understanding of what it means to be both medically deaf, and culturally Deaf.

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It’s become trendy for businesses and organizations to use words like “Diversity” and “Inclusive” without actually taking any steps toward creating diversity or inclusion. Hiring an individual with a disability, but then making no effort to support their success, does not empower anyone, and can create resentments between people in the workplace. When a deaf individual shows up for a medical appointment (or any appointment at any business) and nobody in the organization knows how to accommodate their needs, that business has failed at providing equal access to their goods/services.

If an organization chooses to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, and truly wants to empower people of all abilities, Cultural Competency Training is a great next step. Educating staff from the top level down, and from the bottom levels up, offers a chance for organization-wide professional development and a much greater understanding of what diversity really means.

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The first step toward welcoming d/Deaf individuals to connect with an organization is to get a contract on file with a local interpreting agency that offers high quality sign language interpreting services. Look for deaf-owned or ASL interpreter-owned agencies, or ask a deaf individual if they have a preferred agency to contact.

Cultural competency is not a feat, it is an opportunity! This is a chance to strengthen relationships within the organization, as well as relationships with customers, clients, and the community at large. Cultural Competency Training helps to identify the many different perspectives— employer, employee, deaf, hearing, interpreter, customer, consumer — and assists in creating mutual understanding from all sides. By working with deaf trainers to explore the various scenarios where d/Deaf and hearing people interact, everyone

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gets an opportunity to ask those awkward cross-cultural questions, or clear up any misconceptions in a safe environment. With proper training, buzzwords like “diversity” become very real and applicable concepts and everyone reaps the benefits.

LC Interpreting Services is thrilled to partner with Innovative Inclusion, LLC offer Cultural Competency Training seminars for businesses and organizations. Working with a set of d/Deaf consultants, employees at all levels can deepen their understanding of deafness, Deaf culture, and d/Deaf communication to effectively bridge the persistent gaps that exist. Deaf and Hearing World: Bridging the Cultural Gap Cultural Competency Training is an excellent solution for progressive companies ready to take it beyond basic communication.

The ADA In Action

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-info-resources-01July 26 marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: a set of laws established to help people with disabilities gain access to society that was simply not designed for them. Since 1990, this landmark piece of legislation has improved the lives of millions of Americans by providing clarification regarding their rights to access— whether that means built-in wheelchair ramps, requesting ASL interpreters, or allowing service animals into buildings— and offering legal recourse for individuals whose rights are violated.

Make no mistake, the ADA has not miraculously leveled the playing field for those with disabilities. It helped lay the foundation for equal access, but the ADA does not guarantee that services will be available for those who need them when they need them.

Deaf Self Advocacy

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-02Without the hard work of determined disability rights activists, the ADA would never have been passed; and without ongoing advocacy efforts, little real change might have come from the legislation. People who do not need to reference the ADA on a regular basis to get their basic needs met are frequently unaware of their obligation to ensure equal access to their establishment / service / business. In the years since the ADA became law, people with disabilities have had to consistently perform the labor of educating people about their disabilities and what it means to be disabled in a world that favors able-bodied individuals. They must also be willing to challenge organizations to go beyond bare minimum compliance, which can sometimes mean taking on large institutions in a public way.

Below you will find links to some recent video blogs by individuals who are d/Deaf/HoH:

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These are only a few of the thousands of thoughtful explanations and analyses of the ADA and how these legal provisions actually apply to those who are deaf. There are countless hours of video containing firsthand accounts, experiences, successes and failures available on the Internet for those wishing to gain a deeper insight into the longterm impact of the 1990 Act. Overall we have seen quite a bit of progress yet discrimination remains a fact, due in large part to simple ignorance.

If you are a deaf or hard of hearing individual, it is your responsibility to ensure that your rights are not being violated. Until we live in a world where accessibility is built-in and widely understood, the burden will continue to fall on already disadvantaged minority groups to fight for basic accommodations.

Here you will find links to some ADA resources:

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-04Each time a person takes it upon themselves to challenge the institution that oppresses them, they remove a barrier for the next person— no matter how big or small. This incremental progress adds up over time. If your rights are violated, pursue further action. If your needs are not adequately met, provide feedback and pursue further action. The advocacy and awareness that each person spreads works toward creating a more educated society with advanced views of disability. Pushing back is important work!

Everyone Can Support the ADA

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-05But what about allies? How can people who are not deaf or disabled help, without their position of able-bodied privilege resulting in further oppression? Where to get started?

On a day-to-day basis, allies can look for opportunities to help raise awareness about deaf perspectives and offer support for better access. Examples:

  • A marketing manager or event coordinator at a company can take it upon themselves to consistently educate about and advocate for inclusive events, emphasizing the importance of providing interpreters  and advertising events as deaf-friendly.
  • Managers and supervisors on a corporate level can suggest cultural competency  training for employees, preferably a program created by and/ or led by people who are deaf. This will help create an understanding of diversity, and can open up new possibilities with deaf clients and customers.
  • Administrators or Human Resource managers can take the time to ensure that their organization has contracts on file with high quality interpreting agencies. They can work to emphasize the importance of being prepared for deaf individuals to access goods and services as they please.
  • If there are initiatives underway in the community, for example deaf individuals in your area are pushing for captioned showings at theaters, make sure to amplify their concerns and take any actions possible to support their cause.

Moving Forward

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-civil-rights-06The ADA in action is more of a tool for people with disabilities than any kind of guarantee. This set of legislation only works when it is enforced, and it is up to each member of our society to help enforce it.

We must maintain our willingness to challenge comfortable but oppressive social norms in everyday situations. We need to keep pushing for what is right, even when it is the more difficult path. Working together, little by little we can help remove the structural roadblocks that limit individuals, thereby collectively creating a truly diverse America.

LCIS is thrilled to partner with Innovative Inclusion, LLC to offer ADA Compliance Consulting for businesses and organizations.  The Innovative Inclusion ADA Compliance Consulting program works in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and committee of Deaf advisors to assist organizations with reducing legal risk and ensuring that their business has all the tools for success when working with Deaf/ HoH customers, clients, or employees. Contact us Today for more information!

Also visit our ADA compliance consulting blog at ADAComplianceConsultantForDeaf.com

How the Media Mutes Deaf Voices

geeta-pakistan-bollywood-deaf-censorship-in-media-01An unusual tale about a young Indian woman named Geeta has been making its way around the internet after a Bollywood film helped spark interest in her story. As a child, Geeta accidentally crossed the border into Pakistan all alone. She lived there in the care of a social welfare group for more than ten years years until last month, when she finally returned to India. Geeta is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, and the way the mainstream media has chosen to portray her is quite revealing. Major news outlets from CNN to CBS to Al Jazeera all decided to utilize the outdated term “deaf-mute” in their stories about the woman.

deaf-censorship-in-media-02For centuries, people with different abilities, intellectual skills or physical features were forced to live on the fringes of society. They were labeled “defective” or “freaks” by the mainstream, and their families were shamed by their existence. These labels kept people isolated, and they opened the door for abuse and neglect. People who were deaf were never even given the opportunity to learn or socialize. They were denied humanity just because they were a little bit different.

Thankfully we have come a long way over the past hundred years and our culture is learning to appreciate the beauty of diversity. When our perspectives on disability began to evolve, so too did the language we use to discuss people who are disabled. While reading news stories about the “deaf-mute girl” in mainstream American outlets, however, I can’t help but feel like we’ve transported a half century backwards in our acceptance of deafness.

deaf-censorship-in-media-03The term deaf-mute is problematic, and it is not an appropriate way to discuss a person. Calling someone “mute” silences them and strips them of their agency— it sticks a label on them that devalues their autonomy. Mute is a loaded term which carries the distinct connotation that people who are deaf don’t have anything to say.

According to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a civil rights organization created by and for deaf people, “mute… means silent and without voice. This label is technically inaccurate, since deaf and hard of hearing people generally have functioning vocal chords. The challenge lies with the fact that to successfully modulate your voice, you generally need to be able to hear your own voice. Again, because deaf and hard of hearing people use various methods of communication other than or in addition to using their voices, they are not truly mute. True communication occurs when one’s message is understood by others, and they can respond in kind.”

geeta-pakistan-boolywood-deaf-censorship-in-media-04When photos of Geeta’s family were shown to her, she recognized them, and was able to communicate that she knew who they were. Her message was successfully sent and received without words. Although major media outlets decided to call her mute, Geeta was in fact communicating and cooperating with a number of different agencies to find her way home. The ethical and appropriate terminology in this instance would be “non-verbal.” If she were unable to use sign language, she would be called “non-verbal, non-signing.”

deaf-censorship-in-media-05Mute is just one offensive term that regularly pops up in news stories about deafness from supposedly reputable news agencies. The archaic phrase “deaf and dumb” also occasionally makes its way into headline news. It seems obvious why deaf people do not want to be called dumb, yet clueless hearing reporters continue using the term.

NAD explains: “A relic from the medieval English era, this is the granddaddy of all negative labels pinned on deaf and hard of hearing people. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, pronounced us ‘deaf and dumb’, because he felt that deaf people were incapable of being taught, of learning, and of reasoned thinking. To his way of thinking, if a person could not use his/her voice in the same way as hearing people, then there was no way that this person could develop cognitive abilities.”

deaf-censorship-in-media-06Hearing-impaired is another commonly seen phrase. When you hear the word “impaired”, what do you think? Broken? Incomplete? According to NAD “The term ‘hearing-impaired’ is viewed as negative. The term focuses on what people can’t do. It establishes the standard as ‘hearing’ and anything different as ‘impaired,’ or substandard, hindered, or damaged. It implies that something is not as it should be and ought to be fixed if possible.”

Hearing-impaired is a label created by the hearing community to be more “politically correct” about deafness. Although some deaf/ HoH individuals may choose to call themselves hearing-impaired, particularly those who lose their hearing later in life, it has gone out of favor within the larger deaf community, who (depending on their level of hearing and use of sign language) generally prefer to be called either deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing.

deaf-censorship-in-media-07Had the reporters at the major publications glanced in the AP Stylebook, they would have seen, under the entry for Deaf: “avoid using deaf-mute.” If the journalists and editors working for mainstream outlets had any deaf consultants proof reading their articles about deafness, they almost certainly would not be running stories calling deaf people “mute” “dumb” or “impaired”. Use of these damaging terms actually says far more about the perspective of the author and the lack of diversity within the news organization than anything else.

The story of Geeta is framed as a heroic rescue where the “deaf-mute girl” was saved by hearing parties. Geeta is portrayed as an deaf-censorship-in-media-08object to be traded across borders, instead of a grown woman capable of feelings and thought. She is dehumanized in these stories to enhance the reputation of her “saviors.” She has lived her whole life without hearing or speech, and then the media choose to tell her story in a way that further denies her voice.

Deaf is not a bad word and being deaf isn’t a bad thing! All around the world, I see deaf pride bursting out of people who are finally gaining the opportunities they deserve. People who are deaf continue to fight for their rights, struggle for access, and work toward acceptance in mainstream society. Just because hearing people decide to put them on “mute” doesn’t mean they have nothing to say.

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.

Request Services

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.

Stop Making Excuses and Start Captioning All Your Videos

Imagine 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… Continue Reading

The Silver Lining of a Hurricane

Since being on national television, I have received so much unexpected attention! Attention from the media, from my friends, from total strangers– it’s very flattering, if not a bit overwhelming! Of course, the first thing people want to ask about is my experience interpreting Mayor Bloomberg. Let me say, first and foremost, that the opportunity… Continue Reading