Saturday, February 24, 2007

Call that rich and varied deaf culture?

Barb DiGi shares her perspective in her vlog from reading a local Utah newspaper covering Deaflympics (Feb. 16th) who interviewed selected participants giving away some misinformation that is not found acceptable to her eyes. Rich and varied deaf culture was the subtopic of the article and she was appalled that not even one word, ASL, was mentioned. ASL and Deaf culture are like salt and pepper. You just simply don't separate them on the table. For deaf people who decided not to have hearing aids or cochlear implants didn't mean that they had no desire to communicate with hearing people.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Part III: An Open letter to the City of Chicago and their reply

This was what I wrote to

Dear Sir or Madam,

Hello, I just want to share with you about what had happened at ChicagoO'Hare airport. As a frequent traveler and deaf myself, I don't usually experience anything like this.

I narrated what just happened to me at the airport while getting off the plane from United in my vlog about an encounter I had with the contractor at Chicago O'Hare airport on Feb. 11th who brought me a wheelchair. After telling him that I was just deaf and not in the need of having a wheelchair, he kept on insisting me to sit on it. After I declined politely, he offered to put my bag and coat on the wheelchair (you will see the picture in my vlog).

As I was going on my way to the gate, he continued to walk next to me till the end although I had told him several times that it wouldn't be necessary. He offered me to hold his arm several times and I again said no. He even told me about my appearance and how gorgeous I looked while I was in the elevator and that did not make me feel comfortable especially in an enclosed area. I felt I was harassed and being paternalized. Although he was trying to be friendly but he went overboard. The point was that he dismissed my request that I did not need service. It led me to conclude that airport employees who serve the disabled are not having significant understanding and obviously received a lack of training about disability.

In my vlog, you can see how many comments were made by deaf people who are able to find a common experience like my story. To my dismay, there are many deaf people who have been misunderstood in the airport especially at Chicago. If they are elderly people or people who are not completely able to walk, please do continue to provide them service. However for deaf people who are physically able to walk, I just want to put this to an end as it is not necessary to "dangle" the wheelchair in front of them.

Please let me know what can it be done to alleviate this problem.

Thank you for your attention,

Barbara DiGiovanni

Now a letter of reply from Gretchen Meyer:

Dear Ms. DiGiovanni:

Thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience with us. Wheelchair assistance is contracted out by each individual airline. In your case, United Airlines contracts out to a company called AirServ for wheelchair and other assistance to its passengers.

There have been a few recent issues with AirServ as well as some of the other contractors at O'Hare. We consider this a very serious issue and we are currently working with our airline tenants at O'Hare to ensure that their contractors are properly trained to work with passengers with disabilities.We have already met with some local agencies who will be assisting using this process. I assure you that we are working to correct this issue as quickly as possible.

On behalf of O'Hare International Airport, I truly apologize for the recent experience you encountered while using our facility. I will also be sure to forward this to United Airlines for review.Please accept my sincere apology and I hope your next visit to O'Hare is more enjoyable.


Gretchen Meyer

So I am still waiting to hear from United and will keep you informed. Feel free to review the comments and my replies in my original post to see how many more unbelievable stories and input posted there. All I hope is that my story as well as some of yours who have shared in the comment section will prevent this from happening again for us deafies.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Part II: The contractor at the airport insisted me to...

Holy cow! I have been bombarded with mostly supportive comments, shared stories that almost resemble to mine and suggestions so thank you! Sorry I couldn't vlog this time since I blogged my thoughts from the airport while being stranded during long ungodly hours in the wake of the blizzard! But no wheelchair shoving in my face this time, thank goodness! Now to answer to some of the questions from the commenters who left in my recent vlog and to share suggestions to eliminate this ongoing problem…read on..

Someone said I was at fault for using the sidekick giving away that I am deaf. Fault? So I should not be using it in the plane while hearing people use their devices (that includes sidekick too!) before and after taking off? Also so what that I am deaf? What's wrong with you people who think that way? The only difference is that they get information through the pager announcement first before me. As we all know, deaf travelers tend to find out this kind of information last. I find it interesting, yet sad, that there are internalized oppressors within our oppressed society. What a shame, tsk tsk!!

Someone said that I should have called for a supervisor. In reality, that was not possible since I had to catch the next plane in a limited time. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I will let this go so no way, Jose!

Someone said that the contractor must be a con artist and an imitator. Do you really think I am that stupid? Actually, I can smell the difference between a con artist and a contractor. He was inside the plane chatting with a flight attendant as she identified me to him. Besides he wore a uniform indicating he worked there and greeted several other contractors who wheeled the disabled while walking by. So he was for real, folks! And one more clarification, he did not touch my arm but offered his arm for me to hold on and I told him a firm no, in fact twice, sheesh.

Someone said I should have brushed him off and not follow him. When you are in the airport and an employee who approaches you, you can’t mess around by not cooperating especially in post 9/11. You are supposed to be civilized and be reasonable. After finding out his intentions, I politely told him several times that it wouldn't be necessary while walking my way to the gate but he tagged along. It was not like I was following him because all that time I've been walking on the way, not out of the way, to the designated gate. Besides he insisted and helped himself by placing my bags on the wheelchair while walking on the way. In addition, I was in a state of shock and disbelief not to mention how tired I was from skiing the moguls the day before not putting me in the mood to haggle.

As you know, when looking back, you should have done this and that but what was done was done. On the other hand, I hope that my story will help you prepare how to react better if you ever have this similar experience in the future. Nevertheless, I'll make damn sure that the person who is in charge will know the details inside and out.

However, I'm not letting this contractor getting away from murder since he dismissed my decision that I didn't need service. That was annoying to me and I will make several pointers to the supervisor in the letter. It is not acceptable for a person's decline of service to be ignored. Paternalism? Harassment? You betcha! And believe me, they are gonna hear that LOUD from me.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) going to a wheelchair room wasn't out of the way. That's right Elizabeth (Mishka Zena), it doesn't make sense for me to walk to the wheelchair room if I truly needed a physical assistance. It doesn't cease to amaze me how some people are so ignorant about the deaf. And some of you were guided to read Braille? How bizarre!

Someone who sat on the board of NorthWest and Delta said that it is the airport employing the contractors not the airlines. I was advised to write a letter to the airport and CC it to the airlines.

Getting to share your similar experiences had confirmed that we still have this epidemic of mistreatment toward deaf individuals by those imbecile employees. Now let’s look for ways to eliminate this absurdity since I am not the only one facing this problem. It is obvious that we still see the need to educate the public since this case scenario is becoming a broken record. So when enough is enough? We are currently living in the advanced so-called Informational Age of the 21st century. Are we going backwards or what ? Trying to get that Geico caveman mentality out of my head!

One of the suggestions I saw was to contact NAD about the need for them to educate these clueless staff members. I will make a note to NAD about what happened but honestly, I don't expect swift action from them.

Well, we are bloggers/vloggers here who had once took visible action to support the unification for Gallaudet, right ? So why don't we help ourselves ? Instead of only just to write an individual letter by ourselves, it would be much more powerful to include countless signatures all in one place to identify this common problem among deaf people not receiving appropriate service. Majority rules, baby! All you have to do is to click on the link to sign the letter of petition that states the message to call for a need in diversity-in-disability training and accessibility. So we can we work together on this folks? I'm not intending to leave NAD out of this, no, because it is important to get them endorse a petition (that is now in the works) to pressure the FCC to make significant changes. I will share you the draft of the petition in part III after getting your input by posting your comments below. It’s for the benefit for all of us. The petition will not only be about the treatment but the lack of accessibility in airports. For instance, we are getting tired of facing T.V. screens with no captions both inside the plane and the airport. This is really no excuse.

Also start planning on how you can make an impact at your hometown airport to ensure that they have received training by including deaf professionals to conduct such workshops. If you could do your homework, (sorry it’s a habit for me to say this as a teacher) call your local airport and ask if there were any workshops provided for employees to learn about disabilities and deaf people lately. Ask if the employees ever get to attend to a workshop presented by a deaf person. If so, then how often did they have the opportunity to be trained? I promise I will give you an A when I get your report, smile!

Please add your comments on what reforms you want to see in the airport. Boy I love this b/vlogging thing to put us together for a cause to see the positive outcome hopefully. This is surely a revolutionary modern approach so let's try this. Thank you for your time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Contractor at the Airport Insisted Me to...

xxxx Watch the vlog narrated by Barb DiGi about the incident in Chicago O'Hare airport that placed her in an awkward position. As a frequent traveler, it was her first encounter with the contractor who insisted her to.....sorry, you will have to find out the rest by watching the story if you want to know. So who knows you will be next?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No ASL Left Behind (NALB)! (Chapter 1)

Sue Livingston wrote a book called Rethinking the Education of Deaf Students raising concerns about the problems and providing strategies to drive deaf students to success in literacy. Since there is a myriad of issues and solutions, I have decided to break up into a series of v/blogs focusing on the analysis of this book and how it applies today.

The first topic will be about having this misconception to think that "coding the English language with signs for individual words and morphemes will enable Deaf Students to learn English." It has been in existence more than 30 years yet not many of them become competent English signers, speakers, readers, and writers. Even Oliver Sacks said that he found it "astonishing that even though Deaf children are exposed to Signed English systems, they evolve ASL-like forms." It is like deaf people are automatically programmed on what makes sense to them once they have the opportunity to be immersed in an ASL environment using a stronger sense of sight.

I think most of us agree that Deaf students understand ASL better than they do Signed English. Livingston conducted an informal study to see which one, ASL or Signed English, will be easier for them to comprehend. It showed that almost consistently that both younger and older deaf children understood ASL but not in Signed English. The meanings that are conveyed into depth using Signed English threw them off. Why, of course, Signed English is not even a natural language nor even a language to begin with.

There is a good example from Utah when Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News mentioned that Julie Eldredge gives this example: the word “outstanding.” In ASL, there’s a simple sign. But in MCE she would have to sign the word for “out” and then the word for “stand” and then “ing.” That not only takes longer, she says, it’s confusing.“But who controls deaf education? Hearing people,” says Fleischer. “They’ll keep what they feel close to. I’m hoping for open dialogue about what’s working. But we’re powerless.”In some school districts in Utah, says Pollock, interpreters for deaf children have been told to use MCE instead of ASL. Pollock is vice president of a new group called the Henry C. White Educational Council, which wants a say in deaf education in the state. He says that deaf students don’t graduate from Utah schools on par with hearing 12th-graders. This is like an epidemic that is widespread across the country. It is alarming to me that today ASL is still shoved away and that MCE is still in practice although it is doomed to failure.

Did you know that back in 1994, NAD pubslihed a position paper on ASL and bilingual education to require that ASL should be the primary language used in schools for deaf students and that instruction in English is emphasized in reading, writing and for those with having the ability to lipread and speak? It is relevant to observe that children (from birth to 2 years old) regardless of residual hearing shall acquire ASL as the first language that becomes readily accessible to them. This is considered a critical period where high level of language learning takes place. Once a strong language foundation is established, those with residual hearing will be able to develop better speech skills. Suppose these infants and toddlers with residual hearing are not exposed to ASL but to oral English environment only, the chances are that they may NOT have picked up listening and being able to produce intelligible speech effectively at that age. Even with cochlear plant and hearing aids because they are not yet effective in untrained ears at that age. In conclusion, they are not getting full access to the language nor having the ability to express in a clear manner. Even there is a popular idea that sign language is recommended for hearing babies allowing them express their meaning in the first two years but why can't it be the same for deaf children? How ironic!

Unfortunately, many ignorant hearing parents did not realize that. They have been misled by physicans who pointed their direction to view their deaf child in a pathological path. Rarley they are introduced to deaf professionals or individuals the first thing when learning their child is deaf. Why not give out a business-sized card that says "Deaf Outreach Consultant" where they can contact directly to have their questions answered immediately. It is like when you go in a doctor's office and found that you needed to see a specialist who is an expert in this particular area, you get a card of the name of the specialist and phone number. Why can't it be like that for parents of deaf children? Obviously, the doctors and audiologists are not working together with deaf professionals and schools for the deaf rather well.

With this instant information handed to parents who discovered their child's deafness, they will be able to:

1. make an appointment to meet deaf professionals

2. get resources on where to learn sign language

3. start making plans on early educational placement

4. Be offered deaf readers engaging in shared reading program coming to their homes periodically to enhance the development of ASL and model it in front of parents.

5. In the future as mentioned as one of the goals discussed in my previous vlog, get a URL address where there is a v/blog center page to address issues raising deaf children with links provided where they can make comments and receive feedback.

So often parents are led to focus on amplification aids or cochlear implants to seek ways to enhance listening and speaking first. It may be natural for them to have the desire for their deaf child to be able to hear and speak. They don't realize that " 'oral' language that is developed before written language is introduced to students who are ready to read and write is to articifically sequence language processes that work best in tandem" stated by Livingston. According to whole language research, people can learn vocabulary, syntax, and stylistic conventions directly through written language (Edelsky, Harste and Hudelson). So this is evident that ASL plays a vital role in language development that is made accessible for toddlers where they are able to learn about the content (i.e. animals) rather than wasting away precious language learning period on the production of speech. Once they acquire this foundation, they are able to transfer their knowledge using ASL parameters in written form by the time they are ready to read and write. For toddlers to work on perfecting their speech on certain words may not be as meaningful to them at that time. Instead of being able to elaborate in discussion about the content, they just get so primed up to produce intelligible words much as possible.

Believe me, I had have seen this happening in my eyes raising my two young deaf children and seeing other deaf children whose speech development was placed as a priority are impeded in learning the content. Dialogue is not natural when using spoken English and opportunities to have unstructured discussions about topics are lost. They spent their invaluable time on correcting their speech rather than inquiring the subject. I recalled how much I loathed going to speech training in my early years knowing that it is all about mechanical not logical. However, I was fortunate enough to have access to ASL from my deaf family where I was able to take the opportunity to engage in dialogue about any subject that led me to develop my global knowledge and understanding. Yet I struggled to speak all my life as I grew up in the mainstream as a solitaire until I finally received an official bilingual approach when I transferred to a deaf high school , my speech improved significantly. The better understanding I have on both languages, the more confident I am able to produce speech. That is why I believe in "ASL now, speech later" approach. The most important result was that my comprehension level had greatly increased in reading and writing when I had teachers using bi-bi approach. Please don't leave ASL behind. (I realized that I did not include all what was written in my vlog since it would take up more time so please pardon me)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Critical Inquiry on Ways to Allow Open Communication for parents of deaf children

I'd have vlogged this post but I typed my thoughts in the plane back from Deaflympics while I was in this analytic mood. Don't ask me where I got this energy but it may have to do with my underlying passion. Thanks to my sidekick, I was able to keep track on topics on using the web browser during my down time. I'd noticed a variety of comments about some discussions taking place about ways on spreading the word to parents of deaf children. I'm pleased to see the concerns among bloggers who share the same goal and to see this discussion popping up during the vlogging/blogging conference. I do strongly support this visualization however we need to think more carefully how do we want to do this. One of the suggestions I saw was to contact American Society of Deaf Children and Hands and Voices organizations to work together also inform about where parents can get immediate access to postings. That's a good idea for the time being but let's look at the big picture. As mentioned in my previous vlog, don't we want to thrust forward to make an official blog page center where appropriate postings can be shared that are related to deaf children, identity, educational issues and what not? will always serve as the main artery page and postings can be selected from this URL and published on a blog center page that will target to this specific kind of readers; parents of deaf children, that is. My perspective is that we need experienced deaf educators involved to moderate and post blogs relating to this area. They can be representatives from schools serving deaf children and Gallaudet Clerc Center. As a team, they will provide appropriate resources such as organizing a pool of research and references relating to bilingual and bicultural issues for example. • Imagine that an affiliated organization such as National Deaf Education Project that is comprised of representatives of Gallaudet University, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the National Association of the Deaf, the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools for the Deaf, Convention of the American Instructors of the Deaf and the American Society for Deaf Children take this initiative to assemble a blog center page where parents of deaf children have appropriate access to open communication. • Imagine all of these organizations, residential/mainstreaming schools and bloggers/vloggers are put together to share invaluable input. • Imagine Gallaudet and these organizations provide funding for captioning these vloggers who want to share about their experiences growing up, issues relating to ASL and communication modes, technology devices, etc. I know there are deaf educators out there who would want to take this project including myself. I'm working on discussing this idea with Gallaudet as I have been in the past few weeks. I'll keep you updated about this possibility. I would appreciate to know if you have any information relating to this anticipated project. This is a mission I want to see it happen real soon not just someday. We just need to move forward in a much rapid pace to keep up with the everchanging technology in our society. Funding and resources are the main issue here, which is why Gallaudet, along with other organizations serving deaf children, is considered an appropriate mechanism where the needs of parents with deaf children and deaf students can be met with ease and led on a right track. (this post wasn't cooperative in separating paragraphs so my apologies!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Vlogging/Bloggin Future of Gallaudet: Deaf Children

A vlog/blog proposal to move forward in the 21st Century of Information Age making more accessible to parents of deaf children and professionals working with deaf children by posting vlogs/blogs to generate thorough discussions and to gain holistic understanding when raising deaf children.

Carl Schroeder triggered my brain cells in a scrambling motion when pleading us to propose our visions that can be shared during the upcoming Vlogging-Blogging Future Gallaudet. When I asked myself what really makes the future of Gallaudet, it is the deaf children indeed. Based on my 15 years of teaching experience with deaf children and raising two deaf children, I see the need of organization where parents and educators are able to share and discuss issues on a blog center page. In my first ASL presented vlog, I would like to share what I have thought about a mission along with two visions.

MISSION: To serve as a blog center where individuals who are concerned about raising deaf children have the privilege to be exposed to a variety of blogs/vlogs relating to, but not limited to, education, ASL, social needs, identity, deafhood, audism and experiences shared by deaf and hearing (CODAs, parents of deaf children) individuals.

How? Using a specifically designed blog page offered by Gallaudet that will reach out deaf children, parents of deaf children and professionals working with deaf children. Using the model of, there will be human editors to post blogs using RSS subscriptions also related entries derived from

Who can post blogs? Parents of deaf children, professionals such as teachers, professors and deaf role models who can share their experiences and help eradicate the myths. It would be nice to have all schools for the deaf to have their own vlog/blog to post in this center. So oftenly these parents may be in the dark unintentionally hindering their deaf child(ren)'s opportunity for social and emotional growth or that deaf children lack the direct contact or interaction with deaf individuals.

Vision #1: Synthesize global deaf organizations and schools (of, by and for) concerning deaf children on a blog center page. When surfing for information on varied sites concerning deaf children, I found plenty of sites that should have been collaborated on one page showing the links that will benefit parents and educators. Take Raising Deaf Kids, for instance. There is a variety of worthy articles shared by deaf individuals when growing up and by parents raising their deaf children but the website is so limited that it funnels the channel of communication into one-way street. There is no exchange of dialogue such as discussing, analyzing views, sharing new ideas, and so forth.

Imagine that there is a newly created blog center allowing deaf individuals, hearing and deaf parents of deaf children, professionals working with deaf children, etc. to share their postings where interested readers can swap their perspectives by making comments or even discuss in a special forum focusing on a selected topic of the week. We should encourage the birth of these kind of blogs where parents can get acquainted with deaf individuals and have opportunities to get ideas and feedback by deaf bloggers/vloggers like us. I have witnessed many excellent blogs posted in that provide significant information for these type of readers about raising deaf children. Suppose we transfer these relevant vlogs/blogs to a particular blog center, there will be more targeted readers who will be affected.

Vision #2: Gallaudet can post updates on research information about the benefits of bilingual-bicultural approach to gain more awareness among parents of deaf children.

Research information is where parents need to find by making one easy click. It becomes confusing and frustrating when parents have to hunt for this kind of information at different places. I found a wonderful page called Signs of Literacy created from Gallaudet introducing researchers and their works but to get this information I had to fish for it. It took me several squints and clicks to get there. It makes me wonder how many parents have this ability to find their way through this perplexing maze.

If we are spearheading the bi-bi programs as a part of the future of Gallaudet, it becomes more realistic if an array of information can be easily accessible on just one particular blog center page. Even a variety of taped demonstrations among schools for the deaf practicing bi-bi can share their vlogs showing visual examples and growth in language development among deaf children. Right now, to find this kind of information is like going through a jungle trying to find the right sources. We have this advanced yet inexpensive tool that allows us to produce vlogs to get our invaluable messages across to remote families of deaf children and deaf children themselves.

There is no reason today that one should not know about ASL, that one should not know about deaf culture, and that one should not have to wait to college to discover their identity. This is the 21st Century for crying out loud! We just got to make a good use out of this innovative tool of communication to reach out so now it is the time.

I know there is a lot more we can do to get significant, powerful messages across to this type of group of readers/viewers. I am also aware that there will be concerns and criticisms about this idea but at least we just got to try. I am already thinking about the URL address for this envisioned blog center. Perhaps something like DeafChildrenFirst or DeafChildrenUnited. I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts on this mission. Thank you!

Barb DiGiovanni