Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are Parents of Deaf Babies Fully Informed of Choices?

For the first time ever offered in the blogosphere, I have decided to try something different by offering a built-in transcript in my vlog since I wanted this one to reach out to the larger audience. I have offered two different types, one with transcript for Deaf Blind, international Deaf viewers and non-signers, and one without for ASL signers. I am experimenting this approach and let me know if you like it. This a research-based type of vlog so you will see research statements in both clips.

With built-in transcript: quicktime

YouTube users, click here

Without built-in transcript: quicktime

YouTube users, click here

Note: This was pre-taped in January.

By the way, this is my 100th post in DeafRead!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Using ASL Certainly is Part of Leading a Normal Life!

I have stumbled across a blog when someone said "one that relies solely on sign language will never lead a normal life like I, and many other CI users, have." I have to admit I was taken back with this arrogant quote and realized that this sixteen year old with a CI may be naive. She may be only sixteen years old but I get the feeling that this kind of misconception toward Deaf people has been heavily influenced by adults who surround her. This is why I am writing this blog to clarify that it is perfectly normal using ASL. I mean come on..I don't think there is a such thing for one who relies solely on sign language (and that is ASL), don't you? We all who use ASL tend to use either spoken English and/or written English to communicate with hearing people. However, it does exist that many Deaf people have actually grown up without ASL and some, if not most, of them have reported that they finally feel normal and "at home" when they discovered ASL.

Thanks to the commenters who shared their feedback with constructive dialogue, I can see that it led this girl to turn around by adding that she is not implying that if you do not have a cochlear implant, and if you use ASL, you are not ‘normal’. This is a definitely different statement than what she said earlier. She added in a more positive statement, "For those of you who sign, or use hearing aids, of course you lead normal lives, and live in and contribute to society." It turned out that her definition of leading "a normal life" means being "able to listen to music, to play in the percussion ensemble, to dance in my high school’s dance company, to perform in musicals and theater, to win awards for performing Shakespeare monologues, and to give speeches in front of thousands of people. This is what I choose for myself and I’m certainly not judging those of you that do not have these aspirations." So it turns out that her definition of normal is different from the others so the question remains; what exactly is normal? Does it mean that listening music and playing instruments qualify the definition of normal?

Anyway, we know very well that there are Deaf people without CIs are involved in the music and dance world. Look at the Wild Zappers, an all male dance company founded by Irvine Stewart, Fred Beam, and Warren Snipe, is under the auspices of the National Deaf Dance Theatre. Also at Rathskellar site, click on media since you can see how well they dance and sign in ASL with harmony. And of course, my finacee who plays the electric guitar in Beethoven's Nightmare, the only Deaf band in the world. My point is that you don't have to wear CIs in order to be normal by appreciating music since it is open to anyone who has this passion regardless of their hearing level.

Here is another statement that this girl said, "I’ve seen so much success for those who have the CIs that it is difficult for me to understand why a profoundly deaf person would refuse to get one." For my case, I am satisfied with my hearing aid and even if I am not, I would still not get it anyway. I think it goes both ways, for people with or without CIs having success since it is not only limited to those who have CIs are the one who have success. Again, the question: "What is success?" is like the question "What is normal?" What I am talking about success being the ability to have a decent job and own a nice home, which has nothing to do with one's level of hearing. In order for success to be in the picture, one simply needs the right kind of personality and right amount of drive. It is not necessarily true that all people with CIs or all profoundly Deaf people can be successful. Now to approach her question why a profoundly Deaf person would refuse to get it, reasons may vary. For my case, my Deaf children actually begged me not to give them CIs.

I would never forget when my son, aged four, came home one day looking terrified and asked me if he would be next getting a CI. I asked him why was he expressing so much anxiety. He replied that his six classmates were getting it, one at a time, and saw the stitch wounds on their heads after they returned from a long period of absence. It wasn't the wounds that worried my son. He also told me that they were not happy about being implanted and that their moods changed a lot. They had been crying and became withdrawn.

I understand that children at that age undergoing such changes must be confused. I assured him that I would never force him to get one so I kept my promise. Now my son is ten years old and he is grateful to be the way he is today. He felt that he is the luckiest Deaf boy to be blessed in a family that doesn't force him to become someone that he is not. I can guarantee you that he is not alone feeling this way. It is truly a blessing that not all Deaf people have to go though this procedure and to experience the beauty of the visual language.

You know when this same girl made a statement like "I have numerous friends who use hearing aids and ASL and I respect them a certainly consider them to be normal, but that does not take away from the fact that it is more difficult to communicate with them, than with my normal hearing friends or other CI users." To me it is like saying, " I have numerous hearing friends and I respect them a certainly consider them to be normal, that does not take away from the fact that it is more difficult to communicate with them, than with my normal Deaf friends or other hearing aid users?" I guess there are always two sides of the coin when it comes to life.

Nevertheless, I encouraged her to learn ASL and read more about bilingual education for Deaf children. I also added that there are former oral Deaf people even those with cochlear implants who are still incapable of developing intelligible speech and that their English skills are not as advanced than those who grew up with both languages. I just hope she and other people are able to keep their minds open about these things. I have nothing against oral communication as long as it fit Deaf child and that the child also be allowed to use ASL. Here is a research document stating that using American Sign Language can facilitate the development of skills in spoken English for the Deaf and hard of hearing. Using ASL is perfectly normal. This is certainly true!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let's Stop, Drop and Roll

You know, we were taught to stop, drop and roll whenever a puff of smoke hinders in a building or in a house. After seeing from debate to debate whether or not ASL vlogs should have subtitles or transcripts, we are not getting anywhere. So that is why I am recommending for us to stop, drop and roll. You can interpret whatever that means to you but let me tell you a thing or two. It looks like that there will be no definite solution because we cannot possibly force a vlogger to provide English text (i.e. captions/transcripts) AND we cannot even possibly force a blogger to provide ASL to translate from their writing but we can share our point of views with respect. My goal of this blog is to provide a balanced view where we can better understand the issue and move on.

Normally, I tend to do ASL video clips and provide English text as much as possible but I am placed under the circumstances that I am not able to do an ASL video blog at this moment. Should I wait until the timing is right to vlog which may take weeks for me? Nah, by the time I release it, this news will be so old (I hope). Should I stop blogging or vlogging just because there are people out there expecting both languages to be presented? Heck, no! Like everyone else, I have the right to decide the way I want to express in my vlog/blog and to feel free to throw in my thoughts. Actually, I don't think anyone is forcing anything but I do see expectations going on here.

It goes the same for you who want to continue to do your vlog without including subtitles and transcripts and it goes the same for you who want to continue to blog without including ASL. But wait..what about those readers who don't comprehend English well may not enjoy reading blogs? What about those viewers who don't comprehend ASL well may not enjoy viewing vlogs? What about the Deaf-Blind people? What about the non-signers? What about...what about..the list goes on and on. Know what? It is your blog or vlog that you get to decide the kind of audience you want to have. You are what you vlog or you are what you blog! Hmm, does that phrase sound familiar to you? Anyway, we have been fighting for communication access and for us not to make an example out of it; does it mean that we are bunch of hypocrites? I have got news for you, people. We all are hypocrites in our way whether we like it or not and that includes this blogger who shamelessly pointed fingers to those who don't provide English texts in their vlogs. Isn't it a hypocrite of him to cry equal access for those who struggle to comprehend English texts that he ends up not providing in ASL? No one has the right to point fingers if they are not practicing what they preach so lay it off!

We know very well that ASL vlogs are not equivalent to TV, movies or news because they do not make money out of it. There are no ads and sponsors for the most of ASL vlogs to provide captions unless the vloggers volunteer to spend more time to add subtitles themselves. That is their choice not to provide English text and it is not even against the law. While I understand that this very same blogger I talked about earlier pointed out that "providing transcripts for vlogs is pretty much the same feeling when someone offers a transcript for a movie or news video instead without providing any captions. It just does not convey the same feeling of something that’s more engaging (i.e. captioned) while watching a video at the same time." You also need to understand that the viewers especially those who use ASL watching ASL vlogs also have to put up with the distraction that they are not able to relax and focus on the message. Instead, they spent the time comparing both languages and thinking how it was translated like saying, "oh that is not the right way to interpret it or look at the subtitles, etc." and they ended up not getting the message. You get the picture, folks.

Closed-captioning has been around us for decades and of course we, the Deaf community, always appreciate that we have this access when it comes to viewing the media that consists a spoken language. When it comes to ASL vlogs, the feelings are not mutual in this DeafRead community and that is what it divides us, unfortunately. The subtitle supporters say it helps them to be more involved in vlogging that they are able to follow vlogs better while they others say they feel more detached from subtitled vlogs and it is like for the hearing to listen to English and French at the same time. It is an ongoing dilemma and one way to stop it is to respect the choice of the b/vlogger how they want to convey their messages.

You know, it is not fair to assume that those who don't provide subtitles or transcripts in their vlogs signals that they are oppressing the others. I honestly don’t believe it is the intention for most ASL vloggers who don’t provide captions or transcript is to oppress the others. They have their own reasons NOT to just like the bloggers have their own reasons NOT to provide in ASL. One of the reasons that the vloggers who are not even there with technological skills to do captioning or even worse that they are not capable to provide transcripts because of their limited English skills. They feel intimated and for those who give this kind of pressure even made them more inferior. On the other hand, one of the reasons that the bloggers chose not to provide ASL may not have the technological skills to do a video clip so again we cannot assume they are oppressing the others who depend on ASL. Just stop this madness!

The only way I could provide an idea to a solution is to RESPECT the v/blogger's choice of language where we all could gain better awareness and sensitivity of the others. It is impossible to please everyone and we have to realize that is a reality. America is full of choices that we can chose what we like to see or read so come on and roll over with me and get out of the friggin' burning house and go to this link.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hearing's Desire to Become Deaf

Remember that the CODA Brothers made a joke in their vlog about CODA Implants? It was so hilarious! In reality, it is a no joke for those who wanted to become Deaf. Read on... Quicktime

Hello! I would like to share this article when I read for pleasure and was surprised that made me said, “WHAT?”. It was really a mind-blowing topic, “A Compelling Desire for Deafness” written by David Veale that was published in the summer of 2006 in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. I found it intriguing about how the article described the cases that focused on Self-Injured Behavior (SIB) and one of them identified a group of hearing people who wanted to become deaf. It allowed me to analyze difference cases that described how hearing wanted to become deaf as there were different ways.

For example, there is a hearing woman who wears a cotton wool dabbed with oil then placed it in her both ears so that noises can be prevented and it allows her to focus on learning signs easily. It is rationale for one to do it in order to focus on signs without the interference of noises. I recalled my former student teacher putting cotton wool in his ears that he wanted to focus entirely on signs and not to be distracted by noises so that he could learn signs better. It made sense to me but for this woman it was a different case since she wanted to become deaf. A psychologist in Great Britain who studied this case that a woman who wanted to become deaf concluded that the reason was because she wanted to gain her identity for herself so that she could be accepted by the Deaf community. Now here are several interesting questions to think about: Will those who are recognized that their desire to become deaf be labeled as one of the mental disorder cases? Or will it ever be acceptable for hearing patients to be offered an elective surgery to meet their needs?

Normally, there are different cases for the Deaf who want to become hearing (as in their attitude) as they desire by wearing assistive technology devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc. are not classified as a mental disorder case that the society perceives this as a normal case. However, for the hearing individuals who want to become deaf were identified as abnormal.

Now allow me to tell you in depth about these SIB cases that had actually happened indeed. Remember that long time ago when transsexual came in the picture, people perceived it in a very negative way and labeled as one of the mental disorder cases. It seems to me now this is much more acceptable whereas elective genital change or to remove the sexual parts is allowed that is now offered by the medical society. There is another case that where a group of individuals who wanted to contract HIV so that they can share similar experiences with their partners who have it. Again, there is another case about amputees who wanted to continue to remove their limbs. These are the examples as an elective surgery that they get to make their own decisions what they want to do with their bodies.

Now this case about a 36 year old woman who felt trapped like a Deaf person in a hearing body never felt right about it. She has a normal hearing and reported high sensitivity to sounds, not that she has a problem with tinnitus that means ringing in your ears. She just feels that sounds are associated to anger, irritation, aggravation that she wanted to do away with that with no sounds to hear, she feels peaceful. But she continues to struggle that she has a great difficulty to deal with background noises. When she got to learn British Sign Language (BSL), she finally felt like home. It is just like when a gay person comes in a gay bar and feels like right at home. That how was described in the article. Interesting!

This woman joined a group called, “Deaf Wannabes” where there is a group of hearing people on the internet sharing their desire to identify themselves as a Deaf person. Even there is a case that some of them wear hearing aids in their pictures that were posted on the Web that they are fetish with hearing aids and some of them focus on signs only with no use of voices and shut down their hearing. Most percentage of that group tend to wear hearing aids.

Anyway, back to this woman, she did receive therapy session not that she wanted to get help to overcome her desire to become deaf but to discuss about her desires to become deaf. She still continues to wear cotton wool that is inserted in her ears. She inquired about getting a surgery to help her to become deaf. Most (actually all) of them turned down her request. It was not the purpose for her to desire to become “disabled” so that she could receive disability checks. She wanted to become deaf so that she could feel comfortable with her identity. Remember, she has no tolerance with noises that she doesn’t feel physically comfortable with sounds. She even offered to pay for the surgery from her own pocket but the medical society had a hard time to decide whether or not if this would be allowed by offering surgery for those who want to become deaf.

Apparently, it is considered as a new case to them. It looks like that for those who fought to undergo gender reassignment surgery succeeded eventually that they were recognized just like those amputees who fought to have more limbs removed got recognition. However, for those who wanted to become deaf were turned down. Interesting! Does it mean that society viewed those who wanted to become deaf is so negative and unacceptable? Or if there are more demands for those who want to become deaf will eventually be accepted? What is your opinion?

Note: This was pre-taped in January. It happened before the CODA Brothers joked about it so speaking of the devil!

Monday, February 04, 2008

What did CNN and the others say about Pepsi's Bob's House?

When watching the CNN news that talked about Bob's House, I asked Brian Riley if he was able to provide the transcript and he gladly volunteered to type it up. Thanks Brian for being so helpful allowing us to see what they actually said about the Pepsi Bob's House commercial.

Here is the link.

Transcript by Brian Riley:

JOSH LEVS (reporter): This is a big-deal ad about the deaf community. This was actually designed by deaf employees at Pepsico, playing on a joke in the deaf community, that if you can't find which house you're going to just honk your horn a lot and the one that doesn't turn on their lights is the one--the house that you're going to.

BETTY NGUYEN (anchor): Ooh...

LEVS: When I first--you know I spent a month once at Gallaudet--when I first saw that, I was like, Is that rude? Are we saying deaf people don't mind waking people up in the middle of the night? But apparently, since it's already a joke in the community...

NGUYEN: It's a joke.

LEVS: They like it.

NGUYEN: Yeah, yeah

LEVS: Yeah.

I find it interesting about Josh Levs's inquisition whether if it is rude or that Deaf people don't mind waking people up in the middle of the night then quickly pointed out that it is a joke. It looks like that his experience at Gallaudet for a month helped him understand that it was a joke in the Deaf community.

In addition, I checked if this commercial made the top ten of best and the top ten of worse on the MSN Web Page, and it turned out that it did not make the rank in any of these top ten lists.

I haven't seen many comments talking about the commercial so I imed my neighbor if the commercial was an attention-grabber?

He replied, "Nope, not an attention-grabber. Cut and all. But just ok."

Then I replied, "Oh ok. Just thought that with no sounds, you would wonder what is going on?"

He said, " In my honest opinion, the deaf community could have done more with the 6 million bucks that the commercial cost like money for schools."

So I replied, "It was not the Deaf community's decision though since it falls under the hand of Pepsi and that the purpose of this ad helps spread awareness about the Deaf using ASL. It goes the same for all commercials using that money for their own purposes to market their products. So why is it that when it comes to a Deaf related commercial, that you think about how the money that should be used elsewhere? It goes the same that the rest of the commercials should use the money to feed the poor, to research about curing types of cancers, etc. But we know that is not the case."

However, I am not opposing his idea for companies like Pepsi to do more for the Deaf community by giving out support to raise more awareness about ASL and Deaf culture. He has a point though but remember that this commercial was broadcast for the interest of Pepsi to market their products. I just find it funny that they support the inclusion of the disabled and ended up not captioning the other two Pepsi commercials during the Super Bowl.

Anyway, have you asked your hearing family members, friends, neighbors, etc. about their opinions of this commercial? If so, please do share.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Who did really say about "fixing" Deaf People?

Regarding the debate at MishkaZena's blog, the parents of cochlear implanted children disagreed how the term "fix" should be used to describe the implant being inserted in Deaf children. I am not here to debate (support or not to support) this term since the goal is for you to see how the medical field and the Deaf community perceived the word "fix". I also would like to include about my experience how I was confronted with the term "fix". In addition, the purpose of this blog entry is not to further divide the Deaf community but to educate the world that the term fix can be a controversial word to describe someone getting a cochlear implant or any sort of listening devices. Is this one of the terms considered outdated just like the same way how former terms (for example terms that used to describe African Americans) are no longer in use?

Since I grew up wearing one hearing aid and being immersed in both worlds, I had never heard of anyone asking me if it "fixes" my hearing. What's even funny was that the very first time I was approached about 12 years ago by an elder woman who was my neighbor who asked me out of the blue during our conversations about flowers, "So when will you get your hearing fixed?". Knowing that she was an educated woman that she taught accounting in high school and retired at that time, I was amused. I replied with calm voice that I didn't need to get my hearing fixed and that there was nothing to fix to begin with. I went on explaining the joys and blessings of ASL and Deaf culture and being able to communicate almost with everyone, both Deaf and hearing. She then said oh and looked at me with full of wonders. I realized that this woman happened to be ignorant about the Deaf but I was sure she learned not to use that word again. But there are still many people, including the medical field, using that word, "fix", when it comes to "improve" the hearing level of Deaf children and adults. Read on....

In the Courier Journal, there was an article about a boy who already had a cochlear implant requesting for another one. This was his own question: “Can you fix my ears?” the 7-year-old asked his father, John. Of course, he is only seven years old at that time and may not find the right vocabulary to describe it but it seemed to me that his father accepted this term and may not have corrected his usage of this vocabulary to a different word in order to prep for his interview or it may be that he blurted out the word "fix" for the first time during the interview. Who knows?

Here is another article talking about cloning conducted by the New Mexico State University researcher . The title was: "Cloning could fix hearing problems" that was found in the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine website. It even assumed that " 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from hearing loss and the patients' ages range from 2 to 100." Suffer? Now that is offensive to me just like how fix is offensive. I reckon that it may apply to those who lost their hearing all of sudden after enjoying their years of listening sounds and music but the problem with this statement is being lumped to all individuals who are Deaf.

In Deaf Children Australia website, I find it interesting that they used the term "fix" three times when talking about fixing the ear drums and a sensorineural loss not when inserting a cochlear implant. I have copied and paste the part of the website that uses the fix term.

"Can an operation fix conductive hearing losses?

Often middle ear problems can be fixed through an operation, such as draining the excess fluid. Alternatively, specialists may place grommets (or tubes) in the ear drum to allow more air to circulate if there is too much fluid. If the small bones have stiffened, the may replace them with plastic or stainless steel.

Can an operation fix a sensorineural loss?

Sensorineural hearing losses cannot be cured surgically, but in some cases, the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants may help children hear and develop speech.

At least this article made it clear that it is not a cure. But is it right for them to use the term "fix" when attempting to restore hearing? Now making it more related to those who use hearing aids and cochlear implants, they still use the term fix.

Will a hearing aid fix all hearing problems?

A hearing aid is just an aid to hearing. It does not fix the hearing loss because there is damage in the ear itself. A hearing aid only amplifies sound, and if there is any background noise, most hearing aids will amplify that as well. A hearing aid cannot make sound clearer. This is why many children and adults with hearing aids may still have trouble understanding speech. However, many deaf children and adults benefit enormously from hearing aids and rely on them to participate in general society."

Since this article tends to use the word fix, I find it interesting that they didn't use the word fix when asking about cochlear implants. But I bet that if you ask them if we can post the question to ask: Will a cochlear implant fix all hearing problem? They would accept this question since they did when asking about hearing aids.

Ok, let's move on to another website that focuses on Deaf individuals including Jane Fernandes to see how do they perceive about the term "fix".

JANE FERNANDEZ: "Again and again we've seen social influences that try to fix deaf people." Given her history of being a strong advocate of cochlear implant as a part of technology that changes the Deaf culture just as technology is changing the whole society, I am surprised that she even perceives and uses the term "fix" to describe the society's view toward Deaf people to have their hearing fixed.

I have cut and pasted an excerpt from the article, "Eradicating the DEAF-WORLD" by Kristina Flores describing her views of the doctors wanting to fix Deaf people.

"The doctors want to "fix" Deaf people by inserting the cochlear implants. The main purpose of the implant is to move the child out of a linguistic and cultural minority and into the majority culture. Essentially, doctors and those who defend the implant are supporting the eradication of all Deaf people. If every child had the implant, then eventually (in the doctors’ perfect world) there would be no Deaf people. But this is unrealistic and ridiculous. "

In conclusion, it seems to me that it is common for the medical professionals to use the term "fix" that may have influenced the Deaf community members using this term. It is like asking which comes first, the chicken or the egg?