A Moral Compass

October 10, 2010

“Conscience is a man’s compass.”~ Vincent Van Gogh

Amy Cohen-Efron’s article “Disillusionment With the Deaf Community” described her experience with cyber-bullying:

I get ostracized and harassed just because of my own opinion and my role as an Editor of DeafRead. As one of the pioneers of Deaf vlogging world, I get cyberbullied just like others. Yes, someone did call my employer about my online activities. This kind of stress caused a trip to emergency room.

Amy’s article in turn inspired Karen Mayes’ blog article “‘Different Opinions Resulting in Questionable Behaviors”. Karen wrote about her reaction to the posting of “letters to employers” on a blogsite two years ago.

I do remember four years ago, after the Deaf Bilingual Coalition’s first convention held in Milwaukee, WI, amid the disagreements and agreements, I came across one blog that stated a letter was sent to one core member’s employer and I was taken back by it… why would one go that far to contact one’s employer?

Indeed, why would a person go so far as to write a letter reporting someone’s online view/ opinion to his employer?

Is it to put that person through the emotional stress of answering his employer’s questions regarding the letter? To jeopardize a person’s job and ability to support his family?  To trash the person’s reputation in the workplace and in the deaf community?  In other words, to make that person pay for the words/ messages he put online on a private computer?

How would you feel if you were suddenly subjected to the same ordeal?

V/bloggers, commenters, and readers alike all have seen this monster rear its ugly head online. And it’s an ugly head, no matter what shape it takes on:  online personal attacks, cyber-harassment, hijacking of a thread, email threats,  organizational bullying, online outting of a v/blogger’s real name, letters written to one’s employer, frivolous lawsuits,  real-life threats/stalking, physical confrontations, ad nauseam.

Is it because of the target’s opinion/ view?  No, it’s because the attacker dropped his moral compass in the angry desire to hit back at the person he disagreed with.

It’s bad enough that there are bullies out there, committing such acts.  It’s just as bad when people turn a blind eye when they see/read such actions occurring online and in real life and do nothing to stop it. That’s called the sin of omission. Where were their consciences when they witnessed such actions?  Nowhere.

Under the comment section of Karen’s blog article, Ben Vess dropped a bombshell statement which illustrated this lack of moral compass:

After reading these comments and seeing that my name has appeared in terms of trying to refute some disputed facts between who said what.

First thing first, I do not have an opinion or statements regarding my feelings about such subject. It is too subjective for me and others to even have a productive dialogue. However, I will discuss facts.

Fact #1: Barry Sewell sought me out when he saw my blog calling Ella a coward and wanted to discuss ways to counter the opposition against “us” at the time.

Fact #2: During the whole DBC fiasco, there was DBC and then there was us.

Fact #3: Barry Sewell sent me three documents [RSD, csd, and CAD]to be signed (very explicit instructions on how this should be executed. The documents were intended to be sent to the workplaces of these three people: barb, David, and Ella. All of the documents questioned their capacity to do their jobs correctly.

Fact #4: I was the one who passed the letters on to the people being accused. Yes, me.

Fact #5: Barry sent those emails to me and I still have them. They are free to anyone who wishes to obtain a copy.

I hope having these facts come into light will clarify some of your misunderstandings about what happened with these letters and how the three accused people got them.

-Ben Vess

Ben added another comment, the last one before Karen closed the comment section:

Actually, Barry, the full truth is this: I was more than willing to sign these letters of protests, I admit that. Then i read them and realized the true intent behin them. It wasnt just about disputing their philosophy bit rather their character and decided against it and made that clear to you as well. Now, sticking only to facts..

You all of a sudden have copies of everything when you previously claimed u had no record of?

By all means Barry, go ahead and “expose” me, post the emails. I have nothing to hide.

What are YOU hiding by not doing so? C’est la question.

Ben Vess was kind enough to send me, Candy and Karen a series of email conversations that took place from July 14 to 17 in 2008 between him and Barry Sewell.  The convos occurred about two weeks after the DBC Conference in Milwaukee ended. The first series of conversations is called the “Next Step”series that took place on July 14th.

Hi Ben,

Appreciated your latest vlog.  It’s about time
somebody stood up to Ella and call her a cowards because that is what she
is.  Can’t have it both ways.. to lead a movement but hide in midst of
questions and discussions.

Regardless, I’m thinking about putting together a
group of concerned citizens and submit letters to CSD Fremont, CA Board of
Education, Rochester School for the Deaf, NY State Dept of Ed, CAD and NAD
to submit a copy of AIM meeting in which their employees and board members
participated with radical comments against CI, Oralists and how Ella
hijacked DBC and CAD to promote her financial interests in Deafhood
Foundation.

Do you know of anybody that is willing to serve as
the contact person for these letters?  We need somebody that is outside of
former DBC members.  I drafted rought drafts for everything but just need
to find a willing candidate to serve as contact person for “concerned
citizens”. My thinking is since we can’t seem to hold these
people accountable we might as well make them accountable to the State
and CAD /NAD.

This way, they will have to issue public apology or face disciplinary
actions.  Once they do that then it will break them up and destroy the
spell they are under.

Your thoughts?

Barry

———————————————————————————————————–

I appreciate your willingness to be the contact person for concerned citizens.

I think everybody knows who you and I
are and that we both support the same quest.Would be ideal if you
could find somebody that is from California for the letter to California
School for the Deaf and CAD / NAD.  And would be ideal if we
had somebody from NY for the letter to Rochester School of the
Deaf.   This way it will be seen coming from concerned
citizen from their State, which hold more weight than if it came
from you or me.

I agree with your version of what Jesus said
and has done.  People manipulate Bible into more than what it really is
just as they have done unto Paddy Ladd’s Deafhood.

Appreciate your support.

Barry

———————————————————————————————————

Aw, you will have my full support until the very end, even if i’m the
last one standing. I agree about you thinking that I am too public
for being a contact person.

I’m sure I can find someone in San Diego–they’re academics
not emotionals. I don’t believe in jesus personally but I understand the holy canon. let’s get this ball rolling!

Ben

——————————————————————————————————————————

Please also let your trusted friends know that
their name and contact information will be pasted and covered when we post the
letter on the web site. Nobody except the destinated people will know
who submitted the letter.

Thanks,

Barry

———————————————————————————————————-

Ben,

Very good.  If you can find somebody who won’t expect to be anonymous
then great.

There are three different subjects here.  Ideally, the letter to CSD
should be submitted by somebody that wears cochlear implant or belongs
to CI community because of what was said by DE.  But realistically it
could be asked by anybody that resides in Calfifornia. Ideally, the
letter to RSD (Rochester School for the Deaf) should be submitted by a
deaf person that still appreciates oralism because it will really put
Barb on the spot for what she has said and force her to come clean
with DBC and its supporters. Then any deaf person in California could submit the letter addressed to CAD and NAD to demand an investigation and perhaps even an
explanation.

Makes no difference if these individuals are deaf or hearing.  Just
make sure they understand the delicate situation.

Barry

———————————————————————————————————–

Draft letters prepared and ready to go.

[No signature] ( but this is from Barry’s email address)

The next series of convos are called the “Closure”series, which took place July 15-17, 2008.

Hello everybody. I wanted to say that we’ve
received enormous amount of response to www.DBCfacts.com from every imaginable
directions.  Most of them were very supportive and they thanked us for
disclosing the truth.  Many of them asked if it was possible for us to seek
closure and rise from the ashes.  It touched me to a level where I made the
decision to seek closure.  In short, I phased out all information to
show our love and support for deaf babies.

I shall ride into the sunset, simply because the
deaf community is not ready for my help.  I just started to vlog in
DeafVideo.tv and will continue to educate those who are listening and help them
understand things that DBC don’t want them to know.  You can see
some of my new vlogs there.  Enjoy!

I have no regrets. I met many
of wonderful people through this journey including you.  I’ve
neglected some of your personal notes and will shift my focus there now
that I’ve phased out DBCfacts.com.  The truth has been told.  What
they do with the truth is up to them.  They are responsible for their own
actions.

Hugs everybody,

Barry(DR Hocokan)

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Have you sent out these letters towards DE and Barb’s jobs? There seems
to be a commotion about this going on at Patti’s blog.

I have decided that I will refrain from blogging for a while.

-Ben

———————————————————————————————————————————

Ben,

First…  great vlog message from you
today!  It clarified things up for most people even though few are still
confused.  Got to give them many different analogy / examples in order to
reach different people with different mindsets.

The letters have not been sent out yet.  There
is one lady who is thinking about doing it.  She knows the Supt at CDR and
felt comfortable being the source of that letter to CSD.  May still need
somebody from CA for the letter to CAD and NAD.  Not sure who should
submit letter to Rochester School for the Deaf.

Have anybody in mind yet?

Probably wise for you and I to refrain from
blogging for now… and let everybody digest the truth we’ve shared…
don’t need for you or I to be out there destroying what has already been
destroyed.  We will have demonstrated ourselves as the better people
(compared to DBC Core leaders) when we know where to stop and
when.  Since I took the web site down I received so many VP calls from
strangers who realized I was not the monster they envisioned me to be.
They saw my human side and decided to call to thank us for telling the
truth.  It’s very effective when they see me in person and realize I’m not
behind this crab theory thing.  It’s for
real.

We did our part and the truth has been
told…  now they are digesting… I received many VP calls and emails from
many people I didn’t know.  They wanted to talk to me directly and they
felt better afterwards.  It’s time consuming process but it has to be
done.  Our message is getting out there and they’re working.  A guy
called me on VP a little while ago and told me about your analogy and was
impacted by it.  He understand our side now and is embarassed for his
support towards DBC. I told him not to be because we all learn and to
use it for
future references.

Keep in touch!
Barry

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Barry,

I think perhaps these letters should not be sent. I’m a bit
uncomfortable at offing someone from their job on a totally unrelated
matter (organizations and so forth). It appears the letters have
already been sent and what I’m afraid of is that they will jeopardize
our fight for transparency.

As for finding someone to send these out, I’m not sure I can really do
that. I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure I would appreciate
someone else doing that to me.

Have copies of these letters (that has already been sent) been given
to Barb, DE, and Ella? I think it’s fair to do so because at that
point, they are given a chance to defend themselves.

warmest,
Ben

—————————————————————————————————————————

Ben,

I totally agree.  I’ve heard about
concerns for their employment status and was a bit surprised to think
they would
lose their jobs
.  The goal is not to unemploy anybody.  The goal
is to force a public apology from those who monopolize all three entities, CAD,
DBC and Deafhood Foundation.  The goal is to expose unethical conduction
ontheir part as well as conflict of interests.

Fortunately I have not submitted any letter to
any of these agencies.  However according to several sources there were
already several other individuals who wanted to take up on this matter on their
own because evidently the CI community and Oralism advocates
are equally as outraged and concerned about it.  They are coordinating
things on their own because they wanted to CSD to clarify
their positions on the matter.  In short, I think it has taken up
on a life of its’ own, which is not surprising.

Other individuals have already planned on
taking the matter up with CAD and NAD as well.  I do not know who
these individuals are so for that reason I am not sure if I’ll ever see a
copy of these letters unless they contact me.

When I learned of this fact I mellowed out and did
not really have to do anything.  Probably best if I didn’t anyway.  I
really appreciate your suggestion.  Cooler head always prevail and I think
you and I have cooled down in the past few days.  I know I’ve cooled down
considerably after receiving so many emails and VP calls from
strangers who were
very supportive of our quest for the truth.

Regards,
Barry

[This blogger pauses] “A bit surprised to think they would lose their jobs.”  Omg.

To continue–

————————————————————————————————————————-

I think it would be much better if we got leave these documents alone.
let it sit in our mailboxes or whatnot. To be honest, I kind of get
the feeling that if they got sent out, someone is going to get
seriously burned and it won’t be them.

Maybe it’s for the best that we let the healing process start.

I believe your intentions were good, trying to get them to own up
their shit, but it seems like that they won’t. Let history judge them
for their actions today, ya know?

🙂 do stay in touch,

Ben

——————————————————————————————————————————–

Hey Ben,

Hey friend,

I learned something last night
from my VP conversation with a genius. I learned that we are not a deaf
community. We are an ASL community.

The term ‘deaf’ is a medical term.
One does not form a community based on a medical term. One forms a community
based on language therefore the name of our community is ASL community. The
term, deaf is what divides us. The term ASL is what unites us.

Now, guess
who is part of ASL community? Anybody that signs ASL! It involves interpreters,
hearing people, oralists, CI, and the deaf, as long as they sign ASL.

Why and how did we start off calling our community the “deaf community”?
It started at the DEAF SCHOOL! We labeled ourselves as deaf community, failing
to realize that we were in fact an ASL community.

Based on these facts, bilingualism is a
‘transition’, meaning we make a transition to English language to communicate
via literacy to communicate outside of our ASL community.  Based on this
approach there is no reason for our division that we are witnessing today.
Do you concur?

Barry

————————————————————————————————————————–

DeafJeff of the The Terlinguan blog made a post called “Here is to Questionable Behavior” shortly after Karen’s post.  Ben Vess commented after Candy had said that she had no part of the letter-writing campaign:

Der Sankt said…

Ah, Candy is right to stay out of this.

There are far too many people involved, to be frank. I do not feel that Barry Sewell should be severely punished more than others. I went to several people for advice on how to handle this and all but one told me NOT to pass the letters to Barb, DE, and Ella. They should be held responsible too.

Then there are those who actually sent the letters.

Barry may have been wrong in drafting them. I was wrong in agreeing to signing them before I realized the seriousness of it. It is even more wrong to have sent them after knowing that even having the letters in itself was wrong.

It is true that Candy, AnnC, Paotie, and few others did not know about any of this until I came out in Karen’s blog. It is really best to not drag them in this mess because they know just as much as most readers here.

I take full responsibility for my part in this.

I think it would be fair if you guys also seek out those who knew and turned a blind eye to it for the last two years. They are just as guilty for not having done anything to stop it. Also, those who actually took the time to send the letters out. For they are the ones who crossed a line that should never be crossed.

I just hope everyone can take responsibility for their actions and inaction and make it all possible for us to move on and form a stronger community.

-Ben

I was just as stunned as Karen, Candy and some others were upon reading Ben’s revelation earlier in Karen’s blog.  I certainly had no part in this letter-writing scheme. Remember that in my blog article regarding Barb DiGi’s mooning joke directed at Barry, I’d questioned her joke as reflecting badly on her and her leadership role, when ppl were discussing writing letters to her employer about her online activity.  I said that I didn’t condone that kind of action against her.

“I don’t condone the actions of people who “report” online behavior to another’s place of employment or to the school where a person works or studies, unless the behavior is truly criminal. In BarbDiGi’s case, the mooning clip is questionable behavior for a teacher who is usually expected to set an example for children, but it is not a criminal action. What I am referring to in my blog is about the example of leadership that Barb DiGi presents to the deaf community.”

I hate to think what would have happened had Ben’s conscience not kicked in when it did.

Barry (aka the holism) wrote several comments (these are excerpts) under Karen’s blog:

I remember being accused of contacting Barbara Digi and David Eberwein’s employers, which never happened. I waited patiently until a shred of evidence showed up about a year and half later. Barbara Digi and David Eberwein were able to secure copies of the letters and showed them to Ella. Ella acknowledged this in one of her video commment and stated that she personally saw copies of the letters and acknowledged that they did not contain my signature. Needless to say that I kept her video comment into my hard drive for future reference.

The boiling question is why did Ella, Barbara Digi, David Eberwein and many of their supporters allow the accusation against me to fly around for a long time knowing that the letters were not from me. I’ve yet to see the letters myself and am still waiting.

I was going to vlog about it and post the video of Ella’s statement regarding the letter but I could not because I was warned of repeating copyright infringements via youtube.com and DeafVideo.tv. Copying what people said and pasting them on my vlogs was not permissible. They’re using it as an excuse to shut me up however it does not stop me from distributing copies via emails to private individuals who really wanted to know the ultimate truth on these letters. I’d be glad to send you a copy as well.

And shortly after, added this one:

One more thing Karen… in that video comment Ella did not say I was innocent. She only said that she saw the letters and they did not contain my signatures and went on to say that I was too clever.

I privately emailed Barry and asked if he’d send me a copy of Ella’s vlog, which he willingly provided.  It’s a seesmic video which cannot be published online.  I viewed the vlog and can confirm that Ella did indeed say that she saw the letters and that they did not contain Barry’s signatures.   She did not say he was innocent.

Another of Barry’s comments, this time addressed to Barb DiGi:

I never denied the fact that such draft letters reached my desk from different people who were outraged by the nature of discussion that took place inside of an AOL chatroom when we were having our weekly DBC meetings. They came to my desk because pretty much everybody at DeafRead.com and DeafVideo knew that I was on a crusade against Deaf Bilingual Coalition. I produced over 21 vlogs on DBC during that period and that in itself generated different ideas coming from different people who felt disgusted with what DBC was doing. It does not mean I agreed with everything that these disgusted people might have said or done. I don’t control them and their thoughts. The idea of writing a letter to your boss was not mine. It did not originate with me. And again because people saw me as the leading crusade figure against DBC they blanketed me with different ideas on how they thought we should approach the matters. Indications and draft of letters reached my desk because of a simple fact. They saw me as the crusader against DBC.

Because I received copies and decided not to carry them out does not make me an accomplice. In fact I told people that I would not get involved. Give credit where it is due. I declined and wiped my hands clean off this saga.

And you? You had your hands on the actual letter(s) as soon as it arrived. I still do not have any clues on how many letters were sent or who sent them. You saw the signature(s) and you knew they did not contain my signature. And yet you sat back and watched the entire sage whereas I was being accused by every directions for a long period of time and yet did absolutely nothing to restore the truth.

We’ve all seen examples of a selective blind eye. This is what I mean by a sin of omission.

An excerpt from Barb’s reply to Barry:

Ok Barry, speaking of ethics, I am a bit confused because posting the letter which was addressed to my employment in your very own dbcfacts blog wasn’t exactly ethical either. Nevertheless, I reckon that you removed it knowing it was not in your best judgment so it was much appreciated that you took the step to correct it.

An excerpt from the holism’s reply to Barb:

Barb, you’re saying that I posted the letter on dbcfacts.com? Not so. What I posted was a copy of the AOL meeting showing who said what regarding rejected Cochlear Implant volunteers and strangling them. No “letter to the employer” was ever posted in that web site. This is the first time I’ve heard this. I still have the web site in my hard drive and just went over it and do not see any “letter to the employer” posted there.

Where is that “letter to the employer” post on dbcfacts.com?  Karen saw it, in fact that was the basis of her blog.  That was the “commotion in patti’s blog” (now defunct) that Ben Vess was referring to. Sauniere saw it also.  Here is an archived page of dbcfacts.com after the post was wiped. A good number of ppl saw that posting, even though it was wiped shortly after it was posted.

Barry, if you didn’t post those “letters to the employers” on dbcfacts.com and that post ain’t on your 2TB hard drive, then who did?  I refer you, Barry, to a bolded part, “…when we post the letter on the web site” in one of your “Next Step” messages to Ben (see above).  Somebody tampered with or spoofed the blogsite? Or is it selective amnesia?

An excerpt from Barry’s response to Barb:

Barb,

I’d like to see the document and compare them with my records. From the look of it I think it’s been fabricated. I won’t know until I’ve seen the copy. Ridor once suggested that somebody fabricate stuff on this issue. I have that information some where in the file but never saw anything that’s fabricated yet. Still waiting for somebody to email me a copy. And again I’ve already stated in this thread that these information did not originate with me. Already explained that information were coming from different sources. And I stand by these words. I’m protecting the names of these individuals just like you’re protecting your the people that signed the letters therefore it’s possible that I might have taken over as the “sender” in order to protect certain people but I know I did not originate them.

Ah, fabrications.  Such things take on a life of their own, especially in the hands of one who is well known to attack others online.

An excerpt of Barb’s response to dianrez’ question about what would be achieved by exposing the signers:

To respond to Dianrez, several letters were sent out to my workplace three years ago some with signatures and some without. Of course, it was not taken seriously and no action was taken. I happen to know one of the signers but I am not the kind of person who will disclose the name here.

In a recent email reply to me from Barb:

In fact, I never saw the letter myself directly from my employment but from a person (who has a connection to inside information) who mentioned that several was received with no signatures and one from Pennsylvania that this person couldn’t recall whom. It was last summer that I got to find out (from someone else) who sent the letter but again it was hearsay. I am waiting for Ben to reveal who since he was the witness who knew that sent the letters.

Interesting, so Barb never really saw the letter(s) or signature(s), but confirms that her employer did indeed receive the letter(s).  She was only told from someone with inside information (at her workplace? my guess) about who sent the letter.  Hearsay, oh, well.

Hearsay.  Lotsa “he said, she said” here.

In 2007, a member of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition launched a witch hunt campaign to drive a popular blogger out of DR.  The blogger was called all kinds of names, psychopath, deficit thinker, you-name-it.  The harassment reached its peak when same DBC member tried to expose the blogger’s real name, wrote a letter to the university where the blogger was a doctorate student, and falsely accused him of being a martial arts fighter.  A good number of people turned a selective blind eye and just watched gleefully as the sparks flew, saying nothing about the DBC member’s online witch hunt behavior.  This did happen indeed.  Many moral compasses dropped there.

When California’s AB2072 issue arose online recently, Candy was outted in her very own blog, her real name exposed by none other than a leader of the Oppose AB2072 coalition.  Her online right to keep her real name private was violated. That exposure led to Ridor vlogging  about Candy’s occupation and who her employer was.  Candy’s employer received several email letters/vlogs  regarding her private online views that had nothing to do with her job from Ricky Taylor, Carl Schroeder, Michelle Aguilar, Kathryn Kerr, and Nikki (?).  This did happen indeed.  Some more moral compasses dropped.  And people are still turning a selective blind eye.

Sin of omission, the overlooking of an attacker’s overreaching behavior simply because the target holds an online view different from yours?   You leave the door wide open for the same attacker(s) to do their dirty work over and over, to other people.

And who knows? They may come for you next.

AB 2072: A Seedling

August 5, 2010

The California bill AB 2072 has undergone a second reading and was recently passed as amended by an Assembly majority vote on August 2nd.

The bill has been determined a fiscal bill, meaning it will require an appropriation of funds, and has been referred to the senate appropriations committee.  The amended bill calls for a fund, called the Language and Communication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Fund.  This fund will be based on donations and perhaps federal funds to be placed in the State Treasury for the implementation of new sections 124121 and 124122, which AB 2072 will become if enacted, of the California Health and Safety Code.  No state funds will be used for this new law.  The appropriations committee is likely the source that will determine the amount required to implement the new law.

After this committee does the bill’s fiscal review, AB 2072 undergoes its third and final reading.  Whether it returns to the Assembly for its third reading or goes to the Senate floor is something I don’t know for certain, but we’ll know more after the committee review.

As one can read from the 8-2-2010 amended version, (strike-through’s are deletions, italics are additions to the language of the bill since the last 6-9-10 amendment), AB 2072 contains many changes but still retains its original intent:  to inform parents of deaf and hard of hearing newborns or infants of all options available,  “visual and auditory communication and language options”, as the new wording goes.

124121.  (a) The department shall develop an unbiased,
comprehensive, evidence-based informational pamphlet for newborns and
infants identified as deaf or hard of hearing about visual and
auditory communication and language options including, but not
limited to, American Sign Language (ASL), and Listening and Spoken
Language, that is sufficient to allow a parent to make an informed
decision on which options to choose for his or her child.

Note that “…including, but not limited to” means that the parents can choose one or more options.  Also note in that last sentence that the word “options” is in plural form.

ASL is not the only visual language used in this country, just as English is not the only spoken language in this country.  For example, an immigrant family may speak Spanish or sign SSL, Spanish sign language, as their primary language.  There are deaf Americans who sign PSE or SEE.  And then there’s spoken Spanglish, si?  😉

Take notice of the above phrase “…newborns and infants identified as deaf or hard of hearing”.  I recall that some ppl objected to newborns or infants as  “diagnosed with a hearing loss” as it connoted the medical view.

The words “informed decision” in that paragraph describes in a nutshell what this bill is all about.

The reference to “department” is the Dept. of Education.

To continue:

The pamphlet shall
contain both benefits and risks of all options, convey educational
attainment outcomes, and clearly convey that those options may be
used simultaneously.

There’s more meat to the pamphlet info, that realistic pro’s and con’s of each option need to be mentioned, the benchmarks at which a child should start to communicate spoken words or signs with family members, to grasp sentence grammar, syntax and context, to read and write,  and more advanced educational goals that a child should achieve at certain ages.  Lastly, options can be used simultaneously.  California sends notice to any oralist program that prohibits the use of ASL because of AVT that parents can indeed choose to allow the use of ASL with their implanted child, if that’s what they want for their child.   Just as deaf parents who use ASL at home can also choose a speech program for their hard of hearing or implanted child, if that’s what they want for their child.

The amended version stipulates that the informational pamphlet be presented to parents by:

(1) By an audiologist immediately upon identification of a newborn
or infant as deaf or hard of hearing.
   (2) By a local provider for the Early Start Program, provided for
pursuant to the California Early Intervention Services Act (Title 14
(commencing with Section 95000) of the Government Code) upon initial
contact with the parents of a newborn or infant newly identified as
deaf or hard of hearing.

Yup,  the audie’s still there, as is the Early Start provider as well.   The point here is to get info to the parents as soon as possible after the baby is identified as deaf or hard of hearing.  Any more time lost inevitably will lead to language delays.  Some newborns don’t get detected after birth for other reasons, such as home delivery or other situation, and this is where Early Start providers play a role in followup screening.

(c) (1) The department shall convene an advisory stakeholder panel
to contribute to the development of the informational pamphlet
required pursuant to subdivision (a).

This amended version will establish a panel of eleven members, of which the eleventh member is the Secretary of Education, an ex-officio member, to develop and revise the pamphlet when changes may become necessary.   The panel will consist of deaf/hh individuals, parents of deaf children, educators, non-profit organizations, and researchers who come from or study different communication modalities, both visual and spoken.  All ten members will be appointed, most by the Governor and two by the Speaker of the Assembly.   There is an even spread of both visual and spoken modalities among the panel members.

(4) The department and the panel shall consider written input and
information submitted by members of the general public in the
creation of the pamphlet

The amended version allows for public input in the pamphlet’s development as well.  How will the public find out about a specific address?  Through Dept. of Education’s website or other?

e) The pamphlet developed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be
made available in Cantonese, English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The
pamphlet developed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be made
available on the department's Internet Web site and the
Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board's Internet Web site.

California is home to a number of minorities, and it makes sense to convey the pamphlet info into several languages.   And that it be also conveyed on the Department of Education’s and the Audiology Board’s websites.  Many audies and Early Start providers have office computers/laptops that personnel can use to point to the info online as well as provide the printed version.  Some parents can refer to these websites on home computers at their leisure as well.

(f) (1) There is hereby created the Language and Communication for
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Fund in the State Treasury. The
fund shall contain donations that have been collected and deposited
for the purposes of this section, as well as any federal funds made
available for purposes of this section.

And also:

(3) No moneys shall be expended from the fund until the Director
of Finance determines that sufficient money is in the fund to
implement this section.

A fund will be established for the purpose of implementing this bill if enacted into law.   The amended version stipulates that no state funds will be used and that the fund is to come from donations and possibly federal funds.   The money cannot be released until it is determined that there is enough to meet the appropriations required for the fund.

As I understand it, the panel has to be formed within the next year (2011) and commence operations by Jan. 1, 2012, (assuming that AB 2072 passes this year and gets signed by the Governator by Sept. 30th)  meaning there is one year during which to build this fund.   How will donations be solicited, through fund-raisers, or what? And donations from whom? Would entities/corporations that represent different communication modalities be acceptable donors?  What happens if the fund’s amount isn’t met in time?  Back to square one?

The panel, once it commences operation, has 6 months to submit recommendations on the pamphlet’s development.   I suppose that since the bill specifies that panel members don’t get renumeration, but do get their travel expenses covered, that some of the appropriations will have to cover this minor detail as well.  Multiply that by 10x, ten ppl, that is, then multiply that by the number of meetings per year ’til 2017, when the panel’s term ends.

The start of a seedling, folks.  I know that some of you readers have been opposed to this bill due to the bill’s language and sponsorship.  But the sponsors of this bill have come around to see your side and included some of the things, if not every thing, that the opponents have requested to be included in this bill.

The supporters got some of what they wanted, full disclosure of info on all options  and immediately upon identification for the parents to make an informed decision, not later down the road at 18 months, which is today’s typical “discovery” period.  With full disclosure, there are no surprises later down the road about discovery of other options and that eliminates bias either on the part of the audiologist or Early Start providers or the Dept. of Education.

The opponents got some of what they wanted, less of the medical view’s terminology and more emphasis on language acquisition for the infant as well as the Dept. of Education instead of the Dept. of Health Care Services as the source of info, and a pamphlet that will reflect a realistic balance of visual and spoken modalities, the pro’s and con’s of each option, and educational goals for the growing child.

Gardeners say that some hybrids grow into better, stronger, or pest-resistant plants.   AB 2072 may become that kind of hybrid, for the deaf community’s future.

Give it plenty of water and the right nutrients in the soil, as green thumbs say.  😉

__________________________________________________________

Update:  Senate appropriations committee meets every Monday, meaning the next meeting will be on Aug. 9th.  And the last day for the fiscal committees to report a bill to the Floor will be Aug. 13th.  The California legislature will be in session for the last time this year from Aug. 16-31 before it goes into final recess.


Support AB 2072 Letter to CA Senate Health Committee

June 10, 2010

To:

Senator Elaine Alquist,  California Senate Health Committee Chair; Senator Tony Strickland, Senator Samuel Aanestad, Senator Gilbert Cedillo, Senator David Cox, Senator Mark Leno, Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, Senator Fran Pavley, Senator Gloria Romero, and Mia Orr, Health Committee Consultant

cc:   Assembly Member Tony Mendoza, Rene Bayardo

June 7, 2010

RE:  Please support AB 2072

To the Honorable Members of the Senate Health Committee,

I urge that the members of the Health Committee please support AB 2072.  This bill was initially formed because some California parents of deaf children complained about not being told of all communication options after their deaf child was diagnosed with hearing loss.

About 95% of deaf babies are born to hearing parents.  Hearing parents are often clueless as to what communication modes are available for a deaf child, so information that explains all those modalities and lists resources is a first step in educating the parents.  This bill is about this first step.

This bill, if enacted into law, will require that the first contact who discusses the results of the hearing tests with the parents of a newborn just diagnosed with hearing loss and the local provider of the Early Start program provide the parents with written and electronic information on four specified communication options:  ASL, Total Communication, Cued Speech, and listening and speaking.  AB 2072 would prevent that first contact and the local Early Start provider from presenting only one option, or his personal favorite, or only the option that the professional/provider believes will benefit the newborn.  AB 2072 places the decision-making process squarely back on the parents, with whom the decision should rest in the first place.  The state nor the hearing loss /Deaf professional should NOT be making this decision by informing parents of only one option, which is really no choice.

The bill will create accountability not just for hearing loss professionals, such as audiologists, for example, who may manipulate or withhold information about options other than cochlear implants/AVT but also for Deaf professionals who may manipulate or withhold information about options other than ASL from parents.

There are several recognized communication modes for the deaf child, not just one.  Not just ASL, not just cochlear implants/hearing aids and speech therapy, and so on.  No one deaf child is the same and one cookie-cutter solution will not work for every deaf child.  One deaf child will be happy with the bilingualism of ASL and written English.  Another deaf child will thrive in a Total Communication environment which utilizes a combination of sign either in ASL, SEE or PSE along with speech.  Yet another deaf child will like speaking with the aid of mouth pronunciation cues, as in cued speech.  And another will have either hearing aids or cochlear implants and learn to speak through Audio-Verbal Therapy (AVT) or speech therapy.  Hearing aids and cochlear implants are assistive tools that can be used with any of those options.  I was an oral deaf child who wore hearing aids and learned to speak and who loved the sound of her father’s voice.  I was born with severe-to-profound hearing loss to a hearing family, live primarily in the hearing world and have a hearing husband.  I’m also a registered voter and long-time resident of California.

I quote Section 124119.5 of the Health and Safety Code:

“Parents of all newborns and infants diagnosed with a hearing loss shall be provided written information on the availability of community resources and services for children with hearing loss…”

This section mentions “written information on the availability of community resources and services” but it specifies nothing about communication modes, nothing.  “Resources and services” before any explanation of communication modes is like the placing the cart before the horse.  Also, where is transparency on the part of the State?  How will anyone know for certain that the Department of Health Care Services, under which the NHSP is administered, and the Department of Education, under which the Early Start program for infants from 3 months to 3 years is administered, are upfront with presenting the information about ALL these communication modes when hearing loss professionals and/or Early Start providers discuss the communication factor with the parents?  AB 2072 will ensure that hearing loss professionals and local providers of the Early Start program provide information on all these communication modes, so then parents can understand about the different communication modes available and look up the listed resources to do their research.  That is putting the horse in front of the cart, so to speak.

In addition, parents need information on all these options right after a newborn’s diagnosis so that if the first chosen mode doesn’t work with their deaf infant, they will already know of other options and resources to utilize during the child’s infancy, during which one mode or more may work for their infant, as time is of the essence. Language acquisition is the fastest between 0 to three years of a child’s early life, after which time language delays are inevitable.  AB 2072 will ensure that parents learn of other options and develop a Plan B while the child is still an infant, and not later after age 3.

This bill covers only the newborn phase from birth to 29 days, for the State defines the age of a newborn as such.  As AB 2072 is framed to become a new Section 124121 in the Health and Safety Code, this bill leaves older Section 124119 intact.  The opposition to AB 2072 has misconstrued this bill to be anything but a new Section.  The bill itself is:

  • not about which communication modes work or don’t work
  • not about deaf consumer groups being excluded (they are still mentioned in the older 124119 Section)
  • not about the definition of the audiologist’s role
  • not about moneyed special interests
  • not about the definition of deafness on the medical model or the linguistic model
  • not about the brochure (the language of the bill says nothing about NCHAM’s “Communicating with Your Child” brochure yet the opposition has assumed this to be the case, or any other brochure, for that matter.) *see postscript
  • not about Deaf education based on ASL and written English (we’re talking about newborns here)
  • not about Early Start, which begins after the newborn becomes an infant, after 29 days

It is about ensuring that the parents of newborns diagnosed with hearing loss are provided with written/electronic information on four specified communication modes and a list of resources.

The California Deaf Newborn Identification and Advocacy Stakeholders (CDNIAS) have claimed to be in dialogue with Senator Darrell Steinberg for the last three years on a proposal to reform the state’s NHSP with a linguistic, and not a medical, model based on ASL-first-then-other-options-later.  It is unrealistic to not take into account that nearly 40% of deaf babies born are fitted with cochlear implants and learn speech via audio verbal therapy (AVT).  Such a model is not taking into account the advances now being made in hearing technology that a baby with a cochlear implant at age 6 months today will probably grow up into a six-year old child who can speak and understand language on par with his hearing counterparts.  Such a model does not take into account that not all deaf children will thrive in an ASL environment.  Some deaf babies with mild to moderate hearing loss are fitted with hearing aids and can acquire speech as infants/toddlers, then lose more hearing in childhood but still prefer the speech they acquired earlier, for example.  Such a model does not take into account that future treatments such as stem cell treatment may cure some forms of infant deafness and render sign language moot in such cases.

It is the CDNIAS’ intent to introduce legislation that proposes their NHSP reform model of mandatory ASL-first to be developed, overseen, and disseminated by the State’s Department of Education.  In other words, CDNIAS wants the State to dictate to parents on how to communicate with and raise their deaf child and that is ASL first, before other modalities.  Such a myopic proposal if enacted into law would criminalize any other option chosen before ASL-first.  One only has to look at how many State and Federal programs have led to disastrous results and legal challenges.

CDNIAS and other opponents want AB 2072 killed because they had a plan to reform the state’s NHSP in the works for three years.  Legislation similar to AB 2072 was introduced and withdrawn two times in the state legislature and both times the opponents claimed they were not included as stakeholders and said ‘no’ to both pieces of legislation.  The fact is, this opposition coalition has made unreasonable demands and untrue claims of not being included.  There were a number of meetings between supporters and opponents of the bill, made difficult by the coalition’s no-negotiation stance.  ASL is included as an option in AB 2072, an option that has never before been included in California legal code, and the opposition coalition distrusts what will become law, if AB 2072 is enacted? Why? They want only bilingual ASL and written English for deaf babies to acquire before all else.

Please support AB 2072 to help parents make an informed communication choice for their deaf newborns and eliminate presentation bias on communication options.  Thank you for your time and consideration of this letter.

Sincerely,

Ann_C

___________________________________________________________

*Postscript:  AB 2072 was recently amended on June 9th.  The changes involve written/electronic information to be from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and “or other related professional” was struck through, meaning deleted.

Deaf soup and Surdo salad, anyone?

May 28, 2010

Upon reading Mike McConnell’s recent blog, “Very Special People Hate Crime”, deafherbalist’s comment under the article caught my eye:

“Next week they will come with a new name for a salad. I would not be surprised if they come up with “Surdo Salad.” I am not sure about the week after but they will come up with something. :-)”

Interesting observation, one that many deaf people have noted time and again on DR or DVTV and elsewhere on the deaf v/blogosphere.

I’m tempted to call this tendency to put a multitude of labels on D/deaf oppression or opposing views as “surdo salad”.

We’ve seen concepts such as deficit thinking, audism, linguicism, deaf eugenics, and now special “deaf” hate crime all hatched to describe what is considered discrimination or oppression against the D/deaf.  There’s been so many labels, I’m sure I left out a few.

So much academic hairsplitting, it’s ridiculous. Notice how these labels imply victimization.   When the labeling gets repeated ad nauseum, it’s like a neon sign flashing “kid glove treatment”.

Some of this labeling has arisen out of deafhood, when you look back on the deaf v/blogosphere over the last  three years. There’s this pattern of someone acting as deafhood’s mouthpiece, and the whole v/blogosphere suddenly takes up the label without question.  It’s getting to seem like a cult of the faithful who ardently believe deafhood will save Deaf culture and ASL.

Speaking of ardent belief, when I viewed Bunjer’s vlog, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a joke or a serious earnestness about  Paddy Ladd.  Bunjer signs what was a nickname that children came up for Paddy Ladd as he told them stories about deaf culture, the sign-name of “Jesus”.  We all know that Jesus told parables, as the Christian bible relates.  Now, I dunno about you, but I‘m taking that vlog with a grain of salt.  After all, it was Jesus who warned about anti-Christs, the imposters who will come after him, lol.

This Deaf soup called American deafhood ain’t a religion.  It’s a philosophy that was written by an English deaf academician and I can respect it as such.  Many deaf people relate to the journey of understanding their deafness and are relieved to realize that there is nothing wrong with being D/deaf.

However, deafhood leaders here in this country have cherry-picked concepts out of Ladd’s book to suit their goals for Deaf culture and have politicized what was a philosophy for understanding one’s own deaf journey into a cult-like ideology.

It is mindful to remember that Hitler took advantage of the German people when he called on their patriotic feelings for the “Fatherland” by harking to a previous golden age and calling for a pure Aryan race, which was his plan to rid the Jews and anyone else whom he didn’t consider “Aryan enough”.

American deafhood is taking advantage of D/deaf people when it calls on their feelings for Deaf culture by harking to a previous golden age of Deaf culture and calling for a pure Deaf culture which “weeds” out anybody who isn’t “Deaf enough”.

We D/deaf are no more special than anyone else.  Herein lies the problem of American deafhood.

Specialness spells elitism.  Just look at that bland Deaf soup.

Kid glove treatment spells victimhood.  Just look at that Surdo salad of labels.

Strange dichotomy, that Deaf soup and Surdo salad.

Not a wonder I don’t have an appetite.

Please note:  Any comments containing personal attacks, smear campaigns, name-calling on anyone will be deleted.

AB 2072: Plant a Seed, Part Two

May 3, 2010

This is a continuation of  “AB 2072: Plant a Seed”.  Please read “AB 2072: Plant a Seed, Part One” before continuing here.

A parent of a deaf child who supports AB 2072 stated in a 4-30-2010 email that regarding ulterior motives behind the bill as to why DHH groups were not consulted:

3.    “Last minute voting?  Really?  We all knew that the bill was going to the floor on Thursday.  In fact, Mendoza was contacted several days before by many individuals to delay it.  During their Wednesday meeting with Mendoza their lobbyist also asked for a delay.”

“I was told that there was a strong presence from a variety of groups at the hearing.”

“The opposition has hired a lobbyist (Richard Polonko).  Assembly Member Tony Mendoza (author of the bill) has been having meetings with the opposition and their representatives.  He met with NORCAL, IMPACT, GLAD, and a few other groups this week.  He will be meeting again next week with them.”

“The best part of this bill not dying is that it is forcing them to come to the table and work with us.  We’ve wanted collaboration for sooo long.”

“Based on last Wednesday meeting, I’m not sure they’re willing to partner.  At this time, they want only I communication option.  While I don’t believe in 1 communication option, the bill is fundamentally about giving the parents information and ultimately parent choice.”

“I’m hoping and desiring a working relationship can be formed but they do not want that yet.  Here’s hoping to the future.”

The opposition comprised of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coalition (DHH) claims that options do not work. They claim that language acquisition (ASL/Bilingual) works and should be the focus before any other tools are added on. They want information to show pros and cons and what works and how to use it.

The supporters of AB2072 indicated that they only want every parent to be well informed of all options available. They’re not out to push any one ideology on parents, rather they want parents to be aware of all language/communication/tools that are available for all deaf/hoh children.

It is apparent that one option only is not a realistic approach towards parents.  It is also unrealistic to expect that a deaf child will respond to one and same communication mode/  language the same as another deaf child may.  To say all communication options means only one option, the oral route, is simply NOT true.  NCHAM  and supporters of AB 2072 have never said that.  ASL is one of the options included in this bill.  That means any audiologist or related professional cannot leave out any option and that includes ASL when presenting written material to the parents.

On the other hand, the brochure itself does need to reflect more equal representation of all options, not just a mere blurb of a few sentences to describe an option.  Cochlear implants and hearings aids option should explain that a deaf toddler isn’t going to magically start talking like his hearing peers, that the “how” part, the parent-child commitment to AVT or speech therapy is a must for a child to successfully listen and communicate, that frequent mappings are necessary with CI’s, etc.  The ASL option should explain that it is a recognized, legitimate visual language with its own syntax, grammar and qualifiers and that it is a part of a rich Deaf culture.  That ASL’s “how” part involves a family commitment to learn baby signs together and acquire ASL through ASL classes, deaf mentors and community as the child grows up, along with an emphasis in reading and writing English. The other options of Cued Speech and Total Communication also need separate explanations with the “how” parts.  Karl White of NCHAM has indicated that he is willing to listen to new ideas and input from the deaf community, that maybe he can implement such suggestions for the NHSP program literature.

How can the opponents and supporters of AB 2072 come to the table?

Not with inflexible demands, not with one brochure that reflects an obvious oralist bias, and certainly not with the smear campaigns we’ve been witnessing online on both sides recently.

There’s a weed-choked garden for you, folks. Where‘d those weeds come from, dam**t?!

Umeusnthem.  That’s right, read it slowly, U…me…us…n’… them.  Yup.

Since the written materials will not be funded by the state as indicated in the bill (state of California is already bankrupt), perhaps DHH can raise funds through the deaf community and print their own brochure about the ASL option to be distributed along with the national brochure?  Would AB 2072 supporters be amenable to allowing more than one brochure to be included in a distribution packet for parents?

A double-delight  rosebush there… a purple hydrangea here.

In this issue the parents are being viewed as the adversaries, how about regarding them as allies and treating them with respect? They are the ones who carry the tremendous responsibilities of raising their children, not the deaf community.  In return, how about AB 2072 supporters listening to ASL advocates’ concerns?

Yellow bearded iris there…orange California poppies here.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)

A garden grows with flowers of every variety and color.  A sight  for sore eyes.

You get the idea.

For the reader, tend your garden. Weed out the assumptions and the dogmas so that the truth will stand out.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

This article is co-authored by Candy of candysweetblog.wordpress.com and by Ann_C of Ann_C’s ireflections09.wordpress.com.

Please note: You can post a comment under Ann_C’s blog.  Note that the authors have been respectful to both sides of this issue, so any name-calling, personal attacks, or smear campaigns towards anyone will be deleted.  Please stick to the subject of the blog, thanks.

AB 2072: Parental Anger and Deafhood Redux

April 18, 2010

I present two scenarios here:

(1.) The Deaf parents of a deaf infant recently screened for hearing loss have been told by the state that they must have their deaf child undergo surgery for a cochlear implant at 6 months and employ only speech therapy  in English for the child’s language development, no other options are allowed.  How would the Deaf parents feel upon learning that they have no choice on how to raise and communicate with their child?  Of course, resentment and anger.

(2.)  The hearing parents of a deaf infant recently screened for hearing loss have been told by the state that they must implement ASL only to begin the child’s language development.   How would the hearing parents feel upon learning that they have no choice on how to raise and communicate with their child?  Of course, resentment and anger.

The second scenario has already happened in the state of California.

“I am appalled that “the Deaf Culture”, CDE [California Dept. of Education], Cal Ed, Impact, GLAD and others would feel that it is OK to choose what option is best for MY child.”  This was a comment left by Dr. Elise Roche under the Orange Juice blog article, “Sign language lobby wants to limit educational choice for parents of deaf kids”.

Another comment by Wesley Anzai under the same article asked, “Why would reps from LACOE [Los Angeles Dept. of Education] lie to me? Why wouldn’t they tell me of options as I asked?”

That reads like a lot of resentment and anger.

The California Department of Education (read: state agency) has been refusing to tell parents they have other options besides sign language.

What happened here?  A vlog called “Californians, oppose AB 2072” by Ella Mae Lentz will give readers a clue.   Ella Lentz is a board member of the Deafhood Foundation, a core member of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC), a retired California deaf educator,  a Deafhood seminar instructor and self-proclaimed “Deaf Expert”.

Ella claims that “a deaf consumer group”, along with hearing parents and hearing allies, have been discussing with a senator about reform of the  California NHSP (Newborn Hearing Screening Program), under the California Dept. of Health Care Services (DHCS).  Quoting from her vlog captioning: “We want the new system to only identify deaf infants early on, only that, and to not to include providing info and referral.  Where there is detection, the state should then implement an educational plan for the infant and family.  So the infant can get an early start on language acquisition. This will include ASL, which allows for natural language proficiency that would enable well-rounded development and provide a foundation for a diversity of other competencies.  This would include speech therapy and listening and other language options.”

Ella then concludes in her vlog, “Options is not the solution! Optimal language acquisition is!”.

That “optimal language” is ASL, and ASL first.

The “optimal language” agenda which the Deafhood Foundation, along with its associated “Deaf-centric” organizations, DBC, CAD, DCARA, NorCal, AFA, etcetera, have been pushing on the EHDI (the National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program) and on the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program has become apparent in the state of California via its Dept. of Education.

To many parents of deaf kids in California, that’s holding a figurative gun to their heads– they’re reading it as NO choice.  There have already been lawsuits by the parents against the state’s Dept. of Education to fight such a program, and there may be more.

The AB 2072 bill by California Assemblyman Tony Mendoza being submitted on April 20th to the State Assembly’s Health Committee is a reflection of those parents’ resentment and anger at having no choices. This “ASL-first, then other options later” dogma hits at the fundamental concept of the family unit (parents and child) and it is the state making the decisions of a deaf child’s education instead.  We only have to point to state and federal interventions that have  had disastrous results.

The revised version of the bill clearly states:

 SECTION 1.  Section 124121 is added to the Health and Safety Code,
to read:
   124121.  (a) Parents of all newborns and infants diagnosed with a
hearing loss shall also be provided written  or electronic 
information on  all   American Sign Language
(ASL), Total Communication, Cued Speech, and Listening and Spoken
Language  communication options for children with hearing loss,
including, but not limited to, information about deaf and
hard-of-hearing organizations, agencies and early intervention
centers, and educational programs.

Read that carefully, folks.  “Written or electronic information on American Sign Language (ASL), Total Communication, Cued Speech, and Listening and Spoken Language communication options…”.  This bill will provide a range of choices and this is what California parents are advocating for.

The other part of the bill concerning audiologists as being the presenters of this information have been another sticking point in Ella’s vlog.  She maintains that audies are paid by groups vested in oral communication and that they don’t have any knowledge of ASL or Deaf culture.  She considers this “devious”.  No more devious than her “optimal language” agenda?

The revised bill  mentions that:

 (1) By an audiologist or other related professional at a followup
appointment after diagnosis with a hearing loss.
   (2) By the Early Start Program, provided for pursuant to the
California Early Intervention Services Act (Title 14 (commencing with
Section 95000) of the Government Code)  when a newborn and
infant enters the program and when the newborn and infant is referred
to the program by a state agency.   upon initial
contact with the parents of a newborn or infant newly diagnosed with
a hearing loss. 

Read that again.  “By an audiologist or related professional” and “By the Early Start Program”.  Audies only? No, related professional and Early Start Program staff can also provide this information.

Furthermore, deaf children belong to their parents, hearing or D/deaf, first and foremost.  They are not experiments for the self-proclaimed Deaf Experts to practice their ideology of Deafhood.

Last of all, consider the backlash of drawing such lines against the parents will create in the deaf community… an unfavorable image and the demise of ASL taking on an even faster slope.

Be careful what you wish for.

Deafhood Foundation: Wishful thinking

February 24, 2010

When A.L. of The ASL-Cochlear Implant Community blog viewed the welcome video of the Deafhood Foundation’s website, the blogger expressed her concern that the foundation’s views on cochlear implants may lead to increased intolerance for Deaf children who have cochlear implants.  She wrote:  “I was actually hoping that perhaps the message would be positive and inclusive. Wishful thinking…”

DHF’s welcome video with Butch Zein starts off with Butch ticking off the names of foundations that promote oralism and then asks how many foundations focus on the “Deafhood dimension”.  Without explaining what the “Deafhood dimension” is first and foremost, Butch leads the viewer down the negative rabbit hole of oralism first instead.   Is this a positive presentation of what is supposed to be a positive concept, the Deafhood dimension?

Hardly.

For viewers who are not familiar with Deafhood or the Deafhood Foundation, DHF’s welcome video will lose some audience right at the starting gate, because there is so little to explain what Butch calls the “Deafhood dimension”.   There is only one sentence, “…the belief and practice where Deaf people are viewed as complete, healthy, and assets contributing to enhancement of the world” that says anything about the “Deafhood dimension”.

Marketing, marketing, and marketing, folks.  DHF has got every kind of Deaf Expert except a marketing expert.

Butch then states the foundation’s mission:  achieving economical and social justice for all Deaf people.  He signs cochlear implants as an example of “economic exploitation” of Deaf people.  There it is, the negative attack on cochlear implants that A.L. was referring to.

I noted a comment Dianrez left on the ASL-Cochlear Implant Community blog:

“…However, it (DHF) is easily misunderstood in its criticism and that is its failing.  People get the impression that they are criticizing those who opt for the implant and aids.  This is not the case, and they need to correct that impression.  The DHF is actually fighting the HEARING MINDSET, an assumption that hearing is desirable, mandatory, and end-goal of all efforts for and by deaf people.”

Deafhood activists have had at least three years to correct this wrong impression, and they are far from doing even that.  In fact,  DHF attacks what they view as tangible symbols of the hearing mindset, as dianrez calls it, not the hearing mindset itself.  The cochlear implant is one instance of a tangible symbol of this mindset.  A mindset itself is a philosophy, something that many people don’t grasp well, because it is something you can’t see or touch yet it is there and pervasive.

Same thing with Ladd’s Deafhood journey, it is a philosophy, a mindset, if you will, of the positive aspects of being d/Deaf.  But Deafhood activists in this country have cherry-picked Deafhood concepts and twisted them into political manifestos that for many d/Deaf it’s like treading an intellectual mine-field.  The Deafhood Foundation is that mine-field.

Have Deafhood Foundation board members looked at the taxpayer cost of maintaining d/Deaf people on SSI benefits?  Those costs far outstrip any cochlear implant corporation’s earnings and stock value.  Cochlear implant and hearing aid corporations have helped many d/Deaf keep their jobs in the hearing world.  So, the cost of CI’s and aids are small potatoes compared to the benefits the technology provides in the long run.

DHF launches a positive public awareness campaign geared towards corporations and small businesses to hire some d/Deaf people.  That would be a positive action towards changing a hearing mindset.

Wishful thinking…

Being Proactive About Internet Accessibility

December 15, 2009

“Knowing how disabled people use the Web is the first step to making the Web accessible…”

After reading this article in Fox News, I find it all the more compelling to support HR3101, the bill that will require captioning of internet video content and will soon be up for Congressional vote, starting in the House of Representatives.  I wrote my Representative this last summer in support of this bill.

I also find it encouraging news that some companies who utilize the internet as part of their product marketing are being proactive in making their websites accessible to the disabled, which also includes the deaf/ hard of hearing.   By doing so, such companies will earn loyal customers from the deaf/ hard of hearing community.

The picture of being proactive about internet accessibility elicits a more positive response rather than dragging one’s feet over accessibility because it’s a law, which in turn makes the disabled wonder “What’s taking ’em so damned long to get around to us as customers?”

The technology is there and soon company CEO’s will no longer be able to ignore the disabled sector without  incurring civil lawsuits.   As one can see, a civil lawsuit is not as cost-effective to a company in the long run as having a proactive policy about internet accessibility for the disabled.   Want more customers?  Make your internet front door accessible for all.

“Experts say accessibility features make a better Internet for all.”

Amen to that.

Bigger Fish to Fry

September 23, 2009

Quoting Deafherbalist’s World recent blog article, “Deafread andDeaf.video TV- Stay On and Win the Battle!”:

“…show the world what you are made of instead of crying “Audism” because we have a bigger fish to fry.”

Deafherbalist decries the numbers of v/bloggers leaving DeafRead and DVTV.  Tayler Mayer, the owner of DR and DVTV refused to put “audism” in the R-list as a reason for removing a v/blogger from the aggregator.  He has said that DR/ DVTV can’t please everybody.  He commented in Dianrez’s blog:

“Use DeafRead Hide to turn DeafRead into your own specialized aggregator. Instead of centralizing the decison-making of who belongs and who doesn’t belong to a chosen few – we decided to provide this functionality to empower you to make your own decision about what you want to learn and discuss. The deaf community is too diverse and it is impossible to make everyone happy. This is democracy in its truest sense.”

Does anybody remember the uproar when Tayler cited “commercialism” that was vaguely defined in the guidelines  when he booted a popular C.I. blog from DR over a year ago?  The booted C.I. blogger started a new aggregator herself  and some of DR’s traffic went to hers.  Deja vu here?  Some people actually expressed glee when this blogger with an “audistic” attitude got booted off.

Tayler’s gotten called a lot of names over the last two years, and now “audist” because he won’t put in “audism” as an R-list reason.  What an irony.  The terms “audism” and “audist” oughta be booted out of the deaf blogosphere for good, that’s what I think.  Back to discrimination against the d/Deaf.

Those two words are just about the most abused words on the deaf blogosphere to the point they have no power to move mountains.   We’ve ended up using those words against each other in the deaf community and it’s turning the community into a laughingstock.   What a wonderful online example of the so-called tolerance and warmth that the deaf community has been known for.

Whatever has happened to respect for another’s different view without resorting to a personal attack?  Whatever has happened to respect for a deaf organization’s mission without attacking that organization?  We all have different missions in our lives.  The point is, each of us is contributing something to advance what he/she believes in and that’s what Deafherbalist is talking about.

There are better things to do than call another d/Deaf person’s or d/Deaf organization’s efforts as “audism”.  Before attacking another d/Deaf person or organization, realize that none of us  ain’t perfect either and have work on ourselves to do.  That’s truly our bigger fish to fry.

deaf Life: Blazing New Trails

August 19, 2009
  • A DOD-HOH adult knows a combination of Simcom, ASL, and spoken English to use whichever communication works best in a given situation in her life.
  • DOD deaf parents with deaf kids who have cochlear implants.
  • A DOD native ASL user has wondered if his deaf parents ever considered that he learn spoken English as a child for his hearing loss is not severe or profound.
  • Several DOD native ASL users express that they are uncomfortable with the “standard keeper” status, that such status elevation places an unnecessary burden of having to live up to certain expectations on them and their DOD families.
  • A seventh generation DOD calls on the lack of transparency on the political aims of a grassroots deaf organization headed by native and fluent ASL users.
  • A born profoundly deaf, non-DOD native ASL user deplores the cronyism and elitism practiced among some DOD circles and continues to communicate with deaf people whose ASL was not as fluent during the 2006 Fernandes protest at Gallaudet.
  • Several deaf people born to hearing parents and who grew up in oral programs and learned ASL at a later age report bullying by their Deaf peers either in the deaf schools they were transferred to or at Gallaudet or NTID/RID as college students.
  • Several deaf people born to hearing parents and learned to use ASL fluently report that some DOD native ASL users continue to disparage them, despite the fact they’ve embraced Deaf culture.
  • A late-deafened adult who wears hearing aids and has been learning ASL for some time reports that resources for learning ASL aren’t coming from the deaf community itself, and that college courses that teach ASL are primarily for “interpreters” but not for people like her who wish to learn it conversational style with other ASL users.
  • A deaf adult who uses cued English reports on his love of flying the blue skies and working for an airline.
  • An HOH adult is comfortable about saying his first language is spoken English and reports about medical advances to cure deafness.  He’s roundly vilified by Deaf culture and ASL users for his views.
  • A born profoundly deaf oral adult whose first language is also spoken English comments and blogs  on the deaf blogosphere betwixt ASL/Deaf culture supporters and oral cochlear implantees.
  • A deaf C.I. adult who had a mainstream education and is attending a mainstream college without interpreters resists online “demands” to learn ASL and wants to learn another language besides the French she’s fluent in.  She starts a new aggregator in her spare time for C.I.-related and other deaf blogs.
  • An American hearing parent reports on the trials and rewards of raising a deaf C.I. son and a hearing daughter in Italy.  She starts a resource website for Italian parents with deaf children.

Almost all of us readers will recognize several online b/vloggers here.  I just named a few instances to illustrate some examples and left out the names of the innocent.  There are many others as well, and it’s not my intention to leave out some individuals but my blog won’t be able to contain ’em all.  There are d/Deaf minorities we rarely hear about online, and unfortunately I have to add a caveat that this sample of d/Deaf people, along with one hearing blogger, is primarily White and mostly heterosexual, with two or three exceptions.

What do these d/Deaf people have in common?

They’re Deaf culture taboo-breakers or outright “out” as far as Deaf culture goes.  They “spoke” up and discussed their lives, warts ‘n all.

They’re also re-defining deaf life.

Trailblazers.

“Deaf Studies also need to engage rigorously with all disciplines that allow us to study how deaf people live in the world.  Thus, along with elaboration of new understandings of audism and other forms of privilege, and along with new lines of inquiry about the variety of ways to be deaf, issues with interdisciplinary study in Deaf Studies form an area for future exploration and research.”

Fernandes and Myers, “Inclusive Deaf Studies: Barriers and Pathways”, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, July 28, 2009.

“Those deaf people are ambivalent toward their languages, ASL and English, and their cultures, Deaf and American mainstream. They feel they must choose one over another. They believe that if they embrace ASL and Deaf culture, they must give up English and American mainstream culture or vice versa. Deaf people in America face a competition between two languages and two cultures. Once we understand why this happens in the Deaf community, we begin to break away from old definitions of ourselves. If we succeed, we experience a paradigm shift.”

Barbara Kannapell, “Power Structure in the Deaf Community”, from Deaf Studies III: Bridging Cultures in the 21st Century, Conference Proceedings, 1993.