Stop Using Sign Language Interpreters…

IMG_0542-crop.pngThe title above may seem strange coming from a deaf man but I really do think we have to stop using sign language interpreters for public announcements.  Its time to move on to better ways. Way better ways…

The facts show us that the ASL interpreters who are often behind a public official announcing something is understood by less that 20% of the people who are deaf and less than 2% of those who have hearing impairments.  But there is a technology that is understood by probably 90%+ of that population. That technology is captioning.  It is cheap, it is reliable and most of all serves the vast majority of those of us who are deaf/hearing impaired.  Here are some facts to back up these numbers:

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is one of a few national surveys that regularly collects data identifying the American population of persons with hearing loss or deafness. Estimates from the SIPP indicate that fewer than 1 in 20 Americans are currently deaf or hard of hearing. In round numbers, nearly 10,000,000 persons are hard of hearing and close to 1,000,000 are functionally deaf. More than half of all persons with hearing loss or deafness are 65 years or older and less than 4% are under 18 years of age….

Source: How Many Deaf People Are There in the United States? Estimates From the Survey of Income and Program Participation

More than half the folks who are deaf went deaf as a result of the aging process and know very little or nothing about any type of sign language. I have been deaf for about 30 years now and have become quite proficient in understanding signed English, at least me and my wife’s version. ASL is just beyond my comprehension. One of the problems with ASL is that it is not an English type language in syntax and many adjectives are facial expressions instead of signed  words. Depending on the interpreter there can be many different ways to sign the same thing. Some, who do use ASL, sign it one way some another. Here is an example of that:

Syntax[edit]The basic word order of ASL is disputed. Most linguists agree that ASL is a subject-verb-object (SVO) language with various phenomena affecting this basic word order. Basic SVO sentences are signed without any pauses:

FATHER – LOVE – CHILD”

The father loves the child.”

However, other word orders may also occur, as ASL allows the topic of a sentence to be moved to sentence-initial position, a phenomenon known as topicalization.In object-subject-verb (OSV) sentences, the object is topicalized, marked by a forward head-tilt and a pause:

CHILDtopic, FATHER – LOVE”

The father loves the child.”

Even more word orders can be obtained through the phenomenon of subject copy. In subject copy, the subject is repeated at the end of the sentence, accompanied by head nodding, either for clarification or emphasis:

FATHER – LOVE – CHILD – FATHERcopy

“The father loves the child.”

ASL also allows null subject sentences, where the subject is implied rather than stated explicitly. Subjects can be copied even in a null subject sentence, in which the subject is omitted from its original position, yielding a verb-object-subject (VOS) construction:

LOVE – CHILD – FATHERcopy

“The father loves the child.”

Source: American Sign Language – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Let’s quit pretending that an ASL interpreter satisfies the needs of the deaf/ hearing impaired community and move on to providing captions through a monitor to vastly increase the reach to this population.

Caught Between Two Worlds….

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This post is part of my continuing study of the Autism spectrum and particularly Asperger’s Syndrome.

I am stuck between two worlds in my life.  I am a deaf man who lives almost exclusively 2016-08-10_07-19-19in the hearing world but neither the hearing world or the deaf world considers me a homeboy.  I am seldom around other deaf people so I can’t speak for them but since almost 80% of us deafies are like me in that they went deaf later in life ways maybe I do.  One of my goals via this blog and a few other forums, is to help the hearing world understand that most of us who are deaf are really not much different from them.

In regards to Aspergers I am via this post going to give you a glimpse of the last chapter into my study .  I have taken a couple of standard tests and discovered that I am about equally spread between the Neurotypical world and the Neurodiverse world.   Those two words were new to me so I assume they are to you.  Simply put I have rather strong Aspergers’ characterisitcs in some areas but not others.  I will be going into that in somewhat detail in future posts.

Its hard being stuck between two worlds but I am used to it. My living with Asperger’s traits didn’t change just because it now has a name.   As with my deafness, I have lived with it most of my life.   But in some ways just having a name makes the struggle a little easier as I now know I am not alone.  At the same time I don’t want that to reduce my feeling of personal responsibility of trying harder to be aware when I hurt people’s feelings or give them a view of me that I don’t have of myself or any of a number of other social behaviors.   I need to do better more than ever now that I know I have a problem…. much more on that later.

Before I close out this post I want to make it clear that while I say I have identified personal characteristics that relate to Aspergers I am likely  not  typical of this overall group. I fully understand that there are many who struggle much more than I do.  In my limited studies I have not been able to find how spread out of severity levels are in the Aspergers population.  I don’t pretend to know what others with extreme conditions go through in their daily lives.  All I can do for this series of posts is to give you my story and hope it relates to others with Aspergers at some level.

Next time I will start giving you some of my real life examples of Aspergers traits. I hope they help you but just as importantly I hope they help me too….

About Closed Captioning (CC)…

2016-01-31_10-01-12.pngI wanted to pen a post on a topic most of your are probably unfamiliar with and that is closed captioning. I’m pretty sure most of you have at least a basic idea of what that is but for those of us who are deaf it is a lifeblood of keeping up with keeping up with the world. Without CC our world would be a quite different place.

If you want to get an idea of what that means I would suggest that for the next few days when you turn on your TV to hit the mute button and watch for a couple hours. I know you would never make it that long but it would take that long for the reality of not having sound to really sink in.

I was going to give you a history of closed captioning but quickly realized that it would probably bore you so here is the cliff notes version.

  • The first use of regularly scheduled closed captioning on American television occurred on March 16, 1980.
  • Prior to 1993 if you wanted to access closed captioning you had to buy a separate set top box that costs more than the TV itself and even then only a slight majority of network shows provided the capability.
  • As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometime around 2005 the FCC mandated that all TV  and TV broadcasts after an initial startup period must provide a closed captioning signal.

All of this made life a little easier for those of us who are deaf.  Most, but not all pre-recorded network TV show do a pretty good job of captioning but some cable channels do it on the cheap. The quality  and consistency of captioning varies widely with live broadcasts such as the nightly news.  Sometimes there are 30 to 60 second gaps when the captioned message just locks up. It seems to me that these periods are during the most critical parts of the broadcast but I am probably being paranoid about that. 🙂

On February 20, 2014, the FCC unanimously approved the implementation of quality standards for closed captioning, addressing accuracy, timing, completeness, and placement. This is the first time the FCC has addressed quality issues in captions.

Closing out this post I want to complain a little about some of the constant aggravations in my hearing challenged life. I started using hearing aids in the early 1970s. Being a technology focused engineer I quickly came to realize that hearing aid technology greatly lagged that of other fields and the low tech hearing aids I was able to get were very expensive.

The same can be said for Closed Captioning. If you want to realize the recent advances in voice recognition technology just turn on Siri on your iPhone. I realize that being deaf for going on thirty years my speaking voice has deteriorated and was skeptical that Siri would actually work for me.  But it does!! I am amazed at how accurate it is.  If only this same technology were applied to Closed Captioning I could say goodbye to all those  very annoying thirty second gaps in my nightly newscasts.

Over the years I have come to accept that hearing loss technology is a step-child when it comes to technological advances. While there are about 40 million who are hearing impaired only about 4 million are deaf  so there is just not much attention paid to it.

 

I’m Very Comfortable in Being Uncomfortable…

2016-01-17_09-51-31.pngLet’s face it, there are just so many who are totally uncomfortable living in our world today.  Change is happening so fast now as to make their heads spin and they hate that fact. They want everything back to what it was in the “good old days”. Today’s world is just very UNCOMFORTABLE to many of us.

It seems that the national pastime is being uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that is why guys like Trump and Cruz are presently heading up the list of GOP candidates for president. Those guys scream that they will stop all this change and discomfort in our lives.  They will bring back the times that we remember but in reality never were.

Some are uncomfortable around the fact that they are no longer the dominant group in the country. Others now have more say in things than they used to. Our compartmentalized religious and political beliefs make us uncomfortable around anyone who sees things differently than we do. In that regard it has become an “us” vs “them” world and that is very uncomfortable.

But then there are some of us who actually embrace change. It gives them the opportunity to do things better. It gives them the opportunity to throw off all old prejudices in life and to maybe create a better paradigm. Personally I am in this group but even I am uncomfortable at times but I have learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let me explain that dichotomy.

I hadn’t thought about it much until someone recently said “you must get uncomfortable everyday because of your deafness”. I am constantly having to figure out what all those very minute changes in lip shapes mean when people speak to me.  I know that no more than 20% of English words appears on the lips so it is at best an 80% guessing game. That 20% chance of getting it right originally was daunting but those are the odds that I am now stuck with. I am now finally comfortable being uncomfortable.

Sometimes when I admit defeat in this guessing game and just can’t imagine what the clerk who is selling me the goods asks. Do they want my zip code? Maybe it is my telephone number or date of birth.  Sometimes I guess right and sometimes I don’t. If I am tired of guessing, and that seems to be more often than not lately, I just tell them to fake it as I am deaf.

I have often said that the time I feel the loneliest is when I am surrounded by people. Sitting like a bump on a log while all the conversations are swirling on around me is daunting.  I have even learned to be comfortable in that uncomfortable situation.

Being comfortable in stressful situations has caused me to understand discomfort in others and to realize that they too can learn from their discomfort as I have.