Friday, June 29, 2012

Help Stop Audism Right Now!

Hello to everyone,

I want to point out the recently added widget that you should see to the right on this page. It is a link to sign a petition against author Kristin Henson and the involved publishing companies for publishing the book "Super Smutty Sign Language". What sounds like having fun with ASL has turned out to be a really bad idea for Henson.

This was something I had read about on Facebook through several people in the Deaf community. Apparently, Henson is a hearing person who has only taken a couple of beginner ASL courses, and is now suddenly ready to publish this book. How would you like it if you were Chinese and some random American who took a beginning Chinese language course decided to make a book about teaching Super Smutty Chinese, as if they had any credentials to do so? This is right there as another example of Audism. Let me explain;

We define Audism as "The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears."(Thank you Tom Humphries) If you ask me, only knowing some very basic, and I mean VERY basic ASL does not grant you the right to go ahead and make money off of your limited knowledge. It's a bug snub to Deaf people, and many that I know are not happy about this. It's a hearing person with no real tie to the Deaf community or no identity within the community (by that, I mean CODAs and some ASL interpreters, etc) making money off of something very central to it. Earning a profit for this is absolutely waving the flag of Audism in all of our faces.

Many Deaf people began to respond with their own comments on this website, . You can click the link and go see for yourselves if you'd like. In fact, I encourage you to do just that. Here is one comment that I find explains this far better than I ever could;

dagrushkin said:
Thank you for the contact info, Octavian. This is what I sent:
Dear Editors:
I am an Associate Professor of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Studies at the California State University – Sacramento.  I am Deaf and have been an ASL speaker for more than 30 years.  
I was appalled to find out today that not only is Kristen Henson doing her “sign language” instructional videos on You Tube, she is now in the process of having a book published of her highly dubious work through your publishing company.  I urge you strongly to discontinue any plans to publish this book, which the Deaf community finds extremely demeaning, for a number of reasons, which I will enumerate below:
First, Kristen is NOT a fluent, competent signer.  In watching her videos, it is immediately evident that she not only produces a number of formational/articulatory errors, but she is also often grammatically incorrect as well.  As anyone knows, if you are going to teach a language, it should be taught correctly, and preferably by native models, which Kristen is not, by any definition. 
Second, the “sign language” that she is teaching has no practical use for any sort of regular contact with Deaf people. Random sentences of a sexual or stereotypical nature are not how one typically initiates contact with a Deaf person.  Moreover, were someone to use these phrases with a new acquaintance, if they were not immediately slapped or punched, they would not understand anything that was signed back to them, since they obviously would not have learned any form of normal discourse. 
Third, ASL has had a long history of being banned, dismissed, diminished and in general, disrespected by professionals and lay people alike.  To produce a series of ungrammatical and articulatorily incorrect videos (let alone a book filled with the same) perpetuates the notion that ASL is not a language deserving of respect and that where ASL is concerned, any sort of movement of the hands means that one  is using “ASL”, when this is clearly not the case. 
Moreover, the Deaf community has had a long history of Hearing people profiting off not only our bodies, but also our language.  Kristen Henson is just the latest of such profiteers, and it is doubly insulting that there are many highly qualified, competent, Deaf people who are not being offered any sort of lucrative publishing deals, while a person like Kristen, without any training or cultural understanding, is being endorsed by your company.  
I am sure that there are some who may think that Kristen Henson’s work is intended in a humorous vein.  However, given the history of disparagement of ASL, any such humor is immediately lost and instead it becomes yet another example of belittlement  of a culture, people, and language.  I am sure that many other cultural and linguistic groups would also find it insulting to have a non-native speaker publish work in their language consisting solely of sexual, racial and stereotypical concepts. 
I could go on, but I think you get the basic idea here.  Kristen Henson’s work is highly offensive, inappropriate, and should not be financially or otherwise rewarded by your company or anyone else.  So once again, I urge you to immediately take action and discontinue any plans to publish this (or any similar) work. 
Donald A. Grushkin, Ph.D.

Here is a dialogue between two people in the comments section. I think it's important to show this as well so you can all see differing points of view;

I was born deaf – i think youre all over reacting. If you dont like it….write your own stupid book. Some of these long winded and asinine comments about culture and blah blah blah just makes you look ignorant. You dont like a book…shut up and get another one. I quit using sign language because youre all too obsessed on controlling how its used in your “culture”. You wont use it like a language but more like abbreviated yoda…which NO ONE talks like in real life, books, or tv. Youre all just LAZY not to use complete sentences. But you will raise a stink over what is free speech farce comedy.
  • You are entitled to your opinion. You might want to take some time to educate yourself on the real issues at hand: cultural appropriation, exploitation, systems of power and privilege, oppression, and the content which is racist and sexist. Along with linguistic research in ASL.
  • oh, how did i “quit” sign language…i got a cochlear implant…wow oh wow how awesome it works…and the so called “community” is offended and determines that i couldnt accept myself or some stupid thing like that. The fact is…no one should be blind, deaf, or anything…but a lot of deaf people i meet are so anti technology or enhancement but its ok to use their pda, chatbox, videobox, or any of that…but God forbid i try to hear things, speak orally, and not use sign language.I thought i should clear that comment up.
    • JJ,
      I have no problem with Cochlear Implants. I understand your decision to get one and respect your right to get one. It is unfortunate that you feel you cannot remain a member of the deaf community despite having a CI. Attitudes are changing. I wrote a blog post about my feelings about Cochlear Implants last year and got a lot of positive feedback. The general sense is the real problem is language and education deprivation that accompanies the decision to give a child a CI at an early age without a guarantee that it works and without a guarantee that the child will learn language, become independent, and economically self-sufficient.
Tavian, Educate myself? Are you FKN kidding me? – This whole setup of how the deaf community believes it should function in terms of how to react to polarized issues is so elitist its stupid. Ive been trying to “educate” deaf people to quit pigeonholing themselves into being the victim and change their approach to ASL linguistics. Why have a signed language thats so abbreviated that half of the comments deaf people post online display poor grammar because they write the same way they sign. If they werent so hung up on their “internal” idea of how “deafies” should function maybe their “culture” can start addressing how it can be easier to function in society with a few changes in attitude. And because arguments with deaf people always never get resolved…I am outta here…and good luck wasting more time over a stupid free speech item.
No I am not kidding you. The issues I listed for you are issues of concern to all minority populations including African-Americans, Native- Americans, Asian-Pacific Islanders, the overall disabled community, and so on forth. I agree that we should stop seeing ourselves as victims. That is WHY we are objecting. Because we choose not to be victims and to demand equal, appropriate treatment which includes respect of our culture, our language, and our personhood. Best, Tavian

To me, it seems clear that JJ, despite being born deaf, has come to the conclusion that ASL is not a real language. It's a shame. He compares it to English grammar and structure, and since they aren't the same, he says that ASL is stupid. His last words mention this whole thing as being a "...stupid free speech item." Here's what I need to say about that -

Freedom of speech is a right for everyone. The U.S. Constitution grants it. That is why people can say whatever degrading racist, sexist, etc etc, anything they want and not be penalized under law for it. That much is true. That same principle applies here, I suppose as well. However, anyone has a right to respond and stand up for themselves as well. It's nice to see so many in the Deaf community doing just that. When I was younger I saw a lot of Deaf people just sit back and be passive regardless of how offended or hurt they were. Historically for Deaf people, that's how it's always been. What's worse is that most of the hearing world has little to no idea about these things, and therefore, any one of them who could show their support don't even know it's needed.

It's my goal with this post to let those of you who would otherwise never know of this become aware and informed. Granted I can't give you every detail about this issue in a blog post, and that is why I encourage all of you to look into this for yourselves. If you feel strongly enough that St. Martin's press should not go through with this, and that Kristin Henson should not be able to profit from this venture, then share your thoughts in the court of public opinion. Click on the's petition widget on the right hand side of this page so we can let those people know what they are doing is morally wrong, and while you're at it, show those in the Deaf community that even though you are a hearing person and know little about them, you support their rights. Deaf people need to see this from hearing people now more than ever. It's a good time to start, and if you take that time, I thank you from the bottom of my half-Deaf (CODA) heart.

Until next time,

R. M.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Audism Experiment #3

Hello to all,

Time to share my findings of experiment #2, where the blog was labeled only with words that are generally audistic in nature, or are used in audistic ways. Those labels were;

- cochlear implants
- hearing aids
- hearing impaired
- disabilities
- disabled

Here are the screenshots of the Google Adsense ads on my page when I viewed it;

So we can now see what was there. One ad for interpreter positions, one for cochlear implants, four for hearing aids of some type, one from what appears to be an assistive hearing technology company asking for testimonials, two regarding disabilities (dyslexia, and respite care for children with developmental disabilities), and one random ad from Netflix (interesting that many Deaf people are on them for their lack of closed captioning of content in their internet streaming service - though I'm quite positive it's really a coincidence).

From those of you, or, rather, the one of you (you know who you are and a big Thank You) who responded with what they saw, here is that person's breakdown;

- Three for hearing aids, one of those for hearing aid repair
- One for interpreter positions
- One for "Top Grants for 2012"
- Two for hearing problems related to Tinnitus
- Three related to disabilities

I guess for the most part this comes as no surprise. All the labels were geared towards these results. It was more or less a control group. For Experiment #3, i will add no labels at all to this post, and we can see what Adsense will do. There will be one more post to follow that one where all the labels will be solely for Deaf friendly labels. Following that post will be all the results and what conclusions we can draw from them. It's a somewhat fun thing to do on my end, and I hope my prediction is correct in showing those of you who know little to nothing about Deaf Culture/Community can get a first hand look at one of the forms Audism takes.

Until next time,

R. M.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Look at a CODA's Deaf Family - Update

Hello to all,

A while back I wrote a post entitled "A Look at a CODA's Deaf Family". In it, I had talked about a Deaf man that I know who was coming to the end of his time with us on Earth. Sadly, I have to say that his time came about two weeks ago. Earlier today was his memorial service, held at the school for the deaf (or one "i" hand tapped twice on top of the other, if you will) where he attended and later worked.

In my previous post I had mentioned what he meant to me as a member of my Deaf family. I won't get into that again, but I do want to talk about the service today. I had the privilege of meeting his Deaf family.

I have to mention first about my own father's passing four years ago. My sister and I had decided to split up the responsibilities of that came along with the process of funeral/ceremonial decisions, notifying everyone, writing the obituary, and seeing our mother was ok, etc etc. I had asked to handle speaking with the funeral director to make the service a little more "Deaf" friendly. One of the things to be done was to have no aisles of chairs in the middle of the viewing room. I did not want my father's Deaf friends to have to look at the back of each others' heads. In an attempt to allow everyone to see what everyone else was signing, we arranged the chairs in a large "U" around the room. It was good for about 40 or 50 people. When people began to arrive, we quickly ended up with far more people than anticipated. Friends came from all over and we had to put chairs in the middle of the room in rows/aisles, anyways. At least we tried, right? What we ended up with was upwards of close to 100 people. Some had to view the service from the other room because we ran out of space!

I say this because at the time, it really impressed upon me what "Deaf family" means. I remembered so many faces of the people I used to see at Deaf Club meetings and get-togethers from my childhood and they were all so wonderful. I also saw many faces of people I had never met before, but whom were great friends with my father at one point in time or another. It really helped me see how much Deaf people cherish each other and how close they all were. That is what a Deaf family is.

With that said let me move onto today. This service was at least twice the size of my father's and held in the school gymnasium. Friends and family gave some touching and personal speeches. There was also a closing prayer conducted by a Deaf Father. That is something I had never seen before. It was such a cool thing to witness. The reception was held in the cafeteria, a slideshow in the meeting room, and the school's museum, something this man had the largest hand in creating, was open for all to view. There was also a video camera setup for people to give their goodbye wishes, share stories, and anything else anyone felt had merit to mention. I saw former teachers and students come today, too. He had reached a lot of people in his time.

And just like any typical get-together in the Deaf Community (with hearing people involved), the Deaf will stay until they are told to leave. The crowd was over half out by the time myself and ELF had left, and nearly all of them were either Deaf, CODAs, or other members of the man's family. And here they all were, his Deaf family. It amazed me to see it yet again, and I cannot explain in any decent amount of words how much it touched me to know that even though most of the Deaf people there were not a part of my Deaf family, the man's wife went out of her way to make me feel like I was part of their's, no matter how small a part it really is.

I guess this is the only way I can explain it. Compared to probably just about everyone else there, I was little more than an acquaintance to this man and his wife. Most of their blood family I had never met or seen until today. I think it's that connection a CODA has or can have with other Deaf people, without even having spent a great deal of time with them, that makes it a Deaf family for each other.

With so little, in relative terms, his life had a significant impact on me. For everyone else there who was much more a part of his Deaf family, I can only imagine how his life impacted them. I have to believe that its value is exponential. Everyone who attended, and everyone who could not but did so in spirit, is a better person because of his impact in our lives. That's the power of Deaf family, and I am honored to have felt its impact again. I love you, man.

Until next time,

R. M.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

E-book Review: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

 Hello everyone,

It has been quite a while since I have posted a book review on the blog. Having served as judge for the Global E-book Awards has prevented me from posting any reviews on what I read until the winners are announced in August. This is the first book I have completed reading since.
     The Dragon's Path, by Daniel Abraham is a story set in medieval times in a different world. According to its written history, the world was created by dragons, who once ruled everything. They created man and all its different races to serve them. The dragons have long since been gone, and now its the age of man that rules, although the races are still somewhat in the caste system the dragons had intended them. I will attempt to give you more vague details so as not to give you the story itself.

     The story itself follows different characters. Two such characters are nobles under the Antean king. Dawson is the king's childhood friend who plays the political game amongst the other nobles to win the kings favor in the name of preserving the kingdom. Geder is the son of Lerer, another noble. Geder is continually picked on and humiliated by other nobles and lords for being out of shape, gullible, and a bookworm (more specifically speculative essays concerning the dragons' histories). He becomes a pawn in the schemes of adversarial nobles who try to win the kings favor. Along the way he becomes somewhat of a reluctant hero/mass murderer, depending on the view. From there he comes into his own with the aide of Basraship (very key figure) and quickly ascends rank and title under the king.
    The other story centers around the characters Marcus Wester and Cithrin. Marcus is a world famous captain who lost his family and now works for hire. His partner, Yardem is his lifelong companion in battle who stays with him. They are hired by a bank to smuggle its wealth into another city in fear of the Antean invasion of the city Vanai. The bank sends Cithrin, a ward of the bank. She is disguised as a young boy to deliver the smuggled wealth. Captain Wester hires an acting troupe to be pretend guards for the operation. Mishaps occur and they end up in the free city of Port Oliva, where Cithrin takes major risks to protect the wealth and start a life of her own. 
     The King's Blood is the second book in this series. By the end of The Dragon's Path the two plot lines have barely intersected. It should be interesting to see how they intertwine later.
As for my opinion of the book itself, I found it to be an enjoyable read. Its difficult for me to accurately describe, but his use of metaphors are pleasant, and go a long way in describing characters in ways that hold my interest, whereas many other authors would leave me incredibly bored.
     It is also worth noting that he is not taking the classic good versus evil approach. Characters fall into varying degrees of good and evil and I think it relies heavily on the reader's own interpretations. These are what makes it a good book for me. I will most definitely be looking forward to part 2, The King's Blood. 
     I give The Dragon's Path a solid 4 star rating. It's not too far from being even better, but the lack of quality editing was apparent. Simple spelling mistakes and grammatical errors were not rampant, but enough for me to remember it. I encourage anyone who enjoys reading fantasy to pick this one up and give it a go. You may be surprised at what you get.
Be on the lookout for Audism Experiment #3 within the next week. It should be fun. I am still collecting data for experiment 2. 
Until next time,
R. M.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Audism Experiment #2

Hello to all,

My last post was an experiment in seeing what ads would come up on this blog based on the labels I attached to the post. These were the attached labels;

-cochlear implants 
-Deaf community 
-Deaf Culture 
-hearing aids
-social experiment

This is a screenshot of the ads I saw when I viewed the post from my computer.

That was posted near the top of the page... Here's the one that was on the side of my page.

So I guess that is my result. There was one ad titled "Language Professors Hate Him". That one to me is a discard. Ive seen that ad all over the place. Of the other five I had one for Interpreter positions, so that's good to see. Culturally Deaf people do use interpreters. Then there was one for Deaf Personals, so that one is ok. Then there is the one for "Breakthrough Hearing Aids". Companies and Audists have been claiming that  for every new technology they come out with, and it's always a disappointment. This ad can definitely be defined as audist in nature. Now that leaves me with the other 2 ads. One for respite care of children with developmental disabilities. That relates to nothing in the labels I attached, does it. Deaf people are disabled? Hmmmmm...  The other for a master's degree in k-12 special education. Deaf children are special needs and require special ed classrooms? Again, not related to my labels. 

Now for the results from those of you who took the time to tell me what you saw via facebook. (Many thanks to you all - it was a huge help)

- 3 people found hearing aid ads
- 1 for cochlear implants
- 1 for interpreters
- 1 for an Audi clearance sale Audism = Audi the car, lol, love it!
- 1 for a talent management program
- 1 for a research group
- 1 for an electronic stethoscope for the hearing impaired (theres that nasty Audistic term)

So far, so good. Now let's consider this post to be Part 2 of the experiment. This time I will change the labels to this;

- cochlear implants
- hearing aids
- hearing impaired
- disabled
- disabilities

I think this should be a nice control group for the experiment. I believe there may be two more parts after this. Again, I encourage you all to post comments either here or on facebook and tell me what ads you see. I got wonderful response from you last time, so let's keep this up! I can;t wait to see these results! 

Until net time,

R. M.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Audism Experiment

Hello to everyone. I would like to make note of the slight changes to the page. I have started using Google Adsense to see how it works. I am well aware that this blog has little potential to make any money, and I will admit I could use whatever I could earn, but what really intrigues me is the process. Google claims that Adsense will post ads that match the content of the page. Given the content I usually post I want to conduct a little experiment.

The majority of my content thus far has been either CODA or Deaf related, and really they are pretty much the same in terms of what search labels I attach to those posts. So here's the experiment - what kind of deaf related ads will Google decide to run? Will they advertise things that are a welcome part of American Deaf communities? Things that ARE important to Deaf people? Or will it be things like hearing aids or other such products/services that look at deaf as a disability?

The results of this will intrigue me. My cynical side says that without a doubt, there will be ads for hearing aids, cochlear implants, speech therapists, etc, that all make the claim that deaf can be fixed. You know, cause it's something (please add sarcastic tone here) that needs fixing. However, there is the marginally slim portion of me (more like infinitesimal) that has hope that the right thing will be done.

For now, this post will include the labels "hearing aids" and "cochlear implants". The following one will only include labels specific to cultural deafness.

End result, this is an experiment in Audism. Let's see what happens.

R. M.