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ASLAlthough I have posted a review or two on some of the books I’ve read, I thought it might be better if I posted the names of all the books I’ve read this summer and the letter grade I would give them, along with a brief explanation as to why.  I read a TON of books this summer and I don’t think I’m going to have time to independently review all of them. 

Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks “C+”– While this book had some great information about the Deaf President Now rallies and made an important case for Deaf people’s need of sign language, Sacks ultimately lingers too much on language acquisition in general.  He also tends to speak of Deaf people as if they are their inability to hear, and not as if they are people too.

Inside Deaf Culture by Tom Humphries and Carol Padden “A” – This book is really great if you want information about the history of Deafness in America.  It also includes the personal narratives of the authors as well as information about a plethora of aspects of Deaf Culture. 

A Deaf Artist In Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster Jr. by Harlan Lane “B-” – While this book was really good, only about 1/2 of it was actually about John Brewster Jr.  The rest was about his era and the other Deaf people who lived in the US at the time (even though they didn’t have anything to do with John Brewster).  I also didn’t like Lane’s hypothesis that John Brewster left the American School because he had a hard time learning ASL when there is no evidence to suggest that, but that’s a minor quibble.

Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman “A+!” –  From Codas to Deaf Education to what Deaf Studies really means, Deaf people weigh in on every topic imaginable.  Before you can get bored with anything, another incredibly engrossing article catches your attention and you’re thinking about Deafness in new ways (again).  This book is AMAZING!  It’s my favorite of all the books I’ve read so far.

Recent Perspectives on American Sign Language by Harlan Lane and Francois Grosjean “F” – While this book may be really great if you’re a language scholar (although I don’t think so…), I just found it incomprehensible.  It’s a shame, because in general I like Harlan Lane.

When The Mind Hears: A History Of The Deaf by Harlan Lane “A+” – This book is really, really great and features an incredibly important time in the history of the Deaf in America.  My only criticism is that it stops too soon!!  I wish it continued through the 1950s, but it ends with Alexander Graham Bell the spread of oralism. 

Next on the list is The Wild Boy of Aveyron by Harlan Lane, Deaf In America: Voices From A Culture by Tom Humphries and Carol Padden, and A Mighty Change: An Anthology of Deaf American Writing 1814-1864 edited by Christopher Krentz.  I’ll let you know how they are when I’m done with them…


TTYOLD image021 Weitbrecht

ASLRobert was born in 1920 in Orange, California.  Soon after he was born, his parents found out that he was deaf.  His mother taught him how to lipread, and although he went to a deaf school for a very short time, Robert soon stopped going to school altogether.  Instead, he was home schooled with another deaf boy by a private tutor.  When his tutor died, Robert was placed in a mainstream public school.  Public school was not an enjoyable experience for Robert.  He was often made fun of for his speech, and continued to have self-esteem issues throughout his life.  It was during these years at public school that Robert developed a love for the stars on evening walks with his family.  At 18 years old he won the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award for building a reflecting telescope. Robert also became fascinated by the  Ham Radio.  He eventually became a licensed Ham Radio operator and used Morse Code to speak to hearing people all over the world.

Robert then went on to attend University of California Berkley, graduating in 1942 with honors in Astronomy.  There he met another Deaf man who taught him how to sign, but Robert’s skills weren’t perfect and he always felt more comfortable lip reading.  After graduation, he started working at the Radiation Lab at University of California as a Physicist, and then took a job as an Electronics Scientist at the US Naval Air Missile Test Center.  While working for the Navy, he developed a timing system for controlling and taking pictures of  missiles in flight.  During World War II, Robert was placed on the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for building the world’s first atomic bomb.  During this time Robert developed the Geiger Counter, which is used to measure levels of radioactivity. 

After the war Robert returned to school, earning a Master’s degree in Astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1952.  He went through all of his schooling without an interpreter, borrowing notes from classmates to understand what was said during lectures.   Robert’s fascination with the Ham Radio continued, as he submitted articles to RTTY Magazine and traveled around the country with his radio visiting other Ham operators.   In 1950, Robert obtained a radio teletypewriter that allowed him to receive messages, but not send them, over the radio.  It was also incompatible with the telephone.  Robert fooled around with the device a little and was able to modify it so it could send as well as receive messages over the radio.  He also started to challenge many of the Federal regulations regarding radios and eventually got permission to broadcast on more frequencies, among other things. 

Robert didn’t really think about modifying his radio Teletypewriter until he met James C. Marsters through a friend.  James had been working on a way for Deaf people to communicate over the telephone for years.  At James’ suggestion, Robert was able to invent an acoustic coupler that allowed the TTY to work with a regular telephone.   The very first TTY call was made in May of 1964.  Although the device would only send or receive messages to and from another TTY, Deaf people suddenly gained an important means of communication.  They no longer had to knock on doors and leave notes if someone wasn’t home.  They could call their friends instead.

Robert, together with James and his friend Andrew Sacs, started the Applied Communication Corporation to try and put TTYs into the homes of Deaf people everywhere.  They also worked on developing the technology even further, and eventually came out with the Weitbrecht Modem.  Although the three didn’t receive a lot of money for their invention, they felt that the fact that it made many people’s lives easier was compensation enough.  Robert was also awarded tons of honors from various institutions for his work, including an honorary degree from Gallaudet University. 

In 1983, Robert was walking his dog when he was struck by a car while crossing the street.  He died in the hospital several days later.  While his death was tragic, Robert will always be remembered as the man who helped make millions of Deaf people all over the world a little more independent.


ASLPerhaps you’ve seen the big D for Deaf used in some places and the little d for deaf used in others.  What does that signify?  Big D Deaf is a concept that is fairly new in Deaf Culture, and although everyone agrees that big D deaf should be used to signify someone who is culturally Deaf, many people disagree on what being culturally Deaf means.  For instance take two seemingly similar groups, Children of Deaf Adults (Codas) and Hard of Hearing people.  They both have close ties to the Deaf Community and they both can hear at least a little bit.

Are Codas considered culturally Deaf?  Many people, when reviewing the “rules” for determining capital D Deafness, think that they should be.  They are recieving Deaf Culture straight from their parents, and don’t have to learn it later in life as many deaf adults born to hearing parents have to.  In many ways they understand the ins and outs of Deaf Culture best from having experienced it so intimately as children.  By all criteria set forward in defining the culturally Deaf, they would be included.  In the Deaf world, however, Codas are often not considered Deaf at all.  The fact remains that they can hear, and that many of them leave the Deaf world to pursue lives hearing people live.  Even Codas who choose to remain in the Deaf world are looked on as not full members of the community due to their hearing ability.

If not being able to hear is the deciding factor, Hard of Hearing people should not be included as Deaf.  Many Hard of Hearing people do call themselves Deaf with a capital D, and are accepted as full members of Deaf society.  Usually these Hard of Hearing people have Deaf friends, go to Deaf Events, participate fully in Deaf culture and lead much of their lives as a Deaf person would.  Even though they can hear, they are still considered Deaf by the Deaf community.  Then again, there are Hard of Hearing people who call themselves just that, and don’t identify as Deaf at all.

In all my reading, every criteria put forward to explain what culturally Deaf means doesn’t apply in at least one situation and usually more.  I think the best measure of capital D Deafness came from my deaf ASL2 professor.  She said “If you were to tell me who you are, what would you say first?”  I would describe myself as a White American Christian Scientist, therefore I am not culturally Deaf.  My professor would describe herself as a Korean American who is deaf, therefore she is not culturally Deaf either.  I’ve found, in my limited experience, that this test works really well.  If you say “Deaf” first, you can always bet it’s with a capital D.

DEP Work

ASLDeaf people can do anything hearing people can, except hear.”  I. King Jordan said when he was elected President of Gallaudet University, but is this really true?  I asked myself, would I be able to do my job if I was Deaf?  I think I could, although I certainly wouldn’t be able to do my job the way I do it now.

I’m in charge of the day-to-day running crew for Disney’s Electrical Parade costuming.  My official title, for those of you who know Disneyland, is “Working Lead.”  I’m not going to divulge any dirty Disney secrets, but I will tell you that my job entails a LOT of communication.  I’m the representative for costuming to all other departments working on the parade, and I spend a lot of time talking to Stage Managers, Choreographers, Performers and my own crew.  I also do a lot of teaching people to put costumes together, and supervising and correcting people who are doing things wrong.  If I was Deaf, the method of communication would have to change a lot.  Right now I just walk up to people and start talking. 

How would the method change?  I think in some respects, it’s already built into the system.  I carry a notebook around with me all the time so I can jot down problems and fix them later.  I could use that notebook to write down anything I wanted to communicate, or have others write down what they’d like to say to me.  If I’m the inside Lead, where I’m likely to get phone calls, there’s already a person assigned to act as my buddy and run errands.  They could certainly relay phone messages as well.  If I needed to teach someone to put together a costume, I already show them the parts and how they all go together… they would just lack audio.  I’m sure it would be really simple for everyone on crew to learn one sign: “Understand?”  and be able to tell me yes or no.  Being Deaf might even be helpful.  I can already tell from across a parking lot if costumes are blinking wrong or missing a light bulb.  Just think of how much more effective I’d be if my vision was as good as a Deaf person’s!

Some things, of course, would be problematic.  We wear headsets every night so we can learn about problems happening where we can’t see them, and I would be unable to use these.  If we are having an emergency, we have to be able to tell official people (usually over the headset) that there’s a problem while also trying simultaneously to fix said problem.  I wouldn’t have time to stop and write.  Then there’s the matter of General Announcements (things the crew is supposed to know about, or do that they aren’t doing).  I’m not sure I would feel comfortable speaking to a group of twelve about what they were doing wrong when I couldn’t hear myself at all.  I wouldn’t know how loud or soft I was being or if I was even clearly understandable.  I would probably end up writing them down and having my fellow Lead read them for me, and  I would just have to trust that she was getting my point across.  In all of these cases I would have to rely heavily on someone else to communicate for me.  This is something I’m certainly not used to now.

There’s no doubt that I could do it, though.  I’m also certain that I would enjoy it as much as I do now.  I could still enjoy the antics of the performers and  my crew: having Chinese fire-drills when we’re waiting for the Fireworks to end… performing the hanger dance while waiting for the parade to come in.  The fierce beauty of the electric lights as the parade leaves backstage would still leave me breathless.  And I would never get that darn song stuck in my head.  🙂 

If a Deaf person could do my job, with as much constant communication as it entails, a Deaf person could do any job.  I fully believe that it’s just a matter of being flexible and figuring out what works best in each situation, with a little help from friends.  Deaf people can certainly do anything hearing people can.  I. King Jordan was so right, and that’s nice to have proof of.

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