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One of the gals I worked at Deaf West with asked me if I’d like to help out on a Deaf film last weekend.  Of course I got really excited and said yes!!  I didn’t know the director or anything before-hand but the two lead actors on the film were also in My Sister In This House, and I knew that several of the people I worked with at Deaf West would be helping on the film.  It’s only been a month since the show has been over and I already miss the girls at Deaf West soooo much.  Plus, an afternoon to practice signing is the BEST thing ever.   I met everyone at GLAD in Eagle Rock for the shoot.  I had never been there before, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it is.  The building is a 1920’s spanish style that’s been modernized to be state of the art.  They have the most beautiful garden with a fountain, and there are trees just surrounding the building.  Inside, everything is extra nice.  It seemed as home-like as an office can seem, to me.  They had plush sofas, dark wooden desks, pictures on the walls, and an air of calm importance.  I’ve often thought about working for GLAD once I become certified, and visiting just solidified my wish.

We had a great time.  Jules Dameron is a Deaf girl doing her best to make it as a film-maker.  She wrote and directed Beyond Essays, an all ASL film with Deaf actresses.  It speaks to many hot-button issues in the Deaf community, like the ASL vs English debate, and includes a protest of AB2072.  I checked out a few of her other short films on line this week and she’s brilliant.  She’s made some very cool films.

I would say we were about 1/2 deaf and 1/2 hearing on the set.  Many of the production people didn’t know sign at all, but about 1/2 of the Production Assistant helpers were deaf, and all of the actors were deaf.  They had about three interpreters at a time on set, and they were a big help.  A couple of the production people started mistaking me for an interpreter when they realized how much sign I knew, oops!!  I pointed them in the right direction immediately:  signing is one skill, interpretation is a totally different ball of wax.  I’m better than nothing, but everyone’s going to get much more accurate information from someone who’s been trained properly.  I guess that’s what I get for wearing a black shirt.

Mostly I ran errands around the set, and off the set… someone had to go get lunch.  I also did a lot of chatting with folks in the Green Room during down times.  I felt like my ASL held up pretty well to everything, and I was WAY less nervous about communicating than I have been in the past.  It was great getting tons of practice.  I noticed again how much better my receptive skills are than my expressive.  I need to get back into the swing of going to events around town and improve the signing that I’m doing a little more.

The day wound up with Jules asking many of the production folks to step in and be protesters for the film.  I didn’t expect to be on screen at all, but I may be in the movie!!  It was so much fun to stand in front of the camera yelling “Preserve ASL” at the top of my lungs while signing the words madly and vehemently in the beautiful courtyard.  It was the perfect ending to my day.

I’ll be excited to see what Beyond Essays turns out to be in it’s finished form.  If the stuff I saw this weekend is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing film.  Right now, the estimated run time is around 10-minutes.  I’ll let everyone know when it comes out.

don’t know if any of you have heard about California bill AB2072.  If you haven’t, I greatly urge you to look it up.  This bill will be terrible for Deaf Education, as it places all the responsibility of educating parents about options for their deaf child in the hands of Audiologists.  Don’t look now, but the all the progress Deaf people have made with being treated equally has just been set back 100 years.
I thought the time to be able to say something had passed me by, because the bill was passed in April of this year.  I just found out, though, that they’ve sent the bill back to the Committee On Health for further review.  That review is scheduled to happen on June 16th.  If you feel as strongly as I do about this bill, I urge you to write your State Senator because you can still make a difference.  You can find out who he is by clicking here: http://www.senate.ca.gov/~newsen/senators/senators.HTP, and then clicking on “Your Senator” on the left hand side.  This is the letter I sent:
Dear Senator Huff,
I am very concerned about the bill AB2072, which deals with hearing screening and resources for families of Deaf children.  I feel that there are several problems with this bill, 1: that Audiologists will be in charge of dispensing information to families, 2: while the bill states that all kinds information should be given, it doesn’t specify that the information should be treated with equal weight, and 3: the Deaf Community has not been brought in on this issue.
The job of an Audiologist is to fix hearing problems.  When one medical procedure isn’t working they will frequently fall back on another medical procedure, even if it isn’t best for the child.  Oliver Sacks, in his book Seeing Voices, shows that keeping language away from children harms them developmentally.  Audiologists frequently tell parents not to sign with their children so they will learn to speak faster.  The problem with this philosophy is that speech to a toddler who can’t hear isn’t language.  It’s only speech.  If Audiologists become the prime source of information for families of Deaf children, a situation is created that could harm the cognitive development of Deaf children for generations.  This doesn’t even touch on the emotional harm done by Audiologists who hold Deaf people to a standard they will never be able to meet: that of a hearing person.
I have noticed that the bill states that all kinds of information should be given to parents of recently diagnosed Deaf children.  While I commend the effort to be inclusive, I’m worried that this information will not be given equal weight.  It is too easy to hand parents a million pamphlets while pushing a purely oral agenda as the only option.  This ultimately denies parents the equal information the bill pretends to provide.
I am also upset that the Deaf community has not been brought in on this issue.  I am 100% hearing myself, and I have learned through my association with the Deaf community that I will never know what it’s like to not hear.  The only experts on Deafness are Deaf people themselves, and it worries me that they have been shut out of this process.  I can’t understand why Deaf people weren’t talked to about their experiences with the system or asked to be a member of the committee designing the bill.  It also upsets me that, when the omission of the Deaf community was realized, the bill was pushed through anyway.  I feel that a bill cannot be in the best interests of a community when the community hasn’t been allowed to put forth their opinion.
I realize that you are not serving on the Committee On Health, but I hope you will pass my comments along to someone who is.  This issue is extremely important to me.  I agree with the senate that the current system we have in place could be improved, I just don’t think that AB2072 is an improvement.  Thank you so much for your time.
Sincerely,
Casey Hamilton

t Mount San Antonio College, where I’m studying for my sign certificate, there are ducks all over the ASL department.  Rubber ducks, duck pens, decoy ducks, yellow feathers, plush ducks, basically any kind of duck you can think of, it’s there somewhere.  Frequently I’ll come into class and there will be duck pictures drawn all over the white boards, with the words “Quack” written everywhere too.  On the day a bunch of people came into class wearing duck masks and pelting little duck erasers at the teacher, we got a hilarious explanation of what’s really going on.   This is what we were told:

Robert Arnold started it all, he fully admits to everything.  In his first year of teaching, he was required to attend these once a week meetings about how to be a better teacher.  He’s Deaf, so he had two interpreters to go with him.  Well, the meetings were pretty boring.  So instead of trying to pay attention, he decided to screw with the interpreters.  He would be signing really inappropriate things to the one interpreter while the other interpreter was trying to do her job, and vice versa.  The interpreter would be watching their conversation and trying really hard not to be unprofessional and laugh.  The other two were also frequently trying not to laugh out loud and disturb the meeting, which they did with varying success.  The interpreters didn’t know what to do.  They finally asked the big boss, Julie Bradley, what they should do about the situation so they could remain professional.

Julie decided to come down to the meeting and see what was going on for herself.  Instead of behaving himself,  Bob asked the interpreters why someone hadn’t made an air freshener for farts.  You could stick it up there and when you farted it could emit a little puff of scent and be really nice.  Or how about a whistle?  Instead of the farting noise, it could whistle Yankee Doodle or Camp Town Races or something.  Eventually this devolved into sticking a duck whistle up there.  That way when you farted, you would emit a really loud duck call.  After that he would draw pictures of ducks on pieces of paper and hold them up for the interpreters to see as they were trying to do their job.

And so the Duck Wars were born.  It’s the interpreters against the Deaf teachers, and they both attempt to recruit students to their side.  The interpreters started leaving Bob little plush ducks and things, and Bob chuckled in glee as he told us about the day he completely covered every inch of Julie’s office with yellow feathers.  She duckified his office in retaliation a little while later, and now there are ducks all over the place.  Most of the students seem to be on Juile’s side.  As she points out, she teaches most of the interpreting classes and it’s kinda up to her whether we pass the program or not.  I also think that, as future interpreters ourselves, we tend to side with our partners in occupation.

As Bob says, the Duck Wars are a great way to break the monotony at work and have a little fun among colleagues.  I think it gives our department a little more personality.  All the students love it, and it’s never disrupted our learning environment.  In fact, I think it adds to it.    It’s great to be in a serious class, but sometimes a little diversion helps you study better after it’s over.  So if you’re going to Mt. SAC, slip someone a duck.

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