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I just attended a whole day of Orientation events at Chapman University.  I was thrilled to find that they had ASL interpreters for all the large group events with podium speakers!  For the 1 1/2 hour long convocation ceremony, they even had a team!  First of all, props to Chapman for understanding and paying for the services Deaf people need.  That being said, I think they could improve their service even more.

My husband works at Chapman University, which means that I get to meet all sorts of behind-the-scene University people that most students don’t.  At a wedding a while ago, I met the woman who was in charge of booking the interpreters for special events at Chapman.  She told me that they were looking to improve the services they offered.  I believe I told them about RID certification and how that was a really good way to know you have an amazing interpreter.

The interpreters yesterday were a mixed bag.  I think they probably came from an agency, but really I’m just guessing.  The first group I watched was a team of two women.  The first woman was absolutely amazing and gave an equal-access interpretation.  She was funny when the speaker was funny, extremely animated, and caught almost every bit of information being thrown out by the speaker.  The second gal was not as good.  To be fair, she was interpreting for a man using lots of folksy language and English idioms, but I felt that she didn’t match the speaker very well and she left out a lot of non-essential information.

The team did well, though.  I hardly noticed when they switched between each other and they even kept interpreting through the non-captioned video that was shown.  I was thoroughly impressed.

That night, I went to a talk on the History and Traditions of Chapman University.  It was such a cool and funny class.  I was sitting in a really bad place to watch the interpreter (there were very tall people all around me and she was standing on the floor).  While I can’t really comment on the rest of the interpreting job she was doing, she didn’t interpret through the non-captioned movie, which I didn’t appreciate.

The two bits of advice I would have to Chapman about using interpreters in the future would be to ask the agency for people who are RID certified or have been interpreting more than five years.  They do so much to make their students feel welcome, and I really think it would be such a relief for Deaf students to see that they were getting equal access to information being presented.  It would make Deaf parents feel that they were leaving their student in the hands of someone who not only cares, but is willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of their child.

The second piece of advice would be to put those interpreters on a podium, please!!  I’d like to be able to see them no matter where I was sitting, and a little elevation will do just that.

Chapman University is a class act.  For people who know next to nothing about interpreters or interpreting, they did really well!  I was impressed by everything I saw yesterday, not just the interpreters.  Watching their interpreters made me feel like they really cared, though.  They really wanted everyone to have a good experience at orientation, not just the “normal” hearing freshmen.  I think I’m going to like attending here!

y ASL pin came several months ago, and I’ve been wearing it proudly.  For those who are interested in that sort of thing, here it is:  I’m now equipt and ready to help anyone who signs!

I just got word a few days ago that I got into Chapman University, which I’m so thrilled about, I can’t even tell you!!  They like me, they really like me!

While this doesn’t exactly have to do with sign, it does get me one step closer to getting a BA, which gets me one step closer to being certified as an interpreter.   I just thought I’d like to share the good news.  🙂

At Disneyland where I work, they allow you to have a n extra little pin at the bottom of your name tag if you speak a language other than English.  I think the idea is that people from all over the world come to Disneyland and should you need extra assistance talking to anyone, you can just pull your friend aside who has a “Mandarin” name tag on and they can help you (or whatever language you need).  They’re really stringent about who they let have a pin.  You have to go and do a special test with a native speaker of that language.  If you pass the test, they put our name on a list, and only people with their name on the list are allowed to have the pin.

They offer an ASL name tag, but I’ve been holding off on getting one until I felt I knew enough sign to really help someone.  Besides, the guy I would be testing with is a CODA, interpreted for Hundreds of years at Disney World (OK, I’m exaggerating), and is now head of disability services for the whole park… very nerve-wracking.  I’m starting interpreting classes now, though.  I felt like this was something I should certainly be able to pass.  I also felt like this is just the first in a series of tests that I’m going to be taking in the next few years, so I better get used to it. 

Really, it ended up being super easy and a lot of fun.  The guy who tested me was extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  As soon as he started explaining what would happen, I knew I would pass no problem.  The test consisted of three parts:  Part one, he would give me a vocabulary work and I would sign it back to him.  Part two, he would sign a work or small phrase and I would tell him what he said.  Part 3 was a short conversation.  I don’t think I’ve taken a test so easy since ASL 1.  He was impressed that I knew the sign for “tickets” (super-easy!!!) and the hardest thing he signed to me was that he lost his 7-year-old daughter and explained to me what she was wearing.  The conversation part consisted  of the information you give to every deaf person you meet at any Deaf Event.  When the test was over, he told me that he thought it was the quickest he’s ever given, as he just skipped over the easy stuff.  Let me tell you, I felt great!!

The best part about the meeting, though, was all the information he gave me on Deaf Services at Disneyland.  He was saying that people will see my pin and expect me to be an expert, so he’d give me all the information he could.  Such cool stuff!! They have a little handheld Closed Captioning device that’s radio-tuned to the ride, so people on the ride can read what the overhead voice is saying in places like the haunted mansion.  They also offer interpreted performances four days a week, 2 days at California Adventure, and 2 days at Disneyland.  I have to say, I kinda want to ask for one of those Closed Captioning devices the next time I’m in the park.  It would be fun to see how accurate they are and how easy they are to read and use while riding the ride.  I’ll definitely have to do that and report back. 

The other thing we discussed that I thought was interesting is when I’m allowed to interpret and when I’m not.  It’s all stuff we’ve covered in classes I’ve taken too, but I thought it was great that he’s concerned about Deaf people having qualified interpreters when they need them.  All in all, I was very impressed with my Disney Deaf experience.  I can’t wait to try out their stuff for myself.  And in the mean time, I’ll be waiting for my pin to arrive!!

I started my first interpreting class two weeks ago, and boy are we talking about some interesting things!!  The name of the class is “Principles of Interpreting” and, as my teacher says, it’s everything about interpreting that doesn’t have to do with ASL.  We’ve been dealing with dress codes, on the job stress, talking about types of interpreting (who knew there were so many?!), and all sorts of other things. 

The topic I’m finding most pertinent right now is on the job stress.  A few weeks ago, I was in a work-type situation where there were a mixed group of Deaf and Hearing folks.  A very Audist gentleman was being a total A$$H*!@ to the Deaf folks, much more so than to any of the hearing.  He would spontaneously yell and reprimand people publicly.  I even once heard him say “I don’t care about Deaf Culture, I just want you to do it my way.”  I was not the interpreter in this situation (thank God!!)  but boy was I stressed!!  I think the worst thing for me was that this gentleman came into the situation spouting all the right stuff about Deaf Culture and Deaf rights.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know better.  it was just that, when push came to shove, he didn’t care.I was so stressed one night that – I’ll admit it – I went home and cried. 

In class, we’ve been talking about worse situations than the one I experienced, such as being the operator for a 911 VRS call, or having to tell someone in a hospital that their mother just died.  I’ve heard all this can wear on an interpreter until the experience what’s called Vicarious Trauma.  Don’t worry, I’m not re-thinking my desire to become an interpreter, I’m just thinking about all the tools I’ll need to handle this.

I have never handled stress very well.  My usual master plan is to go home and have a good cry, which frankly frightens my husband.  Crying is not a good strategy for stress management, at least not for me.  But what other tools can I use?  I’ll be pondering that as I take the rest of this course.  Along with everything else I’m learning.

aturday was horrifically hot and awful.  It was over 100 degrees, and you could see the waves of heat coming off the macadam roadways.  Instead of staying inside like any decent person would, I worked Deaf West’s booth at DEAFestival LA.  Aside from the unbearable heat, I had an amazing time!

My shift at the booth was supposed to start at 2:00, but I hit the inevitable LA traffic.  That, coupled with a 3 car accident on the side of the road, served to make me a bit late.  As I pulled off the freeway, I saw with relief the little sign procaiming DEAFestival parking, and a blue arrow pointing the way in.  Murphy’s law tends to work out so that whenever I’m running late, I usually get lost too.  I was excited that didn’t have to worry about that today.  I drove down a dusty road while a volunteer pointed me to park in a vast expanse of dustiness.  There was a bus, shuttling people from parking lot to festival, so I retrieved my purse from the back seat of the car, straightened my new blue “Deaf West” shirt, and trudged through the dust to the bus stop.  I was excited when I knew one of the volunteers helping people park!  She also volunteers at Deaf West sometimes.  We chatted a little before I took my place in the shade to await the bus.

It probably took less that 15 minutes for the bus to arrive, but the opressive heat made it seem like much longer.  My little Disney Heat Index trained self was telling me to drink water NOW or suffer the consequesces.  Too bad I hadn’t brought any with me.  As I waited, I caught snippets of conversation from the others waiting for the bus.  I think that’s the first time I’ve understood parts of ASL conversation without trying too.  Evidence I’m getting better?

The bus dropped us all off underneath a line of tall pine trees, next to another field of dustines.  Blue Easy-ups stretched out in the vast expanse of brown dirt while people bustled here and there.  I joined them, determined to rush around and find the Deaf West booth as quickly as possible.  As soon as I joined the crowd, a woman stopped me.

“Hi!  You work for Deaf West?” she asked, signing with a very student accent.

“No, I’m a volunteer.” I signed back.

“Are you hearing?”  She asked me.

“Yes.”

“Oh thank goodness.”  She said to me in English.  She wanted to know about volunteering at Deaf West.  I told her that I considered it an amazing experience, that they needed people for just about everything, and that she could go on the website and fill out their form if she was interested.  We exchanged names, and I went on my way.

I found the booth pretty quickly, in the middle of the middle aisle.  Ty, the Deaf West representative was chatting with someone in front of me.  “Hi!” I signed to him, ” I’m volunteering today. I’m soooo sorry I’m late!”

“Don’t worry about it.”  He signed back to me, and I took my place behind the counter.  The next two hours were great.  I chatted with people in my bad ASL, handed out forms, asked them if they wanted to win tickets, explained the shows that were coming up, and all together had an amazing time.  They even had bottles of water for us to drink so we didn’t get dehydrated!  The other girl who was volunteering with me was an ASL 2 student, and she did so well!!  I don’t know that I would have done as well as she did when I was in ASL 2.  We made friends fast,  and exchanged numbers at the end of our booth stint.  Several Deaf people asked me my name, several more decided to tease me (which I always enjoy), and I saw a lot of funny t-shirts.  “I laughed my ASL off” was one of the t-shirts I really liked, but my favorite by far was “Don’t Scream, I’m not that Deaf.”  I also saw a LOT of people I knew milling about in the crowd.  It was exciting to know that I was recognizing people and becoming a part of the community, slowly but surely.

When my booth stint was up, I wandered around for a few minutes.  I decided several months ago that my dream interpreting job would be to work for GLAD (Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf), so I was excited to see their signs.  I took a bunch of fliers, figuring I would peruse them later.   I also walked around to see if there was any ASL merchandise I wanted to buy.  Sadly there were only two booths selling things, and they were things I really wasn’t interested in.  The other thing I really missed was the TTY museum.  Maybe they decided not to attend because all their antique machines would be outside in the dust.  Aside from all the booths with Deaf themes, booths from the city of Los Angeles were there too. The Democratic party had a booth, the water district had a booth, and so did one of the candidates for city council.  It was nice to see people who aren’t part of the Deaf community trying to participate.  I commend them for trying, but it didn’t seem like many people were interested in what they were doing.  To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in what they were doing either.

I had an appointment that evening, so after I strolled leisurely through the rows of booths, I took the bus back to my dust-covered car and went on my merry way.  It was a great day!  I think my ASL stood up really well to the challenge of explaining things, I got to meet neat people, and I got to spend time with the Deaf community.  What could be better than that?  Not a whole lot.

y sister went out to the mall with some friends the other day, and a Deaf man left a little booklet on her table with the ASL alphabet and some basic signs inside.  She thought of me, so she bought it.  I was really excited about it.  Most of the signs are ones I don’t recognize, like GOOD, BAD, PERFECT, CHANCE and RIGHT.  I know versions of those signs, just not the signs listed in the booklet.  I had heard much about ABC cards and Deaf peddlers, but never seen them.  In fact, I had the impression that ABC cards were a dying breed and I’m excited that I now own one.

I know this is probably a controversial feeling.  Deaf people tend to look down on people peddling ABC cards.  The general feeling is that people handing out ABC cards are ambassadors, of a sort, for the Deaf Community.  Most Deaf people feel that these people aren’t the best roll models.  The impression they give is that Deaf people don’t work, that they rely on begging to sustain themselves, and that Deaf people can’t do everything a hearing person can.

I know neither my sister nor I felt this way.  She thought the little card was neat and bought it because she liked it, not because she felt sorry for the man selling it.  What she was really interested in is how he got it.  Who prints them, decides what they say, and how does the ABC card seller get them?  I went on a quest to find out, and what I found was, um… interesting.

My particular card was made up into a PDF file by a group called The Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center.  Before this latest version, they had another version where the signs weren’t very up to date, but they recently remade it to be more current.  The group prints the pamphlets and distributes them mostly to Deaf people, although they also distribute them to hearing people at fairs and other places that the Center might have a booth.  They also offer the PDF file on their website to anyone who wants to print some ABC cards themselves.  If you’re interested in looking at the PDF, here’s the link to it: http://www.deafadvocacy.org/community/freebies/des.pdf.  I think it’s interesting to note that nowhere on the card does it state the name of the agency- or have any other identifying information about where it comes from.

Now comes the juicy part.  How did I come across this information?  I found a message board thread where a man stated that they had just finished re-designing the ABC cards, and that distributing them would be “a win-win for the deaf community members and our deaf center!”  He linked to the same PDF file that’s listed above.  People ripped this guy a new one on the message board, but he seemed to enjoy it and was snarky right back to them.  It feels a little to me like this guy knew he was being controversial and wanted and internet fight.

So who is this organization providing ABC cards?  At first, I thought that the OCDAC might be some sort of dummy site or joke site.  I clicked around a little, and I found out that they’re a legitimate Deaf Advocacy organization.  They hold events, provide services, and otherwise function like a real organization.  They aren’t a joke.  The question now is, are they trying to make a joke?  On their website, on the page “Free Services”, the link to the ABC cards is listed as “Personal Fundraising Assistance”.  They’re just asking for it, aren’t they?

The third layer to this story is the fact that Deaf Peddling is illegal in California.  There’s a law that prohibits solicitation by those not connected with a non-profit institution, which includes Deaf people selling ABC cards.  Whether they’re trying to be funny or not, the reality is that OCDAC is making it really easy for people to break the law, without telling them that it’s illegal.  Do they realize this, or not?

I’m inclined to chalk all this up to a not-very-funny joke.  It seems to me that someone is trying to make a touchy subject a little less touchy by being flippant about it.  The fact that it isn’t funny, and that they’re potentially harming people seems to have escaped them.  That’s what I’m going to believe anyway.  Who knew that researching the gift my sister gave me would be so interesting and controversial?

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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