How Technology has Helped the Deaf

There’s no doubt that technology has improved the lives of deaf people but what exactly are those advancements?  If we roll back only a few years, deaf people had little choice but using the postal system if they wanted to communicate which obviously was hardly easy.  SMS might seem quite a simple technology but it has transformed the lives of many deaf people.  It’s sometimes easy to forget how dependant we are on using phones to communicate at least twenty years ago, but the deaf were pretty much excluded from using these devices as most can’t hear voices on phone lines.

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The SMS followed the invention of things like the textphone which allowed people with hearing problems to type to one another with words appearing directly on the screens.  Many deaf people also invested in expensive Fax machines as another way to communicate.

Nowadays there are loads of options that technology has made available for deaf people to communicate more easily.  Social networks like Facebook are especially popular for deaf people were there is no disadvantage in communicating without being able to hear.  Even people in restrictive societies where internet access is often filtered can use something like a British VPN to use the internet freely.

The other major development is being able to use video on most network enabled devices so that deaf people can use lip reading or sign language across the internet.

There are other significant improvements for deaf people in the improvements in hearing aids and cochlear implants.  These are now much more effective and can be integrated with other devices like smart phones or music players via Bluetooth.

New innovations are appearing all the time, using video is now pretty much mainstream and has certainly helped the deaf in more formal situations like meetings.  There are now devices and software which can translate automatically between sign language and English.  Projects have often focussed on the popular BSL (British Sign Language).

There are many deaf resources also available on the internet, for example check out the great deaf magazine from the BBC called See Hear.  All these resources have certainly improved the lives of deaf people all over the world but particular for those in developed countries where deaf people have easier access to these technological aids.

For further information on how to access the BBCs resource for deaf people outside the United Kingdom using a proxy server – please see this site.

 

How UK Deaf Sport is Helping to Boost Participation Levels

A fresh motivator for sports clubs to get certification from UK Deaf Sport was established to help grow the variety of deaf people volunteering, training and playing in sport.

They will subsequently work with UK Deaf Sport as a way to eliminate obstacles deaf people may come up against, including problems in obtaining sports at their club or leisure centre.

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They’ll be requested to finish a group of standards as soon as they’ve completed the scheme, the club will subsequently receive accredited status as a “DEAFinitely Inclusive” club or facility in addition to the standard kite mark, which they are able to subsequently use to boost opportunities for deaf people.

“The DEAFinitely Inclusive kite symbol will empower deaf and hard of hearing individuals to be assured in getting sport as well as physical action,” Lee Dolby, director of development at UK Deaf Sport, said.

“By trying to find the symbol they’ll learn that clubs and facilities have taken positive things to do to make sure they’re deaf conscious.

“Sport should be for everyone; but in the event you are unsure whether you’ll be welcomed or contained, it is sometimes a frightening spot to enter.

“Our new kite symbol will empower deaf people to feel more assured that any action showing the symbol will probably be interesting, friendly and DEAFinitely Inclusive.”

The establishment of the initiative follows UK Deaf Sport hosting their first-ever important conference in May, entitled “ReDEAFining Deaf Sport”, which planned to handle crucial problems for deaf athletes.  There has been extensive new coverage and you can even see a documentary on UK television, access from outside the UK is possible by using a proxy like this.

Curious clubs and facilities can register their interest by contacting Clive Breedon, UK Deaf Sport national involvement official at participation@ukds.org.uk and more advice on the scheme are available here.

Further Details

Innovative New Hearing Program Launched

Cathy Zimmerman uses various technology — low and high — to counter her hearing loss.

She uses sign language and has hearing aids and a captioned phone.

“I lost my hearing in my own teens. I did not understand it, because it was slow.”

She’d what’s called sensoneural hearing loss, due to injury to the inner ear.

“I can hear you, and I am reading your lips,” she told a visitor.

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Zimmerman learned American Sign Language about 20 years past but had no one else to communicate with.  Evolving standard practice is required by vocabulary, she said.

Extending one somewhat cupped hand before her face, she illustrated the “selfie” signal.

An organization of “Saturday Signers” consistently meets in the society’s Samaritan’s Well building, next to the St. Vincent de Paul shop, to keep up their abilities.

“We get anywhere from five individuals to a dozen. We are all at different degrees,” Zimmerman said.

“We had a meet and greet in Perryopolis in December for anyone who signed. We got two individuals from DuBois. They needed the social interaction,” she said.

In 2003, when she was 60, Zimmerman began school, earning a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human development .

“I never went to school because I could not hear,” she said.

As a part time job instructor for Transitional Employment Consultants, she accompanies new workers with other impairments or hearing loss as they learn their occupations. Signing the word “thought” — a pinky flick off her brow — she came up with Hear Fayette.

“I understood how isolating (hearing loss) is.

“Cathy not only saw a demand, she developed a treatment for the demand.”

Hear Fayette offers sign language classes two times annually and contains a 725-subscriber list because of its bimonthly newsletters. St. Vincent de Paul worker Jeff Martz, who’s deaf and mute, instructs from the American Sign Language University program.

“Jeff uses lots of pantomime. I do believe he is a natural-born performer,” Zimmerman said.

Contributions are taken, although there’s absolutely no charge for the lessons. Hear Fayette volunteers distribute literature and supply loudspeakers and service referrals.

It is a volunteer centre for Pennsylvania Initiative on Assistive Technology Lending Library, Telecommunications Device Distribution Plan and Assistive Technology.

In addition, it helps with programs for free or low cost hearing aids and telephones.

“It is among the most effective things that ever occurred to me.

Across a tiny display, text scrolls through the telephone ‘s voice recognition technology.

“Occasionally you acquire some funny things. …

The plan has worked with police departments, teaching them the signal for “mistreatment,” so they can comprehend a deaf casualty. It is hoped that many other technologies which can help deaf people will have a focus within these new support centres. Many technologies can help deaf people in all sorts of circumstances, even using a simple VPN program like illustrated here, can allow deaf people to access programming with proper captioning that may only be available in certain countries.

“We want to do as much as we are able to in order to get the term out that we’re here for folks, as well as for others to value the hard of hearing. … I simply wished to help other people who have hearing loss find out they’re not by yourself,” Zimmerman said.

Additional Information

Enjoying Good Health Despite Deafness

To enjoy good health is a blessing that many of us merely take for granted, while others work at maintaining it despite a disability such as deafness. Yet it is something that can be enjoyed by anyone who is determined to have it despite certain physical difficulties they may suffer from.

There seems to be a far too commonly held opinion by many of those with normal hearing that those without it must be incapable of staying fit and healthy. This is absurd of course, but it must be part of human nature that mimics the animal kingdom that compartmentalizes those seen as weak by those that are strong.

However, there is one major aspect that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and that is our higher mental faculties. It means we don’t have to accede to base animal instincts where our intelligence allows us to rise above it.

When we stop and use that intelligence to reason things through, it becomes obvious that deafness doesn’t make a person weak unless they choose not to keep fit through physical exercise or do anything to keep themselves healthy. In other words, a deaf person can be every bit as fit, healthy and physically strong as anyone else!

Health in terms of physical fitness as well as internal bodily health is a fact of life that humankind is blessed with and given the tools with which to maintain it when we choose to do so (see cirv.org for more details). We can choose what we eat and drink and thereby either maintain a healthful diet that promotes our well being or we can choose to eat a bad diet which eventually leads to unhealthy conditions and illnesses that doctors then have to take over and treat.

Taking deafness as an example of the kind of disability that should not prevent a person from eating healthily and exercising regularly, we can see how a lack of hearing would not stop a person from engaging in those practices. After all, there is no need to be able to hear in order to run around a track, work out at a gym or eat a meal that is made up of wholesome food any more than it would prevent a person from reading a book and learning all about healthy ways.

So there are many ways in which a person can enjoy a full and healthful lifestyle despite a lack of hearing function. Indeed, many people with such a disability tend to be more highly motivated to compensate for one lack by excelling in other areas of life.

Further reading: Hearing Disorders and Deafness

Deafness as a Disability

Those of us that suffer from a lack of this important sense of hearing often find ourselves included among people with disabilities and are often excluded from many activities because of it. Yet there are so many things that we are still quite capable of doing that does not require the need to be able to hear.

It seems as if there are still so many social and peer obstacles that need to be surmounted in order that the many disability views that still exist can be disassembled. This is an important aspect of life that can be taken into consideration by those not afflicted with this particular physical handicap so that we can join in with others in enjoying life to the full.

As an example, in sports today there are many participants that have certain physical limitations that they have overcome in a quite public fashion by way of the immense popularity of the modern Paralympics. To such an extent has this aspect of sports been raised in the public eye that the media and the advertising machine that drives it are fully behind it.

Of course there are also some aspects of life that will by definition naturally exclude us from participating in simply because they are wholly aural in nature. Probably the most obvious examples of this is music, since it cannot be translated into a visual entity that would enable the hearing challenged to appreciate it as it really is.

If that concept is difficult to grasp, consider how impossible it would be to describe the colour blue to a person blind from birth that has never experienced the sense of sight. There would just be no way to enable such a person to use any of their remaining senses to decipher and comprehend what colour is.

It is the same with deafness when there is no point of reference or experience to draw from that would allow the person to comprehend sound, especially musical sound. Of course many people that suffer total deafness are able to sense the physical aspect of music, such as a drum beat or the sound waves of low notes such as from a bass guitar or an amplified bassoon or cello.

However, there are many more ways in which a person without the sense of hearing can participate in certain aspects of life that have traditionally excluded them. It is not necessary to be able to hear to be able to engage in most sports, to work at most jobs, to enjoy most types of vacation or to simply be accepted as an equal in social situations.

Reference: National Institute on Deafness

Useful Safety Device for Deaf

Sometimes an invention seems so simple and obvious that you wonder why it’s taken so long to appear.  Often though, particularly with products designed for people with some sort of disabilities it’s just finding out about them that can be the difficulty.

Safety is often an area that is overlooked,  devices which able bodied would deem almost essential are often of little practical use to the disabled for a variety of reasons.  How many of us for example would consider a smoke and CO2 alarm an essential piece of safety equipment to protect our homes and families.  Of course for a hearing impaired person, the standard smoke alarm is of little use, there are some modified systems which have light warnings as well as alarms but of course you have to be able to see it.

The bigger problem with traditional smoke alarms is that the majority of  fire incidents occur when people are asleep.  In this scenario a deaf person is completely unprotected by a traditional smoke alarm which they simply wouldn’t hear.  However there is a innovative new product designed by Deafgard, which has recently been purchased by the Doncaster College for the Deaf in the UK.

It’s a vibrating pillow which works alongside it’s existing ‘deaf’ fire alarm system.  All the lights on a system like this are useless if the person is asleep so the vibrating device is placed in the pillow and will wake anyone up if the fire alarm goes off.

It’s completely wire free and also has strobe lights to augment the powerful vibration that it incorporates.It’s been tested successfully in many environments which have hearing impaired people and is now considered an essential safety device.  Not only does it improve safety, it is just another tool which allows deaf people a little more independence and increases awareness of these issues to staff and people without these disabilities.

These simple technological devices can make a huge impact on disabled people’s lives, despite the fact that the effect can seem minimal to an able bodied person.   They provide a huge level of independence and allow hearing impaired people access to lifestyles that were previously not possible.   A deaf person now is much less reliant on able bodied people than they were 20 years ago.  The internet has of course made a huge difference too, a deaf friend of mine who a decade ago was forced to live with his parent now has a completely different lifestyle.  He lives in a studio apartment packed through with gadgets and runs his online business through a high speed vpn server which also controls his fire and burglar alarms.

You can find more information on this technology being used in UK colleges for the deaf on the BBC website.  To access the broadcasts outside Britain you will need something like a UK TV VPN however to bypass the country based filters.

 

Deaf Sky Customers Win Cancellation Battle

We’ve all been there, that service or subscription that we need to cancel yet the firm makes it as difficult to cancel.  It’s something I’ve just experienced and I can confirm it’s a bit of an ordeal, my attempt to cancel my Sky subscription (a Satellite TV service like cable) was successful but very hard work.  You start with an initial phone call which gets passed to a ‘special department’ where you’re quizzed and tempted with bonuses to reconsider, you can of course cancel – Sky is billion dollar multinational after all – but it’s tough.

Consider now, trying  this if you’re hard of hearing, my mother for example can just about manage very basic phone calls but not much else.  Trying to fathom her way through different electronic options and then trying to hold long phone calls with persuasive call center staff is extremely difficult.  Which is where the problem lies with Sky, the phone call was previously the only acceptable way to cancel a contract.  No quick email, no ordinary letter or fax – the only option was to run the gauntlet of departments designed to change your mind – clearly an unacceptable situation for the hard of hearing, and impossible for those who are completely deaf.

In the light of some very strong criticism and a decent media campaign by a couple of newspapers the company has relented and changed it’s requirements.  Now the approximately 15% of the population who have some hearing difficulties will not have to use the telephone to cancel their contracts.  They will be able to use email and ‘textphone’ to stop their subscriptions and cancel the service.  They have ruled out written letters for security reasons, which we find rather baffling as it’s ultimately at least as secure as email but a success never the less.

The company have upgraded their accessibility pages, in light of this criticism so they’re worth a look for the disabled and hering impaired – accessibility.sky.com.  There is talk of a video relay service which could be used by sky customers to use sign language to communicate with specially trained staff.  Although I’m not so show this is something that would be that appreciated, after all if you want to cancel you want to do it quickly and easily.

Many of  the bigger media companies seem to think it’s an acceptable way to keep customers, simply making it as difficult as possible to cancel their contracts.  The reality is that there’s huge competition especially online where anyone can with the right tools watch just about any media programme they like if they know where to look.  Imagine watching all UK terrestrial channels anywhere including the USA – iPlayer USA.

For the deaf community, technology generally makes life much easier for them. Simply being able to communicate online via text or email to order goods, manage accounts and other administrative tasks is much more straight forward.  Indeed with the rights skills and a few tools like good VPN software and a fast internet connection there’s not many aspects of life that can be controlled in this way.  So to be fair to Sky they have backed down and helped all those hearing impaired people who just can’t use a telephone easily.

 

Online Deaf Resources

Not long ago if you wanted to discover information on what was happening in the deaf world or perhaps meet up with other deaf people, you would have had very limited options.  There were some deaf resources, a few local based deaf centres and even some social events but by and large there wasn’t much in place.

Of course now the internet has changed all that, there are loads of resources online and you can find out all about the deaf world from your own home.  There are so many now it’s difficult to know where to start but here’s a few resources you can find – just type their name into Google if  you have trouble finding them.

Sign Post which is based in the North East of England offers lots of information on Sign language.   You can even learn a new Sign every day.  For children Signedstories.com has got a large selection of signed stories – if you have children who are deaf this is a great site.

Last but by no means least is the BBCs Sign Zone which actually rebroadcasts many programmes with a BSL translation.  Unfortunately these are usually on very late but you can also find them on the BBC Iplayer as well.  If you live outside the UK and  need access to this fantastic deaf resource from the BBC you may need some help.  Normally the BBC Iplayer is blocked outside Britain but you can use this technique – you simply use a UK proxy – how to here to fool the Iplayer that your based in the United Kingdom.  It works like a dream although I really think the BBC should reconsider blocking access to resources like this.

It’s also show here in this video –

You can watch it in full screen on Youtube entitled – buy proxy – some options.

Deaf Camp – For Movie Makers

The camp was started in the early 1980s and since that time has evolved into a wonderful place for deaf children and parents to come together.   It’s just outside New York in Old Forge and this year the camp has added a film program.  The hope is that some Hollywood greats and stars will back the initiative in years to come.

Camp Mark Seven has managed to recruit three deaf film makers to help run this programme and guide the campers in their efforts.  The specialists have skills in screen writing, film making and animation, enough to give the youngsters an introduction into directing, writing for movies and cinematography.  There will also be drama and acting classes which are normally very popular with the children as well.

The camp is run solely on donations from a wide variety of sources and the organisers are hoping to raise more funds to make the classes available to more deaf children.  The Deaf film camp is expected to be hugely popular and over subscribed.  The charity is currently trying raise more money using the internet – here’s there Facebook page if you’d like to help – Deaf Film Camp.

Courses like this are a great way for deaf children to explore the world around them.  They also have a different perspective on all sorts of areas which could potentially make for interesting films and stories.  Many deaf children use the internet heavily to socialize and the camp is a great way to bring people together with similar interests.   There are of course lots of great resources for filmmakers online however sometimes they are not available in this country, or are not really suitable for deaf children especially when they are in foreign languages.

Forward looking media sites like the BBC are always looking for talent, there’s a dedicated area for new writers and tons of quality material in the BBC iPlayer application.  It can be difficult to access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK however but try this – http://www.iplayerabroad.com/ which shows you how to access the site.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewex9QB8WAg

Deaf Student Defies the Doubters

When Bethan Hindson was told by several veterinarian schools that there was no point applying to them, it would hardly been surprising if she had changed direction.  Bethan is profoundly deaf and it was this condition considered a barrier by the veterinary schools.

Bethan however is extremely academically gifted and she instead took up a place in Cambridge University in order to study history.  At the same time she received a hearing implant which allowed her some hearing and even to join in conversations.  She graduated in 2009 and her heart was still set on becoming a qualified vet so she applied to study at the Royal Veterinary College.  One year later she was granted a place and began her studies towards her dream career.

Bethan thinks her implant was extremely important to her success.  The major practical issue that it solved was the ability to use a stethoscope for diagnosis, something that would have been impossible for her before.  The implants also enabled her to take part in group leaning and classroom discussions.

She is now in her final year of study and looks like fulfilling her dream.    She also works as a volunteer for the company Cochlear which produces the implants. These devices bypass the damaged hair cells in the ear and work directly with the hearing nerve instead.

For more for more information on the academic options available for deaf students in the United Kingdom – a good place to start is the BBC learning resource centre.  You can even use the specific functions in the BBC Iplayer although you may need access to  a UK based IP address or some new proxies to access the application (see this site).

For many people this site is a lifeline so it’s worth repeating another option for accessing the site easily – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW9Sy7__Fkc

 

A Celebration of Deaf Theatre!

Over recent years there’s been an increased amount of events that focus on the brilliance of the deaf community around the world. One such event is the Deaf Theatre Fest.

Held annually, the event is a  a great show for everyone to come together in order to celebrate the achievments of deaf people all around the world. With some of the finest deaf theatre performers on show, it’s no wonder that so many people both inside and outside of the deaf community have enjoyed spending time at the event over the past few years. Perhaps one of the best performances at this year’s showcase will come from award-winning Phyllis Frelich and Bernard Bragg – two names who are sure to inspire a number of ticket sales over the coming weeks.

The actors and actresses that will be on show during the extravaganza have all held down a number of roles in major adverts for both the big and silver screen over the past few years and it will be of interest to many to see how they adapt to treading the boards in the theatre as opposed to working in front of the cameras as they have begun to do with more and more frequency.

As well as providing a great spectacle of entertainment the event aims to give an insight in to how people who are deaf deal with every day problems that many of us are lucky enough to never have to encounter.    It is hoped that the entire event will be streamed online after the event, although it might require a fast VPN to watch from some countries with slower internet speeds, especially if it’s uploaded in HD. With heart warming stories and anecdotes it’s sure to prove an event that will not only have you enjoying some of the most spectacular acting in any shows currently touring, but also ensure that your knowledge of deaf related issues is significantly imrpoved. Get your tickets now to ensure that you don’t miss out!

The Deaf, Wine and Friends

Relationships and how they can help the deaf community.

The winemaking community is an interesting group of people.  Truly international, it also features a range of folks with really varied life experiences. While we haven’t met anyone deaf in the wine world as of yet, there is a winery in Napa Valley called Oakenfeld which gives 10% of its profits from its wine gift baskets to a charity of your choosing.

While not many people are going to choose a deaf charity, perhaps some of us can form a relationship with these folks to have our favorite deaf charities as part of their “featured” charity section!

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