Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Commentary on Sign Language and Accessibility

First of all, I would like to proclaim that I have not reneged on my promises of “transcript coming!” on some vlogs. Transcripts are UP and posted for some vlogs that I updated in hurry without translation. You may go back to them and check out the English words. I work hard to transcribe my vlogs but due to my being in school full time, being active in extracurricular, working a job, and volunteering in spare time... the sad truth is that sometimes time doesn’t permit me to do that for every single vlog. Those are the times when I ask for volunteers to help out. There are still videos left that need to be transcribed.

As I repeatedly emphasized, two-way accessibility is extremely important. If we want to get accessibility in the world, we must open ourselves up to the world as well.

We the deaf consider ourselves a linguistic minority with our sign language. More than anything, our life experience, culture, and barriers are all bound inexorably to language rather than our hearing status. A deaf child who does not have access to proper language acquisition ultimately will not have access to better education and life opportunities. True, I’ll say frankly that I was born profoundly D-E-A-F but I’ll also be the first to tell you that if not for sign language and bilingualism – I would be reduced to something that society would want to “fix.” With the light of sign language, the deaf and the disabled have a formidable weapon against the ideas of eugenics, of a “perfect human race” that isn’t necessary and best left behind with Hitler’s demise.

This blog originally began because I wanted to update my family and friends on what I was doing at Democratic National Convention. Even though I’m proud that many members of my extended family know sign language, some of them do not know sign language. Should they be left out of the loop and be reduced to the same level of frustration looking at my moving hands as deaf people looking at hearing people speak with their soundless lips? No. Because I know far too well the frustration of the lack of accessibility on the internet, I refused to let any one fall victim to this impediment on my own little niche in the internet. No one deserves to be left out.

Quid pro quo. The loose translation for the Latin expression is “you give me something, I give you something.” We give the world accessibility to our community, our language, and our unique perspective. In return, everybody understands more why accessibility is so important for everybody.

From the political perspective: Enough is enough. It’s time for the deaf community to stop being insular and think broadly in making an impact in the world through voting, volunteering, and connecting to our elected leaders. It’s time for the rest of the world to realize that the deaf community has powerful and untapped potential for major grassroots impact. To the politicians- Eleven million. Don’t be ignorant. Win our vote.

And I’d like to give a heartfelt BIG Thank-You to volunteers Victoria Calaman for transcribing the International vlogs and to Raychelle Harris’ interpreting class for transcribing the rest of the vlogs.

VLOGS with transcripts






Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Austria

I have a conversation with Florian Gravogl of Austria. It is about the interesting subject of elected officials who are deaf. The Austrian parliament has recently passed a measure requiring a deaf parliament member!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Spain

I have a conversation with World Federation for the Deaf Youth Section board member Roberto Sanchez about deaf organizations in Spain.


Leah: (to audience) Hello. We are here in SOVA Wine and Espresso bar for this fundraising event to support Global Reach Out (GRO) so their delegates can go to other counties and help them out. Now, I introduce Roberto Suarez. I have questions for him.

Leah: (to Roberto) What is your position?

Roberto: I am a board member of World Federation of Deaf Youth Section (WFDYS). You already told my name. My name sign is (‘D’ move up and down by the nose). I am from Spain.

Leah: Spain, oh. Welcome to America. I am happy to have you here.

Roberto: Thank you.

Leah: Spain associations, what do they lobby the government for? What do they do?

Roberto: The most important event was in 2007 when the government recognized Spanish Sign Language as a language. This was a huge step in the history. In the past two years, the law has been polishing. For examples, there must be bilingual in education, captions must be 100% accessible.

Leah: Good.

Roberto: And interpreter services must be provided. The goal is to remove barriers.

Leah. Good. Good. I am happy about that. Spain is a big country. How many Deaf associations are there?

Roberto: We have three structures. The associations that represent Spain have 17 federation members. In each federation association regions, there are smaller associations. There are 130 associations. So, in total of all associations in Spain, there are around 150 associations.

Leah: Wow. That is many. Do deaf people get involved in politics or not?

Roberto: Well, the society has changed a lot. It is very different than in the past. Nowadays, deaf lives are more accessible and have more choices. So being involved in associations isn’t as important. The numbers of member are down because deaf lives have more accessibility. In the old days, when barriers weren’t broken, associations were the only places for information. Now deaf people can get news anywhere so their focus in associations are less.

Leah: Yes. Good. Okay, last question – you are from Spain and you see America voted for Obama. What do you think?

Roberto: My personal opinion, I think this is positive.
Leah: Positive?

Roberto: Yes, positive because this is liberal, democracy, sorry I don’t know the word in English. Just like Spain, it means that the opinions of people are important and valued, opposed to governments’ opinions. Plus, because Obama is black, it means that his heart is big. He can understand and relate with people and help serving them for the better.

Leah: Good. Interesting perspective. Thank you.

Leah: (to audience) It is interesting to see different international deaf perspectives on politics.

Leah: (to Roberto) Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Roberto: Likewise. Thank you.

Leah: (to audience) Thank you.