Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 2.5 (cont’d) & 3.

Continuing on from Day 2 in previous post

Access Denied: The Marginalisation of the Deaf Prisoner – Linda Dornay, Tracey Steiner & Stephen Nicholson (VicDeaf)

Australia finally takes the stage with Linda, Tracey and Stephen from VicDeaf!!

Tracey opened the presentation by presenting a fact: 2 in 10 of Australia has a hearing loss, whereas 9 in 10 of Indigenous Australians has a hearing loss. The inspiration behind the presentation is there is a lack of research on the population of prisoners who are Deaf or HoH in Australia. Apparently this is the same issue in other countries…

Linda then took over from Tracey and shared about the experience of a typical Deaf prisoner. Communication barriers are often the strife between deaf prisoners and law enforcement officers. Police usually use high-level English while giving cautions; many deaf people do not understand and they do not have appropriate English skills to be able to cope with the police and prison process. Linda mentioned that the reading age for most deaf prisoners is around 6 years old.

Without proper communication access and support services, deaf prisoners will not understand what is required of them in the prison system especially when they are released into the society. Interestingly, if deaf prisoners cannot be mainstreamed, they are often labelled as “problem prisoners”.

The prison system in Australia isn’t exactly equipped to deal with prisoners who are deaf, especially if they use Auslan. Linda said the accessibility of prisons is very limited, thus the deaf prisoner’s ability to navigate the system becomes complicated. A good example of this:

I was gobsmacked at this. There’s obviously a lack of deafness awareness in the Australian prison system. Why should deaf prisoners get in trouble often just because they cannot hear alarms, bells and announcements…?

Linda said the deaf community is small — if any news comes out about someone in the justice system and that person is a member of the deaf community, then it has the potential to become public.

With the use of social media, it can become rather damaging for the person who is a member of the deaf community as they will have no privacy.

I’m not going to go into any further details, but in Melbourne, there is a homicide case currently under investigation for the murder of a Deaf man and a few Deaf people have been involved. It saddens me to see that they now have no privacy because of media and social media, especially in a small community like ours.

More research on deaf people in prison systems all over the world is needed, especially improving communication access and support services. Most importantly;

Deaf people need to be able to understand the legal system in order to navigate around it effectively.

I was excited to watch Identifying and Providing Humanitarian Supports to Deaf People in Refugee Camps by Isidore Niyongabo. Unfortunately, the presenter did not turn up — a number of us were disappointed. I hope there’s another opportunity to watch this presentation at another conference/seminar/congress.

Next up was:

Inclusive Education in Accordance with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities – A New Framework for Bilingual Deaf Education? Markku Jokinen (Finland).

Markku’s presentation was quite full on, yet very important to consider for Deaf education.

In the CRPD, there is no definition of inclusive education. So essentially, full inclusive education does not exist in today’s society.

Markku said that reasonable accommodation for deaf students is often mistakenly confused with inclusive education. This, I can agree with. No matter how many accommodations the school makes for its deaf student, it does not guarantee full inclusive education.

So, where does the CRPD fit in?

Markku stressed that we should not focus on how to teach children but on how they learn. Children have their own preferred learning style. Some may prefer to learn visually. Some may prefer to learn through sound. Think about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences; if you aren’t with familiar with this, check out the chart below. Markku said it’s important to adjust and change pedagogies and curriculum to children’s learning styles, not the opposite. He also said that universal design is so much more than sign language interpreters.

Markku reminded us that deaf children are a natural part of the human diversity and that we should focus on strengthening deaf children’s capacities to the fullest potential.

Educators should respect the right for deaf people by preserving and being proud of their unique linguistic and cultural identities, as emphasised by Markku. Essentially, make full inclusive education happen by adhering to children’s learning styles and making the full use of the CRPD in bilingual education framework.

Strengthening Human Diversity through Deaf Entrepreneurship/Business Ownership on the World Stage – Dr. W Scot Atkins (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA) & Sheila Xu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA).

This was an interesting presentation and an important one for the Deaf ecosystem and business owners!

Atkins opened by saying it’s the human right of every deaf person to have their business. Xu said there’s high rates of deaf unemployment around the world. This is rather concerning, especially in today’s society!

In the USA, there are 1,300 businesses owned by Deaf people. Very impressive! I wonder how many Deaf businesses there are in Australia?

Atkins & Xu have done research in the USA, UK and Italy. Their research should be expanded to other countries — I know that Australia could use this kind of research! Any volunteers? 😉

  • Passion and motivation is key to owning a business.
  • The common theme for deaf business owners is “Deaf CAN DO”. Excellent attitude, I must say.
  • Many deaf business owners want to give back to the deaf community. YES!
  • It’s important to develop a strong network and to collaborate. I can agree with this — this is rather important for the Deaf ecosystem.
  • Grow your community: buy local. Essentially, support Deaf businesses by buying their products and supporting them.

Atkins said there are 4 best practices of deaf business owners:

  1. Passion
  2. Gain experience
  3. Effort
  4. Professional and Personal Mentoring

Atkins interviewed 14 Deaf business owners for his dissertation. I wonder if he could have gotten better results and more information by interviewing a larger number of Deaf business owners? I know the interviews are time consuming (I’ve done this before!) and would require a lot of travelling as Deaf people are scattered all over the place.

Day 3 was very full on, so for this post, I will cover the plenary presenters then continue in the next post.

Global Deaf Education: Research, Trends, and Issues – Dr. Peter Hauser (USA).

One of my favourite Deaf researchers and presenters! He captivated the audience — it was a full house! If you haven’t seen him present, you should someday!

Did you know that sign language activates neurons in both hemispheres in the brain? Hauser’s research has proved that. It’s amazing what our brain can do!

Hauser said that sign language is needed to develop attention in deaf children. So, if sign language isn’t used, deaf children will not pay attention. Use sign language so deaf children will pay attention to what you are saying.

Hauser asked a thought-provoking question: Does internalising audism have an impact on resilience? Your thoughts?

Hauser said there is no reason to “wait and see” if the deaf child should learn sign language — they should be able to access sign language immediately from infancy and all throughout their lives. Without sign language skills, it is nearly impossible to participate in the Deaf world. One needs keys to open doors — sign language is YOUR key to the Deaf world.

This is why it is vital to provide deaf children access to deaf role models.

Deaf children + deaf role models = stronger resilience and ability to protect themselves from internalised audism. 

One of the global problems in deaf education is that educators often have low expectations of deaf children. This is SO true. I’ve had a few Teachers of the Deaf say that I wouldn’t be able to lead a successful life and go to university, and I have proved them wrong. This kind of mentality by ToDs is not cool in my books and shouldn’t be tolerated by deaf/HoH students. Hauser said some countries experience less use of sign language mainly due to cochlear implants and that Denmark is one of these countries. I saw a video somewhere on the Internet a few months back about how the CI was picking momentum in Sweden and the use of Swedish Sign Language in education was declining. The video is in ASL and doesn’t have captions, unfortunately, but if you’re interested in viewing it — please let me know. A few more points made by Hauser:

        • Contrary to popular belief, learning sign language does not interfere with speech development.

 

 

      • Deaf children with CIs who sign often have better spoken language skills.

 

      Hauser asked us: are sign languages endangered?  He showed 3 cognitive benefits of learning sign language:

        1. Better visual memory

 

 

      • Better face processing

 

 

      • Better reading development

 

 

Hauser attended the International Congress on Education of Deaf Children in Athens, Greece prior to the WFD Congress. He said that only 3 out of 7 breakout sessions at ICED2015 were accessible — shockingly disappointing as it’s 2015, not 1880! Clearly, not much has changed since Milan 1880…!

Hauser concluded by saying that sign language is crucial for deaf children’s overall development, and we need more deaf role models and hearing allies – and most importantly – to work together more.

Traversing Technology – A Deaf Designed Visual Landscape – Melissa Malzkuhn (Gallaudet University, USA). This was my FAVOURITE presentation at the Congress! Her presentation was rather relevant to my Masters dissertation, in which I will be starting next year so it was great to watch something related to my expertise. Melissa was absolutely BRILLIANT — hopefully someday I’ll be able to meet her and swap notes. Melissa asked the audience: What is an ideal deaf community?

Social media allows the connection of hearing people’s respect for deaf people with action. Melissa mentioned that the world is curious about sign language — this is shown through social media. There has been a global shift since the last WFD Congress (Durban, South Africa in 2011).

This is very relevant to my dissertation, as I will be discussing about how social media empowers the deaf community. (PS–no touchy!) 😉

Examples of sign language used in various commercials were shown during Melissa’s presentation. You’ve seen the ad by Wells & Fargo (a US bank)? No? Okay, here it is!

An excellent example and one of my favourites!

Melissa said we shouldn’t wait for access — we have to make it happen! We can take on greater ownership and responsibility in creating access with technology. This means we have to OWN IT. Use technology. Use the expertise of people who knows their way around technology. CREATE ACCESS.

Melissa showed us the advertisement for The ASL App, created by Motion Light Lab (ML2 — where Melissa is the Director). I downloaded the said app, and by George, it is beyond BRILLIANT! A similar app needs to be created for Auslan, rather than that rip-off Auslan tutor app created by RIDBC (sorry guys!). The ASL app cost me US$1.99…or I think? Anyhow, it’s cheap and it allows you to develop conversational ASL skills. There’s bundles of signs you can buy through the app as well. Download it today!

YES. We do. Melissa also said that we are not engineers but imagineers. We can innovate. We can adapt. I was pleasurably surprised to see people employed at ML2 with a job title: Imagineer. I love it. Can you imagine me as an Imagineer one day? 😉 We need to use technology to preserve our culture, language and history. SignDNA is a brilliant initiative created by a group of Deaf people in New Zealand. The website holds information on NZSL, the history of the Deaf community in NZ and so much more! It’s a perfect example of how we can use technology to preserve our culture, language and history. Other examples:

 

 

 

  Melissa showed us how we can use 3D markers to study our language — yet another brilliant initiative by ML2! This article explains how it works.

 

OWN IT. OWN THE TECHNOLOGY. Create access. Be an IMAGINEER. INNOVATE.

Do. Not. Wait. For. Access.

You can see why Melissa’s presentation was my favourite. It impacted me in so many ways, and I will be making links to her work in my dissertation.

See you in Part 3! S xo

Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 1 & 2.5

Since learning of the World Federation of the Deaf and their World Congresses at the timid age of 14, I had made it my life mission to go to a Congress.

15 years, 21+ hours of travelling, an overnight trip to Gallipoli and 2 days of exploring Istanbul later…

I had finally made it to the XVII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf!

Continue Reading Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 1 & 2.5

Battle of Sign Bilingualism – Part 1.

DISCLAIMER: Everything Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.

September 11, 1880.

The Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf had finally come to a close, yet everyone was waiting on Voldemort to deliver his closing remarks. What he was to say next would change Deaf education and the Deaf community forever.

Voldemort stood tall and proud on the stage with educators looking at him in awe. He cleared his throat.

“Gentlemen and ladies, I am proud of what has transpired out of this Congress. We have become better educators and we aspire to make our deaf and dumb students become normal and inclusive of our society. Sign language should not be used. Sign language should be banned from schools and homes. Sign language will make deaf people dumber. If we want our deaf and dumb students to flourish and become full members of our society, we have to teach them to speak. Oralism is the only method that will succeed. Are you in?”

Continue Reading Battle of Sign Bilingualism – Part 1.

Developing our brain through language

Whilst browsing Facebook this morning, I came across this poster:

 

I frowned. I did not know how I truly felt about this.

As you are aware that I have nothing against cochlear implants. I’ve always seen them as powerful hearing aids. Like the poster said, they will allow the implantee to whisper secrets with their friends, enjoy music and listen to their teachers.

Continue Reading Developing our brain through language

The Roaring Twenties: A Reflection.

In less than 2 months time, I will have stepped outside the roaring twenties and embraced the thriving thirties.

The question here is…what does it really mean to be a twenty-something? For me, at least.

I’ll be honest with you here. My twenties felt like I was sitting in a mess hall and moving to different tables as I progressed through life, either getting involved or dodging food fights as well as trying almost everything from the buffet table.

As a kid, I thought turning 20 would be a huge bang and I would be seen as a proper adult. I was excited about it.

When I actually turned 20, I thought to myself “Is this it?” It didn’t seem quite exciting as I imagined it to be. 2005 was when I came to realise that I needed to get my life back on track and actually do something about my future.

Continue Reading The Roaring Twenties: A Reflection.

Gift of Language

The other day TODAY ran a short segment about “Gift of Hearing”, which shows a family with two deaf boys who have received cochlear implants and are going through speech therapy. The clip can be viewed here – it’s not captioned, but you can get the gist of what it is all about.

I don’t have any qualms about parents choosing to give their deaf child cochlear implants and speech therapy. I understand that parents mean well and want the best for their deaf child.

I want to touch on the issue of media glorifying cochlear implants and speech therapy, be it for both adults and children. We’re all aware there are videos going viral about people hearing for the first time and their emotional reactions after getting a cochlear implant.

Continue Reading Gift of Language

Mama is 50!

9th May 1965.

It was a gorgeous May day in Penang, Malaysia. A beautiful little girl was welcomed into the world.

mama and grandmama
Mama and her mama.

It’s been 50 years since Mama came into this world, and she’s certainly had an interesting life.

I have decided to dedicate this post to Mama. She was the one who encouraged me to start a blog, and she supported the idea of I Sign. I Wander. She bought me my first ever URL and because of her, this blog is still up and running.

Continue Reading Mama is 50!

Posses and University

It wasn’t anything like that Christmas performance The Plastics put on for their school’s talent concert, mind you. But we were a lot more awesome! 😉

Since I started university, I’ve always had a posse. Me and my group of Auslan interpreters. I’ve had a posse since Day 1…starting at the University of Southern Queensland. How they managed to find 3 interpreters (albeit one not accredited by NAATI – now that’s another story) in the small town of Toowoomba, I’ll never know.

Continue Reading Posses and University