Monday, December 5, 2011

No free VP through ZVRS?

I do not currently have a VP.  If I go to ZVRS, it looks like everything is free if I trade in my Sorenson VP, but if I do not have a VP, then I need to pay??

Sorenson VP is free for me.  It seems like if ZVRS wants business of new customers, they should offer the same deal as porting customers from Sorenson.  Otherwise, I might just choose Sorenson for my first VP.

Anyone have any advice?  I know it's a hot topic right now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ASL class over - again

The first trimester of my 5th year ASL class is over.  With only two short classes left, I find myself wondering what's next.  It has been really enriching to go so deep into a few topics this year, but I feel like I need to have more "general" conversations with people, or I'm never going to be even close to truly fluent.

I'm hoping maybe to start, or help start, Deaf coffee or something similar once or twice a month.  Heck, I would even go every week!  I'm also waiting patiently for the Sorenson nTouch videophone, which is apparently only being offered in my area to people who already have a Sorenson VP (seems kind of backwards to prioritize people who already have one over people who don't, but whatever).  I would love to be able to use VRS and VP with friends soon!

Who knows, maybe I will post another vlog or two.  Need to think of things to vlog about, though!!  Hah!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rexton Cobalt 16 - added a new program

So I decided to switch up my programs a couple months back when I went in to get a replacement bluetooth receiver.  Program 1 is still "auto", but I changed program 2 to be "music".  The music program has basically no compression, and no noise cancellation.  Ironically, I don't use this program for music, but rather for meetings and really quiet, or really noisy rooms.

My office has a very loud air conditioner fan inside, but in "auto" I cannot hear it because my aids block that sound.  When I first got my Rextons, I found this to be a very difficult "feature" to get used to.  It sounds weird that I would have to get used to noise removal, but there are two reasons:  first, the noise cancellation is not perfect, and second, it's a weird sensation to know that something is missing that you should be able to hear, but you cannot hear it for some reason.

To elaborate more on the first issue.  The noise cancellation is far from perfect.  The program not only blocks noise, but voices become softer as well.  So now after a couple years of having these, if I walk into a room (that isn't a library, for example), and it seems that everyone is barely audible yet nobody else is struggling to hear, I can switch to another program, or ask someone if there is some sort of background noise.

So back to the "music" program.  If there's some fan or something, or I need a boost in dynamic range for more high-frequencies, I simply switch to this program and maybe bump my volume up a notch.  It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than any of the other programs I've used.  The "speech in noise" program seems to be the worst program for actually understanding speech in noise, since it works so hard at trying to cancel the noise, again bringing vocal volume down with it!

Bottom line:  the more effort you put into analyzing your aids and working with your audiologist to understand the problem, the better they will work.  Unfortunately though, for those of us with severe/profound loss, aids are still an imperfect solution.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lecture on Eugenics at Swarthmore - what a great night!

Last night I got to see two, one-hour lectures from Dr. Brian Greenwald and Dr. Ben Bahan.  The first was about eugenics in American/Deaf history, focused somewhat on AGB and his role in this whole thing.  The second was a very funny story leading to the conclusion that Deaf people hold the key to the future by preserving ASL.

The eugenics lecture was very eye-opening.  I had no idea the USA had probed so deeply into this topic in history.  Altogether a great lecture.

Ben's story was truly amazing.  Mostly anyone who has learned ASL from classes and books will immediately recognize Ben from his many appearances on classic videotapes.  He is truly a great storyteller, and it was thoroughly amusing to watch!  Great night!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are cochlear implant users deaf?

John Lee Clark's post titled "Cochlear Implants: A Thought Experiment" hit on one topic I have given a bit of thought to myself:

     If you cannot hear without your CI or hearing aids, are you deaf?

This may seem like a simple question, but I think outside the Deaf community, so little thought is given to deafness in general that it becomes unclear what the answer is.

The way I see it is through an analogy.  Suppose someone loses their legs in an accident.  Now they have a wheelchair.  Are they no longer physically disabled?  I mean, the wheelchair gives them mobility, right?  Oh, but we need to pay attention to the imperfections of the solution of the wheelchair.  Much like CI and hearing aids, a wheelchair can provide great help in achieving a more mainstream life, but what about those stairs?  What about those stores that place aisles too close together?  What about climbing on a stepstool to reach a top shelf?  At the end of the day, the person in the wheelchair is in fact still physically disabled, despite the help provided by the wheelchair.

Much the same, if you cannot effectively hear without CI or hearing aids, my opinion is that you are, indeed, deaf.  These tools help in most circumstances, but then leave people high and dry in others (e.g. pouring rain, swimming pools, exercise gyms, sleeping, batteries dead, etc etc etc).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Switched at Birth - clearing up some things, distorting others

First, I applaud the creators/writers of Switched at Birth for bringing common Deaf issues into the mainstream light.  Most people never think about any of these things.  People mumbling, taking too fast, turning away while talking, talking behind someone, "curing" Deaf with CI, the troubles of mainstreaming, etc.

One problem I have with the show is Daphne's amazing ability to lipread with what appears to be 100% accuracy.  While it probably wouldn't make for great TV to have people repeating everything 3-4 times, we probably don't want to further perpetuate the myth that most Deaf/HoH can lipread with any great amount of success.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Captioning ASL vlogs

This topic seems to always come up, but I have a fairly strong opinion about it, so I want to write a little blurb.

It's true, the Hearing world seems to make very little effort to provide D/HoH with quality captions.  So why in the world should we caption ASL vlogs?  If the Hearing want access, let them learn ASL, right???  Here are the reasons I think we should at least attempt to caption our ASL vlogs:

1.  Lots of HoH and late-deaf don't know ASL, or are learning but are not fluent enough to follow along. I am HoH/late-deaf and I definitely have an interest in keeping up with the issues.  I've been learning ASL for 4 years now and quality captioned vlogs like Seek Geo have helped me enormously to learn more common ASL.

2. Hearing people that have a vested interest in the issues may not know ASL at all.  Think about family members, teachers and medical professionals involved with D/HoH kids.  We should certainly want to help educate them about the issues, since that is in our best interests as a group.  But if they visit a vlog and it's not captioned, then we just lost that opportunity.  Who knows, maybe a captioned vlog will spark an interest not only in the issue, but also learning ASL!!

3.  Captioning vlogs can help Deaf improve their English.  This is always a good thing, right?  A Deaf friend of mine pointed out this benefit to me a while back, and I think it's great.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stigma of Hearing Loss

After reading the article posted on Jamie Berke's blog about hearing loss stigma, I felt the need to add my own experience.

I think being late-deaf is a little like coping with finding out you have a life-long disease.  There's a process that needs to happen.  The beginning for me was marked by anger and self-pity.  That evolved to understanding and finally acceptance and integration of the condition as part of "me".  I cannot stress enough that my contact with my local Deaf community, and learning ASL has had an extremely high impact on this process, though.  I see, through others, that becoming Deaf is not something that is embarrassing or shameful.  I see the incredible intelligence amongst the community, and knowing my own intelligence and ability does not depend on my ability to hear others.

Through the process, I have come to prefer larger hearing aids because people can more easily understand  "why" I cannot understand what they're saying, and why they need to repeat themselves endlessly sometimes.  Vanity simply takes a back seat.  And I truly believe that when you show people intelligence and ability, ageism and prejudice can vanish as they realize that hearing has no bearing on either.

Like most of the medical community, hearing professionals simply do not understand the Deaf community, so they follow the marketing and accept the stigma about the very people they are trying to help.  They push the "invisible" hearing aids, and they talk about how much these new aids will help you function in society.  For people with mild losses, this is great and true, but the rest of us need to truly come to terms with reality.

In terms of overcoming stigma, I see some great advances in Hollywood, and we all can be our own best advocates by educating those around us.  If one in ten are D/HoH, then we all need to make sure we educate at least 9 people in our lives to work towards a brighter future.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Best way to tell people you're Deaf?

I'm curious about the different ways people indicate to hearing folks the you're Deaf. I also found myself wondering why, in a nation where a huge number of people understand the phrase "no habla ingles", nobody understands the sign for "deaf". Seems like it would be worthwhile to teach everyone this basic sign in school at some point.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Switched at Birth - no captions on Netflix!!

Of all the ironies, only the first couple episodes of Switched at Birth have captions on Netflix.  A show that has the power to increase awareness about the Deaf world, inaccessible to Deaf.  So stupid!

Friday, August 26, 2011

NTID and Gallaudet dictionaries broken in Apple OS X "Lion"

Just an FYI to all of you out there who may have these two dictionaries.  Do NOT upgrade to Lion if you use these dictionaries regularly, as they are not (yet) compatible with Lion.  Apple made the decision to end Rosetta emulation for support of PowerPC binaries with the release of Lion, and thus only Universal Binaries are supported.  NTID has been in touch with me very quickly, and is shipping the newest version of the CD in hopes that it is compatible with Lion, but Gallaudet has not responded to email inquiry about the change.

These two video dictionaries are among the best available, so I truly hope they both port their programs to Universal Binary format so that Mac users can continue to enjoy great access to ASL dictionaries.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Comcast charging for captions?!

I subscribe to every movie channel, which means full, free access to all OnDemand movies for those channels.

The other night I tried to watch Matchstick Men (made in 2003) in HD and it had no captions.  This wasn't a technical problem because the info actually was missing the "CC" icon which denotes movies that include captions.

Not to fear, there was another listing for the same movie and it showed "CC" icon.  Great, right?  That version costs $3.99 to watch!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tips for traveling in London and the UK with an iPhone

I've learned a few new things that make travel in London a lot easier and thought I would share a few.  I use an iPhone on AT&T and it is a huge help to be able to fully use it in London--of course this means getting creative, or forking over a kidney to AT&T.

For Data
Obviously many plans are limited to UK citizens who want a contract.  This clearly doesn't work for visitors.  If you don't mind jailbreaking and unlocking your iPhone, there are tons of good plans where you buy a pay-as-you-go sim card for the iPhone.  Data rates are very cheap compared to the US.  The main carriers that offer this are O2, Orange, Vodaphone, and Three.

A second option is wifi.  London is fairly well blanketed, and I see BTOpenzone everywhere.  TheCloud is also rumored to be good.  Finding free wifi is not as easy.

A final option, and the one I went with, is really great if you ever plan to visit again in the near future, or need lots of data.  The UK mobile company Three sells a py-as-you-go mifi for 72 pounds, and that includes VAT and the first 3GB of data.  Top ups are very cheap compared to US data plans.  The mifi ensures that you have wifi based on the 3G networks in your pocket wherever you go.  I consider this the best option for anyone who doesn't want to jailbreak their phone.

Obviously since I only had a mifi, I had no access to voice or texting.  A very cool trick to be able to text your friends and family in the US is this:  setup a free gmail and and Google Voice account, and configure the Voice account to forward texts to gmail.  Have people text that Google Voice number and it will go to your gmail account on your iPhone, where you can simply reply and it will appear as though you texted them back from your Google Voice number!

Text someone from your email
All the major US carriers allow you to email a text directly to someone.  Suppose the number you want to text is 212-555-1111.  Depending on the carrier, send email to the following addresses to text that person:

  • AT&T -
  • Verizon -
  • Tmobile -
  • Sprint -
Other useful bits
If you're staying any length of time at all, it's well worth it to buy an Oyster card for the tube and the buses.  A 7-day unlimited card cost me about 28 pounds, or you can buy a pay-as-you-go card and just stick money on it (they make sure to never charge you more than the max daily rate, which is nice).

There is an app called Tube Deluxe that is very useful in getting around, and the iPhone Maps application is priceless for walking and finding tub stations.

Time Out London is a nice free app for finding things to do, including a feature for finding things near where you currently are.

The free GateGuru app is great for navigating airports.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DirecTV on Continental Airlines - NO captions!?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Continental Airlines has LCD screens in all seat backs this last week. Wow, how this will make my 6-hour flights pass by more quickly. EPIC FAIL!

There is no way to enable CC on their systems. Isn't there some law against this? Seriously unbelievable that in 2011 we can stream whole movies on computers smaller than our hands and we still somehow lack to "technology" to accommodate Deaf and HoH needs to captioned video.

Thanks for nothing, Continental.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Affordable Remote CART? Web CAPTEL?

I was recently checking into prices for Remote CART for myself, so I can use it during a couple large meetings per week. I was astonished when I saw the price quotes come in at around $100/hour.

I have previously used Sprint Web CAPTEL for meetings that I can dial into via phone, but I found that participation in these meetings is nearly impossible. The captions get so far behind what is being said that if someone asks me something, I cannot see the captioned question until long after. This seems due to the nature of conference calls, versus one-on-one conversations where there is typically time to catch up (while I would be talking).

Not sure if I randomly chose remote CART companies that are pricey, or if that's really how pricey it is. Does anyone have any other suggestions for live meetings and conference calls?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

xfinity iPad app - no captions!?

So I just downloaded the xfinity iPad app, and I am able to watch shows right there on the iPad.  Great, right?  WRONG!

xfinity has joined the ranks of companies who apparently don't care about accessibility for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people who rely on subtitles to watch TV and movies.  It used to be if you wanted captions, you have to miss it at the movie theater and wait for it on DVD.  Now companies who rent comprehensive selections of movies (e.g. Netflix) will charge you for a DVD and not provide captions online.  I can't wait until xfinity decides to go all online and we can be totally screwed.

Hey, FCC, are you asleep at the wheel?  Or maybe you buy into their nonsense that somehow technology isn't advanced enough to be able to provide captions on streaming Internet video?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beauty and the Beast play - INTERPRETED!

One of my fellow classmates in my 4th year ASL class is involved with the theatre program at the high school he teaches. He makes sure that they do a matinee with interpreters each year, with a dedicated ASL seating section right up front by the interpreters! Next weekend is Beauty and the Beast.
I took my daughter last year to Wizard of Oz and it was great! Two interpreters were used, and it made everything very easy to understand from my point-of-view. Any D/HoH can relate to how inaccessible theatre normally is, so this was a really cool experience.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

London - HoH paradise?

Having recently visited London for the first time, I couldn't help but notice all the signs in various places marking telecoil access. Supermarkets, public transportation, etc. My aids don't have a telecoil, but this just seems like such a great step in the right direction. The best we seem to get in the USA is "press this button to make something louder and full of distortion". At any rate, bravo London!