What about the Emotional Impact when Captions Disappear?

Charlotte Hyde: What about the emotional impact when subtitles disappear?

I think I speak for every deaf person when I say I love captions. The events of the past month have only made me appreciate them more. 

I think enough has been said about the logistics of what happened with Red Bee Media, along with the fact that people who rely on subtitles lost access to a huge number of television programs.

I’m not sure much has been said about the emotional impacts. 

Continue reading

Unmasking My Deaf Experience During Covid-19

In class, I cannot get close enough to read people’s lips behind the face shields because of social distancing rules, Kevin Garrison writes, so my students are increasingly silent.

October 8, 2020

I am a 39-year-old white male professor in a department of English and modern languages at a regional institution in central Texas, and I have spent the last 12 years teaching courses in technical writing, editing and usability. I have published in the top journals in my field, worked part-time in administration and was promoted this month to full professor.

And I am a deaf man who can no longer read your mask-covered lips during a pandemic.

Let me describe for you what I hear, like I do for my students on the first day of class. I am hearing impaired. Medical terminology is problematic for the Deaf: to describe myself as impaired rather than whole. But students understand impairment. Most are able-bodied; I am not. I show students an audiogram with the expected range of hearing highlighted in a bright, bold color: your line is probably straight, while mine is an exponential decline. Technical details help, too. I can hear everything under 250 hertz, everything left of middle C on a piano. By 2,000 hertz, three octaves higher, I am completely deaf. Descriptions of sounds and analogies work, too. I cannot hear whistles, bells, ringtones, birds, babies, the sound of an “S.” Imagine a graphic equalizer with the treble turned down. Imagine reading a book, but everything is fuzzy — dyslexia for the ears.

But the best descriptions are narrations, the experiential data. I can’t hear the siren when the police try to pull me over. That has the potential of getting me into trouble with the law, and it has. The students usually laugh at this point — unintentional anarchy from their college professor. I tell them another funny story: how I fouled a kid on the basketball court and continued to play, scoring a basket, praising myself and looking back to see the whole gym watching the deaf kid playing his own game. I didn’t hear the referee’s whistle. I tell them that I won a university contest with the opening line “I’ve never heard a baby cry.” Pathos is a great persuader, as is a baby’s cry.

Then I’ll demonstrate lipreading, a medium that is wholly unlike reading. Reading is decontextualized, and words can be reread. But reading lips is mostly sophisticated guesswork — ramp up the brain’s processor and fill in the missing gaps, like doing real-time jigsaw puzzle work. I tell them that context clues plus lip motions plus muffled sounds equal my best guess. In order to get a laugh about how few visemes exist in English, I tell them about the time I called out “T-bone” when my fitness instructor asked us to say a “state” while doing a push-up. I pair students up and tell them to have silent conversations with just their mouths, no sound. More laughter. We’ll watch a video from “Bad Lip Reading.” More laughter. It helps to make the uncomfortable palatable with humor.

Once the performance is over, I’ll remind them of the unfunny policy that I place in every syllabus: look at me, speak normally and don’t cover your lips.

Deeper Into My World

In March, since COVID-19, a singular question emerges: How to read lips that are covered by masks? By June, my university makes wearing a mask mandatory for the fall semester. I panic. I rant to my wife. I email administration, the ADA office, task force committees, my deaf colleagues. What the hell are the deaf and hard-of-hearing supposed to do in a world where lips can no longer be read? I get reassurances and promises that “we’ll” work with me. We’ll get face shields and signage. We’ll push content online. We’ll accommodate you.

Yes, accommodate me. Please do. That is a necessary start and a legal obligation. But the etymology of “accommodate” is to fit something into something else. I’m on the outside; you are on the inside. You’ll find space for me, room for me in the inn.

But come deeper into my world. Try growing up every day knowing that you are less than everyone else. All your terms that might describe me convey a sense of negation, loss or brokenness: disabled. Impaired. Hard-of-hearing. Abnormal. Hearing loss. Each connotation creates a sense of alienation by labeling my inferiority.

I learned that I was broken in kindergarten. My earliest deaf memory is watching Disney’s Robin Hood in the next-door classroom. I remember the rapture of listening to the serenade between Robin Hood and Maid Marian as they sang among the fireflies and waterfalls. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. My class had gone back to our room. I had been left behind. The rapture had actually occurred and only I remained. Embarrassment followed recognition: I didn’t hear like everyone else. I started wearing hearing aids.

In second grade, my peers and I became acutely aware of the other. “Us” didn’t interact with “them,” and as a deaf kid, I desperately wanted to be part of “us.” A young girl in my class, with albinism, looked different. She had “albino germs,” and touching her was the quickest way to become a social pariah. You had to cross your fingers at all times or else you would be contaminated. I participated and crossed mine. It wasn’t germs that created isolation; it was difference. Our fingers were masks well before COVID.

In late high school, I stopped wearing hearing aids because they didn’t help me hear high-pitched sounds, and they amplified the low-pitched sounds enough to give me headaches. I remember putting on super-powered hearing aids and hearing the crunch of gravel under my feet as I walked through a parking lot, and I discovered that I don’t need to hear the crunch of gravel in a parking lot; you might. But mainly, the aids labeled me a priori as “deaf” and the never-escaping accompaniment of “dumb.” I desperately wanted to meet someone and have them know me; the hearing aid was a mask, not my primary identity.

By the time I was in college, I dabbled in flipping the narrative. Deaf pride. Deaf gain. I am special, unique and cooler than you. I published a poem my senior year of college, and I read it to a room full of applause, telling the audience that I heard more than they did, deconstructing their privilege, showing that my loss allowed me to transcend the noise of their everyday life. Humility was replaced with exceptionalism. Deficit was replaced with asset.

For the last decade, I have slowly learned to advocate for the Deaf, for myself. Deafness is a hidden disability, so I make it present. I sometimes wear a “Deaf Cyclist” badge when I ride my bike. I tell my daughter, daily, that I cannot hear her without seeing her lips. I was on the television show American Ninja Warrior for one season, talking about the challenges of the Deaf. I email people I’ve never met, asking for accommodations before meetings. I play my guitar in public, not really caring if the missed notes and poor dynamics offend your ears; I play because an incomplete song is still beautiful to mine.

Business as Usual

This fall semester, I’m a kindergartener again, sitting in the classroom in my own world. The hearing aids are back in a new form. I have a name tag sign that says “I am DEAF. I READ lips” as a reminder to everyone around me that their mask is hiding their mouth. I am labeled again. In all caps. Thankfully, again, I am a tall middle-aged white man. If I were young, old or a woman, this label would position me as particularly vulnerable since I advertise my weakness.

You can still incapacitate me, though, even as you seek to accommodate me with a clear mask. Let me tell you the terrible secret that no one talks about with lipreading: when you speak, I must turn my head to listen. Like horse blinders, your mouth controls my eyes, and when you control my eyes, you render me powerless. I cannot choose to not read your lips; you know when I am not paying attention. My constant fear as a student was that my teacher would say, “Kevin, are you listening?” My eyes gave me away. I always sat in the front row in rapt attention, exhausting myself, swallowing the anxiety, perhaps the only one in the mass of uninterested kids. They could choose not to listen; I could not.

So I hide from people more often, now, cementing the alienation. I avoid you in the hallways. I avoid looking at your lips behind the clear face shields to avoid being captured. I stay at home where the sounds are my own, set at a volume that I choose.

And tonight, after supper, my wife is rubbing my tight shoulders and neck. Halfway through the massage, I realize that my right leg is also tense; the adductor has pulled my body inward on itself. I forcibly relax it. Then I notice my right pinkie is folded down into my palm, digging, turning on itself like a cannibal. I relax it, too. And I notice how I am hunched over, so I take a full breath for the first time in several hours. My diaphragm expands, relaxes and releases me for a moment. These moments are the therapies of years of disappearing — of drawing my body inward like a turtle in a shell, curling up into a fetal position and suffering from upper-crossed syndrome and the unnameable maladies of tight fascia, decades of scar tissue that never healed right.

How can it be otherwise? I cannot even drive my car without anxiety. I am more likely to be the victim of police brutality if I am pulled over. The officer has a gun and hearing; I don’t. I’ve always avoided places where my back might be turned to their muzzle: the dark streets at night and the late-night snack runs. Lips cannot be read in the dark. Now I cannot even join my colleagues on campus during the day and safely protest against police brutality because I might not hear the warning cries as the unknown and unexpected unfolds.

I returned to the office recently for the first week of the fall semester. I posted a photo to Facebook and captioned it “Back in the office. Business as … usual?” with my ADA signs in the background indicating that visitors are entering a deaf and hard-of-hearing area that was safe for me, face shields required. A former student saw my post, and he contacted me last week. He said that he, too, was deaf in the high-frequency ranges, and he mostly kept it secret. He disliked his hearing aids, though the new ones nearly disappeared in the ear canal, preserving his secret. He disliked the labels, the ADA accommodations, the masks, but he wanted to stay hidden. We are invisible, just like our alienation is invisible.

Yes, business as usual. I walk around campus. Everyone is wearing a mask and socially distancing, present but hiding. The masks are the today’s crossed fingers: no, I don’t have albino germs or COVID, and if you don’t cross your fingers and wear a mask, you do. Us and them, again. But now, I can no longer talk to you or my former students, colleagues or friends. To engage you means that you cannot reply behind your mask.

In meetings, the opaque masks dictate the flow of the conversation. I sit there, unable to follow. In class, I cannot get close enough to my students to read their lips behind the face shields because of social distancing rules, so my students are increasingly silent. In the hallways, I hear the laughter of my colleagues, the stories, the connections, the relationships, but I hesitate to emerge from my office because hallways are masks-only. Relationships are built with daily attention to the absences that threaten to dissolve it, built not on digital communication alone, but smiles and frowns. I haven’t been able to carefully attend to a relationship with hardly anyone besides my wife and child for six months. A student on campus isn’t wearing a mask, and I find myself raging: yes, I can see your lips, but they are unwelcome. I suffer in silence to preserve us while you pretend the world isn’t changing. How nice to have resolved dissonance so easily.

Dichotomous Realities

Dissonance for me has always been a never-ending, daily struggle. I am Deaf, but I am also hearing. I am loss, but I am also more. I am alienated, but I am seen. I am the embodiment of a lived-world dialectic: to be both and neither at the same time, dissonance that can never be resolved.

Perhaps you can understand. COVID-19 has created a never-ending dialectic for us all, a world of continued uncertainty and anxiety. I read an article that humans cannot live in a constant state of uncertainty without having anxiety, but that is my job: to teach students to think critically, to question, to embrace dissonance. Learning cannot take place without it. And COVID-19 is a better teacher than I. Each day, we all face the same absurd, dichotomous realities: the mask says that you might have COVID-19. I might, too. But we don’t know. We must behave as if, but never as is.

My classes are dialectics now. I teach my class in person, but we must be ready to go online if the COVID-19 cases grow exponentially. I tell my students that the syllabus policies matter, especially the attendance policy: you must attend class. But not really, because no one wants you to come to campus with symptoms and infect us. So yes, the policies matter, but not really. Yes, the class is face-to-face, but not really.

Perhaps we are living in the greatest of all dialectics: philosophy and rhetoric. Truth with a capital “T” versus truth with a lower-case “t.” Permanency versus change. Reality versus appearance. Sameness versus difference. The world is changing, and we don’t want it to. The mask hides me, but like you, I’ve always been hiding. You can never see the me behind the masks that I’ve always worn, that I am wearing and that I will wear long after the pandemic.

But you can try. If you come to my campus, stop by my office. I’ll invite you to take off your mask, put on a face shield and step into my office. It won’t be risk-free for your body, but especially not for your mind. Communication always endangers your carefully curated view of the world. In fact, I suspect that if you look at my lips, get trapped in my monologue and uncross your fingers, you’ll find that we are both alone and scared, but we are learning. The invitation stands.

UCIS and ASL Open House 2019

This year, UConn Interpreting Services will be about the new ASL major and developments within our interpreting services on October 3rd from 4 PM to 7 PM located in the Heritage Room (fourth floor of Homer Babbidge Library). All are welcomed to RSVP on our Facebook (@UConnInterpretingServices) or by email at lyndsay.douvier@uconn.edu. Hope to see you there!

 

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New American Sign Language Studies Major

American Sign Language studies major announced for Fall 2020

 

A Daily Campus Article by Rachel Philipson on April 29, 2019

Last Wednesday, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved of a new American Sign Language Studies major beginning in the fall of 2020. (Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus)

 

Last Wednesday, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved of a new American Sign Language Studies major beginning in the fall of 2020.

The decision has been a long time coming—the initial proposal began over two years ago, Linda Pelletier, UConn American Sign Language studies professor and national certified sign language interpreter, said

“Enrollment in American Sign Language classes has increased steadily since the linguistic documentation of ASL as a legitimate language beginning around 1960,” Pelletier said. “Today, nearly every state recognizes and accepts ASL as a second or world language, and a growing number of universities now offer ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements.”

Pelletier said there have been requests from undergraduate students for this major over the past few years, as the major will differ from the current American Sign Language and Deaf Culture and Interpreting American Sign Language and English minors.

“The major is much more comprehensive, requiring additional credits including a requirement of the most advanced ASL courses offered as well as additional course work in deaf studies,” Pelletier said.

The major will offer two concentrations: Deaf Studies or Interpreting. Some required classes for the major will be American Sign Language I and II and Intro to Sociolinguistics of the Deaf Community.

This new major will help students learn how to communicate in another language that is dominating powerful fields like technology and healthcare, Pelletier said.

“One of our primary goals is to offer a program where students are able to develop the necessary skills, attitude and knowledge to effectively engage in meaningful conversations with members of a diverse Deaf community,” Pelletier said. “As a result… students will be prepared to work in multiple disciplines and various occupations that reach beyond more traditional roles such as ASL instructors and interpreters.”

 


 

Original Daily Campus Article

Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.

Daily Campus Profile on the Deaf community at UConn

“I interpret for the Deaf and the Hearing”: A Profile on the Deaf community at UConn

 

A Daily Campus Article By Rachel Philipson on April 29, 2019

The UConn American Sign Language club puts on a show for students and community members during Deaf Awareness Day on Thursday night. Students from the ASL 4 class worked for months to create a play version of “Hercules” in American Sign Language for the audience to enjoy. (Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus)

 

Whether an American Sign Language interpreter is signing in front of thousands of people or over a video call, an interpreter is there to help communication for both the deaf and hearing.

At the University of Connecticut, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has a unique American Sign Language and Deaf Studies program where students can learn the art behind American Sign Language (ASL) from professional interpreters and/or deaf faculty members, UConn American Sign Language studies professor and national certified sign language interpreter Linda Pelletier said.

As an interpreter, Pelletier is a freelancer who typically works in the education or medical field, she said. Based on her 25-year experience as an interpreter, Pelletier stressed that she is not solely an interpreter for the Deaf community, despite common misconceptions.

“It’s important to note that I am interpreting for the Deaf and the hearing. There is often the assumption that I am just interpreting for the Deaf,” Pelletier said. “I am interpreting for anyone who does not know American Sign Language or with English. There can be times that I am interpreting for crowds of a thousand or simply between two individuals.”

The Academic Affairs Committee approved of the Bachelor of Arts degree program for American Sign Language Wednesday that will allow students to study to become interpreters and learn about the Deaf community. Pelletier said she is happy to see the demand for undergraduates to get this experience.

“There is still a need for sign language interpreters so I constantly continue to strive those who have a genuine interest to pursue it further,” Pelletier said.

The ASL classes are taught by Deaf faculty members. Doreen Simons is one of the department’s full-time Deaf faculty members. As an American Sign Language and Deaf studies professor, she has been teaching “since forever” but has been teaching at UConn for the past 20 years. In her classes, she uses a mixture of sign language and visuals.

“I use pictures. I point. I use myself. I talk about the best colors to use,” Simons said. “Just like you teach other classes, you pick up along the way.”

In her classes there is a mixture of Deaf and Hearing students with a variety of majors.

“Communicating with the deaf is a great skill to have,” Simons said. “It’s another great way of supporting the language.”

Although Simons uses American Sign Language, the method of communication depends on the person.

“It depends on an individual. Some read lips. They need to find what is suitable for them,” Simons said. “I communicate with ASL but it depends on the person.”

When communicating with someone who is Deaf, an interpreter is solely for translating the two languages, Simons said. Both the Deaf and the Hearing need the interpreter.

“The interpreter is not for me only. Most people think it’s for the Deaf,” Simmons said. “The interpreters are standing by me but they are only for communication. They don’t add opinion.”

The most difficult part about being an interpreter is maintaining the same linguistic and cultural meanings that the Deaf are signing, Pelletier said.

“To render the message faithfully, as they often say, and accurately can be very challenging and extremely rewarding,” Pelletier said.

If a live interpreter is unavailable, members of the Deaf community can use Video Relay Service, an interpreting system that is done through video call, Pelletier said. Either party, Deaf or Hearing, can call a specific number that will connect the two with a live interpreter via webcam.

“That is available 24/7 free of change. You can call anyone, anytime,” Pelletier said. “[It’s good to] know that there are interpreting services to facilitate communication between ASL and English. Even if a live interpreter isn’t available, it is an option to communicate by way of phone.”

For students, faculty, staff and visitors alike, UConn Interpreting Services works to make sure deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the UConn community can have the same opportunities at all university events, of UConn Interpreting Services director Audrey Silva said. Silva described their method as equity access, meaning that for someone who needs help gets exactly what they need.

“I have seen cartoons of the people watching a ball game in front of a fence. Equal access is that everyone has a milk box. Equal means everyone gets one even if I’m tall and you’re short. Equity means you get two [to help you see] and I get one because I am tall,” Silva said. “Equity is a way of understanding the fact that we work to tailor the communication access to the individual or the event.”

For the approximately 65 students who are registered through the Center for Students with Disabilities as deaf or hard-of-hearing, UConn Interpreting Services works to find the best aid for their needs, whether it is an interpreter or a computer-assisted real-time translation, Silva said.

The computer-assisted, real-time translation is a live-captioning system in which an interpreter takes in the sounds and translate them into words on a computer screen,” Silva said. “This system can be used in classes by transmitting the lecture to the student’s device or for big events, like a basketball game.

For anyone who wants to attend a UConn event who needs assistance, Silva said that all they need to do is fill out an online form from the Interpreting Services website. The Interpreting Services tries to predict when aid will be needed, like commencement, but filling out the form guarantees that aid will be provided.

“The attendee would say ‘I’m deaf’ and the ticket holder reaches out and makes that request… Anyone can use that form at any time. Trying to be proactive. We even have a spot to say ‘I’m not sure,’” Silva said. “We expected the audience and make the appropriate recommendation. It’s not just for the students, it’s for everyone.”

Beyond the academic arena, UConn ASL Club supports and helps builds a positive relationship between deaf and hearing students, Danielle Rubin, UConn ASL Clubs’ vice president and sixth-semester speech, language and hearing sciences major, said.

In addition to biweekly meetings, one of the activities UConn ASL Club does is visit the American School for the Deaf about once a month, Rubin said.

“The activities change each time from gym activities to homework help, but the most important thing is to get to know the students, practice our signing and be immersed in the culture,” Rubin said. “It is important to have Deaf community members come to the club so that we get to know more about Deaf culture from people who actually live it.”

Rubin said that she thinks the club is important to have at UConn because it makes the connection between the two communities stronger and more educated.

“It fosters the love of ASL, the language and the culture,” Rubin said.

Pelletier said that every day is different when she is interpreting and she thoroughly enjoys working with the Deaf community.

“It’s a beautiful opportunity to meet a diverse group of individuals,” Pelletier said. “The deaf community is vibrant and it is exciting to work with individuals who are not deaf.”

 


 

Original Daily Campus Article

Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.

What Do YOU Want to See at CRT?

We’re partnering with the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) again this semester to offer an ASL-interpreted performance of their Fall productions: The Grapes of Wrath, Good Children, and A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration.  Here’s Milmaglyn Morales to tell us more:

 

Which shows do you want to see ASL-interpreted?

Vote Now!

Polls close Monday, September 10.

Deaf Professionals: Breaking the Sound Barrier

Can’t see the ASL announcement? Click Here.

UConn Interpreting Services and the Center for Students with Disabilities welcomes you to join us for a memorable event on Tuesday September 26, 2017, from 6:00-8:00 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT. This is the first celebration of its kind in Connecticut, and our excitement in preparing for this occasion matches your excitement to attend!

Deaf individuals have struggled through a history of marginalization, with limited opportunities for employment and education among countless other barriers. We at the University of Connecticut are honored to host a vibrant community of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, faculty, and staff. Because the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community has grown, so has the community of ASL users on campus. In an effort to increase awareness across the board about the thriving Deaf and Hard of Hearing community here in Connecticut, this evening will offer you the opportunity to meet Deaf scientists, engineers, doctoral students, psychologists, mathematicians, medical providers, counselors, and just about any other professional field imaginable. All are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the ways these professionals have navigated the education and employment system, and what their journeys looked like.

Deaf students transitioning from high school to college: this is your chance to speak with other members of the Deaf community who are willing to serve as mentors and guides. The collective wisdom these panel members offer is considerable. They have traveled the road you are starting down, and their message to you is: you CAN do it! Your options are not limited, and you have support.

Interpreters working with Deaf professionals: this is your opportunity to learn more about their experiences, their skills, and hear their stories. We often work with Deaf individuals who are subject matter experts in their fields. This is an evening of invaluable growth potential as we learn from those we work with daily.

Don’t know ASL? No problem! We have enough interpreters to make this evening accessible for all. Members of the UConn community – and the communities we collaborate with and serve – are welcome to join us for a special night of learning how we can better interact with our fellow colleagues.

The panel starts with an hour of questions and answers, moderated by Steve Simmons, a member of UConn’s faculty as well as a teacher at Norwich Free Academy. After that, an hour of networking between attendees and panel members will be complemented by desserts and beverages.

As one of the key events of the Center for Students with Disabilities 50th Anniversary Celebration, it is our privilege to welcome you to Deaf Professionals: Breaking the Sound Barrier!

Date and Time:

September 26, 2017
6:00-8:00pm

Location:

Legislative Office Building
300 Capitol Ave #5100
Hartford, CT 06106

R.S.V.P Today!

Please RSVP by Tuesday, September 12th. Minors must fill out the Waiver for University Sponsored Minor Programs below in order to attend this event. Both RSVP and consent form may be submitted to ucis@uconn.edu.

 

Come See “Newsies” this Saturday!

 

Transcript:

Hello everyone!

My name is Fernando and I work as an ASL consultant for the University of Connecticut Interpreting Services (UCIS) in their collaboration with the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) to provide interpreted theatrical performances. The third and final performance of the summer season, “Newsies”, is occurring right now and will be interpreted on Saturday, July 15th at 2:00. The interpreters for this show will be Julie Pond and Jon Henry, with myself as the consultant.

“Newsies” is a show inspired by the “Newsboy Strike of 1899” and includes themes of social justice and exploitative labor. During this show you will watch the newsboys as they journey towards finding their voice and standing up for themselves! I will not tell you how it ends; you will need to come see it for yourself!

If you are interested in purchasing tickets to the interpreted performance of this show, please contact CRT’s box office. You may call them at (860) 486-2113 and request tickets in the “interpreted section” or purchase silver or bronze seats online, and then send an email to the box office at CRTBoxOffice@uconn.edu and you will be placed in the reserved ASL priority seats. I suggest you contact them at your earliest convenience to guarantee a seat for yourself!

It might be a good idea to get to the theatre early, as well. This will give you ample time to find your seat, to socialize with other patrons, and to check out the lobby video. This is a video with safety instructions and theatre announcements presented in ASL.

We look forward to seeing you there on Saturday, July 15th at 2:00 PM!