20 January 2017

Action Item: Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education is Dangerous for Deaf Children

Among a cadre of billionaire cabinet nominees out-of-touch with the average American, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education stands out. DeVos was never an educator of any kind, and neither she nor her children have ever set foot in a public school. She's backed several failing charter schools, and plans to overhaul the public education system to make charter schools the priority. But most importantly for our community, she repeatedly suggested in her hearing this week that the state shouldn't necessarily have to offer public education to students with disabilities. 

After saying it should be up to individual states to decide whether they would educate students with disabilities, she revealed herself to be completely unaware of IDEA and the ADA, federal laws protecting people with disabilities that she'd have a responsibility to uphold as Secretary.

Free public education for all children is an important part of our democracy, and proposing that some students be excluded is a dangerous mindset. Whatever your politics, I do hope we can agree that all children deserve a chance to go to school. 

SO HERE'S A CONCRETE THING YOU CAN DO IN 2 MINUTES (or less!) Fill out your contact information in the National Education Association's form, and they will send a ready-made letter to your senators asking them to vote NO on DeVos, because our children are more important than party loyalty.

10 January 2017

What does a Trump Presidency Mean for the Deaf Community?

Our founding editor wrote about some of the President-Elect's cabinet picks, the ACA repeal, the future of Deaf education, and the "Trump effect" of bullying for Vice.

Then DPanTV her on their news show "Between the Lines" to discus further. Video in ASL with voiceover, transcript and captions available HERE!

27 October 2016

What Happens When a Free Speech Advocacy Center Decides Who Gets to Speak for Whom (and Who Gets to Listen)

Who Gets To Speak for the Deaf Community?

Some thoughts, on privilege, appropriation, representation, intersectionality, and how even progressives must keep moving forward.

Funny how a single well-intentioned note can derail your day. Usually I avoid looking at my email when I am trying to write, but somehow, last Wednesdayit happened—I peeked—and was pleasantly surprised to see the name of a friend and translation mentor in my inbox. Not having heard from her in a while, and with the intriguing subject line “The plenary on sign language,” I indulged. She wrote that the Free Word Centre in London had featured a presentation on sign language literature and poetry as the closing talk in its International Translation Day programming and she thought I’d be interested; however, she could only find the link to the audio recording. That can’t be right, I thought, still thrilled at the prospect that Deaf poets had been featured alongside other writers in translation. I clicked through the link and began to search. Read the rest on LitHub>

28 September 2016

Via NYTimes Opinion: The Deaf Body in Public Space

A smart op-ed from Deaf writer and Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb:
"'It's rude to point,' my friend told me from across the elementary-school cafeteria table. I grasped her words as I read them off her lips. She stared at my index finger, which I held raised in mid-air, gesturing toward a mutual classmate. 'My mom said so.'

I was six or seven years old, but I remember stopping with a jolt. Something inside me froze, too, went suddenly cold.

'I'm signing,' I said out loud. 'That's not rude.'"

Read the rest at:

03 May 2016

Deaf West's Spring Awakening Gets Three Tony Nominations

Deaf West's revival of the musical Spring Awakening has been nominated for three Tonys: Best Revival, Best Lighting, and Best Director. Congratulations to the cast and crew of the show. (And take that, #DeafTalent naysayers! :) )

Read our Founding Editor gushing about the show on Vice here!

14 April 2016

Beyond Inclusion

As science and technology advance, genetic manipulation of our offspring is not outside the realm of possibility. But what are the ethics involved? More importantly, does a strive toward "normalcy" really help the human race?

Like all other living things on the planet, diversity makes us a stronger, more versatile population with greater capacity for empathy and innovation. In our rush to "cure" and "fix" and homogonize, we put that at risk. At a time when the concept of diversity is more valued and talked about than ever before, Deaf and disabled people remain left out.

Watch the Communication Services for the Deaf's (CSD) short film "Beyond Inclusion" and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #beyondinclusion and #deconstructdisability.

04 April 2016

More than Applause: Deaf Art Needs Deaf Ed (from HowlRound)

This week on HowlRound, we're discussing Deaf theatre. This series is a result of the NEA Roundtable on "Opportunities for Deaf Theatre Artists" hosted by the Lark Play Development Center in New York City on January 20, 2016.

2015 was a breakthrough year for Deaf artists. Deaf West’s Broadway revival of Spring Awakening inspired rave reviews at every turn. Artist Christine Sun Kim enchanted TedTalk viewers with “the music of sign language,” and the hashtag #DeafTalent (brainchild of filmmaker Jules Dameron) trended on Twitter, garnering widespread awareness for the importance of casting Deaf actors for d/Deaf roles. Deaf people also featured prominently in the world of hearing entertainment: Deaf model/actor Nyle DiMarco won the 2015 season of America’s Next Top Model; ABC Family’s Switched at Birth entered its fourth season starring an array of Deaf and hard of hearing actors. In addition, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Ukrainian Sign Language film The Tribe took festivals by storm across the US and Europe. It seemed like centuries of stigma against deafness might actually be falling away.

But if we look deeper, “seemed” is indeed the operative term. Simultaneously, Deaf education throughout the developed world is in a state of crisis. The medical community continues to push medical devices on parents of deaf babies, with the accompanying medical advice that the child be enrolled in oral-only education. Bilingualism, the goal for many hearing children, is framed as a fallback for deaf ones, who are supposed to focus on learning to pass in the “normal” world.

23 March 2016

A NYC Theater Project Needs some Deaf Talent!

SMFSA is seeking a Deaf performer/collaborator: 

The performance will focus on a pair of people, one deaf and one not, moving through a historically charged space in lower Manhattan. The writing will engage the history of that space through narration and dialogue. The text will originate from the deaf performer in ASL, and at times will be translated and spoken in English by another performer. A chorus of movers will punctuate the text with movement, breath, and vocalizations, but no spoken language. Their vocalizations will at times take on qualities of spoken language, and their movements will at times take on qualities of ASL, providing a sonic and visual score for the text. There will also be four(?) dancers in the performance, performing a visual and auditory score to the text. Their movements and breath will underline and interact with the text from underneath (supporting, underscoring the text). We anticipate having about four rehearsals leading up to the performance, which will take place at Dixon Place's mainstage as part of their Performance-in-Progress series on June 14th. We're able to provide a modest fee.
Here's their website:  http://smfsa.net/

Sound like it's up your alley? Email us at info[at]redeafined[dot]com, and we'll send your contact details along!

23 January 2016

A brief history of violence against deaf people in the United States

The United States has a long (and still thriving) tradition of violence and subjugation of minorities, and d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are no exception. On some of the physical and mental violence and oppression leveled at d/Deaf people:

1. Historically deaf children were forcibly institutionalized and bound and beaten to prevent them from using sign language.

2. Historically, attempts were made to forcibly sterilize deaf people and prevent them from marrying.

2a. The leading anti-deaf group in the eugenics movement still exists and advocates against deaf rights today: the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

2b. You can find Bell's detailed "eradication plan" in his lecture "Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race."

3. Today, deaf people continue to be denied the right to education solely on the basis of their deafness:
4. Deaf people continue to be denied the right to work based solely on their deafness.
5. Deaf people are arrested without being told their rights, and jailed while denied an interpreter and pen or paper.

6. Today, deaf people are attacked and killed by the police for "failing to respond to verbal commands." Most recently:
7. Deaf people are endangered daily in hospitals without access to sign language interpreters or mental health professionals.

8. Sometimes within hours of a deaf child's birth, doctors inform parents their child is "broken" and can only be "cured" with CIs and preventing the use of sign language.

8a. Hearing children are encouraged to sign.

9. Doctors and tech companies knowingly inserted defective cochlear implants into the skulls of infants, children and adults (for years, for $).

10. Deaf boys are 3X and deaf girls 2X more likely to experience sexual assault than their hearing peers.

22 December 2015

Ableism in the Criminal Justice System: The Case of Ms. Opal Gordon

On 21 September, 2015, Ms. Opal Gordon was arrested by the NYPD for allegedly violating an order of protection. A Deaf person who's primary language is American Sign Language, Ms. Gordon was arrested without an interpreter on scene. She was transported to the 45th precinct in the Bronx, held for hours without access to an interpreter or even, according to the NY Daily News, a pen and paper, before being transferred to a cell at the Bronx criminal court, where she was held overnight.

The fact that Ms. Gordon was never brought an interpreter--despite her repeated requests for one--goes far beyond an inconvenience or preference; it is a gross (and illegal miscarriage of justice). The fact that the NYPD did not provide an interpreter means also that Ms. Gordon did not know what she was being arrested for, or what would happen next, nor was she made aware of her Miranda Rights.

What is even more disturbing is that the New York City Administration for Children's Services made an unannounced visit to Ms. Gordon's home several weeks after the incident, and they too failed to provide an interpreter. This brings into question whether ACS had communicated fully with Ms. Gordon in the past, and whether she understood the order of protection she was alleged to have violated on the 21st.

Ms. Gordon's case is yet another example in which the ableism, racism, and classism of our justice system are inextricably bonded together to form a pattern of systematic oppression against people with disabilities and minorities. Please share Ms. Gordon's story, along with the following points from Eisenberg & Baum Law Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing:

1. These cases address a complete systemic failure by the NYPD and ACS to prevent egregious discrimination against Deaf individuals. The NYPD has failed our clients, and Deaf individuals throughout the city, by blatantly violating not only to their legal rights, but their basic human rights, and our clients refuse to tolerate this abuse any longer.

2. The NYPD has been repeatedly warned that failure to ensure effective communication with Deaf individuals could have grave consequences on innocent peoples’ lives. However, the NYPD has made a conscious choice not only to skirt the requirements of the law but to violate a Consent Decree entered into with the Department of Justice in 2009.

3. First and foremost, our client wants to see change. If proper policies, training, and procedures were in place, these situations could have been prevented, and our client could have been spared these traumatic experiences. Our client wants to ensure that this does not happen again to any Deaf person.

-Eisenberg and Baum Law Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Eric Baum, Esq. , Andrew Rozynski, Esq., Sheryl Eisenberg-Michalowski (Deaf Liaison)

02 December 2015

A Good Deaf Man is Hard to Find (in the World of Literature)

In recent months, deaf actors have launched a series of online protests to draw attention to ableist discrimination by Hollywood production teams. They lack opportunity not because deaf characters don’t exist, but because producers refuse to use actual deaf people to play them. In response to objections to his decision to cast a hearing actor as a deaf lead character in the film Avenged, filmmaker Michael Ojeda explained that “it really wouldn’t have been logical to have a deaf girl playing the role because it was so action-intensive; she would have got hurt.” Read more on The Believer >

04 October 2015

Review of Deaf West's 'Spring Awakening' on Broadway

Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Deaf West Theater.
It starts in silence. Maybe it's a shift in lighting, or in the way the actors carry themselves—though they've been on stage, curtain open this whole time—but the audience senses something and is rapt almost instantly. Center stage, Wendla (played by deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank), examines her 19th-century pajama-clad self in a glassless mirror frame. On the other side of the frame, her hearing counterpart, actress Katie Boeck, stands in modern clothing. Read the rest on Vice.com