Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hate the video phone!

We had it made in the basement.  Walled in concrete, you could escape the heat and be convinced it was already december.  Our TV was fully loaded, featuring both xbox and playstation systems.  Friends came from miles to enjoy hours of game play. Oh, it was summer vacation and nothing could stand in our way. Until, the release of the video phone.. countless times we debated cutting it's wires to ensure not a single incoming call. Yes, it's fair to say: In summer of 2004 we HATED the video phone.

It seemed so innocent at first.  My dad added a simple box on top of our tv.  It certainly didn't stand out as our TV was already lined with peripherals.  Cable box to the left, and two gaming consoles down below.  The Video Phone had a sleek design, and we had no qualms at all allowing it into our entertainment world. We assumed that it would merely be a spectator to us mashing the buttons of our controllers. Then one day it rang.  I can't recall if we were playing Halo or Madden football that day. What I'm sure of is that when we heard the piercing RING of the VP, our ps2 controllers flew out of our hands smashing against concrete as we covered our ears.  Sorenson trying to make CODAs become DEAF?!?!?

Unfortunately, the 120 decibel rings were only our first gripe against the video phone.  It seemed that every Deaf person my dad had ever met were receiving video phones. As my dad engaged in countless hour long conversations, the VP shot my brothers and I a smug grin.  It seemed in fact, that we had become spectators to my father and his Sorenson remote.

We needed to do something.  It seemed wrong, but necessary.  In the heat of a game of madden I saw the glaring light of the VP.  By now I had discovered that this was a warning signal to allow us hearing people to brace for the impact that was about to strike our ears.  After 20 rings, the coast was clear.  My dad did not come downstairs and I was still playing ps2.  However, the Video Phone still had an ace up it's sleeve.  A haunting red dot began to flash to alert a missed call.  This meant one thing for a gaming CODA: as soon as my dad entered the basement I would be giving up the TV for 20+ minutes.  After some time passed I heard familiar foot steps coming down the stair case.  How could I make the red dot stop blinking??  Scrambling for the remote and flipping the input of the tv I scrolled through the VP interface looking for an option to make it STOP. "Who? Who called me?" my dad signed. Foiled again by the device that took over our summer of game play.

We tried many tactics that summer.  Taking out the ethernet plug because we "needed" it for the computer. Accidentally, removing the red and yellow component cables.  All of this proved in vain.  By the end of the summer we were waving the white flag in concession. Those three months we hated the video phone.  Although, as we started to accept this new box on our tv it grew to be part of our lives.  Now, years later, I live in my own apartment.. a part of me misses that ring.

Friday, July 13, 2012

That is NOT asl~~!!

Had I been lied to this whole time? For the past 17 years I'd been telling people that my dad could not hear and was a native user of American Sign Language(ASL).  How embarrassing this could turn out to be!  Not only that, but what about all my show-and-tell projects during school?  Was my ASL presentation during show-and-tell a total sham?  Yep, at just 18 years of age, the fog was cleared from my lenses.  It was sad but true, dad does not sign ASL.

On my journey to become a sign language interpreter my mom was my biggest asset.  After all she had already 20 years of professional experience.  She encouraged me to pursue a career in translating as well, and insisted that I read this book.  I never realized that there was designated jargon for every aspect of what was to me, "just telling my dad what i hear."  (Side note: If you are studying to be a certified interpreter, Deaf or hearing, this book is a MUST read!)  I started to stumble upon languages ancient and obsolete.  The Rochester Method, SEE1, SEE2, CASE... before this book sign language was so simple.  As I read through the description of Pidgin Signed English(PSE) the revelation came to me;  My Dad doesn't use ASL!!

You can imagine the look on my dad's face when I started to rant about his sign language not being conceptually accurate and therefore not classified as true ASL. "You can't say 'MADE-it' because the concept of that sign is 'to create'." "Hello? I went to Deaf school, I am Deaf, I have many Deaf friends, and you, hearing, telling me what is and what isn't ASL?"  I wasn't convinced.  This skepticism was only reinforced upon moving to a new state and learning that my signs were best left on the other side of the border. Sign language, yes, but not ASL!

...If you met my father now you would surely laugh that I ever doubted the validity of his ASL.  In our profession, if you aren't born with humility, someone will give it to you.  I gained a sense of humility from this experience that I hope to never lose.  Parents beware: When you give your child a book... they might read it.

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” - Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 and Visual EDU

The days of the great debaters have come to a close. The trump to end any argument has become: "Really? Let me google that."  With the invention of mobile phones, and powerful search tools like google and wikipedia, knowledge has become open source.  Similar technological advancements have opened up the way for online video databases.  This has already proved to be the gateway to allow users to create the vlog world. gives us a taste of how visual knowledge can become open sourced.

Visual Knowledge
 What's the next chapter?  I want to bring to the attention of anyone who might read this blog the idea of visual education, which would be made available to the public ( ewitty, july 2012 ).  To summarize, it has been suggested that educators in the community come together to record their knowledge on video and enter it categorically to a central website. This isn't exactly revolutionary ( ecnarb, january 2010 ) but it's potential has been overlooked. This is not to undermine or change dvtv, but rather a call to arms on creating a sister site somewhat like aslized which would screen submissions.   This is for the benefit of visual learners of any age. This would potentially add an important element to learning, which is being able to express what you have learned.

I don't have the know-how to get such a web page running, however I felt it was an idea that deserved advertising across blogs as well.  As a native user of sign language, and whats more a visual learner, I am fascinated by this idea. Is this next chapter within reach? Certainly.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Work for VRS

"Hello? No, sorry he can't come to the phone.  Yes he's here, but you can't talk to him.  Well, because he's Deaf. No, no... he's very much alive.. Deaf means he can't hear you.  Do you want me to tell him something??"  Before the launch of video relay service(VRS) I answered calls in this manner every week for several years.  I had no idea that each one of these calls served as a foreshadowing to my adult career.

I've been working professionally as a Video Interpreter for more than 3 years now, but it was a skill I acquired growing up with my Dad.  Some may call this child abuse, but I prefer referring to this as free on the job training.  At 13 years of age I was completing a job function that now requires state/or national certification along with 20+ hours of training.  If only we had headsets back then, instead of trying to balance a cordless phone on my shoulder to make both hands available to sign!

Let me be very blunt about this, while it is a great memory to look back on... I was ecstatic when interpreters starting showing up on our basement television and my father stopped needing another family member to place his personal phone calls.  There were many failed attempts at trying to recruit the other 3 CODAs in the house.  I would like to think I was the chosen one due to my skill, but the honest truth is my inability to say "no."  This is something that plagues me to this day.  In many cases it can also be a blessing, and getting experience as a young interpreter is one to be considered such.

With all the conversation that can be had over political debate of individual providers, I for one am very thankful for the on-set of the industry.  Not only for the accommodation it provides for thousands of people like my father, but also the career it has provided for me and many others.  While I wasn't fond of placing pre-VRS relay calls in my basement, I happy true work now since.. wait - Interpreter clarification "I really do enjoy my job nowadays." 


Friday, July 6, 2012

early childhood

Can Dad really not hear me? What if the music is REALLY loud? Mom, stop signing to us we want to hear your voice! At five years old I was sure I was the only little boy in the world that was pondering such questions. Even then my life felt so unique and I hadn't even been exposed to d/Deaf, cochlear implants, Audism, ethics, professionalism, and the rest of these hot button topics that now swirl around my head each day. No, I was just Five years old.

This story is about me, but I'm not sure it can be complete without understanding a little more about my parents.  My mom, at first glance, is just like all of your moms.  She loved all of us more than she could ever love herself, and she is hearing.  My father was born profoundly deaf and spent ages 3-20 in a nearby School for the Deaf.   How they ever met? Now that is a story in itself for another day...

In elementary school my understanding of the hearing world soared exponentially.  Each day my reading, spelling, and understanding of the English language improved.  By 2nd grade I was CHAMP spelling, and I don't mean the champion of an ESPN televised spelling bee. At this young age what set me apart from the other kids is I could spell 'seeds' and 'toast' on my fingers as well as between the lines of a test.  However, at this age finger spelling ABCs and knowing signs-for-words was the extent of my ASL world.  Far be it from me at 7 years old to keep my dialogue conceptually accurate, or understand that I wasn't allowed to flick rubber bands across the kitchen with my brother because of Deaf culture!

Fast forward to 2012, for the past 3 years I have been working as a nationally certified interpreter and am 24 years old. How did I get here?  Do I like my job? How is my relationship with my father? These questions and many more you are invited to explore - welcome to my blog.