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"Deafness is comic as blindness is tragic"
In David Lodge's recent novel, Deaf Sentence, the main character says "Deafness is comic as blindness is tragic". You can see that in this boorish cartoon from a popular magazine.
We have Deaf Sentence
on our Page 17.
Here Come the Google Reality Glasses for the Deaf
Eyeglasses to aid cued speech appeared in the 70’s. When spoken to, the deaf wearer saw symbols on the lens edges. They identified speech sounds of the type often confused or missed in lipreading. It was a simple, self-contained system.
Now imagine you're in a museum looking at a painting. A tiny camera on your glasses looks at it too. On demand (perhaps through your handheld), many facts about the painting appear on your lens, to be read clearly within your field of vision.
Presently, Google’s patent 8183997 (one of nine related to this whole matter, called "Project Glass") describes glasses that indicate sound, its type, and source. It's for deaf people, and we are unimpressed. It may be useful to show the beat in dancing (if it can). But for general use, most deaf people are very aware of what’s going on around them and don't need this.
What does impress, is that voice recognition is also in the concept. Electronic speech-to-text interpretation would appear on the lens to complement lipreading. That and lipreading, can both be inaccurate, and usually are. But the two together can be quite effective because they are differently inaccurate ---what lipreading misses, the text might catch, and vice-versa.
Google Glasses now available are around $1,500 per pair, as usual way overpriced like all radically new tech things.
Spoken Japanese, Yale, Harvard, ASL, BSL, and FSL
ASL is so grammatically different than American English, that it has more in
common with the structure of spoken Japanese, than with spoken English.
Deaf Americans will find it much easier to be understood in France than in Britain. Much of ASL came to the USA in the 19th Century with the deaf French teacher of the deaf, Laurent Clerc.
You can see a sample of French signing here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz4wwA-K1u4
And British signing here:
Yale University doesn't allow ASL courses. Harvard discontinued theirs for the same reason: it's not considered an academic language or language of scholarship. That's primarily because it has no written form. There's no way to leave a record of one's academic work via ASL (except by inconvenient videos).
Other objections are students considering ASL a snap course or something faddish, and thus choosing it instead of a traditional foreign language.
Read this response by an MD, to a published statement opposing Harvard's position in the matter:
"Harvard used to offer classes in ASL in the Linguistics department. I took it there as an undergrad some years back--for concentration credit, no less.
"ASL is absolutely "a language of scholarship," to use your vague non-term. As a "real" language with the same linguistic properties as other languages, its study can lend deep insight into languages, grammar systems, syntax, and of course deaf (American) culture more broadly. (When you study ASL deeply, you learn a ton of American history, too; it has a fascinating, rich, scholarship-worthy past.)
"People study dead languages with no more than a few hundred (known) words in universities all over the world. And they write volumes and volumes of scholarship about those languages. No one outside their small disciplines ever reads those papers, but it's scholarship nonetheless.
"You imply that studying ASL is only useful if you want to communicate with someone who speaks sign language "in a professional setting." How is being able to communicate and engage with people (and maybe outside of a "professional setting" no less!) not a worthy goal? That's why I took Chinese at Harvard. I didn't care about the literature (no offense intended); I wanted to be able to have basic conversations with people who came to me for medical treatment ......... And that's exactly what I do a few times a month at my hospital.
"I don't think that anyone will wake up twenty years from now and think, "I'm so glad Harvard didn't let me take ASL all those years back. What was I thinking?!" But I do sometimes wake up twenty years after graduating and think, "I'm so glad Harvard offered ASL when I was a student there!"
Oh, and ASL is not "a fad," nor is the desire to want to study it. Hundreds of thousands of people speak ASL as their native language. It ain't going away anytime soon".
A Manual Form of Speech?
Quintillian the rhetorician, said this
in the First Century:
"With our hands we ask, promise, call persons to us and send them away, threaten, supplicate, intimate dislike or fear; with our hands we signify joy, grief, doubt, aknowledgement, penitence, and indicate measure, quantity, number, and time. Have not our hands the power of inciting, of restraining, of beseeching, of testifying approbation, admiration, and shame? Do they not, in pointing out places and persons, discharge the duty of adverbs and pronouns? So that, amidst the great diversity of tongues pervading all nations and people, the language of hands appears to be a language common to all men".
Psychology researchers DePaulo, Mehrabian, and Birdwhistell have found that over half the impact of spoken communication is non-vocal: facial expression, physical gesture, stance, proximity, domination, eye disposition, etc.
Some hearing people are very expressive with many of these non-
verbal things, which reveal a good part of the context they communicate.
But such people are uncommon and we wonder why. Moreover, we wonder why a manual language never developed naturally among hearing people, along with speech. That is, not just isolated gestures, nor chopping ones hands for tempo, emphasis, etc. Rather, a true gesturial language parallel to or intertwined with speech. In short, a sign language.
Southern Italians, east European Jews speaking Yiddish, and native Americans made some progress in that direction.
(BTW, the book we mention on our page 16, infers that sign language for the deaf evolved into the gestural language seen today in southern Italy. "Sign language is useful to the deaf, but vital to the Italians" -- Paul Carvel). See the article below.
Speech requires little energy. One can talk for hours. Some people talk with everything dead except their mouths, as if the deadness is a mask to hide behind (which it often is). The outspoken psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich believed in an “emotional plague”. He wrote that most civilized people are brought up in a manner that chokes back and imprisons their emotions, afraid to feel, to love, to move, to reach out …… We think that explains it. We believe the physical language we wonder about, would have too much exultance, life-force, and openness for most to be able to cope with.
A remarkable article by Arika Okrent on gesture-language can be found in Lapham's Quarterly, issue of Spring 2012.
If you want to read something heavy and hair-splitting on the subject of gestures, go here:
ASL is Corrupting a Native Sign Language ?
There was an interesting article in the New York Times on 2/20/2013, about American missionaries serving as educators of the Deaf in Peru. They are trained here in ASL and thus pass it on to their students, where it spreads in conflict with long-developed native Peruvian sign language. Read about it here:
Gestures From Roman Times
It is said that contemporary Italian gestures in small combinations can communicate a whole paragraph of context. A modern illustrated dictionary of such gestures runs through several hundred pages. And someone in medevial times actually published a gesture selection (shown below), illustrating those that evolved from Roman times.
We are struggling with the translations from Latin but you'll surely recognize a few:
"C", Approbo (approval), is "thumbs up".
"D", Extello (excellence), is "two thumbs up" or "perfect".
F, H, K, L, and Z are easy too.
"X" interests us. It's a popular gesture today for "no way!" or "nuts to you!". By the translation from Latin, it indicates that a situation or concept is not honest. It might mean, "No, I want no part of that" or even have its present meaning.
"O" isn't the vulgar thing it is today. Here it means indicating something with emphasis.
"G" seems to indicate what it might today (with the proper facial expression), "Don't mess with me", "Watch out!", etc. The Latin "terrorem incutio" translates to "inspire terror").
Beethoven: His Deafness and His Music
The Brainy Deaf Site is interested in the effect of Beethoven’s deafness on his music. It is popularly thought neither a help nor a hindrance. People like him, intensely involved with music, can "hear” music in their so-called “mind’s ear” while reading musical notes. That is widely believed to be the case with Beethoven when functionally deaf in the last ten years of his life. It may even have been synesthesic, where he actually heard in his head what he saw on paper. Thus, it is generally thought that his deafness had nothing to do with his music ---an opinion we find rather glib.
A slim book by J.W.N. Sullivan, an English mathematician and journalist, is Beethoven –His Spiritual Development. It stands apart from other bios on Beethoven. It focuses on the composer’s spirit within the events of his life. It examines how his creativity was affected by his anger, defiance, sufferings, submission, and triumph.
All those emotions are well known to have been heavily related to his deafness. It strongly infers that the music of his third period (when totally deaf) was the embodiment his deafness.
And the triumph? The music he produced in his third period when completely deaf, is among the highest of treasures. The composer Wagner said it “surpassed beauty”. Sullivan said “it came from the profoundest depths of the human soul” and was “the most superhuman music [Beethoven had] ever written”.
Beethoven started his career in music as a virtuoso pianist. The encroaching deafness forced him to switch to composing. If Beethoven had not been deaf and had remained with the piano, the world may never have heard of him.
The American Beethoven Society asked some of its members, and others, “How did Beethoven’s deafness affect his music?” Eleven responses are posted on their site, below.
The factor of deafness in the life and work of Beethoven is portrayed here by the American artist Wesley Merritt. ____________________
We have read that musicians playing Beethoven's work under his supervision, were advised to ignore him, thinking he couldn't judge their output as he couldn't hear it. To the contrary is this published statement by an involved musician, Joseph Bohm ----
"The unhappy man was so deaf, he could no longer hear the heavenly sounds of his own musical compositions. Yet rehearsing in his presence was not easy. ..........his eyes followed the violin bows. He could judge the smallest imperfections in tempo and rhythm, and correct them immediately."
On November 15, 1988 conductor Zubin Mehta stopped dead the New York Philharmonic Orchstra during its performance because of a feedback whistle from a hearing aid in the audience. Three hapless patrons, each thinking themself the cause, rose and left.
It was the 6th Symphony of the deaf Beethoven. _________________________________________________________
How Did He Join the Club? And Where Did His Ear Bones Go?
Beethoven's deafness was progressive. It was variously thought to be from typhus, otosclerosis, lupus, or syphilis. At that time, syphilis was a basket term for many unknown causes of illnesses. Some have added neurotoxic poisoning from the lead drinking vessels of that time. He was quite a drinker. Also from heavy metal ingredients in oral medicines doctors gave him for his deafness.
When Beethoven died in 1827, an autopsy was performed at his request, to learn the cause of his deafness, which pointed to otosclerosis. In 1886 his body was exhumed for his grave to be relocated, and a repeat of the autopsy was anticipated. But it was found that all his ear bones were gone. A doctor at his initial autopsy was believed to have pocketed them either for further study but more likely as souvenirs. (Likewise, parts of his skull were gone too, surely for souvenirs).
If you want to read a very professional discussion of the cause of Beethoven's deafness, go here:
The Myth of Deaf Power
Black Power” was in vogue in the mid-1960’s. Others latched onto this appealing concept, and “Deaf Power” took off in the early 70’s.
It was a spirited movement to gain means and clout for the needs of d/Deaf people within hearing society.
We are told of a “Deaf Power Forum” in the NYU Hospital auditorium in
New York City in 1972, with over 300 people. Much was discussed, spiritedly, but nothing worthwhile evolved. Likewise, eventually went the whole “Deaf Power” thing. It did revive during the 1987 Gallaudet student protest, as one of the battle cries. Very little remains now of Deaf Power, as a movement labeled as such.
For a distinct social group to have real voice and clout, it will need some meaningful combination of things ----such as solid representation in the professions, in politics, in the military, in business, in entertainment, in technology etc. And if it lacks those things, it could make up for it to some extent, if it has the weight of numbers.
The Deaf World has virtually none of these. Its achievements here and there are admirable, but are only handfuls against its own numbers. It remains by some common definitions, an underclass. It is also oppressed by very widespread audism (see page 4 for information on this word).
"To be regarded as 'disabled' in the U.S. is to experience powerlessness on all kinds of levels ---physical, psychological, political. To be considered disabled is to be put in a supplicant position, the position of the 'patient', told to be quiet; if you need something, to ask kindly for it. ........ It is really about power; disabled people are considered powerless."
Mary Johnson, Author
How can real deaf power be achieved? We feel the only way is the obvious one, and it would take more than one or two generations. That is, through varied academic and highly developed vocational achievement for a majority, or substantial number, of Deaf people. Skilled and educated people always radiate into everything of importance in society and pull others with them . And the sine qua non for getting into all that, is full functionality with reading and writing American English (as a second language if ASL is first).
Back in the early 70’s, Sister Soulja, a spokesperson for Black Power, was asked by Ted Koppel during a TV interview: "What would you say if you were allowed one, only one, item of advice for the success of Black Power?". She responded impressively and completely with only three words:
“Brothers, educate yourselves!”
We'd have said the same thing then or now, if asked about Deaf Power.
That's great advice and a sure thing. You can wait fifty more years for it to transpire, or you can do something right now. The most powerful voice today for the benefit of all deaf people (and it is powerful !) is the National Association of the Deaf. If you're not a member (and sadly, most d/Deaf people are not) google National Association of the Deaf. Then go here (if you're deaf or partial to the deaf, it will be the best $25 or $40 you ever spent):
Deaf Truck Drivers and the "Everybody Knows" Federal Rules
Deaf truck drivers are allowed to drive within states, but not from one to another. More illogically, they may not haul within their state, any interstate loads. We spoke about this in depth with a retired hearing driver of the big stuff, with decades on the road behind him. We asked what he thought it might have been like, if he started out deaf.
He said the only thing he really needed to listen to was music, and his CB radio, over which drivers tell others far behind them anything unusual on the route, hear the same from drivers well ahead, share news and jokes, etc.
That, he said, would surely be missing, because it means not knowing what's cooking miles ahead. Also, “It can get lonely out there”.
He thought being deaf might be an asset with all that noise. He said trucks aren't solid and sealed like cars; the vibration, hum, and jangle are almost always there and are sometimes awful, especially on "lousy roadway".
As for safety, he said it’s common to check out a truck before a haul and at rest stops, to decline to drive a "garbage can", and to drive by the seat of one’s pants. “I don’t need to listen to nothin’. My ass was always bolted to my rig and I could feel what was gonna happen before it had a chance to happen. We all drive that way”.
What if he broke down in the middle of nowhere? "I guess I'd have to use one of those texting gizmos the kids use, or I'd wait for another driver to come by, even if it took half an hour. No big deal. I’d read Playboy or the paper".
What about those police cars with loudspeakers that fly along the shoulder making emergency announcements? He said it always seems to be the same thing, telling high rigs to use the next exit for some reason, usually an overpass problem ahead, which he would know of anyway, seeing trucks jamming the exit lane. Whatever else they’d be saying, he said he’d notice the matter soon enough, usually the case, because he can’t understand them anyway with all that noise around. Or he'd find out from another truck driver what's going on.
What about a high-pitched screeching noise from under the hood? He said that could be from a bad alternator bearing or a worn gearbelt or ten other things that he'd know about by odor or vibration if it gets really bad. "You can go 500 miles with screechy stuff. It's not my business anyway. The mechanic will catch it at the next checkup".
We thanked him. Now let's take a look at those Federal rules. Presently, they are on the books of the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). How did they get there?
To begin with, the Fed needs rules to lord it over the states. That’s how our federated union is maintained.
Those rules on the hearing requirement got onto paper decades ago via the “everybody knows” syndrome (also known as "common sense"). "Everybody knows" that a truck with a deaf or HOH driver is a definite safety hazard (just as everyone’s uncle “knows” it’s questionable for the deaf to drive cars).
These rules have no meaningful studies or numbers behind them. Back in 1964 the state of California "proved" in a disputed study that deaf male drivers are twice as liable to have an accident. The "proof" was distributed to all other states, and to the FMCSA via the National Register, and was taken seriously. (See Page 7).
Anyone within any kind of government agency, who tries to change a law or rule because it is outdated, unfair, or illogical ------ becomes either a
make-work artist or a troublemaker. Why open a can of worms? Laws do change, however, when arms get twisted from the outside.
Who’s twisting the FMCSA's arm to allow deaf and HOH truck drivers? The National Association of the Deaf. You’re not into trucks, so what does this mean to you? More than you can imagine. If you’re D/deaf or HOH and not a member (and you've got plenty of Deaf company) go to https://nad.org/ , read, absorb, and hit the JOIN button at the top, right side. It will cost you a few bucks, but you'll be spending it all on yourself.
Come on, go there! https://nad.org/
Read more of this here: "Get the Hell Out of My Weigh Station"
"Everybody Knows" at UPS
It's still not final after ten years back and forth in the courts, but it appears that Deaf UPS employees may finally qualify to drive the firm's delivery vans. UPS had maintained a hearing standard for van drivers based on a Federal standard that applied only to larger trucks (5 tons and up), not to UPS vans. It was due to UPS's "unwavering commitment to safety" knowing what everybody (and their uncles) know, that a driver who is deaf is a safety liability. One lesser objection is they'd have to be trained using expensive interpreters (pocket change for this 4 billion buck company). Another is that there's no way for a supervisor to contact a deaf driver in the field (true for 1960's technology; this is 2016).
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