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Ripley's "Believe It or Not" - January, 1933
Atchison, Kansas unveiled a statue dedicated to William Boular ---deaf, mute, and legless. In 1900 he laid 46,000 paving bricks in under 8 hours (do the math). Many are still there. Read more and see part of the statue via the link below.
Deaf at age 4 from meningitis. Lost both legs below knee at age 12 while playing on the railroad tracks and not hearing the approaching train. He died in 1953.
Trouble in the Ole Coffee House
This happening is dated by now, but was a very important occurance with a lasting effect.
Twelve mostly Deaf people (7 shown above) sued Starbucks in the Summer of 2013, for mistreatment in two of their New York City stores. If you Google "Starbucks-lawsuit-deaf" before this thing blows over, you'll get numerous sites ---- over 130 at the time. (It was all over the map, even on the websites of the South China Morning Post and the International Science Times). You can read about the details on one of the better sites, here:
There were over 100 comments on the Gawker site, mostly by young types you see atStarbucks, mostly sypathetic to the deaf customers. (Some clod at Gawker took them all down in 2016).
Close that door !
This event was caused by a few immature clerks, but relates to a greater matter: the mistreatment of Deaf people in stores and restaurants, at airline counters, etc.
We noted this interesting hearing person's comment in the matter, on the Huffington Post site:
"When was the last time you were aware that a deaf person was in your midst? Deaf people are segregated from the hearing. Hearing people will never understand how to respond and communicate sensitively with deaf people unless the hearing have contact with them in school, work, daily life. We [hearing] expect people to hear us, and when they don't respond ..... the thought "they could be deaf" is certainly not the first one to pop into our minds....... The deaf community seems to prefer its insularity to the daunting barriers to integration. Vicious cycle, I guess. Doesn't excuse the Starbucks incident, but it could help bring more focus on the problem".
Well said. Lack of contact with Deaf people is due to their relatively small numbers. There are more than twice as many American Indians in the USA than Deaf people. When was the last time you met an American Indian?
We read a remarkable article on blindness in the NY Times (Jan. 5, 2014). We replaced "blind" with "Deaf" in this except. It fits.
"Aversion toward the [Deaf] exists for the same reason that most prejudices exist: lack of knowledge. Ignorance is a powerful generator of fear. And fear slides easily into aggression and contempt. Anyone who has not spent more than five minutes with a [Deaf] person might be forgiven for believing ........ that there is an unbridgeable gap between [hearing people] and them".
Of course, the buck stops with Starbucks, but to be fair, watch what Starbucks has to say on this, in captioned ASL:
Over three years have passed. It looks like Starbucks did a good job getting its act together. Go here:
Onward With the Subject
Denying people entry somewhere, because they are disabled, and even expelling them, isn't new. We read in Business Week, that shortly before the ADA, a New Jersey zookeeper denied entry to a group of cerebral palsy kids. He believed the sight of them would scare the chimps. We've heard of restaurants refusing to admit them, and blind groups as well, because they may make other customers uncomfortable.
We heard of a small group of young Deaf people tossed out of a Radio Shack store only because the manager thought their signing scared the other customers. And we personally witnessed a similar group expelled from a restaurant because one of them misbehaved (if it was a hearing group, only one person would have been expelled). There's surely plenty of this we haven't seen or read about.
In any store (restaurant, airline counter, wherever) you don't have to be deaf to be made to feel unwelcome by clerks with "attitude problems" ------boredom, hastiness, detachment, curtness, and all that. It happens (thankfully not often), even in classy stores. You can be treated royally by one clerk and thoughtlessly by another, in the same store. Type "rude clerks" or similar tags into your browser and you'll got lots.
Hearing people have a fine weapon for this-- their mouths. A mistreated customer may sound off for the whole store to hear and the clerk will often cringe. Wow, we've seen this ! Deaf people don't have such a resource. ~~~~~~
Only a few large retail businesses provide employees with sufficient guidance relating to deaf customers. Deafness is invisible and they think the number of their deaf customers is miniscule, if they are aware at all. Who bothers with miniscule matters? Ask a manager at Macy's, or any major store, how many Deaf people shopped there in the past three months. S/he will reply, "Huh?". (That was the reply we got when we asked).
Deaf people must contend with their own particular clerk problems. We can often tell by nuances of manner why a clerk is unpleasant or lost when serving a Deaf customer. Some of the more common examples:
~~~S/he never dealt with a Deaf person before, becomes confused and withdraws into hostility or some other unpleasant defense (this is most common).
~~~S/he had an unpleasant prior experience with a Deaf person.
~~~S/he finds the unfamiliar Deaf voice irritating, or thinks it's a foreign language, or is alarmed by being handed a note (particularly
if in distorted English).
~~~S/he considers Deaf people to be from an underclass and reacts with a shade of arrogance, or becomes demeaningly patronizing. (We heard of a reasonably-dressed Deaf adult who requested in writing to see a $500 wristwatch. He was then asked (back in writing), "Will you be able to pay for it?"
It's more common in stores, restaurants, at airline counters, etc. during very busy times, when clerks are intolerant of anything that slows down the flow.
We know of a Deaf girl who felt mistreated by a clothing store clerk and related it to her hearing older brother. He knew the store and spoke to the clerk on the matter. She acknowledged what happened and sincerely apologized, offering the excuse that "The job is a bore and the pay is crap". She didn't feel obligated to be civil to anyone for the store's sake. This is more common than most of us think.
There’s a special case with a small (or worse, relatively large) group of Deaf people in a store together. The mass of signing, particularly if very spirited (as it usually is with young people), can be alarming to unfamiliar employees and patrons. And we mentioned above, the Deaf group ejected from a Radio Shack store for that reason.
Refined Deaf people are well aware of the effect their up-close signing might have on hearing strangers. They reduce their signing's space envelope when such hearing people come near (just as hearing people lower their voices when unknown others come near). It creates a problem for Deaf people who pay no attention to this (and our observation is that plenty of them don't, especially younger ones).
We think this "group effect" is one of the things that caused part of what allegedly happened. That, plus the thought in someone's immature brain, that this bunch with their strange movements are from an underclass and worthy of being ejected. If this same group was hearing, speaking German annoyingly loud and refusing to tone down, nothing like this would have happened.
This thing is nothing new, but now that it's been publicized all over the map, other businesses will take meaningful notice (hopefully).
Read the article on "Deaf-Friendly, on Page 20.
Yes, It works the other way, too----
You will notice that most people are more or less humble or well-behaved when they enter a store because they are visitors. It’s someone else’s turf, you know.
We’ve noticed some Deaf people enter a store with an attitude that seems to shout, “I’m not going to be humble because I’m deaf. I’m as capable as anyone here”. You can see that in the resolute woman who slaps a note down on the counter and startles the clerk. Likewise in the overly self-assured Deaf male with a don't-mess-with-me attitude. This sort of thing is not uncommon.
We once saw a Deaf woman in a store racing to her companion while signing excitedly, that she found a much wanted item on sale. Several hearing customers nearby were startled, and one retreated with an expression of fright.
This isn’t a pleasant subject so we’ll let it go. But yes, it does sometimes work the other way.
One of the Deaf plaintiffs in the Starbucks lawsuit alleged that a clerk laughed derisively at the sound of his voice. An interesting article in some relation is in the site below. Here a Deaf German politician resigned when she was bullied on Twitter over the sound of her voice.
An Unpleasant Observation
Home Depot has quite a few Deaf employees and we admire them for that. As customers there, we were looking all over for any employee to help us find an item. We saw one arranging products at the end of an aisle and turned to approach him. A woman who had unsuccessfully tried to speak to him, passed us by. With a facial expression of contemptuous disbelief, she sharply advised, “Don’t bother, he’s (spitting out the word) deaf !! You can’t find any help around here and look at the jokes they hire !"
The Huffington Post on 2/11/2014 told of a disabled vet who was was challenged on his need to bring his service dog into a Starbucks in Houston.
Of the many comments following the article, this one is of much interest:
"I am a deaf girl with a service dog. You would be surprised how often people stare at me and rudely question my need for a dog because I am young, look “normal” and can speak. With my dog, I'm no longer afraid of missing emergency sounds, like ambulances on the road, the fire alarm, and people walking from behind me. Sadly, I have had the same type of experience at Starbucks and other restaurants as this vet. People ask really personal questions –what my disability is and like how I became deaf – while I happy answer them, some people ask these questions in a very intrusive way.
"People have been talking about the problem of fake service dogs. My dog has 2+ years of training. I think a big thing people don’t realize is that a REAL service dog will sit down silently and respond to his owner’s commands. If a dog is barking or making a ruckus, that’s when a restaurant should complain".
And there was a rather funny comment (probably contrived) about a woman who was not allowed to bring her service dog into a musical performance. It was a service dog for the deaf.
There must be be plenty of fakes around. If you type "SERVICE DOG VEST" into eBay's search slot, you'll get an enormous number of postings. They start at around $16 and go way up. Looking here and there, we can't find one posting that requires proof of any kind of certification in order to purchase.
BTW, if you depend on a service dog for the deaf and feel you have been denied housing because of the dog, go to HUD.gov/FairHousing
or call 1-800-669-9777 (voice) or 1-800-927-9275 (TTY).
This Happened Recently in France
A group of 18 Deaf people in Marseille checked their bags for their Air Mediterranee flight. They were not allowed to board (though their bags may have gone on to Turkey without them).
The airline considered them safety liabilities since as they said, deaf and mute travelers don't communicate in any language the crew would understand. Apparently, the airline desired some special setup for them, but didn't react sooner. This resulted in some public anger and an apology of sorts.
This Happened in Naples, Florida
A Deaf 7-Eleven store manager was unable to supervise his 10 or so underlings because the store took away the electronic device setup he used for dealing with them. He was then terminated after 26 years service. He was awarded almost a million dollars for discrimination. Read about it here:
UPDATE: Ooops! Sorry, some clod at the Naples Daily News took it down.
What's Wrong Here?
You see this often in smaller stores. Only the cashier sees the total on the screen and mumbles it to you (or to the wall). Many d/Deaf people habitually deal with this by presenting an amount exceeding the total. E.g., you know it's under $17 so you offer a $20 bill, or just your credit card. That is often preferred to asking the clerk to write the total for you. You'd risk the clerk's posible annoyance at fiddling for a something to write on, or having to swing the monitor around to you (trust us, we've seen worse).
We mentioned this problem to the manager of a large hardware store we patronize. He installed a small accessory monitor displaying the transaction for the customer at each of his registers. It's a common accessory to many brands of cash registers. No happy ending here, as only two of several other stores took our request seriously. (Guess where we don't buy any more).
What's Wrong Here?
We are about to board our flight. The loudspeaker announces the boarding procession, something like this:
Disabled persons and Global Service flyers board first. Then.... those with children. Then...... uniformed military personnel. Then..... the airline's club card-holders. Then...... boarding zone numbers one to ...........
We wrote to several airlines some time ago suggesting to have at least the boarding zone numbers on flip charts or pixel screens, for deaf people to see.
We did get polite replies, saying it was worth their consideration. What resulted? Nothing ----not that we expected anything. All suggested that the deaf flyer request assistance from the boarding gate attendant ---like we are all 12 years old. Well, yes, and many do, but that's not equal accommodation.
Update to 2014: In the Summer of 2013 Emilie returned to college to complete her degree. Cochlear implants give her some hearing and she is still able to speak. Sadly, she remains completely blind. She will stay in art and work in sculptured creations.
Of further interest:
At left, a young and handsome Leonardo da Vinci (d. 1519).
We read a fascinating book:
The Sistine Secrets by B. Blech and
R. Doliner (HarperCollins, 2008). It's about secret messages hidden in classic art. Here is an excerpt. (Pp. 35, 36):
"Renaissance Italian artists had no difficulties working with their hearing-impaired friends and colleagues. Even today, in Southern Italy, there is a deeply ingrained tradition of expressing oneself using hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language in general.
Leonardo da Vinci....... encouraged other hearing artists to learn from the expressivity of the deaf.
"We know of two successful deaf artists in Renaissance Italy. One is Pinturicchio, whose frescoes from the fifteenth century appear in some of the most prestigious settings in Rome, including the Sistine Chapel. The other is Cristoforo de Predis, who collaborated with his hearing half-brother Ambrogio de Predis. The brothers, who worked together in sign language, were among the first to welcome Leonardo da Vinci when he moved to Milan in 1483. They were a great influence on Leonardo ....... he wanted to thank the brothers in their own language that he had grown to admire. ......"
"Obviously fresh from the excitement of his discovery of sign language, Leonardo incorporated a number of hand gestures in [The Modanna of the Rocks]. What most observers and even art experts do not know, is that Leonardo signed this painting by "signing" his name [via four letter signs on the hands of various subjects in the work, yielding LDV for Leonardo da Vinci]."
Some Tricks Leonardo Learned from the Deaf
It took five centuries (yes, 500 years !!) for someone to discover that daVinci secretly signed his initials into some of his work using handsigns of the Deaf, disguised as gestures. Here, in this part of his Modanna of the Rocks, reading downward, are his initials "LDV".
The hands are relaxed to disguise the signs.
"L" is by Mary hidden here in a gesture of blessing over the infant Jesus.
"D" is by an angel mixed into pointing to the infant St. John on the painting's left side.
"V" is by the baby Jesus hidden in a gesture greeting the infant,
That relaxed form of "L" appears on ancient woodcuts, and the same form is believed to be used on the Lincoln Monument (see our p.10).
Some of DaVinci's Deaf Artist Friends
You can see some of the works of the Deaf Pinturiccho (a nickname meaning "little painter" because of his height), actually Bernardino di Betto, in this link:
......and you can see some of the extensive works of the Deaf
Cristoforo de Predis here. He was an illuminator and minimalist.
His specialty was creating small, difficult religious illustrations to accompany hand-written text. The pages were then bound into a
one-of-a kind book called a "codex".
You can see that Cristoforo was a true master. Yet for some reason he is most identified with a rather facile work illustrating the destruction of the earth per Matthew 24:29, "Death of the Sun, Moon, and Stars Falling". Despite its simplicity, it has a mystic quality.
The sun is beginning to die, the moon is almost dead, and the stars are falling onto the desolate earth. (The bright dot near the moon is the planet Venus). The glow on the horizon can't be from the sun or moon. It may signify the coming of Christ.
Self-portrait of the Deaf Pinturiccho ("the little painter"). We are searching everywhere for portraits of Sordicchino ("the Deaf painter"), another DaVinci friend, and of the Deaf Christoforo de Predis.
El Mudo, the Spanish Titian
The deaf and mute Juan Fernandez de Navarrete, known as El Mudo ("The Mute"), developed his artist skills as a child. Unable to speak, he sketched his wants and needs in charcoal. He rose to become an assistant to, and student of the great Italian master Titian. His own work, eventually made him famous as "The Spanish Titian".
He spent the last eleven years of his life painting works for the King of Spain in the Spanish Basilica de El Escorial. Several of his major works are recognized as masterpieces.
[ If you Google "Titian", you will see a statement under his portrait naming the six artists who he influenced most. A major omission is Navarrette, "The Spanish Titian", who was Titian's student and assistant. We notified Google about this and are awaiting their reply, and hopefully a correction ].
Navarette by De'VIA artist Nancy Rourke
The Michelangelo of the American West
If You Visit................
..........................hold off on the cable cars, the Lyons Steps, the Tower, and all that. Go to the intersection of Market, Bush, and Battery to do homage to a Deaf sculptor, one of America's greatest. You'll see the Mechanics' Monument (above). It's the most prized sculpture group in the city, if not the whole state.
The monument was still standing after the great earthquake and fire of 1906 almost destroyed the city. It became an inspiration to rebuild.
The sculptor was the deaf and mute Douglas Tilden (d. 1935), and this is perhaps his most admired work, acclaimed for its power and uniqueness.
It is dedicated to machine operators and related laborers. The machine here is a monster reproduction of a hand operated hole punch for sheet metal.
Go a bit further on Market to Montgomery and you'll see his Native Son Monument. He produced other famous works, and came to be known as "The Michelangelo of the American West". Some consider the baseball player (lower right) to be among the best of his work.
BTW...... are you hungry? Drop into deaf-owned-&-run Mozzeria for Neapolitan pizza from a wood-burning stove. It's at 16th and Guerrero in the Mission District. See our P.17.
What's Wrong Here?
An "architectural barrier", is a construction or device that prevents passage to a disabled person. For those steps above, a ramp or elevator would be installed, if justified under the ADA.
What would be done about the intercom in the other photo, a bona fide architectural barrier for deaf people? Nothing. Why not? There are gazillions of intercoms everywhere ---requiring new or extant intercoms to have 1 or 2-way TV cameras, would be impractical and unreasonably costly. That is, not justified.
We had an idea on this. Mandate that all new intercoms have a special button to inform (by digital voice) that the person desiring entry has communication difficulty. It's a relatively cheap addition. The listener will respond in some practical way, allowing entry or coming out to see who it is. Everyone thinks our idea is great, but (as you'd expect) nobody is enthusiastic about progressing with it.
So how, as a deaf person, would you get past that thing? It wasn't at all expected. Even if you can speak understandably, you don't know when to start talking or even if anyone is listening. It also can speak back to you. This one is a streetside intercom for admittance to a business reception lobby. There isn't a soul in sight to assist you. Whatever you try, the door won't open. It's starting to rain. What to do?
We have a Deaf friend who can get past anything (well, almost anything). Here he is............
Meet Streetsmart Steve (not his real name of course, but we assure you, he exists).
In the days before texting, he carried a voice-only cell phone, though he's completely deaf. As a vintage jewelry buyer for an auctioneer, he had to make important calls daily from all over. How? He’d have a passing pedestrian make and interpret the call on Steve’s phone, writing back and forth. He was keen on who to choose and how to approach. His average interpreter was delighted to assist, especially unhurried teenagers, some who were thrilled to be asked.
We once saw him get past a voice-only intercom in a building by ringing 6 bells at once. (He’s 42, not 17). “Just don’t ring any on the ground floor if that’s not where you’re going”, he said, because you don’t want any heads sticking out of doors to see you while awaiting the elevator”.
So, how would he get past this thing?
If nothing works, scrape a quarter coin back and forth across the grille of the speaker while you hold the “TALK” button. It makes a crackling racket for the listener (if there is one), usually understood to be that a visitor is buzzing up but the intercom is out of order.
Someone would come out to investigate, for him 50% of the time. What about the other 50%? He said to wait for a "hearie" to help you get in, and learn from it: NEVER make an important appointment to an unfamiliar closed location without a firm confirmation that you’ll be able to enter.
Here's a lulu of an intercom for you. A speaker-microphone grille at belly-button height and buttons all over. It guards the gated courtyard of a building where we had an appointment. We had to wait in the cold for a hearing visitor to get us past the damn thing.
We took this photo to ask Streetsmart how he'd deal with it. He said he'd first try the lowest button which probably summons the Superintendent
----- though the dolt who designed this thing didn't label it as such.
He admitted it looked dreadful enough to inspire him to give it a good kick in the well-placed grille, then climb over the gate.
And here's something else for you, this one at some brainless "Deafness" Center.
Get the attention of a hearing passerby to ask him or her to inform you of the "click". Let's hope there's not another "click" at that first door on your right.
What's Wrong Here?
The above is a YouTube robo-caption. Non-human speech-recognition software creates the sentences. Usually, the context is 30 to 90% unreadable (e.g., as above, "wading out" and "in the bed love the ball" turns the whole thing into gibberish). The captions do give a valuable inkling of what's going on ----often just an inkling ----though it's tiring to follow.
There are zillions of YouTubes and we wouldn't expect them to pay for human-typed captioning. Sadly, It looks like we will have to wait for fresh young information technology brains to clean up speech-recognition.
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