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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ASL Bracelet Giveaway

Would you like to win a lovely bracelet with your choice of either the word "hope" or the word "dream" spelled out in ASL? If so, head on over to KV Creative Designs and enter her giveaway. For a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment at this post where you'll see a photo of her hope bracelet. The winner will be announced February 12.

This giveaway is part of the One World One Heart blog event. You can read more about this global project and learn about other giveaways here.

Good luck!

*Update 2/13/09
Find out who was the lucky winner.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On the Fence: The Hidden World of the Hard of Hearing by Mark Drolsbaugh

Hard of hearing people can find themselves stuck in the middle between the world of the hearing and the world of the culturally deaf. If that's how you've felt, then this is the book for you. Filled with poems and short essays describing the whole spectrum of the hard of hearing experience, this book by turns frightened me when discussing discrimination, saddened me when expressing feelings of isolation, and inspired me when challenges were overcome and new opportunities realized.

If you are hard of hearing, this is a must read book. It will not provide the type of useful information found in the books listed on my sidebar but it will help you know you are not alone. Thirty-seven others (the writers of On the Fence) have been there.

This book is currently available from Harris Communications, a wonderful resource of products for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Adapting to Hearing Loss in Everyday Situations

I read the following quote on Kim's blog: "Audiologists give you your hearing aids or implants, then act as if they’ve ‘fixed’ the problem. Their job is to help you hear better than you used to, not to help you adapt to deafness. Most of us who are late-deafened need to learn how to live like a deaf person....These are things an audiologist cannot teach you. Audiologists aren’t deaf."

In that spirit I'm going to tell you about my weekend and how I faced one of my everyday hearing challenges: coping with conversation and the noise levels at a school basketball game. Keep in mind I am not an audiologist. I am not an expert on hearing aids. I'm just an individual diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss, wearing two hearing aids (when it suits me), and willing to share my journey towards accepting my own deafness.

My son had 5 basketball games this weekend. At the first one on a Friday night, I sat in the front row of the bleachers in the middle section. A friend was sitting on my right side. I noticed that sitting away from the scoreboard was helpful to me. Previously this season the loud blasts of the scoreboard at the end of each quarter nearly knocked me over. I often found myself watching the final seconds count down so I could cover my ears. I made a mental note to myself to pay attention to where the scoreboards are located and sit as far away from them as possible. I also realized that I would have done better to grab a seat in the back row of the bleachers. That way nobody behind me is yelling in my ears. Yikes!

Since my friend was sitting on my right, I set my left hearing aid on the T-switch setting which reduced the volume tremendously. Sitting in a noisy crowd of sports fans is not my ideal hearing environment to say the least. I focused on being able to listen only to my friend. Obviously lipreading was a huge help to me here. I had to laugh when at one point, she apologized for loudly chomping her gum. I reassured her that I hadn't heard it.

During a break in the game, she told me a story about a lost hearing aid. Her stepmother had called her quite frantic and told her she had lost her hearing aid. She wanted my friend to check the school parking lot for it. I thought: oh no, not good. Snow and ice would be bad for a hearing aid not to mention the likelihood it had been stepped on by a student or run over by a car. But this story has a happy ending. After looking around the parking lot, my friend walked into the school. She happened to look down and just inside the door off to the side was the missing hearing aid. Perfectly intact. She credits St. Anthony, the Catholic patron saint of lost things.

At my son's second game, I made sure to sit in the back row (top) of the bleachers as well as away from the scoreboard. That helped tremendously. This time I ended up sitting with a group but I could still only understand the person sitting right next to me. When another mother had something to tell me, she had to touch my arm to get my attention and then lean in close. Fortunately she knows I'm hard of hearing and wasn't ignoring her.

At the third game, I ended up in the front row again. This time because a very good friend was sitting there and she is unable to make the climb up to the back rows. In this case, I chose socializing over my hearing needs. Unfortunately, several of the parents sitting behind me were screamers. Aaack. Eventually I removed both hearing aids, leaned in close to hear my friend speak, and covered my ears as necessary. When the game was over, I fled for a quiet spot in the school's hallway to wait for my son to change clothes.

The fourth game was a repeat of the second game experience - the quiet calm of the back row at a more sparsely attended game. The fifth and final game of the weekend was a repeat of the third game. Sitting with the same friend in the front row in a crowded gymnasium. Fortunately this time there were no screamers sitting nearby. What a relief. I still escaped at half time to find a quiet spot to decompress and couldn't wait to get out to the car once the game was over.

One final thought: losing my hearing and beginning to learn ASL has helped me pay more attention to the hand signals the referees make. I am even starting to learn what the various calls mean!

I don't know if my personal experience this weekend is useful to anyone or not. When I first found out about my hearing loss, I turned to the internet looking for practical information I didn't get from my audiologist. It was hard to find. That's one reason I started my blog. If you are new to hearing loss, I want you to know that hearing aids don't fix everything. Coping with your loss will be a learning process. What you need to succeed you will learn on your own by trial and error. Pay attention to your own needs and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Blog Celebration

Come and celebrate with me! I'm tickled pink. The Web Goddess has now dubbed me Blog Diva. Why? Recently my blog's visitor site counter passed 10,000. [imaginary confetti thrown in the air] Okay, some of that number is me working on my blog and replying to comments... but no way have I been to my own blog 10,000 times. On top of that Chad wrote me today that my blog was added to his organization's website. You can see the link here. Whoo hoo! [sound of a party horn]

Party Chatter: Did you know? Jakob Nielsen says ninety percent of all online community participants are lurkers - people who never leave a comment even if they like what they read. "Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule... With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1." Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment. You are appreciated! [air kisses] To all lurkers, thanks for reading. You are always welcome here. [more confetti is airborne]

Party Favor: Have you ever wondered how to create a link in a Blogger comment? Here's the HTML code you need. Ironically, I tried to write the code out in this blog post but Blogger kept turning my directions into a link. LOL. But here's a tip from me: I find it easy to remember which arrow to use by thinking that the arrow symbols point in towards the word(s) I want to hyperlink.

Delicious Virtual Party Refreshments provided by Kym. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hard of Hearing Accessibility: 2020

Thanks to Jonathan I came across this link to "Accessibility Collaboration" by Sami Virtanen. This article which describes "the Dream 2.0" or what the world could be like for hard of hearing people in 2020 was written by a 34 year old man from Finland for the CHHA-IFHOH (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association/ International Federation of Hard of Hearing) Congress of 2008. He not only describes his dream of increased accessiblity but also outlines the steps for achieving it. He references universal design and the design for all concept (which I hope to write on soon).

In "Accessibility Collaboration", Virtanen states that "The vision of disability policy is a society for all. The mission is the advancement of disabled peoples’ human value, well being, and empowerment. The goal is to make it possible for disabled people to achieve, on an equal basis with other people: a) basic conditions for life, b) equal and full participation in society, and c) an independent and autonomous life." Amen.

I highly recommend this article for all who are concerned about accessibility. To view the article, you will need Microsoft Word. This document is published in Microsoft Word 97-2003 format. If you cannot access it, drop me an email at and I will send you a copy as a rich text file (viewable with any word processing software). Thank you, Jonathan!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Dream

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., here is my dream of what the world could be like for those with hearing loss.

  • workplaces
  • universities & colleges
  • community adult education
  • K-12 schools & school events
  • news websites
  • places for worship
  • theatres & cinemas
  • home entertainment
What would you add to the list?

To create your own Obama Hope like picture visit Obamiconme.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Local Hearing Loss Support Group to Tackle Theatre Captioning

Timing is everything. And being in the right place at the right time.

Recently Eddie has been reporting on efforts in Kentucky to have theatres show captioned films. Then Kim spoke out about how she would like to have captioned films shown at her neighborhood cinema. At my request Kim posted the letter she wrote to the theatre manager. I vowed to do the same. But I also wanted to thank the theatre in my area (30 minute drive away) that offers captions and ask for more show times.

Then I got started writing my series on making online education accessible and the letters to the theatres slid to the back burner. Until today when I showed up at my local hearing loss support group meeting. It was an event that I had legitimate excuses for missing. I would have to arrive late because my son had a basketball game scheduled. I had been ill this week and missed 1 and 1/2 days of work. I had a migraine and felt awful. Despite all this I went.

Why? Because I need support. I need interaction with others in the same situation. But most of all, because today a terrific speaker was scheduled I couldn't wait to meet. Who was it? Sheri Caveda of Fifth Freedom, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disability support groups learn how to make a difference in their local areas.

Lori Lakes, [me], Betty Beck, and Sheri Caveda of Fifth Freedom

Sheri and her team worked with our group to develop a mission statement and find a small project to begin making our community more accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. Amazingly, the group consensus was to contact the theatre that offers captioned films and request more showings. Our plan of action is to write individual letters which will emphasize our different requests (some group members want PG/PG-13 movies not just R rated films offered; I want to see the captioned films sooner; others want weekend showings.) We will submit our letters to Sheri and her team for their feedback, send a copy to our group leader, mail our revised letters, and report back to our group leader when they've been mailed. We have a timeline for the project and accountability to each other to follow through in what we've promised.

Next our group leader will contact the theatre manager to open up a negotiation for increased showings. If that meeting is unsuccessful, Sherri has additional steps we can take as a group.

As this project unfolds, I'll keep you updated on our progress. And post my own letter, cross my heart.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making Online Education Accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - part 3

A third way that online education can be made accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing is through the use of speech recognition software by professors. Using this, lectures are automatically transcribed and displayed for all the students in the class to see. No more need for requesting a captioner. No more need for borrowing a classmate's notes.
The Liberated Learning consortium is a group of universities in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australasia incorporating this assistive technology into their courses. As defined on their website, the Liberated Learning concept is founded on two interrelated applications:
  • using speech recognition technology to automatically transcribe spoken language and display it as readable text

  • using speech recognition to produce accessible, multimedia notes

The project began 2 decades ago at the Atlantic Centre of Research, Access, and Support for Students with Disabilities at St. Mary's University of Halifax. Three professors worked with voice recognition software for a semester and then introduced it into their classrooms where their students for the first time could see a lecture as it was delivered. [To find out more of the history of the Liberated Learning Project click here.]

Today the 18 international partners of the Liberated Learning Consortium are working with the IBM ViaScribe through a Joint Study Agreement between St. Mary's and IBM.

That's great news for traditional students. But how can this work for distance learners?

The Neil Squire Society of Canada is working with the Liberated Learning Consortium to find a way to make this transcription tool compatible with Wimba. A nonprofit organization, the Neil Squire Society is dedicated to using technology, knowledge, and passion to help Canadians with physical disabilities. I learned about this approach to making online education accessible from Chad Leaman, a reader who left a comment about his work for them. Chad sent me a demo of his Wimba bridge - a connection between the transcription software and Wimba's closed captioning. I enjoyed listening to it and seeing what the transcription looked like. There were some funny results like Wimba being written as "when but" and liberal as "liver". Tee hee. It reminded me of my own hearing mistakes. But truly I was impressed that there are people with the necessary technical skills working on these accessiblity solutions.
I also really liked this motto I found on the Neil Squire Society website - "Social Justice : We facilitate major change by example and by modelling an effective approach."

Next time, I'll wrap up this series of posts with information on universal design of instruction.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Making Online Education Accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about what I've been working on at my library - transcribing podcasts of library workshops. Now I'd like to introduce a second approach to making online education accessible that is particularly helpful to those whose first language is ASL - using a webcam to show an ASL interpreter.

Early last year I participated in a webinar (click for definition from Merriam-Webster Online) on "Using Wimba to Provide Equal Access of Information to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in On-line Courses". This workshop was presented by Dr. Sam Slike and Pam Berman of Bloomburg University of Pennsylvania. They are affiliated with Bloomburg's Education of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program.

For those unfamiliar with Wimba, this software provides a central white space for a professor to show his lecture slides or demonstrate a website. At the bottom of the screen there is a chat box for ongoing text based discussion between participants and the lecturer. Students can even send messages to each other. There is also an area on the screen for students to click if they want to ask a question.

At Bloomburg University, Dr. Slike uses a webcam of a sign language interpreter, a Sorensen videophone, and closed captioning via Colorado Captioning to make his lectures on Wimba as accessible as possible to both deaf and hard of hearing students.

The webinar on "Using Wimba to Provide Equal Access of Information to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in On-line Courses" was to be a demonstration of how this setup works. Unfortunately as so often happens in life, there were technical difficulties. In this case, the interpreter's signing was unclear due to pixelization effect (click for definition from Wikipedia). Instead of being able to see her hands all we saw were individual pixels. So frustrating. The problem was probably complicated by the fact that interest in the webinar was enormous with hundreds of people logging in from all over the world.

Nevertheless, it was extremely interesting to me to learn about Bloomburg University and what they are working on there. Let me be clear that their approach has been successful for their actual classes (which of course have a much smaller number of people logged in). If you would like to know more, you can view the PowerPoint slides used in the webinar, see a photo of the setup, and read feedback from three of their hard of hearing students at this webpage.

In April 2008, the United States Distance Learning Association awarded Dr. Slike and Professor Berman its Best Practices for Distance Learning Programming – Online Technology in Higher Education. You can read more about the award here.

Next time, I'll write about another approach I learned about from one of the readers of my blog.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Making Online Education Accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

This past year I had my first experience with online education when I got the chance to design and teach a course on Web 2.0 for my library's staff. I worked on this in collaboration with our library's web manager who I worshipfully refer to as the Web Goddess. She had taken two courses on online education and knew more than I did about Web 2.0. I was a novice but a fast study. Before long I could read and write some basic HTML code and upload files, organize our learning units, and comfortably navigate the course management software. The Web Goddess was a genius at finding source material and creating step by step instructions. I pulled my weight with ensuring our writing was clear, understandable, grammatically correct, and logically ordered. Both of us enjoyed the course design experience tremendously although it was certainly challenging for us.

Almost immediately I was struck by how much easier it would be to learn online than in a traditional classroom setting for those with a hearing loss. That got me to thinking about how online education could be made accessible to deaf and hard of hearing learners. Over the past year I've come across three different approaches to this challenge: 1)creating an audio presentation with captioning/transcript, 2)using a sign language interpreter on live video, and 3)using a speech to text translator tool. The first approach would be for a class that is not presented live and could be accessed at any time on the web. The second two approaches would be used for online classrooms like Wimba where the students are all logged in at the same time to attend a lecture.

At my library I am currently experimenting with the first approach. Let me explain how it's developed so far.

One of the great services at our library is that we offer free technology workshops for faculty, staff, and community members. Some are well attended but others aren't. When the attendance is low it's unfortunate because a great deal of time goes into preparing these workshops and the people who do attend always comment on how wonderful they are. So I thought making these workshops available through our library website would allow more people to benefit from them because they could "attend" at their own convenience. We started by posting PowerPoint slide presentations of a few library workshops on our website. Frankly I thought that left alot to be desired compared to attending the live presentations.

Then through preparing the web 2.0 course, I learned about podcasting. Having a podcast to accompany the PowerPoint slides would certainly be much more effective than the slides alone. I convinced the Web Goddess that we should make a recording of one of our newer workshops. This fall we took the plunge and created a podcast using Audacity, a free download on the web.

But of course, a podcast is not helpful to the deaf or hard of hearing unless it is captioned. Unfortunately, Audacity didn't have captioning capability. I needed to type up a transcript of the podcast. This took me hours even though it was my own voice and the Web Goddess' and most of my presentation material was scripted. Of course it didn't make sense to have the hard of hearing partner make the transcript but I was the one with the motivation!

Then we added the podcast and transcript onto the library website to accompany the PowerPoint slides. But this didn't sit right with me either. Now we had three separate pieces. Why couldn't we combine all this into one neat package?

When I was in Orlando at the Educause Conference I learned about Camtasia Studio 6, a software product that would allow us to combine all three parts into one. No more transcript. It would be captions to match the audio to match the slides. Perfect.

It's been a few months now and our request for the software has been approved and ordered. We just haven't received it yet. Hopefully soon. Then I can start experimenting again.

I'll post what I've learned about the other two options mentioned above next time. If you have an interest in online education, if you've had a good or bad experience with taking a course online, or if you have any information regarding accessibility and online education, please comment or email me. I really want to know more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year New Me

2008 was a BAD year for me. As some of you may remember I got so down on myself that last summer I deleted my blog. Fortunately I came to my senses and resurrected it as I truly enjoy blogging and actually find it therapeutic at times. Unexpectedly, 2008 contained difficult family estrangements and stressful challenges and changes at work. One of the toughest lessons I had to learn was that someone I thought was my true friend was not. I was deceived and taken in by a manipulative liar. Naturally this was apparent to everyone but me. Arrgh. My self esteem plummeted.

I am truly grateful that 2008 is behind me. Of course not all of it was bad. In fact, many of the good times have been chronicled here on my blog where they can be reread and relived. And it's here on my blog that I want to share my special mantra for 2009: TO LIVE OUT LOUD AND NOT FALL SILENT. I found it in the last sentence of this blog post by Kim and realized it resonated with me.

This photo is of a Smiley Snowman posed on top of my computer tower in my work cubicle. I bought him for someone else but couldn't bear to part with him. He really brightens my day with his smile.

Fortunately, I have a circle of genuine friends who I appreciate now that I understand their true worth. One of these dear women gave me a belated Christmas present for my desk at work: a miniature calendar with a daily quote related to friendship. I found one so apropos that I taped it to my computer moniter so I can see it throughout my workday. I just have to share it with you.

My friend, if I could give you one thing, I would wish for you the ability to see yourself as others see you. Then you would realize what a truly special person you are. - B.A. Billingsly

Isn't that lovely? That's what a true friend does for you. Gives a gift to help you heal. I also bought myself a gift - a devotional by Joyce Meyer entitled New Day, New You. Each page has a short scripture verse with some inspirational thoughts for the day. For me reading it is taking a baby step back towards faith and light and hope. I'm really hoping for a better year. I know it all revolves around my taking better care of myself and making the right decisions and actions.

I wish you all peace of heart in 2009!