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Sunday, August 28, 2011

DDW's Journey to Cambodia and Thailand

Travelers with Discovering Deaf Worlds recently returned from a trip to Cambodia and Thailand. Here's a report on their adventure courtesy of DDW's Executive Director, Davin Searls:

We had a wonderful group of eight travelers who bonded from day one! Even though we had the full spectrum of signing Deaf people to interpreters to a hearing person who knew no sign language at all, the participants made sure that everyone was included. In fact, by the end of the trip, our one non-signer was having conversations in not only ASL, but Cambodian Sign Language as well!

Our group especially enjoyed their time with the local Deaf community and our visits to DDW partner organizations. We watched a fantastic dance performance by Deaf vocational students at Epic Arts, and even joined the students in a creative dance workshop! For DJ and I, it was an inspiration to see such incredible growth in the Cambodian Deaf community. Four or five years ago, there were very few visible Deaf leaders - and after this visit, we were in awe about the strength of independence behind the local Deaf community to coordinate our visit, lead workshops with our group of mixed hearing and Deaf people, and formally teach us a crash course in Cambodia Sign Language!

We also squeezed in some exciting cultural ventures like Muay Thai (kickboxing), a visit to the Temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Grand Palace in Thailand, and taste-testing exotic street food like crickets - which surprisingly, weren't half bad!

Without a doubt, this was a memorable Journey for everyone- we have to thank our local cultural representatives for making us all feel at home!

Thanks, Davin for sharing your thoughts on the trip! In the video below, you will see one of the journey participants share her experiences in Cambodia.

To see the group's itinerary in Cambodia and Thailand click here. To learn more about travel opportunities with Discovering Deaf Worlds, click here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicago Deaf Awareness Day is Coming Up

Click on flyer to enlarge

Consider yourself invited. There will be entertainment provided by ASL-English interpretation students from Columbia College and displays on the services and products available for the deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened and deaf-blind in Chicago.

If you live in the area, I hope you'll stop by.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Miss: Karen Putz and Katie LeClerc in Ability Magazine

The latest edition of Ability Magazine features Katie Leclerc on the cover and Deaf Mom blogger Karen Putz inside. You can download the magazine for free on Facebook.

In her cover story interview, Katie discusses a variety of topics including Switched at Birth, Ménière’s disease, bullying, cochlear implants, and more.

The article about Karen chronicles her return to barefoot water skiing after an accident on the water twenty-five years before caused her to go suddenly deaf. Although she was previously hard of hearing, she had difficulties in accepting her increased hearing loss. Looking back today, she says, "Going deaf was the best thing that ever happened to me. It didn't seem that way at the time but ... I learned to embrace being deaf. I learned to embrace being myself." You can find Karen's blog at

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Bus Cake

My husband and his school bus cake

I made this school bus cake in honor of my husband's new gig as a school bus driver. Today's his first day, my son's return to school, and the start of fall semester at the university where I work.

The cake, a surprise for my husband, was easy to make. I made it from 2 pound cakes, mini nilla wafer cookies for the kids' faces, mini chocolate doughnuts for the tires, and white chocolate chips for the center of the wheels and the headlights. I decorated it using orange and red M & Ms for safety lights and used black and red icing gel to create outlines on the bus and the children's features. I searched "School Bus Cake" on Google to get inspiration and decorating directions.

Here's hoping that students, teachers, and staff everywhere have a safe, enjoyable, and educational school year ahead.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fathers and Daughters and Books Read Aloud: The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

As regular readers of my blog know, this year I am happily participating in the Support Your Local Library Reading challenge. I'm reading more than I have in a long time and seeking out book recommendations every chance I get. The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma was recommended to me by a close friend who is also a librarian.

I was intrigued by the idea of a father and daughter's years-long-every-night-without-missing-once reading streak. My own father read to me as a girl. Through him I was introduced to the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit. But we didn't read together every night. It was not a ritual for us. As I remember, it was more of a way to pass the time on a long car trip when it was my mom's turn to drive.

All the same, the sound of my dad's voice as he read aloud is one of my favorite memories of childhood. So when I had a child, I read to him regularly myself. Then I had the idea of convincing my father to tape record a cassette of my son's favorite stories for his bedtime listening. Of course, I also made read aloud tapes of my own voice, my husband's, and his grandmother's. But it was my dad's voice that returned me to my past. It was as much a gift for me as for my son.

Alice Ozma's father, Jim Brozina is a school librarian with a passion for reading aloud to children. Interestingly, he also has a hearing loss. This is not a major theme of the book, but it is mentioned several times. Naturally, that made me relate to the story on another level.

When I began this memoir, I wondered how the account of their reading accomplishment, while quite amazing, could fill up 279 pages. As I read further, I discovered their story offers much more. It is an inside look at a single father raising two daughters. It is a description of the unrelenting determination needed to overcome the obstacles inherent in achieving a lofty goal. It's the biography of Alice Ozma's childhood.

You may wonder, as I did, why The Streak, as they dubbed it, was so important to her. The answer, I think, is when her mother left, her grandparents died, and her sister went overseas as an exchange student, The Streak became something she could rely on when her family dynamics were changing. She and her father began officially when she was in third grade and ended the day she left for college. They read nightly for 3,218 days. The most memorable books they read are listed at the end.

Here's a brief selection from the book:
We called it The Reading Streak, but it was really more of a promise. A promise to each other, a promise to ourselves. A promise to always be there and to never give up. It was a promise of hope in hopeless times. It was a promise of comfort when things got uncomfortable. And we kept our promise to each other.

I highly recommend this book to all book lovers. This title is #37 on my reading list. I still have more than 4 months of reading before the challenge is over. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm an Oticon Focus on People Awards Finalist!

I'm very excited to announce that I have been chosen as an Oticon Focus on People Awards finalist in their Advocacy category. Oticon has selected three people in each of four categories -Student, Adult, Advocacy, and Practitioner - to be their finalists. The ultimate winner in each category will be chosen by online vote. Here's the official press release I received today:

Sarah Wegley Selected as Top Finalist in the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards
Sarah Wegley has been named a finalist in the Advocacy category of the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards. People are encouraged to log onto to cast their vote for Sarah and other top finalists in each of four categories – Student, Adult, Advocacy and Practitioner. Tabulations on the total number of votes received by each finalist will determine who will be the first, second and third place winners in each category. The 12 finalists represent the "best of the best" nominees for this year’s competition.

“Cast your vote for who inspires you! Our goal is to reach as many people as possible with the inspirational stories of our Focus on People Award finalists,” says Nancy Palmere, Sr. Marketing Manager at Oticon, Inc. “Log onto and read about the accomplishments of some remarkable people with hearing loss and dedicated practitioners who are helping to show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to achieve, contribute and inspire.”

First place winners in each category win $1,000 and a $1,000 donation from Oticon to the charity of their choice. First place winners in the Student, Adult and Advocacy also win a pair of Oticon advanced technology hearing instruments.

Voting is open now through August 29 at Winners will be announced in September.

About the Focus on People Awards
Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national awards program now in its 14th year, honors hearing impaired students, adults and advocacy volunteers who have demonstrated through their accomplishments that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a difference in their families, communities and the world. By spotlighting people with hearing loss and their contributions, Oticon aims to change outdated stereotypes that discourage people from seeking professional help for their hearing loss.

What Oticon Wrote About Me, My Blog, and My Advocacy

Sarah Wegley is a librarian who doesn't believe it is necessary – or a good idea – to keep your voice down, especially when it comes to addressing something as important as hearing loss.
In her award-winning blog, "Speak Up Librarian," Sarah chronicles her own experiences with late-onset hearing loss and invites others with hearing loss to speak out about their own challenges, adventures and achievements.
Sarah, who has a moderate hearing loss, has worn hearing devices since 2006. At that time, she knew no one in a similar situation and frankly admits that it was lonely. Writing her blog at first was an outlet, a way for her to talk about how hearing loss had affected her emotionally. She was shocked to find a group of individuals from all walks of life who were happy and grateful to read and share along with her.
At first, Sarah’s blogs invited followers to come with along on journey to "come to terms with my hearing loss and adjust to life with hearing aids." Over time, her blog became more than just her own story. Today, it is a source of information for not only people with hearing loss but also for people who are interested in learning more about hearing loss.
Not all of Sarah's contributions are virtual. Her advocacy interests include open captioned films, accessible online education and hearing aid insurance coverage and she was recently elected the Social Chair of the Association of Late Deafened Adults Chicago.
In her new role, Sarah has been instrumental in opening group members to new experiences and changing the perceptions of the people in everyday life that they meet along the way. She recounted an experience in a local restaurant where the wait staff had to make special accommodations for the group, such as being careful to face the people at the table as they spoke. In Sarah’s estimation it was a win-win for all including the wait staff.
"I try to raise awareness wherever I can," Sarah says. "Life does go on with hearing loss!" There is no doubt that it will go a bit more smoothly for people with hearing loss, thanks to Sarah's candid and honest commentary online and off.
Thank you, Oticon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Take me out to the ball game.

Take me out with the crowd.

When a member of my hearing loss support group suggested going to a minor league baseball game for an outing, I was all over that idea. I knew of a family friendly stadium that would provide an affordable evening of entertainment for our group. I made arrangements for us to attend a Windy City Thunderbolts faceoff against the Gateway Grizzlies at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. Adding to the fun would be a free pre-game concert by Jerry "Elvis" Vegas, Elvis themed giveaways, and a fireworks show after the game.

What I didn't plan on was the rain. Thunderstorms moved through the area during the afternoon and on into the early evening. At dinner before the game, I watched the restaurant television anxiously to discern the weatherman's prediction. He promised the thunderstorm watch would end at 7 p.m. Just in time for the start of the game at 7:05 p.m. my support group friends reassured me. They understood how much I wanted the game to take place because our previous month's social event had been cancelled due to extreme heat. Ahhh, weather. It can interfere with the best laid plans. Maybe we were tempting fate by attending a Thunderbolts game.

We arrived at the ballpark early, but Jerry "Elvis" Vegas didn't go on so we had to content ourselves with playing with our Elvis giveaways which turned out to be inflatable guitars. Everyone in the group was a good sport about it and used the time to do what we like best at an ALDA Chicago social - chatting! It's wonderful to have a conversation with other people who make sure to face you and who may even use a bit of sign as they speak. I got to know several group members better and also took the opportunity to confide a problem I'm having to two people whose opinions I respect. Their perspective was greatly appreciated. Hey, that's what a support group is all about, right?

In this photo you can see the field crew
at work, repairing the rain damage.

In this photo, my husband patiently waits out the rain delay.
I was fortunate to have left a beach blanket and quilt in my car!

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,

Once the game got started, our group enjoyed snacking on peanuts, popcorn, and ice cream. Those who weren't with us at dinner had pizza and hot dogs. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to have ballpark fare while watching a game. We got our Elvis fix by listening to The King's music over the loudspeakers.

I don't care if I never get back.

That would certainly have been the case if the game hadn't started an hour late. Once 9 p.m. came, members of our group began to apologetically slip away. I understood. Some of them had driven quite a ways to attend the game. By the seventh inning stretch, my husband and I were the only ones left of our group. We stuck it out another inning, but by 10:30 p.m. I was tired out too.

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

Boomer, the team mascot

If they don't win, it's a shame.

That was the case for the Windy City Thunderbolts. When we left, they hadn't scored a single run. I found out online that the final score of the game was Gateway Grizzlies 10, Windy City Thunderbolts 0.

For it's one, two, three strikes you're out
At the old ball game.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Deaf Child Area Signs

Have you seen a street sign like this where you live? There are several in my town. I've taken photographs of the ones I see regularly. They've raised questions in my mind I wanted to share with you. I'm curious to know more about them, but I don't know who to ask.

This is the oldest sign I've seen. It's located on the same street as the sign pictured above. It's a mystery to me why this sign hasn't been taken down. It's not very visible to drivers in its current condition. I wonder how long it's been there. This sign makes me wonder when/if signs like these are ever taken down. What happens after the child grows up? What happens if the family moves away? Is it up to the family to have them removed?

This photo has not been retouched, I swear. The sign has been allowed to remain in this condition for years even with the obvious misspelling. Do you suppose someone vandalized this sign and rubbed off the letter D? Why has no one replaced the missing letter? How much attention do people pay to these signs anyways?

It's the same with this sign which is located on the opposite side of the street a block down from the one above. It makes me wonder, who pays for these signs? The town or the family? I haven't been able to locate any information on legal requirements for these signs. They are not to be found among the many street signs identified in the Illinois driver's manual.

When we came across this tilted sign while I was taking these photos, my husband put his shoulder to it and straightened it out. It makes me feel like it's up to us rather than the municipality to maintain these signs. Surely police officers and other city workers had driven by this sign and not fixed it.

From what I've read on the internet, there's mixed opinions on the effectiveness of these signs. Based on the sorry state of the ones I've shown here, I wonder who is paying attention to them. What do you think? Are these signs a good idea? If so, who should be responsible for maintaining them?

Friday, August 5, 2011

John Nikolakopoulos on Quiet Signs of Love

Have you seen the wonderful videos for Quiet Signs of Love yet? They tell the story of a love that blossoms between two college students Daniel and Hannah. Their romance is complicated by the fact that Daniel is hearing and Hannah is deaf. Can they overcome their differences and find a way to communicate their true selves to each other? Can they find a place in each other's world? I was fascinated to see how this would play out for them since deaf/hearing relationships have a reputation for being difficult to maintain. Would Daniel and Hannah be one of the successful couples or would they become another statistic? You can see for yourself by watching the videos below, but first I'd like to tell you a bit more about the films and why I'm pleased to post them on my blog.

I was recently contacted by John Nikolakopoulos, director of ikonfilm, and asked to help spread the word about Quiet Signs of Love. Because of my passion for increasing deaf awareness through quality media productions, I am happy to assist John by recommending the videos to all of you. Especially when he told me that if these videos receive enough hits, he will be able to create a third episode or possibly create a feature film from the story.

I asked him to tell me more about how he came to make Quiet Signs of Love and this was his reply:

The film is a response to a callout from the National Relay Service for a viral video to promote their service.

When I looked deep into Deaf culture online, I found a community for whom the internet had a very deep impact. It not only brought together a global Deaf community, it also bridged the hearing and deaf worlds, making the barriers between the two less formidable.

A viral video has the connotation of being a quick shallow laugh that is easily spread, but I immediately wanted to provide something that would have more substance and relevance to the deaf experience. The internet provided deaf specific video channels through a variety of blogs and youtube channels, and providing rich and meaningful content for this forum would be much more valuable and have a longer life than a quick cheap funny short video.

Every line and every scene in the film was carefully written to have a relevance to the experience of deaf people. For example, the dinner scene is a reversal of the kind of experience deaf people have in social gatherings, where everyone is speaking and they are left out. By having a hearing person in this situation, its a little bit of Schaudenfreude (pleasure obtained from the troubles of others). In the following scene where the couple have a fight, its the male protagonist Daniel's attitude towards her deafness that is the obstacle. Not the actual deafness itself.

This film is designed to build an awareness of the National Relay Service, but ultimately, it is designed to service the Deaf community by making the NRS part of something bigger - building bridges between deaf and hearing worlds. But instead of an annoying ad to remind us of this, an engaging movie that serves the community is a nicer way to do it.

Quiet Signs of Love, Part One

Quiet Signs of Love, Part Two