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This blog is no longer active as of 2017.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

That Girl

Unlike Marlo Thomas, I don't like being That Girl. Although for me That Girl doesn't refer to being a single woman/aspiring actress who wears gorgeous clothes and has the perfect boyfriend. No, in my case it refers to "that" girl - you know, the one who asks for special accommodations.

This week a new semester is starting and yesterday I met with my professor. I had to talk to her about a problem I saw with one of the assignments. According to the syllabus, for one of our class sessions, we would be watching a movie and then writing a reaction paper to it. My problem was that the movie is a "classic" and unavailable with captions.

After last semester's class experience of watching a required film with no captions, I was not going to waste two hours of my life again. So, I took a proactive approach and looked for a copy with captions. Thanks to the abundance of libraries in my area, I got my hands on three different DVD releases of the film. They were all marked CC - closed captioned - either in the catalog records or on the DVD boxes. But to my disappointment, it wasn't true. Yes, they had subtitles for the film, but only in Spanish and French, not in English. That is not the same as CC!

Well, I gave it the old college try by watching the film at home with the volume turned up. I'll admit that I got the general idea of the movie and understand why the professor picked this powerful film for our class; but many of the conversational moments passed me by. Luckily, the next day I found an English captioned version on YouTube. You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the title of the film. That's because I don't want the person who uploaded it to YouTube to get into any trouble! What they did was incredibly helpful. I watched the film online and saw how much I had missed without being able to "read" the dialogue.

Yesterday, I shared my experience with my teacher and asked permission to be excused from the class the evening the film would be shown. She was completely understanding and gave approval without hesitation. Of course, I will be submitting the required reaction paper. I then asked my usual questions about how many will be in the class and how the room will be arranged. I found out there will be 30 students and we will be sitting at tables placed as a rectangle so we can all face each other. She told me to be sure and let her know if I had any difficulty hearing and keeping up with the discussions.

Although I hate being different and having to call attention to it, I find it's necessary if I want to succeed. I hope that by doing this, it will raise my teachers' disability awareness and make it easier on future students with hearing loss.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Friend is Featured in a Book!

Karen Putz has published a new book called The Passionate Lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. Karen has been a role model to me for years so that is reason enough to buy the book. Tina Childress, another person I admire, has her story included in the book which was another reason for me to buy the book. But what got me right over to was reading on Facebook that my friend Jonathan Nicoll was also featured in the book. Way to go, Jonathan!

I got to know Jonathan, who lives in Canada, because he was one of the early readers of my blog. During the summer of 2011, he took a cross-Canada car trip on his own, from Ontario all the way to British Columbia. Returning home, he came through my area and my family and I took him for breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. It was so fun to get to meet Jonathan in person. He's a very interesting young man who is a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. I don't want to tell you too much about Jonathan because I want you to read his story for yourself in Karen's book. And no, you can't borrow my copy. Jonathan has promised to autograph it for me the next time he's in Chicago.

Rusty says, "If I could read, I would buy this book. It features my pal Jonathan as well as famous people like I. King Jordan, Howard Rosenblum, Kathy Buckley, and CJ Jones. There are 24 inspiring people profiled."

My friend Liz has posted her own review at

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Last Saturday, I took a day trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with ALDA Chicago. In the morning, we had a board meeting in Cary, Illinois. That town is northwest of Chicago and located en route to Lake Geneva. My husband Rob came with me and we left our house at 6:30 a.m. to have plenty of time to get to Cary by 9:00 a.m.

On our way, we stopped at Walker Brothers pancake house. In the photo at left you can see the impressive looking exterior of this restaurant. The inside was decorated like a castle. I had a yummy breakfast of 3 pigs in a blanket (sausage links wrapped in pancakes) and Rob had french toast. Later, we were very glad we had stopped around 8:00 a.m. and had a substantial breakfast.

The board meeting ended promptly at 11:00 a.m. because we needed to arrive in Lake Geneva in time to board the boat for our lake cruise at 12:30 p.m. We were booked on a cruise that included a tour of Black Point Estate, one of the oldest mansions on Geneva Lake. [Lake Geneva is the town and Geneva Lake is the body of water.] Rob and I enjoy seeing historic homes and were looking forward to it. The board meeting location was about 45 minutes to 1 hour away from Lake Geneva, so we thought we had plenty of time.

As you can see from the photos, the skies were blue and we had a beautiful day for travelling. What we didn't know was that Lake Geneva was having a Venetian Festival that weekend drawing more than the usual number of tourists. Traffic on the road was slow-moving getting into the town and parking near the waterfront was difficult to find. Sadly, we missed our boat's departure.

But all was not lost because one of the group members arriving ahead of us but also too late for the boat made arrangements for 7 of us to board the next boat leaving at 1:00 p.m. We got on just in time to claim the last available seats.

The cruise company graciously provided us with scripts of the tour narration which were very helpful in following the descriptions of the million dollar homes we were sailing past. Hooray for deaf advocacy! But I have to admit that looking down at the script and then looking up at the shoreline made me a little seasick. My husband bought me some 7Up from the ship's bar and after drinking that my stomach settled. I did have to take a break from my reading, though, and just enjoy the passing scenery.

The 1:00 cruise did not include the stop at Black Point Estate so we got back earlier than expected and had free time to explore. As Rob and I had missed lunch completely, our first stop was for ice cream cones. Mmmm.

I've included a few photos of things that caught my eye as we walked around: an angel fountain, a horse with rainbow colored "socks", and a pub sign.

We met back up with the group from ALDA Chicago at 5:00 p.m. to have dinner at Popeye's restaurant located on the waterfront. I had a delicious perch sandwich for my meal. It was fun to be together with my friends and catch up on their lives. But I was really puzzled when people kept telling me that after dinner they were stopping to buy funds. I had no idea what they were talking about despite repeated attempts on my part for clarification. It wasn't until we were nearly home that night, that I figured out they were talking about buying fudge. Smile.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By Reader Request: Blondie & Rusty

I was asked by a blog reader to post a recent photo of Blondie & Rusty. So here they are! It's hard getting the dogs to pose together, so I hope you will enjoy these two separate portraits. The dogs were wearing flag bandanas in honor of a special family occasion.

Blondie is now a year and a half old.
Rusty is almost 9 years old.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Update on DDW's Work in Costa Rica

Recently I had the privilege of talking with David Justice (DJ), co-founder of Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) . Long-time readers of my blog may recall I took a trip to Costa Rica with DDW in 2011. DJ brought me up-to-date on what's new with DDW and Costa Rica. With his permission, I can share with you an excerpt of our online chat conversation reformatted as an interview.

Sarah: Did you ever imagine DDW would grow into what it is today when you and Christy started the organization in 2007?

DJ: When Christy and I first took that trip our goal was 'to make an entertaining video of stories in 10 different sign languages from 10 different countries' and now here we are working with governments, post-secondary institutions, and national associations of the deaf on organizational development and long term sustainability projects. [It's] all very exciting! Our long term goal as we expand is to incorporate international teams to provide capacity building in sign language-- so not just DDW people from USA, but a combo of people from USA and Philippines will begin this "train the trainer" organizational development cycle in the next country.

[I told DJ about my recent Train the Trainer experience with the Library of Congress.]

Sarah: The Train the Trainer program was exciting because I got exposure to experts in this field which I knew nothing about. And now with having to do the training myself, I have to learn the subject and be very engaged with it, to be able to do it.

DJ: That's great. It's something we try to do with our work in international development -- involve those we are working with in every step of the process. Even our discussions/trainings are always "co-facilitated" by one 1 DDW person and 1 person from PFD, or ANASCOR, or whichever organization we are working with. You definitely see a quicker sense of empowerment and self confidence that way.

Sarah: Speaking of ANASCOR (AsociaciĆ³n Nacional de Sordos de Costa Rica), what's new?

DJ: They are in the process of establishing another Deaf advocacy organization in Costa Rica called "Siglo 21" or "The 21st Century". They will be independent of ANASCOR but will work very closely together with ANASCOR. The goal of Siglo 21 is to focus on enforcing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Are you familiar with that law?

Sarah: No, I'm not.

DJ: CRPD is an international disability law that is very similar to the ADA we have here in the USA. The Costa Rican government passed this law 5 years ago and every two years, they are required to submit a report to the UN explaining how they are amending or developing policies that are accommodating for people with disabilities. In their first two reports, ANASCOR was not mentioned at all, and LESCO [Costa Rican sign language] was only mentioned once, so there is a "disconnect" between the government (who controls policy for education/employment/etc) and the Deaf community. That is the gap that Siglo 21 is going to focus on closing up. They plan to conduct some concrete research on the needs of the Deaf community to have evidence behind their complaints, then offer constructive advice to the government on how to improve language access, deaf education, job training, etc. It's a big project, and will take several years-- but they are moving along. Our [DDW's] role has been to provide "process consultation" on the development of Siglo 21 as an organization. For example, we worked with them on refining their mission, vision, values statements; conducted a SWOT analysis, established a timeline with committees to achieve their goals etc.

Sarah: That is a big project, I am glad DDW is supporting them.

DJ: I went to Costa Rica last summer with Dr. Scot Atkins who works with DDW (and as a professor at NTID) and we made some great progress together. We will likely return again this winter at some point and will likely visit Costa Rica once a year or every two years. Perhaps if we expand, we can run a similar exchange program like we have [recently] done with the Philippines.

Sarah: Thanks for the updates, DJ. Everything sounds great.

DJ: Pura Vida!

To learn more about Discovering Deaf Worlds, please visit their website

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Artist Gary Price

I am currently reading a book called The Passionate Lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. I'll be writing more about it soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to share with you about Gary Price, a friend of mine, who is living out his creative dreams.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending Gary's Meet the Artist exhibit and reception at a local coffee shop. I've known Gary for about 5 years and this was the second exhibit of his I've attended. Gary is very personable and his paintings are colorful and lively. Gary says that his specialty is creating art on canvas or paper, using paint, charcoal, pastel, pencil and collage. You can view his work for yourself online here. He also has a shop on Etsy.

Going to the Edge Coffee House was a fun outing. My husband and I went together as a sort of date last Friday night. He bought a large cup of coffee and I got a delicious chicken salad croissant with a broccoli salad on the side. (That was my dinner as I hadn't eaten yet.) Gary's paintings, priced for sale, were hanging throughout the coffee shop. Gary also had art prints, note cards, and magnets for sale. I purchased his lion magnet (see photo below) for my office because it reminds me of Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia.

Outside on the patio area of the coffee shop, a musical husband and wife duo were performing. Although we spent most of our time inside with Gary, we did get to hear the last three songs of their final set. It was a relaxing way to end our evening. All in all, it was nice to celebrate the art of talented regular folks.

Photo from The Edge Facebook page

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

That Sounds Gross

I was at a picnic recently and thought someone offered me mustard or bad eggs. Say what? It took me a couple seconds to realize that what was actually offered was mayonnaise.

Try saying them both without the consonants, "a ayz", and you can hear how similar they are. But quite different in appeal, ha ha.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Learning About Digital Preservation & Owning My Hearing Loss

Train the Trainer Class - July 2013 - Photo by Library of Congress
I am in the second row, wearing purple.

This summer I had a fantastic work opportunity to learn about digital preservation from the Library of Congress through their outreach and education program. The Library of Congress is committed to getting Americans to think about digital preservation and start taking steps in that direction. To achieve their goal, the Library of Congress is presenting Train the Trainer workshops throughout the country. The trainers who attend the training are charged with presenting the information to their local communities to spread the word on the importance of digital preservation.

For a brief introduction to digital preservation, please view the video below.
Note: Captions not available :(

During our training, I connected with a librarian who works near me. The two of us plan to present our training together. We want to present a workshop called "Getting Started with Digital Preservation". Neither of us have done digital preservation before, so we are going to discuss the concepts we learned and then share how we have gotten started implementing them at our libraries. We will probably offer our workshop sometime in the fall. Then, we will also participate with a more in-depth regional workshop series to take place next spring.

When I went to this training last month, I was planning on not saying anything to anyone about my hearing loss. I would just manage as best I could. Ha! I didn't even last a day at that. This is what happened. The first morning of our class, I arrived twenty minutes early to get the best possible seat for hearing the speaker. I found one at the front of the room with a great view of the projector screen and located well away from the projector itself. I knew from past experience that projectors can make plenty of distracting background noise. I thought I had it made.

But later that day, the trainers had us count off by numbers 1-6. I ended up being a number six. This meant I had to move to the very back of the room and be part of group six. So much for my effort of arriving early to get the best seat. Then, we had some group work time where all the groups were talking among each other at the same time. Oh, the hubbub! I was relying completely on lipreading at that point. Then, we broke up to receive more instruction from a Library of Congress trainer. But, of course, now I was at the back of the room. I had to do something. I told my group, "Sorry, I have to move up to the front to hear" and pulled my chair up to sit at a front table. That group looked a little surprised to have me join them, but I simply explained, "I need to sit here to hear." The trainer didn't even seem to notice.

I was so glad later that I took the initiative to make that move. I met someone at the front table who was compassionate about my hearing loss and one of the training organizers told me later she just assumed I had moved to be able to see better. LOL, I had never even considered that possibility.

Through this training opportunity, I learned about digital preservation AND the importance of owning up to my hearing loss. It was a little embarrassing in the moment to move my seat, but not a big deal in the long run.