Is it just me or is the Deaf Blind community even further from the other half of our communities than ever before?
With the amazing speed of advancement in technology that enables Deaf people to grow as a community and be propelled out in the forefront, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the Deaf Blind community to catch up or even stay on the same track.
By advancements in Deaf technology, I mean pagers (Sidekicks and Blackberries), Videophone devices, hard-to-read blogs that are also undecipherable on computer Braille displays, and even innovative inventions to bring the world into the classroom is more restricting than ever.
Now there is a heated debate going on. Should Vlogs by the signing community be captioned or transcribed? This debate had been between the Deaf and the Hearing communities for some time now, but as read on www.ridorlive.com in his recent article featuring Ella Mae Lentz’s latest vlog that basically declared that signing vlogs should NOT be captioned, therein jumps the Deaf Blind community in the debating pool.
Should we caption our vlogs? Should we incite a laborous journey in the vlogging world by writing a word-by-word transcription of our signed rants? Documenting every word we sign in ASL into English is indeed laborous but do people realize how many others this would benefit?
First of all, the debate would be steered towards how Hearing people have oppressed the Deaf community for so long, especially with the latest decision not to enforce captioning by companies who feel they are financially tight. YouTube and scores of other web-based video-storing sites do not enforce their customers to caption their vlogs, since there’s no policy in the FCC that exists. So Deaf people fump it and be like the Hearing population and react in an ignorant manner that reflects years and years of oppression by the other dominant group.
Deaf Blind people are now affected by this debate. There are roughly 800,000 Deaf Blind children & adults living in the United States and extending to over 2 million worldwide, and a large percentage of the American Deaf Blind population has grown up in a Deaf community. I grew up in a Deaf institution for 15 years, contributed to the Deaf communities in several states & provinces and especially several countries worldwide, attended Gallaudet for several years and now am employed as a teacher for Deaf immigrants as well as an employer for the local Deaf centre in Ottawa. I’m all things Deaf, including my robust pride in the signing community that has literally raised me to be this leader many know to be today. I even gave my heart & soul to the Gallaudet protests in May & October. This is just to tell you what a big part I am of the Deaf community. Yet… I find myself further and further apart from this community and joined with me are thousands of Deaf Blind people who have grown up in the same background as I have.
Just to mention one thing that is keeping our communities farther apart: Deaf people are buying videophones like crazy and in the process they decide to throw out their TTYs. But little do we realize that the Deaf Blind community relies heavily on the TTY to communicate with the world outside of their homes. The Ultratec TTY models also come in refreshable braille displays, meaning that a fully blind DB person could call a sighted Deaf person directly without any problem. But more and more Deaf households don’t have TTYs and TTY relay services on the decline, who are we to call? States are not forced to cover costs of expensive Braille computers for the DB because the ADA does not cover this area, only for the sighted Deaf and Hearing Blind. In this wake, we are more lonely than ever.
It just gets easier for the Deaf person to forget that there is an attached minority community in theirs and often in the process of technology evolution the DB are not invited to share their opinions or ideas. Strangely enough, the Hearing Sighted are more considerate of Hearing Blind. For instance…. I came across a site maybe a year ago that capitalized on a new idea: pictures online could be sent to this site and its thousands of members could “describe” the picture for fun and the end result would be screened by the site’s human editors, then sent back to the owner of the picture. Point: The description can be read in refreshable Braille displays. Some pictures aren’t described in writing, but rather voiced. For the tactile of me, I cannot remember this site???
More instances: Walmart just introduced speakers on debit-card machines by the cashier so that the hearing blind could listen and do their own checkouts. The same goes for millions of ATMs – there is Braille but no popup braille displays to replace the voice so that the Deaf Blind could read. To cross the street is a challenge for the Deaf Blind as there’s no vibrator visibly everywhere where it should be, but there’s of course the voiced warnings when the hand flashes or the white man’s flashing. Walk! Walk! Stop! Stop!
Now…. it really, really, really bothers me as much as it excites me that the vlogging world is fast expanding. How would the Deaf Blind (the low-vision, the near-sighted, the far-sighted, the legally blind, the fully blind….) be able to remain in tune with the very community we grew up in? Most of us don’t have pagers. Most of us don’t have videophones. Some of us don’t have Braille computers because we cannot afford it. Many of us stay at home because we are out of tune with the bustling Deaf community that’s right next door – and because states know they aren’t breaking any laws when they choose not to fund support service provider programs. But that’s for another blog.
I know some of you may hint at the irony of posting it on a hard-to-read blogsite in gray, small font – do me a favor, go to your browser’s View > Text Size> Largest and hopefully it’ll be large enough. My new blogsite is in construction… (my other website has much better reading accessibility but nonmembers of Xanga cannot comment… www.xanga.com/tactilejunkie)
Although I feel this blog would have been better signed out in a vlog, I thought I would probably start by “transcribing” it.. the old fashioned way. I want the DB community to read this and tell the Deaf community just exactly how they feel.
I want the Deaf community to do the same thing. Do you think vlog captioning and/or transcribing can be a reality? Do you think it should happen or not? Do you agree or disagree with the gap between the Deaf and DeafBlind communities being more further apart than ever?
p.s.: as a friend just harshly said recently: i make a habit out of bitching and whining without bringing solutions to the table.
well, with that said, i agree/disagree. in the past, i’ve always took the initative of bringing solutions and ideas… sometimes vent without offering anything to solve it. this is a venting session, in the hopes someone out there would read this and offer ideas/solutions. i am no web genius so my ideas are far from html development!
but in the meanwhile i’ve been thinking about transcriptions and how it would work.. also how deaf and deafblind vloggers can make the vlogs easy to see and understand.
in the meanwhile, do post comments/ideas/solutions. much appreciated.