Sunday, May 25, 2008

DeafMom Has Moved!

I'm no longer posting on Blogger--A Deaf Mom Shares Her World is now over at Wordpress:

A Deaf Mom Shares Her World

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

United Airlines--Are You Listening?

The service industry ain't what it used to be...

This morning, my friend John sent me the link to a story about poor customer service on United Airlines:

Not-So-Happy Flying

Last week, I wasn't so happy with United Airlines myself. After two phone calls trying to get them to load a subtitled movie into the plane, I learned that I was going to have to create a new law to get the airlines to comply:

Dreaming of Accessible Airline Movies

Closed Captioning on the Airlines--We'll Need a New Law

But let's talk about service.

On the flight to Oahu, we were surprised to discover that there wasn't going to be any meal on the flight. We just assumed that on long flights, something would be served. We settled for five dollar boxes of assorted snacks.

Did I mention how crowded the plane was? Not only were we packed together like sardines, but there literally was no room for me to work on my sister's laptop--I couldn't open it all the way and had to squint to see the angled screen. They built that plane to squeeze in the most people they could.

The service on the way to Oahu was a heck of a lot better than on the way back. On the way back, we were served... one drink. The entire eight hours. This was in contrast to our arrival flight, where the staff came around several times to offer water and directed us to the back to get other drinks. (How about running that service cart twice on long trips?)

When I walked in the back to inquire about water, three of the staff were talking and I stood there for a minute before they acknowledged me and I asked for water. The staff person scooped up half-melted ice and poured in warm water.

Lovely. Just lovely.

I couldn't wait to touch down.

Have you had similar flight experiences? Share your story in the comments.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hawaii School for the Deaf and Back Home Again

On Friday morning, our last full day on Oahu, we headed over to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind. We were met by Harry Hayler, the school counselor, who gave us a tour of the school. The school currently has 72 deaf and deaf blind students and no students who are blind. All of the blind students on the island are in other schools.

The school was down to 20 students at one point and nearly closed. The deaf community rallied together and they were able to save the school from closing. The school averages about 80 students per year and teaches with the bi-cultural, bi-lingual philosophy of American Sign Language and English. "We often have middle and high school kids who transfer here for the social opportunities," said Harry.

After we left the school, we headed over to Hamanuma Bay, a state park which is a frequent spot for snorkeling. We were fortunate to spot some mongoose (mongeese-plural??) running around:

And all this time, I thought "mongoose" was just a brand name for a bike!

Our final activity of the day was to head over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for a hula show and fireworks. While we were waiting in line for the show, I spotted hearing aids on a woman in front of us. My sister began talking to her and we learned that she was from Washington, near the Canadian border. She and her kids joined us during the show.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a beautiful place that has beach access right outside the towers. I would definitely consider staying there if we head back out to the island again. Here, you can see the flamingos that were on the grounds:

On Saturday morning, we drove along the shore of Diamond Head on the way to the airport--this was a nice, scenic drive. We had one final view of the beautiful ocean before heading home on United. Speaking of which, the service was sorely lacking on the way back. United needs to take a lesson from Southwest on how to provide great customer service.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Whale of a Time in Oahu

Yesterday was a day of adventure. Early in the morning, we headed out to Wai'anae Boat Harbor on the north shore of Oahu to board the Hoku Nai'a for a dolphin cruise. We almost missed the boat, as we couldn't find the entrance to the harbor.

The boat captain was a gal named Joyce with nine years of experience. She explained that it was difficult finding the dolphins in the last couple of weeks. I wasn't expecting much but all of a sudden, we saw a whale. We followed the whale for a bit. Marine rules dictate that boats must stay 100 yards away, but we were much closer than that when the whale arched gently out of the water. It was quite a sight to see. I have pictures of the whale blowing water straight up, but I can't get the pictures to show up properly on here. I'll see if I can add it when I arrive home.

My mom became quite seasick and couldn't enjoy the ride. I felt really bad for her as the crew served some delicious hamburgers right off the grill. After we left, Mom started feeling better on the way back to the hotel so we decided to stop at Pali Lookout. That was well worth the drive as the view was simply stunning.

Back at the hotel, I headed out to the beach and finally got myself into the water. I rented a surfboard and asked the staff for the "free, five second lesson." Line yourself up against the wave, paddle to get it going, stand up and ride it out, the guy said. Ah, simple enough.

So I spent an hour trying to find a decent wave to ride for longer than five seconds. The waves were only a foot or so high and far too gentle to get enough momentum to ride it out. It was still fun to try and I definitely want to come back and try it again someday. I think the hubby and kids would love surfing as well.

That night, we decided to try the buffet at our hotel, the Waikiki Marriott. It was a meal that was well worth it. For twenty dollars, you get an incredible buffet of prime rib, roasted turkey, pork loin, Thai seafood, tofu with watercress and veal ragout. There were many more dishes and side dishes to choose from. The desserts were out of this world, especially the creme brulee which is one of my favorites. My compliments go out to the chefs at the Marriott.

Tomorrow, we head home in the afternoon. I'm not ready to leave but I sure miss the hubby and kids. And the dog, too!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Dole Plantation and a Hula Show

Good grief, it's already Thursday. Our time here in Oahu has flown by. Yesterday, we headed out to the Dole Plantation on the northwest side of the island. A small train took us around the plantation where we viewed the various crops that are farmed there. Can you guess my favorite plant? It wasn't the pineapple, it was the plant that makes...


After the train tour, we sat down to have pineapple icecream with fresh pineapple on it. That alone, was worth the trip. The next best part was the incredible gardens on the site. There were an abundance of beautiful hibiscus flowers in every shade imaginable. We were planning to go to the botanical gardens, but I think the Dole gardens took care of the botanical craving.

We grabbed dinner and then dropped off Dad at the hotel. His feet weren't holding up anymore and he decided he was going to call it a day. Mom, Linda and I walked over to see a hula show, thanks to Stephen Hopson's advice: Free places to go on Oahu. This show featured local talent and some older dancers:

After the show, I discovered that I sat on some bird droppings and decorated my very favorite capri pants. I spent the rest of the night washing out my clothes. So a word of advice for those who are going to see the hula show on the grass: bring a towel to sit on!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pearl Harbor Revisited and a Sunset Cruise

We headed back over to Pearl Harbor yesterday to tour the U.S.S Bowfin submarine and the U.S.S. Missouri battleship. Once we were on board the Bowfin, we met an intepreter, Vanetta, who was the staff person explaining the operations compartment in the submarine. Vanetta moved to Hawaii from Ohio to go to school out here. It was nice to be able to chat with her and ask questions. We obtained scripts for all of the audio tours so we had access to the tour information, but nothing beats chatting directly with the staff.

Two of the videos at Pearl Harbor were not closed captioned. The video in the Pearl Harbor museum supposedly had captions but the captioning wasn't working. The video on the Missouri was not captioned at all. We did view the Pearl Harbor movie with rear window captioning-- a system that I'm not thrilled with at all. I really wish there was an option to turn on open captions when needed.

Later that night, we headed over to the harbor to board the Star of Honolulu for a sunset cruise. We pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to see a sunset. It was cloudy and gray when we left. The food was delicious and the entertainment was fantastic. There's something about Hawaiian guys moving their hands and hips--makes a girl want to move out here. The staff signed "America the Beautiful" at the end with a combination of ASL and gestures. It really moved me.

For five awesome minutes, the sun broke through the clouds and we were able to view the sunset:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Visiting Pearl Harbor--Dad Fulfills a Dream

Ok, pinch me. Here I am in Oahu with my parents and my sister. Yesterday, we headed out to Pearl Harbor and spent the entire day there. We aren't finished-- we're heading back out there to see the U.S.S. Missouri and Bowfin.

This trip came about quite suddenly and unexpectedly. A few weeks ago, I was up in Michigan, sitting across from Dad and asking him, "If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go?"

He had always wanted to take a trip out to Pearl Harbor to see the place that lead him to spend three years overseas in World War II. Dad fought in Guam, Guadacanal, Okinawa, and stayed after the war for the Occupation of China. When I was growing up, Dad didn't talk much about the war. It was a time that was better left to the dark depths of memory. The older I became, the more I wanted to know about his part in history. So little bit by little bit, he shared some stories.

There were a lot of dark stories, but there were some lighthearted ones as well, such as an amusing moment when he snuck off to grab an ice cream bar only to be called back to attention by the sergeant-- with the ice cream melting away in his pocket.

In the fall of 2007, Dad was reunited with his Marine buddy, Albert. You can read more about that here: Marine Buddies Reunite.

So there we sat that spring morning, talking about our "someday" plans. I looked at Dad and said, "This 'someday' that you're talking about, what's stopping you?"

Well, the next thing that I knew, we booked airline tickets and a hotel. And that's how we ended up in Pearl Harbor yesterday, fulfilling a dream.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What I Learned From a Bunch of Things

Just a week ago, I was hanging around a bunch of great people from the SOBCon'08, cruising on Lake Michigan with a rum and coke in my hand. I had the opportunity to meet Robert Hruzek from Middle Zone Musings. You can see him in the photo above if you squint really hard. That's him in the twenty-gallon hat (inflation, ya know?) from Houston.

Robert has an interesting challenge this week, a Mashup of Words. Eighteen topics, he says, can you mash 'em all up?

A mash up? Welcome to my life. First of all, let me tell you that pets, children and writing don't mix. This week, I attempted to finish a writing project on a day when one kid needed to be picked up from school, the second one had to go to baseball practice and the third one wanted to go to a friend's house. At that very moment, the dog decided to decorate the chair she was lying on. Apparently she ingested something from the backyard and it didn't agree with her.

This was the week of friends, relatives and a movie of memories. We hosted my Mom's 80th birthday celebration today and I put together a DVD of 80 photos set to music. Of course, messing with technology found me tearing my hair out as I struggled to get the music to load properly and the software to behave. We attempted to play it on the television, but the DVD player wouldn't behave. So I hauled down the Mac and set it up in the living room. The friends and relatives enjoyed the recreation we provided.

Tomorrow, we're jumping in an automobile and heading to the airport to board a plane to Hawaii. I would gladly take a train over a plane, but they haven't build a track over the ocean yet. After three hours on an airplane, I find myself needing more space than the itty-bitty airplane seats provide. Thank goodness, I can lose myself in the mountains of books that I picked up from SOBCon. I just hope they serve some edible food on the plane!

Why are we heading to Hawaii, you ask? Well, a few weeks ago, I was talking with my Dad and I asked him, if he could go anywhere, where would he like to go? My Dad served in World War II and has always wanted to see Pearl Harbor. Someday, he said, he'd like to take the time to go and see that memorial.

Well, that "someday," is happening tomorrow and we're boarding a plane to go and see that beautiful state. I feel really blessed to have this chance to spend a week with my parents and sister, because time is spinning way faster than I'd like it to.

So if you're waiting for that "someday" with someone who is important in your life, grab your chance now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

ooVoo--A Great Way to Communicate

Have I told you about ooVoo

I don't work for the company and there's no financial incentive for me to promote this, but I'm going to tell you about ooVoo because it's an amazing tool for communication over the internet.

I first used ooVoo when I participated in "My ooVoo Chat" back in February of this year. A short video featuring the conversations (including mine) can be seen here: My ooVoo Day Recap.

Since then, I've used it to conduct business and chat with friends. During one BookHands meeting, we used ooVoo to connect with a BookHands member in another state.

Yesterday, I discovered yet another neat use of ooVoo--internet access!

Let me explain.

I was on Twitter and explaining that I attempted to lipread my way through the Today show interview online about Moms who blog as it wasn't captioned. There was a lot of Twitter chatter about Heather Armstrong, a featured blogger and the interaction with Kathie Lee Gifford on the show.

Out of the blue, Codadiva, twittered:

We connected on ooVoo and she interpreted the entire video segment. How cool was that? A big thanks!

Here's to ooVoo and all the connections that are possible with it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Steak 'n Shake Issue Still Creating PR Waves

Remember when I had the drive-thru window shut in my face (not once, but twice!) back in January?

The issue continues to ripple on. In April, it was the subject of Laurel Papworth's presentation at the RMIT Communicator of the Year event in...


That's right, Steak 'n Shake has gone down under. Laurel has an excellent presentation on why companies need to be aware of social media and how it can impact public relations for their companies. Be sure to check out the slide show on her blog.

Two days ago, I was doing a search and spotted the Diversity, Inc. article and the video featured as an ad on the search page. And just yesterday, a friend sent me a screen shot of his email page showing the same:

Over at Disaboom, they're sharing my two-part series that takes a look at the solutions for drive-thru access:

Two Milkshakes, Please--Discrimination at the Drive-Through

Two Milkshakes, Please--Discrimination at the Drive-Through Part Two

Ironically, this morning I saw a Steak 'n Shake commercial that featured Steak 'n Shake employees pulling customer feedback suggestions out of a jar-- and it wasn't captioned.

As for me, I'm still waiting to hear back from the Steak 'n Shake corporation to see if they plan to turn this drive-thru issue around and make it accessible for their customers. Many people have assumed that I've filed a lawsuit and I have not. I want to work out an accessible solution. Can you imagine the fantastic PR that would result if Steak 'n Shake would take the steps toward welcoming their customers with access?

Steak 'n Shake, are you listening?

Monday, May 05, 2008

SOBCon'08--What's the Deal with those Klondike Bars?

On Friday night, the SOBCon bloggers hopped on board for a cruise down the river and out to Lake Michigan. During the week, we were keeping an eye out on the weather as Chicago is known for making fools out of the local weathermen.

Friday called for severe thunderstorms in the late afternoon into the evening, so when I saw the predictions that morning, I thought for sure the cruise would be canceled due to rough weather. I guess enough bloggers were talking to the weather gods at the same time, as we ended up with a beautiful afternoon and the cruise took off despite a few raindrops.

Christine Kane entertained us with some beautiful songs and we all received a copy of her album--thanks Christine! Stephen Hopson and I were very fortuante that Hannah and Tammi, two interpreter students, donated their time to interpret Christine's singing as well as the conversations that flowed on the cruise.

We had some great food and plenty of drinks and just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Chris Cree and Liz Strauss came along with...

Klondike bars.

What's the deal with those Klondike bars?

Over at Liz Strauss' blog, every Tuesday night, Klondike bars in every flavor are a regular staple. If you view past conversations, you'll see Klondike bars being tossed around the comment section.

So for SOBCon '09, maybe the Klondike company would like to hop on board as an official sponsor, who knows?!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

SOBCon '08 --An Amazing Weekend

I'm sitting at home now with Stephen Hopson from Adversity University and we just finished talking about what an amazing weekend it was for us at the SOBCon '08. Like Stephen said, "It's all about the love." And there was plenty of it this weekend.

So here are some pictures to browse through-- there will be more tomorrow!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rachel Coleman of Signing Time Nominated for Emmy

"It's singing time and laughing time and playing time and now it is my favorite time, signing time!"

The first time I saw a tape of Signing Time, I couldn't get the lyrics out of my mind. I suspect that's one of the reasons that Signing Time has become successful in the mainstream. Little toddlers everywhere are listening to the songs, watching the videos and moving their hands to communicate.

Rachel Coleman, the mom behind Sign Language for Baby!,was recently nomimated for an Emmy. It's been an amazing trip for her, especially since the intitial production was a family affair with her sister and husband helping to create the videos.

I did an interview with Rachel several years ago when the Signing Time series of videos was beginning to take off:

Meet the Colemans: The Story Behind Signing Time

Congrats to Rachel-- all of her hard work has paid off!

Clean Up with Signing Time DVDs

Thursday, May 01, 2008

SOBCon '08-- I'm Off to Learn More!

I'm having a bad hair day today. I'm praying that the rain gods will take their dance somewhere else tomorrow. Raindrops and my hair don't mix well.

Why all this concern? Well, I'm heading downtown to the SOBCon '08 and the forecast calls for rain.

And possible thunderstorms.

Ah, but who really cares? We'll be inside a boat, cruising the Chicago shoreline and connecting with one another. Look at all the cool bloggers who will be there:

SOBcon2008 Chicago Attendees:
Cliff Atkinson
Shashi Bellamkonda
Chris Brogan
Harry Brooks
Anita Bruzzese
Dave Bullock
Mark Carter
Brian Clark
Tom Clifford
Valerie Combs
Chris Cree
Lisa Cree
Thomas Croghan
Donna Cutting
David "Chicago Mobile Marketing" Dalka
Kevin Dixie
Tim Draayer
Andrew Dubber
Monica Duncan
Easton Ellsworth
Kevin Ferrasci O'Malley
Jonathan Fields
Sarah Filipiak
Mary-Lynn Foster
Annie Galvin Teich
Brian Gardner
Chris Garrett
Jon Gatrell
Phil Gerbyshak
Jared Goralnick
Karen Hanrahan
Joseph Hauckes
Vicky Hennegan
Scot Herrick
John Hong
Stephen Hopson
Robert Hruzek
Timothy Johnson
Pete Jones
Todd Jordan
Bob "Internet Advertising" Kakoliris
Christine Kane
Adam Kayce
Kristen King
Jen Knoedl
Stephen Koernig
Bryan Kress
George Krueger
Amy L
Tammy Lenski
James G. Lindberg
Eli Litscher
Rick Mahn
Sim Margolis
Michael Martine
Becky McCray
Maria Meadows
Cory Miller
Ann Michael
Dawud Miracle
Debra Moorhead
Matthew Murphy
Paul O'Flaherty
Tim Padar
Jesse Petersen
Melissa Pierce
Wendy Piersall
Sandra Ponce de Leon
J. Erik Potter
Karen Putz
Susan R Quandt
Levy Rivers
Barbara Rozgonyi
Jeff Sable
Sheila Scarborough
Mary Schmidt
Derek Semmler
Maria Sharon
David Sherbow
Steve Sherlock
Brad Shorr
Louise Silberman
Sonia Simone-Rossney
Julien Smith
Stephen Smith
Michael Snell
Derrick Sorles
Terry Starbucker
Liz Strauss
Jon Swanson
Ruth M Sylte
Windsor Tanner
Michelle Vandepas
Lorelle VanFossen
Colleen Wainwright
Denise Wakeman
James D. Walton
Randy Windsor
Joanna Young

So let it rain. We'll have fun anyway!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sparkplugging--An Emoms At Home Transformation

I've been hanging out at Wendy Piersall's new place--SparkPlugging, and I'm liking the digs very much. Wendy took her personal blog and grew it into a network with 17 other bloggers writing for her. And she has plans to expand her site even more!

Wendy started her blog as "Emoms At Home," and it began to outgrow the name as the audience expanded to fathers and people without children. Wendy began to realize that she needed to re-name and re-brand to showcase the direction that her business was growing in.

Darren Rowse over at Problogger had the honor of unveiling the new name in his interview, Renaming Emoms At Home to Sparkplugging. As I told Wendy, when I first saw the name, my mind immediately flashed to a picture of an autobody shop. But the more I visit the site, the more the name has grown on me. I think Wendy is on to something that's going to re-frame people's minds. There will be a point where people are at a conference and asking, "Do you SparkPlug?" or "Are you SparkPlugging?" and people will know instantly what they're talking about--the work-at-home generation.

For more information and an inside look at Wendy Piersall, Stephen Hopson from Adversity University featured Wendy in his interview series recently:

Adversity University Interviews Wendy Piersall, Part I

Adversity University Interviews Wendy Piersall, Part II

Monday, April 28, 2008

Women's Club, ASL Expo and a Baby Shower

It was one of those weekends with nary a break! On Saturday morning, I headed out to Egg Harbor Cafe to join the gals from my Deaf Women's club for breakfast. Egg Harbor has to be my number one favorite restaurant for breakfast. Their breakfasts are so delicious and their fresh-squeezed orange juice tastes as if they picked the oranges that morning. I'm not much of a breakfast person, either! Do any of you have other favorite places that you dine at for breakfast?

I went over to the ASL Expo to meet another friend there. It was the first time I've attended the ASL Expo which features lots of products centered around American Sign Language. I picked up some ASL t-shirts for the kids and then headed home to watch my youngest son's baseball game. It was so cold at the game, that I felt like I was experiencing a Chicago Bears game while huddled under a heavy blanket.

On Sunday, we had a couple of people over for Stephanie and Walter Lipe's baby shower. You may remember Stephanie when she won the Miss Deaf America title in 1992-1994. Stephanie is pretty as ever and sporting a cute little belly. We all took turns guessing her belly measurements with pieces of pink yarn. Walter was pretty confident that he could figure out the length of yarn but he was off by a few inches. Marianne Jodie and Lenny Kepil had the closest measurements, with Lenny winning the prize.

The hubby jokingly asked me if I'd like to have another kiddo...

I'm not too sure he was really joking though!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Michigan Loses a Friendly Face-- Marlene Phillips

I met Marlene for the first time last summer. She and her husband Dale stopped by my parent's house on Christie Lake to spend the day with us. My sister Linda met Marlene and Dale through the local Deaf Clubs in Michigan and they quickly bonded. Together, they worked the Dingo games and cooked large amounts of food for the gatherings. Linda began spending time with Marlene and Dale and enjoying their friendship and company.

As we took a slow pontoon ride around the lake and chatted with Marlene and Dale that day, I said to myself-- this is a couple I wouldn't mind getting to know better.

Someday, you know?

Someday, when there's more time to sit down and connect.

Marlene and Dale found each other later in life and were married in 2005. It was easy to see that they were happy with one another and they were a couple that enjoyed life. They went on the Deaf Freedom Cruise last year. Before we left, Linda reminded me to find Marlene and Dale on the cruise and we planned to connect with them. Joe ran into them once during the week and we talked about getting together.

With 3,800 people on the ship, we didn't connect with them again.

After a sudden, brief battle with cancer, Marlene passed away yesterday morning.

I guess the moral of this post is something to take with you today--those "somedays" that we promise ourselves may not happen. Each day, each connection, is a gift.

I know that my sister is really grateful for the connection she had with Marlene, for she enjoyed Marlene's humor and friendship.

Marlene will be missed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everything about Karen Putz

I haven't been doing memes but after being tagged by KW and Moxie Mocha I figured I'd play along. After all, it's all about me, me and me, and you know how much I love talking about me all the time.

What was I doing 10 years ago:

Let's see, ten years ago, I was researching home birth vs. hospital birth and decided to have my third child at home. Instead of renting a water tub to labor in, my husband and I decided to rip out the bathtub, move the toilet and put in a large soaking tub. So there I was, laboring in the tub and trying to get into the zone with hypnobirthing. While I was concentrating on each breath, the hubby was slapping down tile and trying to finish the floor. Needless to say, the homebirth was a memorable one. I ended up writing a chapter in the book, Don't Cut Me Again!

Five Snacks I enjoy:

1. Chocolate
2. Popcorn cooked on the stove
3. Chocolate
4. Guacamole and good chips
5. Oh yeah, did I mention chocolate?

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Donate millions to Hands & Voices
2. Take my entire family and Joe's family on an all-inclusive trip to a beach somewhere.
3. Establish a mentoring program for deaf and hard of hearing kids all over the U.S. so they can dream and be what they want to be and have a mentor by their side.
4. Buy a jet ski and a place on Christie Lake that's big enough to house 200 friends at once.
5. Give more money away--how much money does one really need anyway?

Five jobs that I have had:

1. College Instructor
2. Deaf Services Coordinator
3. Early Intervention provider
4. Printer (I printed train tickets and credit cards!)
5. Cafeteria Slop Server (in college!)

Three of my GOOD habits:

1. Reading something good each day
2. Composting--the worms need to be fed
3. I remember to put my keys on the key holder each day

Five places I have lived:

1. Dolton, Illinois
2. DeKalb, Illinois
3. Hinsdale, Illinois
4. Bolingbrook, Illinois (moved three times within this town)
5. Summers at Christie Lake, Michigan, does that count?

Name your irrational phobias:

I don't really have any phobias unless you count fear of cleaning.

Add one new part:
Name five places you want to see before your final breath:

1. Austria
2. Australia
3. Jasper, Alberta, and Vancouver (I want to go to Whistler!)
4. Hawaii (I'm going next month)
5. Aspen, CO (I want to see the John Denver Sanctuary)

Five People I Want to Get to Know Better:

1. Neil at Deaf Firefighter's Blog

2. LaRonda at Ear of My Heart

3. Karen at Indiana Deaf Mother's Babblings

4 MZ at Mishka Zena

5. Paula at The Hearing Exchange Blog

Monday, April 21, 2008

Advocating for Drive-Thru Access

Come and join me and June Prusak tomorrow night at Chicago Hearing Society. I'll be sharing my experience of being denied service at a Steak 'n Shake restaurant and tips on how to advocate.


Chicago Hearing Society

Victim Assistance Program invites you to

The Victim Rights Awareness Night!

June Prusak: Youth Services Manager, Chicago Hearing Society: “CDI For-For”?

Karen Putz: Deaf Mom Activist: “Advocating for access” on her experience with Steak-n-Shake drive thru.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

5:30-8:30 p.m.

Chicago Hearing Society

3rd Floor Classroom

2001 N. Clybourn Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614




RSVP: By Monday, April 21, 2008


Michele Cunningham, Victim Advocate

VP: 773-248-9106

Chicago Hearing Society is a division of Anixter Center

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Vote for Marlee, Says Her Friends at the Deaf Volleyball Tournament

Yesterday, I spent the day refereeing at the Harper Deaf Volleyball tournament. There were about 300 people there with hands flying everywhere (including a couple of cuers). This tournament brought back a lot of memories, for my first introduction to volleyball was in college, when I played for the NIU deaf team. At that time, the tournament was hosted at Waubonsee College.

I teamed up to referee with Caroline Depcik Smith, my old teammate. Caroline played in the Deaf Olympics (I was an alternate on the Olympic team and foolishly chose not to pursue that) and there were a couple of other Deaf Olympians as referees as well. We played an impromtu volleyball game before the tournament started and boy, did that make me miss playing!

David played for the Hinsdale South team and while they did well in the round robin, they lost to Illinois School for the Deaf in the tournament in the first round of playoffs.

Marlee Matlin's two best friends in the photo above, Wendy Adams and Liz Tannebaum, reminded everyone to "Vote for Marlee" in Dancing with the Stars. Marlee is also on tonight's movie, "Sweet Nothing in My Ear" on CBS. I'll be watching that with my kids tonight.

And here are my thoughts over at Disaboom: Sweet Nothing in my Ear Tackles Cochlear Implants.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Girls Night Out and Awards Week

"I don't want to go to this award thing!" my daughter announced on Thursday morning. Lauren was selected for a STARS award at her middle school and we were heading to the breakfast event. Getting her out the door was like pulling teeth.

Eventually we made it to the school and slipped into the cafeteria chairs. Lauren went up to get her award along with several other students from her team. "Lauren overcame an adversity and proved herslef to be a role model and top student. Fantastic job!" it said on the award.

This was the second award she received this week. On Tuesday, we headed out to the "Advocacy Day" event held by the Lockport Area Special Education Cooperative. Every year, Katie Ward, a teacher and supervisor of deaf students (now retired) gathers together approximately 150 deaf and hard of hearing students from several schools. The students submit essays on how they advocate for themselves on a daily basis and the essays are judged by several teachers. David's friend Aleksey won the Advocate of the Year award and Lauren was a semi-finalist.

After the craziness of several deadlines and the two events, it was nice to kick back with the girls last night. My friend Barb came in from California and we joined three of our neighbors for dinner at a local restaurant. I normally hate going out in groups because conversation is so hard, but these gals are great to hang out with. They know they have to slow down the conversation and they make sure I can lipread them. After hours of lipreading and too much food and wine, my eyes were ready to pop when we finally called it a night. Nothing beats a night of great conversation, great food and great friends!

Now excuse me while I go cry my eyes out-- I miss having Barb as my neighbor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dawn Niles Case--Gary Albert Pleads Innocent

The Southtown Town Star posted an update on the case of Dawn Nile's murder:

Gary Albert Pleads Innocent

Dawn was a deaf student at Hinsdale South High School and she was found murdered in March of 1981.

Gary was held in jail on a one million dollar bond and his family bailed him out to the tune of $100,000.

A hearing is scheduled for May 22nd.

To read all of the news articles: Dawn Niles

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are You Purple? Hands On Welcomes New Customers

I've been purple for a few months now. Before that, I was a dedicated I-711 user and IP Relay and I still am-- except now all of my favorites are rolled into one. The three companies merged and now I'm a purple employee.

Yes, that's right, I work for Hands On.

I love video relay with VCO. What's that, you ask? I pull up VideoSign 2.5 on my computer or HOVRS.TV on my videophone and an interpreter appears on screen. Let's say I want to call my mother-in-law. I type in my mother-in-law's phone number, click on VCO (Voice Carry Over--this lets me use my own voice to talk directly to my mother-in-law) and the interpreter calls me on my phone. The interpreter then connects me to my mother-in-law. I can talk directly to my mother-in-law and the interpreter interprets everything she says. My sister used this system for the first time to call my Dad recently, but she had the interpreter mouth the words as she doesn't know much sign. The advantage over text relay for us is that it is much, much faster and the conversation flows quicker.

However, text relay (where I type to the operator, and the operator voices for me and types what the other person says) has one advantage: it is great for when I want to keep a record of a call and print out the conversation.

We have exciting changes coming up at Hands On-- a completely portable videophone (the MVP) and VideoSign 3.0 (chat with eight buddies at once!).

So, if you'd like to learn more about how you too, can become purple send me an email at:

Is it any coincidence that my favorite color is purple and grape Kool-aid is my favorite kiddie drink?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Can Negative PR Result in a Positive Outcome?

Jennifer Laycock tackled the issue of how negative campaigns against competitors rarely serve a positive outcome in her post, Spite is not a Marketing Strategy. Jennifer encourages companies to make themselves stand out from their competitors in a different way, a way that highlights something positive about their company.

In her blog, Jennifer used the example of Steak 'n Shake and Culvers:

Earlier this year, a Steak and Shake landed itself in a firestorm of negative press when it refused service to a deaf woman who was unable to order from the drive through speaker. Smaller chain Culver's received some nice positive press for their innovative drive-thru accommodations for the hearing impaired.

I find Jennifer's post to be a timely one, as this morning, I am heading out to Culver's to film a short documentary about drive-thru access for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-challenged persons. I've embraced the Culver's chain and give them my business, because they truly make me feel welcomed in their drive-thrus as a deaf person.

Steak 'n Shake still has time to turn the negative publicity into a wonderful PR campaign for their company. I am asking the corporation to consider putting in the Order Assist system in their 400 plus restaurants. The cost of putting in Order Assist is cheaper than what they spend on commercials for their restaurants. Imagine the press they will receive in the restaurant business for this decision.

It has been many weeks since the Steak 'n Shake incident unleashed a firestorm of response across the internet, and I'm waiting to hear from the corporation about the direction they plan to go in to make their drive-thrus accessible. I am hoping that they will move toward providing drive-thru access. Later today, Diversity, Inc. will have a video interview about the Steak 'n Shake incident on their website.

Stay tuned.

Update: Diversity, Inc. video interview with Karen Putz

Friday, April 11, 2008

Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids--Here, There and Everywhere

Today was nuts. I went food shopping at 2:45 and picked the youngest kiddo up at 3:30. Together, we put the food away and Steven tossed dinner in the oven while I hopped in the car to pick up Lauren at school. She stayed after school to play volleyball.

As soon as we arrived home, I sent her upstairs to pack a bag for her sleepover. Her friend was on her way home from the Illinois School for the Deaf and we planned to meet her at the bus stop about 40 minutes from our home. We encountered a lot of traffic on the highway and we pulled in the bus stop a half hour late. Fortunately for us, the bus was also late in getting there.

I said goodbye to Lauren and headed back into the traffic to meet my friend Beth at a local restaurant. We grabbed some appetizers at Friday's and took off for the high school to see who our kids were hanging out with. David and Aubrey stayed after school to play volleyball with deaf kids from another high school and they all had a pizza party afterwards.

I ran into my friend Carol, who was coaching the kids from the other high school. Carol and I go way back-- we played volleyball together for many years, traveling to tournaments in different states. It was so good to see her again, but it sure made me realize how the many years have gone by in a flash. I will be refereeing at the tournament that my son is playing in at Harper College next week and it will be good to see a lot of my old teammates there.

Tomorrow is more of the same traveling, except Joe and I will be going in two different directions. He's heading to the high school to drop off David for practice and then up north to pick up Lauren from the sleepover. David has a birthday party to attend tomorrow night and I'm heading to a 50th Anniversary party. On Sunday, we are heading to a meeting to rally for insurance coverage for hearing aids in Illinois.

One year, at a meeting, a seasoned mom was telling a new mom to prepare herself to spend a lot of time in the car-- she wasn't kidding. We have deaf friends scattered all over and it isn't uncommon for us to drive 45 minutes to over an hour each way for get togethers. Now the same thing is happening with our kids and many times we find ourselves juggling driving times into the schedules. We've been fortunate to work it out so that we have a lot of halfway meeting points to transport the kids back and forth.

I've figured out what I want for Christmas--one of those fancy back massagers that you can plug into an AV outlet and get a massage while you drive.

Honey, are you reading this?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Marlee Matlin--Still Dancing!

It's another week and Marlee Matlin is still kicking up her heels each week on Dancing with the Stars. I missed Monday's show as I was on a plane coming home from California. Last night, I spoke to a group of parents up north and came home just in time to see that Marlee and Fabian made it through another week. Just then, the dish went out due to a storm.

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marlee in her spare moment between practices. I asked Marlee a question about facing discrimination and she had this to say:

Face it head on (even with a smile) and show that what you've got goes way beyond the negative thoughts and words that people use to cover their ignorance. And if they put up a wall to block your path, just walk around it any way you can. Remember that the only "handicap" of being Deaf is the one that's in your head and not the one that people think is in your ears.

That's the reason Marlee gets my vote each week along with her amazing dancing talent.

The entire interview can be seen here:

Marlee Matlin Kicks Up Her Heels on Dancing with the Stars

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Insurance Companies Don't Cover Hearing Aids--Let's Change That

Two years ago, my family had hearing aid coverage by our insurance company up to $1,000 per year, thanks to my husband's employer. We now have HMO insurance that doesn't cover hearing aids. I am hoping that my current hearing aids continue to work for several more years.

My cousin recently purchased hearing aids and was so shocked to find out that her insurance company wouldn't fork over a penny and that she would have to foot the bill herself.

That "shock" seems to hit people over and over, as parents write to me and share their dismay of finding out that their insurance company doesn't consider hearing aids a medical device or prosthesis.

So those of you in IL, come and join the rest of us to bring forth some change. We are working with our local senators and representatives to provide hearing aid coverage in Illinois. The time is NOW to make some changes. Tell us your stories of struggling to pay for hearing aids and send it to: (Limit to one page). If you wear hearing aids, or want to purchase them, or know someone who uses hearing aids, join us at this meeting:

Town Hall Meeting
Sunday, April 13th, 2008
1:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Hinsdale South H.S.
7401 Clarendon Hills Rd
Darien, Il 60561

Hearing Aids Insurance Coverage Legislation

What's the latest on HB5598 and HB5600?

What can we do to encourage Illinois Legislators to pass Hearing
Aids Insurance Coverage??

We need to raise awareness of this growing problem of many people
not being able to afford to pay for expensive hearing aid(s). Many
deaf and hard of hearing people have gone without hearing aid(s)
because they cannot afford it. There are some deaf and hard of
hearing people that have gone with cheaper hearing aid(s) that are
not suitable for them. There are many parents that could not afford
to buy hearing aid(s) for their deaf and hard of hearing children.

Local State Representatives and Senators will be there to hear our

Those who wear hearing aids, Parents of deaf and hard of hearing
children, and ALL people who SUPPORT Hearing Aids Insurance Coverage
are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to take the time and attend.

Interpreters and Cart will be provided.

Spread the word to all those who care !!!! The more bodies we have
at the town hall, the STRONGER the message we send to Illinois
Legislators will be !!!

See you all there….

To those who wish to subscribe to HearingAids2008 Yahoogroups
Send an email to this email address, HearingAids2008-

In there, you will see already other people in this group sharing
their stories about financial hardship of paying for expensive
hearing aids, will see Hyperlinks of several articles about hearing
aids insurance coverage legislation. Much to read in there.. Come
on and join us there.. We could use your help !!!!

HearingAids2008 group

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Discovering Autism

When I first started working in early intervention, I didn't really have much exposure to children with autism. I grew up with a friend who was diagnosed with Aspergers as an adult. So today, I'm sharing my journey of discovering Autism as part of the Blogging for Autism Awareness month.
When I received the paperwork for a little girl who was nearly three, my heart sank. I knew I wouldn't have much time to work with the family, as the early intervention program ages kids out when they turn three.

I'll call this little one, Sarah. By the third visit, I knew there was something else going on, not just a diagnosis of hearing and vision loss. My first clue was the fish tank. Most kids love watching a fish tank and show some interest. I brought Sarah over to the colorful fish tank and attempted to introduce some signs. Her mother remarked that Sarah never did look at the tank, or even the family dog.

Sarah often became easily frustrated, banged her head repeatedly and if I took a toy away to move on to another one, she self-soothed herself using the same pattern over and over at each visit. She became fixated on certain toys and her mom mentioned that she could lie quietly in her crib for a long period of time.


The word crept into my mind as the visits went on. The problem is, I knew so little about it. So I contacted Bonnie Sayers, a fellow writer that I knew from another website. I knew she was a mom of two boys with autism and she knew a lot. She runs the Autism Spectrum Disorders website at Bella Online.

Bonnie directed me to a checklist that parents could use to rate behaviors that their child was demonstrating. From the little that I knew, it seemed to me that Sarah ranked high on the scale.

So I found a way to have a conversation with the mom to see what her thoughts were. She explained that Autism crossed her mind and she brought it up with other therapists, but none of them agreed that it could be that. One did suggest that she explore it further.

I told her about the checklist that I learned about and I asked her if she would be interested in looking it over.

She said yes.

So the following week, I brought it over and explained it. I suggested that she sit down with her husband and look it over together and share some thoughts.

The following week, nothing had been completed. I didn't say anything, for it's a hard thing for any parent to seek out answers or explore the possiblity that something different is happening with their child.

But the next week, she opened the door and said simply, "I think she has Autism. She scored high on the checklist for that."

Sarah was eventually diagnosed with Autism. The parents and I explored a nearby classroom together and they transitioned her there.

Here are some links that Bonnie shared:

CDC Growth Checkpoints

Autism Symptoms Checklist

Checklist for Autism in Toddlers

A special thank you to Bonnie for helping me to help that family.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Time to Call it Quits

I've given this a lot of thought lately and this morning, I woke up from a dream and realized what I need to do:

It's time for me to stop blogging and start living.

I haven't seen the bottom of my kitchen sink since I cleaned it as a New Year's resolution last year. The time that I cleaned it for the television reporters doesn't count, as I shoved the dirty dishes into the oven.

I haven't made my bed since I started blogging. Oh wait, I can't blame blogging, because it started when we got our first computer nearly ten years ago.

I've neglected my compost pile--it's time for me to pay some attention to those hard-working worms in my backyard.

Oh, and my kids-- just the other day I noticed that my oldest towers above me. The middle kid has grown into a woman. The youngest kid is now negotiating to stay up until midnight. And the youngest kid needs a haircut-- I can't see into his eyes.

So, my blogging readers, it's time for me to hang up the blogging shingle and go clean my kitchen sink and get to know my kids once again. And oh--the hubby too! Thanks for hanging out here in the last year and half-- it was great getting to know you!

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Beautiful" Video is Indeed, Beautiful

D-Pan has released a new video based on Christina Aguilera's song, "Beautiful." Kylie Sharp, the co-director of Michigan Hands & Voices has a daughter in the video--check out the girl in the pink:

The lyrics for the original song:

Don't look at me

Every day is so wonderful
And suddenly, it's hard to breathe
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I'm so ashamed

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down
Oh no, so don't you bring me down today

To all your friends, you're delirious
So consumed in all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness
The pieces is gone left the puzzle undone
Is that the way it is

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring you down, oh no
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring you down, oh no
So don't you bring me down today

No matter what we do
(no matter what we do)
No matter what they say
(no matter what they say)
We're the song inside the tune full of beautiful mistakes

And everywhere we go
(everywhere we go)
The will always shine
(sun will always shine)
But tomorrow we might awake
On the other side

We are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won't bring us down, oh no
We are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring us down, oh no
So don't you bring me down today

Don't you bring me down today
Don't you bring me down today

And finally, you can view Christina Aguilera's original video with subtitles:


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Swimmer Aims for the Deaf Olympics

Karen Meyer at ABC News Chicago did a segment this morning on deaf swimmer, Will Landgren: Deaf Swimmer's Teammates Learn Sign Language.

When Will first began swimming, his teammates wore sweatshirts to welcome him to the team. When Will's cochlear implant comes off and he slips into the water, his teammates communicate with him by signing or through an interpreter. To me, that's what inclusion is truly about-- recognizing the barriers to communication and using a two-way street to get around them.

When I was on the swim team in high school, I always had a teammate or two who would relay what the coach was saying because without my glasses, I couldn't see well at all, much less hear. At swim meets, the coach always lined me up near the starting gun so I could see the flash of the gun. A strobe light would have truly been appreciated back then!

More on Will:

Deaf Swimmer Makes a Splash

A Time for the Signs

Will is aiming to qualify for the Deaf Olympics and I'm betting he'll swim his way to a medal there.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Matthew Gets an Implant--Six Months Later

"How's Matthew doing?" a reader recently asked me. You may remember Matthew from earlier posts: Matthew Gets a Cochlear Implant and Matthew's Cochlear Implant Activation. I have gotten several emails from readers wondering about Matthew's progress with his cochlear implant and what he's doing today.

From the very first day of activation, Matthew instantly took a liking to the sounds he was hearing through the implant. It took a while to get used to the sound, but his brain learned to adjust and the sounds became clearer over time. Keep in mind, Matthew has Auditory Neuropathy and had many moments when he could hear normally when he was a young child. During the last several years, Matthew had great difficulty having conversations with people who didn't sign and was struggling to pay attention in school.

The summer before Matthew obtained his cochlear implant, he attended a sports camp at the Illinois School for the Deaf. He told Sue, his mom, "I want to go to school down there." Sue couldn't imagine sending Matthew away to a residental school. In fact, just two years before that, Sue sat on a panel with other parents and declared that she would never send her kids to a residential school. "I want my kids at home with me," she said.

So it may surprise some readers to learn that Matthew and his brother have been attending ISD since January, 2008.

Matthew took an instant liking to his new school and it was easy to see that he was very happy there. I asked him how ISD was different from the school he attended at home with a handful of deaf and hard of hearing students and he said, "At my old school, I didn't participate much. I felt left out of a lot of conversations, like I wasn't even here. At ISD, everyone signs and I participate in everything. I'm involved in a lot of activities. I'm on the track team. I have lots of friends at ISD. We go bowling and play video games."

Sue explained that Matthew receives auditory training each week to practice listening with his implant. Matthew described the sessions as fun and enjoyable. He is in sixth grade and is being challenged with seventh grade work.

"It sounds like ISD has changed your life," I remarked to Matthew.

"Yes, it has, but so has my implant," he said with a huge grin.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Adversity University Interviews Karen Putz

Stephen Hopson over at Adversity University has a series of interviews that allow readers to get a deeper glimpse into the life of bloggers all over. I'm really honored that Stephen chose to interview me and share a bit more about my life.

Stephen asked several questions that made me pause and think before answering. Of course, after completing the interview, I thought of many more answers that I wanted to share. If anyone ever attempts to write an autobiography--interviews by another person would be a great way to jump-start the writing. I was surprised as some of my own answers that came up and it brought out some faded memories. I very much enjoyed this interview and I hope you do too:

Adversity University, Karen Putz Part I

Adversity University, Karen Putz Part II

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why Culver's Gets My Drive-Thru Money

My mom and my sister excitedly emailed me. "We went through the Culver's drive-thru!" they said.

So why were they so excited?

They liked the "Order Assist" system that Inclusion Solutions installed in several of Culver's restaurants. Quite simply, there is a sign with a large button near the speaker of a drive-thru. When customers press the button, this alerts the drive-thru employee that the customer needs assistance. Culver's has pre-printed menus and pads and pens ready for customers.

I spent some time talking with Patrick Hughes, Jr., the owner of Inclusion Solutions after getting the drive-thru window closed on me at my local Steak 'n Shake. I learned that he also has a system that includes an induction loop for hard of hearing persons and cochlear implant users. This allows those with t-coils in their hearing aids and cochlear implants to get the speaker orders transmitted directly into their hearing aids and implants.

After spending a considerable amount of time on the drive-thru issue and time with Inclusion Solutions, I was able to give Patrick some feedback on how to improve a few things in the system to make service even better and more equal for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-challenged customers.

I learned that Patrick has spent years, literally YEARS, on the drive-thru issue but restaurants are unwilling to change their way of service. When a large corporation was faced with this issue, their answer to the issue was to simply slap a sign on the speaker.

So what's the problem with signs? Signs still don't alert the employees that assistance is needed. More than once, I have driven up to a drive-thru and as soon as the window opens, I'm handed the order of the driver behind me. I still encounter flustered employees who don't know what to do and have to take the time to figure out how to keep the orders straight.

(Photo description: Karen and Ron, the manager of Culver's in Romeoville, IL)

I went to the Romeoville Culver's near me and met with the manager, Ron. When I asked Ron why he chose to install the system, he said, "When deaf customers come in here and they see the Order Assist system, their eyes light up. They know they are welcomed here."

I emailed Craig Culver, whose father founded the Culver's chain and asked him similar questions. Craig's father, George, was hard of hearing all of his life. While his father was the motivation behind his decision to add Order Assist, Craig shared, "I believe in doing the right thing and in my opinion it was simply the right thing to do and a good business decision, too."

And because of that, I make every effort to patronize Culver's and use their drive-thrus and I encourage others to do the same. Thank you, Culver's!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Steak 'n Shake--Will We Move Forward?

"What's happening with Steak 'n Shake," a friend asked me recently. I figured it was time to blog about it once again.

First, I have to say that the Steak 'n Shake incident has turned my life crazy upsidedown. The latest to pick up the story was Diversity, Inc.:

Second Class Citizen: Deaf Mother of Three Denied Service At Restaurant.

Protecting Rights of People with Hearing Loss: What Does the Law Say?

A few days ago, my husband came home from work and told me that a co-worker heard the situation being discussed on the radio.

As it stands right now, I am still waiting to hear from Steak 'n Shake to see what their solution is to providing drive-thru access for people with disabilities. I want them to do more than just slap a sign on the speaker telling us that they'll serve us at the window. Their lawyer has stated that they are close to reaching a solution that they will present soon.

I have not filed a lawsuit-- I am working with the corporation to reach a solution that will ensure that every person with a disability who goes through a Steak 'n Shake drive-thru will do so with access.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm Allergic to Glitter Earmolds

My daughter Lauren has glitter earmolds with pink and purple glitter in them. They look really cool sparkling in her ears so I figured I'd get some blue glitter earmolds myself. After all, my current earmolds were several years old and quite nasty looking. It was time for something fresh and different.

I loved my blue glitter earmolds, but after the first day, my ears were red and itching. By the second day, I had developed sores in several places. I wore them four more days, until I could no longer put the earmolds in.

The old, nasty earmolds went back on. I figured I'd try again after a week.

The same thing happened, but by the end of the day, I knew the earmolds were going to have to go back. I tried again a few days later, but the same itchy feeling came creeping back.

The audiologist called the company to see if they could come up with a solution for me to keep the glitter in a different material. The company is going to remake the earmolds but skip the outer glazing. This means the next set will still have the glitter, but none of the shine. I'm hoping that the next set won't give me an allergic reaction.

After all, I want to be the cool, hip mom.

I know my kids beg to differ.

On another note, today's the last day to send me to SOBCon'08! All I need is a click on this link, nothing more:

Send Karen to the SOBCon!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dancing with the Stars--Marlee Matlin is Ready

For seven hours a day, the stars from Dancing with the Stars practice. All day long, they twist, twirl, and tango-- and in high heels to boot. Marlee Matlin looks really good in today's Chicago Tribune (above), which shows her dancing with her partner, Fabian Sanchez. Not only does she have to follow Fabian's lead in high heels, she'll have to do it backwards as well.

I've never watched Dancing with the Stars, but I'll be glued to the TV on Monday night and cheering for Marlee.

Marlee Matlin Ready for Dancing Debut

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Disability Blog Carnival--Communication Allies

The 33rd Disability Blog Carnival is being hosted by Ruth at Wheelie Catholic. The theme is Appreciating Allies.

My tribute today is to the many interpreter and CART (real time captioners) allies that I've met over the years.

I grew up hard of hearing, but I basically lipread my way through life. I didn't know American Sign Language and I wasn't introduced to it until I became deaf at the age of 19. Just a short time after I lost the rest of my hearing, I transferred to Northern Illinois University and stayed in a dorm that housed several deaf and hard of hearing students and Deaf Education majors.

I struggled in my classes. I was dealing with horrible tinnitus--the endless droning sounds that refused to leave my head. I was trying to lipread the instructors as well as follow all the information that was flowing in each class. I used an FM system for a while, but all that did was amplify sounds that I couldn't understand. In the classes where another student was using an interpreter, I discovered that I could lipread the interpreter much more easily than the instructors. By the second semester, I was requesting interpreters for all of my classes. At the same time, I was being immersed in American Sign Language in the dorms.

I'm always thankful for that chain of events in my life, because interpreters and real time captioners have leveled the communication playing field for me. They've enabled me to attend conferences, group discussions, concerts and many other events. I use a videophone to make voice phone calls-- I use a separate phone to talk directly to the person I'm calling and I watch an interpreter on my computer or tv as they interpret what is being said through the phone. The interpreters keep up so well that there's almost no lag time. The first time that I used this system to call a long time friend, she thought I suddenly was able to hear over the phone.

Over the years I've met some fabulous interpreters who I consider friends. They easily separate the role of interpreting and the role of friendship.

I've also met some interpreters who have considered themselves as power players and some interpreters who downright shouldn't be in the profession. I had one interpreter at a very important meeting who couldn't keep up and all of the sentences were muddling together. After the meeting, I discovered that she didn't pass the minimum level of interpreting and shouldn't have accepted the assignment. I sent a complaint letter to the state's Commission office but discovered that nothing could be done as the law "had no teeth" at that point. I later learned that this same interpreter was interpreting in the court system and at a local college. Enough people spoke up and limited her ability to take on assignments.

But rather than focus on the ones that aren't the allies-- I want to take a moment to thank the ones that are. Thank you to the ones that tirelessly interpret video relay calls, tirelessly attend long events, tirelessly move your hands into accessible, meaningful communication.

And a very special thank you to those who do it with a beautiful smile as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Send me to the SOBCon--Update

You guys are fantastic-- I'm now in second place for the "Send me to SOBCon" challenge! But it's going to take more clicks to send me there!

"Why would you want to hang out with a bunch of SOBs?" a friend asked me. I had to explain that this was a great group of people and in no way was "Son of a *&#%" a part of this conference. It is "Biz School for Bloggers." I attended last year's event and believe it or not, I was too shy to speak up much! Blogging was still relatively new to me back then.

The SOBCon'08 will be held at the Executive Center in downtown Chicago.

I'd like to be able to go and I can get there with your help (and your friends, and their friends, and so on!):

Send Karen to the SOBCon!