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!

Monday, March 10, 2008

17-Month Old Toddler Learns to Read

On the Today Show, a 17-month old toddler was shown reading off words like "kangaroo" and sentences like "Nice to meet you." The parents are both speech therapists who signed with their baby when she was younger. The video, unfortunately as usual, isn't captioned but you can see the mom signing in parts of it:

The Today Show

This brought back memories when my kids were little. I loved watching their signs emerge when they were toddlers. They learned their ABCs through fingerspelling. I would often fingerspell words in the bathtub along with the sponge ABCs that we stuck to the wall. Of course, the closed-captioning on the tv helped to speed along their reading skills. I'm a big fan of using all kinds of ways to get language going with kids.

And way off the subject, I'm in second place for the SOBCon contest! One click from you can send me off to the SOBCon!

Click here to send Karen to the SOBCon.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dawn Nile's Sister Speaks Out

In the Chicago Tribune today, Dawn Nile's sister, Heather, talked about how the family tried to investigate Dawn's murder twelve years ago on their own. They didn't get far by trying to investigate on their own. A family friend urged the local state's attorney to get involved and two years ago, they began investigating the case, interviewing several of the Hinsdale South students who knew Dawn.

Heather said, in the Chicago Tribune:

"Someone does something horrible to your family -- how long does it take to get over that?" Hunziker said. "I know the answer: It's never."

I know that many of the students did not forget Dawn, as her name came up several times over the years. This morning, I received an email from a Hinsdale South student who saw her picture in the Sun Times.

"God, I forgot how pretty she was..." he said.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

1981 Murder of Dawn Niles--Deaf Man Charged

In 1981, Dawn Niles, a deaf student at Hinsdale South was found murdered in a Chicago area forest preserve. My husband was a student there at the time and knew Dawn. He described her as a beautiful, popular student.

Gary Albert, a deaf man from Sugar Grove, is being held in a local jail with bond set at one million dollars.

Here are the news stories:

Long Journey for Justice

Arrest is Bittersweet

ABC News with transcript

Southtown Star

Victim's Sweetheart Arrested 27 Years Later

$1M Bond for Man Charged in 1981 Murder of Disabled Teen

Man Charged in 1981 Murder

Ex-Boyfriend Charged

Bond Set for Man Charged in 1981 Murder

Cases Never Go Cold With Someone Looking

RIP Dawn Niles

Sugar Grove Man Accused of Murder has Kane Record

Dawn Niles--Justice Will Be Served

Arrest is Bittersweet

Update: Gary Albert is out of jail. His family posted the $100,000 bond.

Gary Albert Pleads Innocent

Monday, March 03, 2008

DeafRead Folks-- Send me to SOBCon!

I'm rolling up my sleeves and asking every deaf and hard of hearing person in the blogosphere to help Deaf Mom accomplish an incredible feat:

I need hundreds of hits on this link: Send DeafMom to SOBCon'08!

What's SOBCon, you ask? It has nothing to do with the expletive. It's not even "Son of a buck!" as my Aunt Anna used to say.

SOBCon is a blogging conference for Successful and Outstanding Bloggers. According to the website:
"SOBCon08 is “Biz School for Blogging.” This year’s event tracks entrepreneur bloggers and corporate bloggers alike, with an innovative format and a stellar cast of speaker/instructors.

The SOBCon08 program guarantees to send each attendee home with a Business Action Plan that can be immediately executed for measurable success. The “mastermind” teams in which attendees will be interacting will provide uniquely deep working relationships that are more meaningful than the business card trading found at other conference/networking events.

I attended this conference last year and it was wonderful. I learned a few new things and was able to network with some awesome bloggers, including Liz Strauss, Wendy Piersall, Terry Starbucker and Phil Gerbyshak.

I really, really want to go again this year. I want to meet Stephen Hopson, another deaf blogger who plans to attend. I want to sit down and talk to all the other bloggers from last year who I didn't get a chance to know. And you, dear Deaf Read Community can send me there! The blogger with the most clicks from his/her blog to the SOBCon Event gets to go free!

So I'm asking for the power of DeafRead bloggers to show how tight our Deaf Community is--if every single one of you DeafRead bloggers clicks on this link, you can send Deaf Mom to the SOBCon!

One Family Beats the Divorce Odds

While I was doing research for my Disaboom article on marriage, I came across Tina Calabro's story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Authors Counsel Parents with Special Needs Children.

The author, Tina Calabro shared her own journey of handling the bumps in marriage after son was born. She also highlighted an excellent book: Married with Special Needs Children written by Laura E. Marshak and Fran P. Prezant.

Tina and her husband were married six years when their son Mark was born. Her uterus ruptured during the birth and Mark had APGAR scores of 0,2 and 4 and was put on a breathing machine. Mark had an injury to the basal ganglia of his brain and was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy.

"My husband and I were very much in sync around the time of Mark's birth," said Tina. "We were stunned and overwhelmed by what had happened. We cried together and even found ways to laugh together from time to time, even though our situation was unbelievably serious."

Tina shared more:
But we started to have conflict when Mark's situation had stabilized and I began to shift into gear to get him every early intervention support possible. I was driven to do as much as I can to mitigate Mark's serious developmental delays. My husband had a more wait-and-see attitude. "Maybe he won't need all this," he used to tell me. I would just think "are you crazy?" and keep rounding up services. It was so obvious to me that Mark was going to have serious impairment. I felt that I was doing the right thing by plunging ahead, even though my drive to do so was creating a rift between me and Dave.

After about two or three years, the rift had become bigger. Over time, I had become the "expert" on Mark's condition. Dave was a loving father to Mark, but I had assumed this managerial role in regard to the condition. So I guess you could say that I placed myself as a sort of supervisor of my husband's care of our son. Not that I enjoyed that position. I used to wish that Dave could be as driven as I about Mark's therapies. etc.

Tina began to fear that her marriage was headed for divorce. Frustration was escalating between them and they couldn't see eye-to-eye on Mark's care. She sought out counseling with Dr. Laura Marshak and began to explore the reasons why the marriage was unraveling.

"At the time, I felt that Dave and I were headed for divorce because we couldn't get on the same page," Tina recalled. "I was frustrated with him, and I'm sure he was frustrated with me. That's when Laura (Dr. Marshak) said something that turned me completely around. She said, instead of essentially getting rid of Dave (not really 'Dave,' but really the frustration), how about trying to teach him WHY I do the things I do. Teach him the reasoning behind it, etc. Laura told me that from what she was hearing about Dave that he could be trained, so to speak."

At first, Tina recoiled at the suggestion. "I had enough to do without also teaching my husband on the intricacies of our son's condition," she said. "But, upon further thought, I realized that Laura was right. If Dave learned the 'why' of what I was doing, he might come on board."

Counseling helped Tina to communicate with Dave and the two of them began to shift their perspectives and division of care for their son. Dave became fully involved with his son's care and began to specialize in taking care of Mark's technological needs.

Today, Mark is an honor roll student who attends his local elementary school powering along in his wheelchair and using a communication device to connect with the students and teachers.

As for Tina and Dave, they're still together.

Says Tina, "We're celebrating our 20th anniversary this year!"

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tree Wise Author on ABC News

Karen Meyer featured deaf author, Antoinette Abbamonte, who wrote "Tree Wise," a story about a tree teaching children about Deaf Culture.

Antoinette is a deaf actress who was featured in the film, "Wrong Game" along with Chicago local, Liz Tannebaum. She's also found in the video, Sign and ABCs.

You can view the entire ABC interview here:

Mom's Book Teaches Kids about Deaf Culture.