Gallaudet University: A Higher Education

What will school look like for my Deaf child? Is a higher education possible for them if I choose American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary modality of communication? Will they be singled out as the only Deaf person in the class? Is there a school where my bilingual/bicultural (ASL/English and Deaf/hearing) child can thrive and be respected?

These were some of the questions that I pondered with regards to my daughter’s education in the future, even when she was just an infant who was newly identified as Deaf. Yes, it was still years away, but I am certain most parents start to think about this early on, regardless of whether their child is Deaf or hearing.

Teanna was born with bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss in the severe to profound range. She was identified late, at 18 months of age. She wears a cochlear implant in her right ear and her first language is American Sign Language. She identifies as culturally Deaf, has attended the Provincial School for the Deaf since Kindergarten, and is currently 15 years old and about to enter Grade 11 in the upcoming school year. At home we use ASL and also speak English. She freely chooses when she wants to use her voice, and with whom. I raised her with the intention of learning as much as we could about Deaf culture and immersing ourselves in the Deaf Community. Through doing this I learned about Gallaudet University, the only university for Deaf students in the world. Instruction is entirely in American Sign Language and it is located in Washington, DC.

Gallaudet University became a dream realized in 1816 when two individuals, Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, met and traveled from Paris, France to the United States and wanted to open the country’s first school for deaf education. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed Gallaudet University’s charter, The Enabling Act, which is an Act of Congress that allowed the university to issue degrees, thus enabling Deaf people to pursue a higher education. President Lincoln played an important role in the founding of Gallaudet University, and since then it has opened up a multitude of opportunities for Deaf/Hoh individuals globally. To this day Gallaudet is the only accredited liberal arts university for Deaf students in the world.

The university’s mission is to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Hoh) Communities around the globe. Since the charter was signed, Gallaudet and its alumni have made various contributions to society and the Deaf Community such as:

  • The discovery and validation of American Sign Language as a language. Researchers have also recognized that there are over 120 sign languages throughout the world, and potentially another 200+ to be discovered and studied.
  • The conclusion that the Deaf Community has culture.
  • The declaration that the Deaf have political and civil rights.
  • Research that helps us understand how the brain acquires language.
  • It was a Gallaudet research team that created and patented the technology that currently allows us to text in real-time on our smartphones.
  • Gallaudet played an integral role in providing access in television and movies for Deaf/Hoh individuals through captioning.

Earlier this summer, Teanna had the incredible opportunity to visit Gallaudet University and participate in one of their week-long summer camps. She chose to attend the camp called DC2, which stands for Discover Colleges and Careers. It was an intensive camp where the participants explored their learning styles, interests, strengths and possible career options. They also learned about important skills such as financial literacy. I, too, had the opportunity to visit the university and take a guided tour. It was here that I learned about the highlights of its history and met students and staff. Gallaudet aims for students to “Connect. Discover. Influence.” as stated by their tagline. This means that students are able to connect with leading professors and other students, discover opportunities and influence the world around them.  

As a parent, it was so endearing to have my child return from camp feeling inspired and empowered, confident in her identity as a Deaf person, excited about the new friendships she made, equipped with new skills and knowledge and keen to plan her future education. I’d say, though she had only spent a short time there, Gallaudet had certainly accomplished their mission of empowering a Deaf individual! It’s difficult for me to articulate my emotions upon learning about Gallaudet and taking a tour. I could best describe it as a mixture of relief, giddiness and pride that such a place exists!

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Jokes and Jokes

By Levi Traxler

I love jokes and awful puns! My appreciation for jokes increased tenfold when I became a dad. I think it’s very important to have a sense of humor as long as it’s appropriate. I can see that humor can help alleviate the pressure sometimes, especially as a parent or a professional! Life can be stressful enough as it is. 

I grew up developing a sense of humor by watching a lot of spoof movies with my family. I especially remember my dad laughing a lot at particular movies ( The Princess Bride, Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Police Squad) and it left a very strong impression on me. I learned a lot about puns and how sounds can influence the jokes when I don’t get it as a Deaf person. 

Then I went to Gallaudet University and I learned about Deaf jokes. Deaf humor is very blunt and straight to the point! Deaf jokes often rely on handshapes, movements, and facial expressions. As you probably can imagine, deaf jokes are very visual in nature. There are some linguistic differences between Deaf and hearing jokes, and usually one kind of joke doesn’t translate well into the other kind. For example, sound-based jokes don’t work well on the Deaf folks. I wonder why? I noticed that hearing jokes rely on auditory cues such as timing, delivery, and word play. 

Another major difference is the cultural references. The Deaf community is smaller and Deaf people usually share similar experiences with each other. Deaf jokes also usually use signs or reference to signs. Hearing jokes usually make references to mainstream culture, popular media, or common social situations. You can open any social media and almost immediately find memes on it. It’s a lot more accessible and relatable to hearing individuals but Deaf individuals can benefit from it as well. 

Deaf jokes may highlight the experiences, challenges, or stereotypes faced by Deaf individuals in a humorous way. They may involve situations where communication barriers or misunderstandings arise between Deaf and hearing people, or they might explore the unique aspects of Deaf culture and identity. Hearing jokes may draw on experiences related to sound, music, or auditory perception, often using these elements as a basis for humor.

It’s essential to approach jokes about any group with sensitivity and respect. When it comes to Deaf and hearing jokes, it is crucial to be mindful of potential cultural, linguistic, or communication barriers that can affect how these jokes are perceived. While some jokes may be appreciated within their respective communities, it’s important to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypes, demean individuals, or make light of people’s experiences. I have seen plenty of Deaf jokes that demean the Deaf individual and I think it’s important to know the context of the situation. 

Due to the differences in communication modalities, Deaf jokes may not be accessible to hearing individuals unless they are specifically translated or explained. I usually find myself having to explain the Deaf jokes to a hearing individual and often they still don’t get it. Hearing jokes, however, can be readily understood by hearing individuals, given the dominant use of spoken and written language in society.

Remember, humor can be subjective, and not all jokes will resonate with everyone. It’s crucial to be respectful, considerate, and aware of the diverse perspectives and experiences within the Deaf and hearing communities when engaging in humor.

If you are interested in learning more about Deaf jokes, you may want to check out this famous King Kong joke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaJHetU9K0c  This is another good place for Deaf jokes: https://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/jokes.htm

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Try New Things and Find Your Community!

By Eyra Abraham

My parents discovered I began to lose hearing when I was about three years old. The hearing loss was unexplainable, but it changed my life’s course. I was the only child with hearing loss within many generations of my family. Even though we never found out the cause, it was a situation that we had to accept.

Despite the common challenges that occur when one is hard of hearing, like any challenges in life this experience has truly made me a better person.

The world is full of sounds like fire alarms and door knocks, but people often forget that not everyone has the same access to these sounds. And that’s what happened to me. I slept through a late-night fire drill in a condo building in Nova Scotia. The alarm came from the hallway, not the built-in smoke detector found in my unit. The people who left the building got accounted for, but I wasn’t.

I only learned about the fire drill when, a few days later, I was checking my mailbox. There was a memo from the property management company explaining that a fire drill had taken place and that tenants’ safety needed to be taken seriously.

This event was very unsettling and helped me to realize that my hearing access might put me in a position where I couldn’t respond or could be hurt. I wanted to bring back a sense of control and not let my hearing loss define me, so I took this on as a challenge.

As a result of my experience, I founded a tech startup company called Lisnen about six years ago. My company supports people with hearing loss with products like the Lisnen App. The App helps people who are hard of hearing use their smart devices to be aware of their surroundings, especially when not wearing their cochlear implants or hearing aids. We leverage the smartphone microphone’s audio and artificial intelligence algorithm to help predict sounds that are heard nearby. We also provide content for the community on shared experiences to help guide people in dealing with their everyday experiences with hearing loss.

Since launching, I’ve attracted several business partnerships and pitched investors to build the technology. I have been featured in the media including the Globe and Mail, TV Ontario, CBC and Global News. I often speak on stage at tech events and private events internationally. I’ve been asked to sit on boards and committees both in the US and Canada, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. As a visionary, I speak on AI and its impact on people with disabilities. Hundreds of people have heard my mission and vision for the future and I have inspired others with my words. One would never have thought that the young me who tirelessly attended speech therapy sessions at a young age would find this handy later in life.

My courage to do the work and achieve success came from years of preparation. Looking back at my early years, I can identify two important things which impacted my life. I hope these will serve as wisdom for any parent of a child with hearing loss.

Always show up in ANY room.

My parents knew that character is developed by trying and learning new things. So they made sacrifices to put me into as many different programs and activities as they could get their hands on. I signed up for swimming, gymnastics and ballet after school and on weekends. The summer library reading club and computer class were during the school break. I attended piano lessons and music theory classes for 10 years to reach the Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 8 level. I was two years shy of completing my classical training when I left to focus on university.

I still showed up in rooms where people might question how I could hear in these situations and follow along. Often, things were not very accessible to me. However, I showed up more to learn and adapt to various environments. It was about something other than learning to be a better swimmer or dancer – it was developing tools in my toolbox to manage my hearing loss.

Find your community

There was a period during my junior year when I was struggling with school. I was sent to join another school in another town and was assigned to a small class with other hard of hearing students. It gave me the boost of confidence not to let setbacks define me. It was refreshing to see people similar to me. Up until that point, I had always felt different from others. Being around people like me gave me a sense of belonging. Connections with others going through similar situations can really change your perspective.

Recently, I’ve spoken to many people with hearing loss who have succeeded, including inventors, executives of major companies, athletes and politicians. We typically connect like a magnet when we discover our commonality with hearing loss. We want to be respected for our unique and shared experiences. Also, just being around them, I saw what’s attainable. What you see is what you perceive as possible for yourself.

Looking back, I can’t take all the credit for my success. Many people, including my parents and older sisters, have encouraged me every step of the way.

Life is a journey, I’ve learned. So focus on your child showing up to places and trying new things to help develop new tools and experiences to adapt to various environments. Also, pause to find a community of like-minded people for your children and yourself who can help you along the way. That’s where I found opportunities to thrive.

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Summer Get-Together 2023

WHO:BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Come out for a fun afternoon with other families with dhh children!
(Please note this event is geared to 7 years and under)
Look for the orange & blue balloons!
(Parking lot closest to splash pad is at Beta Ave & Dundas Street.)
Bring a picnic lunch, blanket/lawn chairs & water gear if you want to get wet! Parents are responsible for their own children. ASL interpreter will be available.
Please check your email and our FB event page on the day of as this is a weather dependent event.
WHEN: Tuesday August 12, 2022 11:00am-2:00pm
WHERE: Confederation Park, Burnaby
CONTACT/INFO: Space is limited, please register here https://tinyurl.com/mt88jntv

Download our flyer here: SGT 2023

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Our Experience with Early Intervention

By Joe Zhang and Kelly Lv

Our son Leo was born in Vancouver. He did not pass the newborn hearing screening test and we were very overwhelmed because this was a total shock. A few weeks later, Leo did not pass the ABR test either, and the audiologist showed us the audiology report, so we could see the “banana shape” and which frequencies were affected. Honestly, we were frustrated, overwhelmed and sad at that moment. The audiologist was kind to comfort us and gave us contact information to follow up.

We connected with an Intervention Coordinator through the BC Early Hearing Program, who referred to us a few organizations and people to follow up with.

We reached out to the organizations which offer early intervention in BC to learn about their programs. We were able to see the centres and talk with professionals who walked us through the process and resources to support Leo, and the overall roadmap from baby, infant, toddler to preschooler and finally to the education system. We learned about the types of services each program offered, so we could choose the organization that was the best fit for our family. We were also told about some successful stories of alumni, which comforted us a lot.

We attended a family connect event held at one of the centres, and participated in the Coffee Nights held by BC Hands & Voices, where we connected with other families.

We also reached out to the Guide By Your Side Program and were connected with both a Parent Guide and a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Guide. Both gave us lots of valuable information, resources and experiences to support Leo. We felt very motivated and encouraged. At this point, we accepted the fact that Leo is hard of hearing and got down to work on helping him to grow and learn.

Leo has been a good user of hearing aids since he was 3 months old, and we decided that the Listening and Spoken Language approach would be the best match for him and for our family.  Over the past 4 years, we have worked with several  specialized Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, who educated and empowered us to be Leo’s primary support and advocate, so he could learn and integrate into the hearing world.

We worked with the Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing closely, focusing on family goals outlined in the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), and helped Leo reach his fullest listening and spoken language potentials. For example, we read books in our most fluent language, have daily circle time at home, attend library events like baby story-time, family story-time, and participate in a variety of age-appropriate activities at the community centers. We treat Leo as a typical kid and do our best to develop his full capabilities. We don’t want him to be limited by his hearing challenges, so we try to expose him to a variety of different activities, experiences and topics.

Now Leo is close to the age of 5 and he is ready to go to kindergarten this September. He is curious, inquisitive, energetic and compassionate. He is doing multiple sports including skating, gymnastics and soccer. We are proud of him for all of the progress he has made!

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Fun Family Picnic 2023


See PDF flyer here: 2023 picnic flyer
PDF Flyer in Traditional Chinese (繁體中文): 2023 picnic flyer_tc
or in Simplified Chinese (简体中文): 2023 picnic flyer_sc

An Event for deaf/hard of hearing, deaf blind children, their siblings and parents. We also welcome  Deaf/Hard of Hearing parents and their children (CODA).
It’s free – but you need to RSVP before June 9th: https://www.fndc.ca/familypicnic

WHEN: Saturday June 17th, 10:30 am to 2:00 pm

WHERE: Victory Hill/ Provincial Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services 4334 Victory St., Burnaby BC

We will provide:
•Hotdog Lunch
•Entertainment and games for the kids
• An opportunity to mix and mingle with other families and with youth/young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Please bring with you:
• a picnic lunch for your family
• lawn chairs or blanket to sit on

Rain or Shine!  Free admission! Donations gratefully accepted at the event.

Hosted by:
Deaf Youth Today
Family Network for Deaf Children
Provincial Family Services
BC Early Hearing Program
Guide By Your Side
BC Hands and Voices
CHHA BC Youth Peer Support Program

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HUMAN RIGHTS BASICS- 中文 (Chinese)

June 7, 2023 (Wednesday) 7–9pm


human rights talk – 简体中文 (Simplified Chinese)
欢迎参加,此 Zoom 网上讲座费用全免。讲者使用英语,设有普通话即时传译
报名或查询,请电邮 Amy Ho amyho@bchandsandvoices.com
亦可使用 WhatsApp 或微信与 Amy 联系
WhatsApp: +1 604 351 6013
微信: amyhocanada


human rights talk- 繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese)
歡迎參加,此 Zoom 網上講座費用全免。講者使用英語,設有國語即時傳譯
報名或查詢,請電郵 Amy Ho amyho@bchandsandvoices.com
亦可使用 WhatsApp 或微信與 Amy 聯繫
WhatsApp: +1 604 351 6013
微信: amyhocanada

Posted in Advocacy, Events, Simplified Chinese 简体中文, Traditional Chinese 繁體中文 | Comments Off on HUMAN RIGHTS BASICS- 中文 (Chinese)

Family Movie Night

WHO: BC Hands & Voices & Guide By Your Side
WHAT: Join us for a fun pizza & movie night and connect with other families with deaf/hard of hearing children and their siblings. We’ll be showing “Shaun the Sheep”! This event is suitable for children up to about 10 years old. We will provide pizza and drinks for dinner. Wear your favourite pajamas, bring your floor mats, pillows & a stuffed animal! Parents are responsible for their own children. ASL interpreters will be available. A donation of $10/family at the door is kindly suggested.
WHEN: Friday May 12, 2023 6:00pm-8:30pm
WHERE: BC Family Hearing Resource Society – 15220 92 Ave, Surrey, BC V3R 2T8
RSVP: https://tinyurl.com/3brjyu2v Space is limited!

Download our flyer here: FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT 5.12.2023

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Planning for Hearing Technology Upgrades & Services

By Catherine Kalchbrenner

When a child ages out of Early Intervention it may become necessary to pay for device upgrades, accessories or services on our own. With improvements in technology and wear and tear on devices, upgrading is generally recommended every few years.  Early Intervention services (Speech Language Pathologists, Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Sign Language Instructors, Deafblind Consultants etc.) will have given your child and family a great start, but sometimes we choose to pay privately for additional services. Paying out of pocket can be challenging!

Some tips and things to consider:

  • The BC Early Hearing Program (BCEHP) provides supplemental funding for early language services. Hearing equipment is tailored to the baby’s needs such as funding for the first set of hearing aids for children under five years of age, earmolds and batteries are funded for three years or until the child turns five, whichever comes first. For more information, see the BCEHP Parent Resource Guide: http://www.phsa.ca/bc-early-hearing/Documents/BCEHP-ParentResourceGuide.pdf
  • You may be eligible to receive the disability tax credit: (www.cra-arc.gc.ca/bnfts/dsblty-eng.html) – There are certain criteria one must meet and the application process is quite involved but is definitely worth looking into.
  • If it is possible for you to do, you may want to put aside some money each month to pay for future repairs and replacements of hearing devices. If that is not financially possible, consider researching potential charity funding sources (see list near bottom of page).
  • Provincial Deaf Hard of Hearing Services begins providing their services in the year your child starts Kindergarten and includes American Sign Language instruction and Family Navigators: Deaf & Hard of Hearing – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)
  • The Deaf Well-Being Program funds some mental health services for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind people of all ages, and their family members in BC: Home – VCH Deaf Well Being
  • Check to see if your employer’s extended health plan pays for hearing aids or cochlear implant upgrades. In some cases hearing aid batteries can be purchased and covered as “medical equipment”. The coverage is often limited, but it can help.
  • Some extended health plans pay for certain specialists such as Speech Language Pathologists, Audiologists and Psychologists.
  • If your child has additional medical or support needs and qualifies for At Home Program or Autism funding, a variety of therapies, equipment and devices may also be covered. 

There are also some possible charity funding sources for families in BC. Eligibility may depend on family income, and the criteria of these groups may change over time, but it can be worth looking into: 

Do you know of any others? Please get in touch with us so we can keep this list up to date!
info@bchandsandvoices.com

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“Ask Away Tuesdays”

By Monique Les, Joy Gong and Tara Dyck

“Ask Away Tuesdays” started in late 2022, when Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Guides
Monique, Joy and Tara recognized the need for parents to have a space to ask anything
that might be on their minds! The three most common questions they get are answered
below, to give you a taste of their diverse answers.

How can we (parents) support our DHH child’s self esteem/confidence?
Monique: Each time parents ask us how they can best support their child in developing
a healthy self image of themselves, my first answer is, as parents YOU are your child’s
first role model. If adults around a DHH child have a positive, healthy and realistic
attitude, then chances are your child will demonstrate that outlook as they grow.

Joy: It’s helpful to have them participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports,
arts, or music. Allowing them to have that space to foster and develop skillsets in those
activities will help build their confidence and self-esteem along the way. When
explaining or letting other people know about your child’s deaf/hard of hearing needs
and accommodations, it’s helpful for parents to use positive language around supporting
their child.

Tara: Honestly – the same as you would support your hearing child’s self
esteem/confidence! Focus on strengths. Identify what brings them joy and then build
responsibilities/activities around this. Encourage/empower them to do things
independently, i.e. colour/draw; do chores; order at a cafe/restaurant; open a bank
account; save money; join a sports club/team. Be creative and have fun!

The only thing I may emphasize with a Deaf/HH child is to make sure they *SEE* you
(and others) praising them. And, make sure that your Deaf/HH child understands that
you are praising them, that you are proud of them. Communication plays a big role in
this. Be sure that both you and your Deaf/HH child can understand each other, whether
it be in sign language, spoken language, or both.

Hand clapping is sound based whereas the American Sign Language (ASL) hand
wave is more visual. Give the ASL hand wave a try! Wave and twist both hands in the
air! (This is how you do it: https://www.signasl.org/sign/hand-wave) I loved it when
my hearing parents did this when they were proud of me.

What is considered rude/inappropriate when trying to get my DHH child’s
attention?
M: I found this to be the most interesting question to date in our “Ask Away Tuesday”
sessions. It really made me think! One of the things that distinctly comes to mind are
family events or situations where a joke is being said, and I didn’t catch it… to which I’d ask “What happened?” A simple “Never mind, I’ll tell you later” is both rude and hurtful.
It diminishes our presence, and feels like exclusion.

J: When trying to get your DHH child’s attention, a gentle tap on the shoulder or a light
waving of the arms will help, or getting the person closest to your child to help you.
What I found rude, for myself, were sharp, aggressive taps or big, extreme arm waving
that would draw attention from the whole room, or yelling from another person to get my
attention.

T: Teach your DHH child what is respectful and kind and that they deserve to be treated
with respect and kindness too. Have a discussion with them about what helps others to
get their attention and then encourage them to communicate to others what they prefer
(i.e. gentle pat on shoulder, switch lights on and off a couple of times) when they meet
them for the first time. It is NOT OK for others to scream or throw things to get your
child’s attention.

What memories do you have of times you felt challenged or bullied and your
parents supported your self-esteem/confidence?
M: One of the earliest memories that I have is my mom sending me to order my own
happy meal from McDonald’s. I was 7 years old, and still shy about using my ‘voice’ to
order. The first time I ordered it, they gave me a cheese burger, instead of chicken
nuggets. My mom sent me right back to the counter without her and said “You can do it,
just say that they gave you the wrong order”. That moment was THE moment when I
realized that I didn’t have to settle for less.

J: One of the most memorable phrases that my parents have said to me was “You’ll
never know unless you try”. To this day, whenever I have doubts or uncertainty, I carry
that phrase with me when I take on new challenges or try out new opportunities. Also, I
was involved in dance and piano lessons which I found were helpful in building my
self-esteem and confidence through constant practice and improvements with each
progression in new dance routines and music levels.

T: My parents saw that I loved swimming at a very early age and greatly supported this
interest. Qualifying for the youth nationals at age 12 was a huge self-esteem/confidence
booster. It was proof that I could do anything I put my heart into. And, importantly, that
being Deaf was not a barrier to (my) success. My parents were not ashamed that I was
Deaf. They always said, “You can do anything – being Deaf is not going to stop you from
doing anything”. The confidence they had in me in the first place is probably what
helped me to build confidence.

“Having parents who believed in me was the best.” – Tara Dyck

Join us for our next “Ask Away Tuesday” sessions, which run from 7-830pm on Zoom!
Captioning and ASL interpreters are available.
Please email Monique.Les@cw.bc.ca for the link.

Mark in your calendar the upcoming dates! They’d love to connect with you.
March 14, 2023
April 11, 2023
May 23, 2023
June 13, 2023

Posted in Articles, DHH Guides | Comments Off on “Ask Away Tuesdays”
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