29 April 2022
An issue that has been cropping up in our continued Zoom age is something I’ve termed “post-production (in)accessibility.” What does this mean? Let’s say you’re hosting and organizing a Zoom event. You secure interpreters and (hopefully) provide them with prep materials. Your intent is to record the meeting and post the link to the video online after the fact for those who were unable to attend live. And while you did the right thing in planning for interpreters ahead of time, they were not visible on the recording. Now, this could be for any number of reasons, some of which I cannot explain and that would have to be a separate post. So, now you ask for help with making this video accessible post-production (i.e., adding latent interpreting).
This issue has come up twice recently and both for events for which I was either part of the planning committee or co-chair of the committee hosting the event (but not responsible for recording).
Let me be clear, if you find yourself asking for “post-production accessibility,” that is tantamount to INaccessibility. If only a certain population has to wait for a video to be accessible, that’s not accessible or equitable.
For those who are more cost oriented (as opposed to equity oriented), another reason to do this is that it’s more than double the cost. Someone is footing the bill for interpreters for the live event. If latent interpreting is required, these interpreters will have to be paid for their time as well. But with latent interpreting, the interpreters don’t just interpret in real time, they study the video first, make sure they understand the context as best as possible, and then begin their recording.
To all those planning, hosting, and recording events, I challenge you to consider all of these logistics ahead of time so that any videos produced from an event are immediately accessible to everyone. Consider building in redundancies so that if one plan fails, another will work. Hold practice sessions where you ask a few people to log on, then practice recording the meeting. Is it turning out how you wanted? What features can you play with to achieve the result you want?
Taking this challenge a step further, don’t stop at planned events. Ensure all content, like Instagram videos, minimally have captions before posting them (HINT: Instagram has an autocaptioning feature which isn’t half bad. There’s literally no reason not to use this!). There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing videos from my own colleagues that aren’t accessible.
Make accessibility a forethought no matter what you’re doing!
"I have a day job!"
12 April 2022
This semester I’m taking a certificate program in Student Success Analytics through the CSU. The program is about engaging “in an effort to close equity gaps for historically underserved students.” The problem is programming through the CSU never considers access and inclusivity for the people in the program. This is not the first time this has happened. So, the access issues themselves could be their own blog but here I want to talk about something else, something that’s been gnawing at me for a while now.
The Sac State contact person for this program was helping me to confront the access issues in the program and at some point, in response to my frustration in how this was all panning out, she said something like, “we all have day jobs,” the implication being, “your access will have to wait because we have more important things to do.”
I have a day job too! And my day job – engaging in continuing education like this program – requires accessibility. While this may be an inconvenience for you, something you don’t consider to be your real job, it is my job. I live this, as does every other disabled faculty and staff person.
Part of navigating an abled (and ableist) world means resisting ableism. This is tiring. An ally, a co-conspirator, an accomplice, should help in this resistance, not become part of the problem by making it seem like my access is an imposition.
This comment has been eating at me for a couple months at this point. Will the person who said it ever read this blog and realize what they did? Probably not. But, to any ableds out there with a “day job,” please don’t consider your disabled colleagues’ fight for accessibility as something non-essential. Make it a priority because it is our day job.
A Cautionary Tale
11 April 2022
I love it when I go into a restaurant or grocery store and a worker knows even some ASL. It’s nice to not have to whip out my phone and type my order or my question. But, I have a cautionary tale.
I’ve noticed time and time again that it’s usually those baristas or other workers who are overly eager to tell me they know ASL who actually don’t. On these occasions, the worker will tell me they know ASL, maybe they’ll tell me their name and then I’ll proceed to order. They’ll feign understanding (or maybe they think they actually do understand) but more often than not, I get my food or my drink and it’s wrong. Then I have to type it all out anyway.
Just recently, my husband and I went out for non-dairy gelato. The worker very eagerly told us she knew ASL (though she didn’t sign KNOW correctly, so I was already wary). Then we asked a question about one flavor. She signed WHORE and then fingerspelled “mint”. And she had a mask on so I couldn't even (attempt to) lipread what she meant when the signed WHORE.
Here’s my recommendation to folks who have taken (or are taking) ASL. When deaf customers come into your place of business, please don’t be overconfident in your abilities. Don’t come up to us and say “oh I know ASL” because that sets the bar a little higher. Instead, you can just have a natural conversation which will actually demonstrate your ASL knowledge. If we order a drink and you don’t understand, ask for repetition or ask for us to type it. There’s no shame in that. But please don’t tout abilities you don’t have. It doesn’t make me feel more welcome and it definitely doesn’t give me the assurance that I can order my food or drink and expect to have it right.
Disfigured & Sankofa
6 April 2022
I recently read “Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space” by Amanda Leduc and just last weekend I attended the 28th Multicultural Education Conference, put on by my own College of Education. Disfigured explores the way in which a lot of misconceptions about disability are reinforced through fairy tales. Fairy tales have happy endings, awe! Disabled characters are generally evil or they’re to be pitied. Some disabled characters become abled in the happy ending as a result of some good deeds. All of this is troubling and Leduc really unpacks a lot of her favorite fairy tales, stories she grew up loving, but as an adult, registers as problematic.
I was in the middle of Disfigured during last week’s conference, the theme of which is “Sankofa,” a Twi word meaning “to go back and get.” The conference keynote and panelists explored the ways in which they’ve had to examine their past as they move forward with life. I think that’s what Leduc is doing as well. How timely that this conference happened while I was reading this book!
In one chapter of Disfigured Leduc is sharing some excerpts from an essay “‘What the World Gets Wrong about My Quadriplegic Husband and Me.” The point is that “[abled people] cannot imagine this kind of life,” because to them, being quadriplegic and being married to a quadriplegic isn’t their idea of a happy ending. Leduc suggests that the “inability to imagine a happy ending (read: not being disabled) outside the confines of the fairy tales…a failure of imagination.” To me, this is where disabled social media influencers are making waves. Some show how they do daily tasks or the ways in which their environment is modified to accommodate their disability. Maybe this is disabled people “going back to get” what they learned through lived experience and teaching it to abled people en masse on Instagram. They are demystifying disability, which maybe will help improve things like access and accommodation on a societal level. If disability is normalized – if people know how a person in a wheelchair can get in their car and go grocery shopping on their own – perhaps they can start to imagine disabled protagonists in fairy tales. Maybe.
Either way, Disfigured is a good, non-fiction read and I highly recommend it, for disabled and non disabled people.
On Parental Acceptance Theory: A Special vlogBlog with Dr. Nate Dutra
22 March 2022
This session was recorded on November 30th, 2021. Our goal was 10 minutes. We went a little over 🤷. The following has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
Dr. Leah Geer: Perfect, ok. Hello everyone! Today, we have a special vlogBlog because we have a guest! Please, go ahead and introduce yourself and explain a bit about yourself growing up, etc., whatever you feel like sharing.
Dr. Nate Dutra: Hello! Thank you for inviting me to come. My name is Nate Dutra. Here’s a bit of my background. I taught at the high school level for about eight years, deaf students. My first year teaching was at a residential school for the deaf, (California School for the Deaf) Riverside. I taught English there. Later I changed to teaching in a mainstream program. For seven years, I taught different topics, English, science, history, depending on the students’ needs. After eight years at the high school level, I transitioned to teaching in higher ed, at colleges and universities. Currently, I teach at both Yuba City College and at Sacramento State.
LG: Stingers Up! Right?!
ND: There ya go, right, Stingers Up!
So, I’ve been teaching (at the college level) for about three years at this point. And I’m here and excited to talk about my research! I graduated from the EdD program, what was it, two years ago now? Time’s a bit fuzzy.
LG: Yeah, it’ll be two years ago very soon.
ND: It feels like time travel!
In my EdD, I focused my studies on hearing parents who learned ASL for their deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) child. So, that and I’m excited to talk about that with you!
LG: Awesome. I’m so excited to invite you here. Really, I want to ask you two things: 1. Why did you do the dissertation study you chose? 2. What is the impact of your dissertation research? Why should we care and learn more about this? Why should we take this topic outside the Ivory Tower? Why is it crucial to disseminate your findings? Who cares?
ND: Good questions! First: Why did I go ahead with this study? I was born deaf into a hearing family. My mother is hearing. She didn’t realize I was deaf initially. As time went on, she started to suspect and would do “experiments” like banging pots (to see if I’d turn to that). She realized I was deaf. So, what did she do? You have to understand she grew up in a very rural town and had never met a deaf person before. And of course in the 80’s it’s not like she had the internet. Nevertheless, she cracked a book and started studying and learning to sign. And that really benefited me because I grew up healthy with respect to my socio(emotional) needs, my education. I’ve had language my whole life! I was always on grade level in school, I have an EdD now all because of my mom, all because she learned ASL.
Growing up, I thought that was normal. That’s my “normal” anyway. But then I started teaching high school. Most of my high school students struggled with basic reading and writing and even ASL. I knew to expect that in this population from time to time but I was shocked to see that as the norm. I wanted to understand why. What happened before they got to high school? Because by high school, they should have more world knowledge but they didn’t, so I wanted to understand what happened in the years before high school. So I really wondered about that for some time. I noticed that one commonality among my students who struggled is that their parents didn’t sign. When I present, I always ask the audience, “How many of my students’ parents know ASL (fluently)?” They guess 25%, 30%, something like that. In truth, the answer is ZERO. In seven years of teaching mainstream deaf education, none of the parents knew ASL. Some students had a few home signs, or some very basic ASL vocabulary, but none could have a full conversation with their child. That’s a problem! That statistic is shocking! Zero. I had 70 or 80 students who couldn’t access communication with their families in the home.
LG: And that’s just you! But what about all the other deaf ed teachers out there, throughout the US, throughout the world. If that statistic is similar throughout, wow!
ND: Worldwide it’s probably worse! I’m just shocked that this statistic hasn’t garnered media attention, a spotlight, but no one’s discussing this. If a hearing child grows up without language, people would be shocked but this is so prevalent among deaf children. That bothered me. I was just always thinking, “why, what’s the problem here?”
Within deaf ed, there are a lot of discussions about curriculum, approach, oral etc. Teaching methods? There are so many courses and conversations on that and on whether students should be mainstreamed or placed in residential schools, special day classes, how many students should be in a class? There’s this famous statistic that’s quoted all the time, that the average deaf adult reads at a 4th grade level. This quote has persisted since the 70s. And some (standardized) tests continue to show this. This suggests that changes to the curriculum, changes to teachers, changes to the schools themselves aren’t budging the needle. I just wondered what other factors might be at play. I was interested in parents. Not to criticize them but I just wondered, if they can’t communicate with their child, can’t teach their child, that has the potential to impact the child for the rest of their lives.
LG: What’s that you typically say, “Who is a child’s first teacher? Their parents at home.” Children’s first teachers are their parents.
ND: Right, “home is the first school.”
LG: Right, that’s it!
ND: Right, so parents are the first teachers. I just can’t stop wondering, “why don’t parents sign?” Is it resources? I mean, my mom all those years ago didn’t have the internet. She’d never met a deaf person, she didn’t have a deaf mentor. What makes my mom different from all these other parents? And it’s important to understand that my high school students, their parents aren’t awful parents, they love their children and care about them. They support them and want the best for them. It’s not about that. So, what is it that makes them not sign?
That was the start of my study.
It’s funny; I was a little unsure of how to approach this work. My first plan was actually to interview parents who did not learn ASL. But I realized, wow that’s really sensitive. Would folks feel free to share everything? Hard to know.
LG: And would they be completely truthful, or more reticent?
ND: Right, and I’m sure they know the answer to that question, why they didn’t learn to sign.
So I changed my approach and focused instead on those parents who did learn ASL.
I interviewed them. I used something called “grounded theory,” which means I went into this without any hypotheses, without any preconceptions as to what I might find. I honestly had no idea. I just wanted to see what they said. This is an appropriate approach when the topic of the study isn’t relying on a strong or sizable body of literature. Really there’s very little research on this topic. I had to start at the beginning.
Participants’ income varied. Their upbringing – rural or urban – varied. Their age at the time of their deaf child’s birth and the decade of their child’s birth varied. There was a lot of variation among several factors that could have explained my findings, but didn’t. But one thing that remained constant was this notion of, “I have to talk to my kid.” They were surprised to learn that they are “abnormal.” Like, “yes of course I learned ASL.”
LG: Just like you!
ND: Right, that!
LG: You thought it was normal for hearing parents of deaf children to learn ASL.
ND: They said, “yes of course I learned ASL. I have to talk to my kid.” So I tried to draw a bit more out, like “yes, and what else?” It seemed they felt, “why are you asking me this? Of course I learned ASL! It’s common sense!” So as I examined these responses, I realized the key was acceptance. They did not agonize over what to do or look into different cures. They say, “I have a deaf child. How do I communicate with them? How do I have a relationship with them? ASL.” And they steamroll through the process from there.
ND: Yeah, acceptance. [The families] are bookish, they take classes, and find various other ways to learn. And it was seeing this that led me to develop the “Parental Acceptance Theory” or PAT.
This acceptance was the key.
Parents of disabled children may have this vision of what their child’s life will be like. But if they’re deaf or otherwise disabled, that may conflict with the vision they have for their child. At this point, they either accept the child they have or begin the process of denial and try to rehabilitate their child with speech and further denial etc.
Acceptance, on the other hand, let me try to explain this perfectly: imagine the perfect child. Other parents may have this issue where they get stuck because they can’t give up on the vision they have for their child. But parents who accept their child do so and adjust to their new reality. And I think this is so powerful!
I think back to the parents of my [high school] students. They always had new treatments on the backs of their minds, wondering “Should they get a cochlear implant? Should they continue speech? Or try to find something else.” But they keep looking because they haven’t accepted the child they have. The child they have is deaf.
I truly think acceptance is key. If parents aren’t consumed by thinking of “what the next therapy” is, then they’d start learning ASL from the beginning. And this plays into the common misconception that sign and speech are separate…
LG: That they’re in conflict.
ND: But really they’re not. You can have both!
LG: And there’s mounting evidence that more language facilitates more language, you don't have to pick one. You can collect various linguistic tools.
ND: Right, as I developed this theory, I imagined a slide on a playground. Parents begin their journey at birth and start climbing the rungs of the ladder to the top of the slide. They may struggle, experience ambivalence, others may be critical of their choices, they may wont for time and fiscal resources for classes. But if they accept their child as deaf, it will be easier to overcome these challenges, make it to the top of the slide, and slide down smoothly. Because there are so many resources out there, like…
LG: Like ASL at Home, yes!
ND: For example, just throwing that out. Free advertisement time. *gestures holding up a book* So, yeah, there are many resources available, especially with the internet. But if parents haven’t accepted that their child is deaf, they can’t take advantage of everything that’s out there. They’re still in the tunnel of…
LG: Looking for a cure. Where’s the cure? How do we fix this?
ND: One thing I find interesting, of the parents that I interviewed whose children were already grown, as opposed to the parents who still had young children, the parents of adult children were just kind of keeping on keeping on. They were happy and still had a good relationship [with their children]. Conversely, the parents of young children were still experiencing some angst as to whether they made the right decision for their child, whether they were on the right path, because they hadn’t yet seen the full fruits of their labor and their decision. They still accepted their deaf child but perhaps hadn’t fully accepted their decision to learn ASL. So the groups were different in that way. Interesting.
LG: And I wonder, like you mentioned, there’s no media spotlight on the horrors of language deprivation, encouraging discussion about this phenomenon, and raising awareness. Instead, the media has a lot of misinformation which is affecting those parents and their decision to go ahead and learn ASL. So perhaps this misinformation and misunderstanding among members of the media, these parents remain unsure of their decision.
ND: Right. To the media, ASL is still “new” and to use it in public…
One father I interviewed said, “Sometimes I still hope for a miracle.” I asked if that hope disrupted his language acquisition process and he admitted that it had. He had refrained from fully immersing himself, like he would “wade” in the ASL community but then come back out, then dip back in, etc. So there was one person who admitted to not being fully committed to his decision to learn ASL, he had not fully accepted his child’s deafness. So he did kind of hope for “greener pastures,” and that’s interesting to me.
LG: But it didn’t fully put the process on halt.
ND: No they didn’t.
LG: They still went ahead [with learning ASL] even though they still had some uncertainty, but still went ahead. But the result of that is the child still has language! If the process had fully been put on the back burner while they looked for a “cure” or what-have-you, speaking (orally) to the child, the child would have gotten further and further behind linguistically. So it’s interesting that, while they had some of the same uncertainty that others [who don’t learn ASL] experience, they decided to learn ASL at least for now, thinking, “maybe later we won’t need it,” you know, that trope of who “needs” ASL, who’s a good “candidate” for ASL. No one is a “candidate” for any language, but that’s common rhetoric around this issue.
ND: Right. Younger parents were still more unsure as they were still early in their journey to [full] acceptance with their deaf child learning ASL. Yet they carried on. Many people ask me, “Ok, what does that mean? What do you do now?” I joke, “oh that’s your problem now,” but no I’m kidding. Really, I think what it means is that we need an open conversation. I believe that acceptance is important. My concern is what do we do to foster that acceptance. “Yes, you have a deaf child. That’s fine. That’s ok. That’s cool! You get to learn a new culture, a new language, it’s cool!”
You know, the recent movie “Eternals,” through things like this, more and more people are getting exposure to ASL and Deaf culture. You know, my vision is that in the future, when new parents welcome a deaf baby, their neighbor or something who’s like, “Oh hey, how’s your new baby doing?” and the parent responds, “they’re great, they’re deaf,” the neighbor will be like, “oh cool, so you’re learning ASL,” because they already know if you have a deaf child, that’s what you do. They learn from TV, from movies etc. that it’s normal to learn ASL with your deaf child. I always tell my college students that in a perfect world, ASL would be boring. It wouldn’t be so…
LG: So novel or exotic.
ND: It’s just the status quo. I think that’s important and we’re still in the process of getting to that point. And of course it’s three steps forward and two steps back.
LG: Yes. Always. So, if you could pick one thing to change to really promote that early acceptance, as soon as the child is identified as deaf or hard of hearing, fostering acceptance. If you could change one thing, I realize this may be an impossible question, to get yoru theory out there and maybe test it, what would you change?
ND: Change about the world…
LG: Maybe focusing on the early identification process. You know, bringing the baby for a newborn hearing screening. “Oh, the baby failed the test.” First the word “failed” is problematic but putting that aside…the parents find out their baby did not pass the test, instead of sending them to an audiologist, a surgeon, ya know?
ND: Now, other people might disagree with this, you know LEAD-K, SB-210, they’ve done a good job with these. The government is involved. There are laws regarding tracking [linguistic] milestones. That’s great and I applaud these efforts. But I’ve noticed one thing and this isn’t a criticism, these efforts are great. They’ve changed education. But I’ve noticed that within these efforts they have to be more politically correct and “prim and proper” but I really think we need to be more aggressive. We need to call [language deprivation] abuse!
If you want someone to stop smoking, you don’t hint like, “oh you know, smoking is bad.” No, you say, “smoking will kill you.” How exactly to do this, I’m not sure, but we need to be more aggressive and be more blunt, not to parents…
LG: But to the system!
ND: “You don’t know ASL! Wow, that’s awful!” I know some people might not feel right with that, you know wanting to “catch more flies with honey,” but I just feel we need to be more confrontational about this. People have to know the consequences of not having early language exposure, the life-long consequences of language deprivation. You and I have discussed all of the various impacts, social, mental health, literacy, and the list goes on and the research on these is growing. All this inspires me to be more aggressive. But how, I’m not sure.
LG: Perfect, “become more aggressive.” “Call a spade a spade.” Don’t tip-toe around the issue. “Coat it in honey,” you said.
Ok, my last question for you to wrap this all up: what advice do you have for parents?
ND: I want parents to know it’s ok. Having an emotional response, having some angst, that’s ok and that’s normal. There’s so much conflicting information out there and so many resources, it can be very overwhelming. But keep going. One step at a time. I’ve interviewed many parents and they talk about going to these Starbucks meet-ups and they worry that they’re not good enough. And interacting with children, you don’t need college-level ASL. Start at the beginning and keep making progress. The parents and child can “grow up” together! That’s important. Parents should not feel pressure to be highly proficient, native-like in ASL very quickly. That isn’t necessary. Just take it one step at a time. Keep going and you’ll get better with time. Just as the parents learned English gradually as children, it’s the same process for ASL. So, yeah, I want to tell parents, “it’s ok!” “You started. That’s great! Keep going! There are many in the community, including professionals, to support you! Take advantage of all these resources. They’re ready for you!”
LG: Perfect! Thanks so much for joining me for this discussion. I just wish everyone knew about your dissertation. And I want to let everyone know it’s available here. Thank you so much, Dr. Dutra, for your time.
ND: Thank you! My pleasure!
Concerns on revoking the indoor mask mandate
16 March 2022
We were recently informed at my university that our mandate for wearing masks inside on campus will expire very soon, this coming Friday, just two days from now. Some background information. The California Faculty Association (CFA), our union, did a survey of over 700 faculty members in our local chapter. “Do you feel safe at school with the mask mandate?” About 57% said yes. But that still leaves a sizable minority who are concerned about becoming ill. CFA also asked, “Would you feel safe if the mask mandate were revoked?” Fifty-one percent said no. Despite that, the upper-ups declared that after March 18th, masks will no longer be required.
This is very concerning to me, and I’ve expressed my concerns (at the highest level) but they seem unconcerned. I’m frustrated by this. Also, our spring break starts this weekend. This means that students, faculty, and staff will be flying off here and there, visiting various places, taking advantage while our current covid numbers are low. But the new Omicron hasn’t hit here yet. So everyone’s flying and visiting and doing whatever they’re doing on spring break and they’ll return to campus, gathering indoors and out with no masks. What is likely to happen?
The upper-ups have set up a dangerous situation. When I expressed my concern, they said, “you can still wear a mask.” True. I can. But where’s the accountability to protect on another, those who are immunocompromised, have children under 5 who can’t be vaccinated, are caring for elderly parents or grandparents, or any other situation or condition that warrants more caution at the community level. But it’s up to the individual.
What this shows to me, is that the administration, again and again, shows disregard for disabled people, for chronically ill people. This happens all the time. Their words say they care for everyone in this campus community. Their actions tell a different story.
All we have now is our voice. Are you also concerned about this? I implore you to speak up! Write to our administrators! If they receive enough concerns/complaints, will they change their decision? Who knows. But I hope they’ll listen. If you feel concerned for yourself or for others, please use your voice and express your concerns to our administration. Thank you for reading.
15 February 2022
Hello. Maybe you’ve been wondering, “Where’s your vlogBlog? Where are your “Tips” series? What’s up?” I get it. I’m frustrated too. For a while now, all my energy and focus has been on more time sensitive tasks. Remember my Tip series about time management, I talked about the balance between “importance” and “urgency.”
I love my vlogBlog and sharing ideas, regardless of how many people watch or read it (and maybe there aren’t many). I enjoy making my Tips and, especially when people comment on them. I appreciate that engagement so much. At the same time, these activities are not time sensitive, nor are they urgent (usually). Other tasks pile on and they are urgent, so I have to complete them quickly. Every time I put time in the calendar for my vlogBlog or Tips, I end up having to put it off (indefinitely).
So that’s my struggle that I want to share with you. Sometimes we can't add more tasks to our schedule. We have to set boundaries and learn to say no. I’m not an expert in this, but I think I’m getting better.
I want to share that I do have a vlog ready that I need to finish editing and translate to English. I have ideas for several others and I have notes for different “Tips” series, I just need to find time to produce them.
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your understanding. We’re all on a journey and right now, mine’s a bit slow.
Thank you for reading.