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Week in Review (Aug 22-27)
It’s the end of summer and news has been relatively slow in the deaf and hard-of-hearing world. Four years has passed since Congress signed off on a law to allow over-the-counter sales of hearing aids in hopes of lowering the price of hearing aids and increase competition. New products are now popping out onto the marketplace, but federal regulators haven’t issued any kinds of related rules for manufacturers. As a result, it’s hard to know the quality of the new devices and several state attorneys general have warned consumers to be extremely careful before spending anything. “There are many more options than there were in 2017 when Trump signed the Hearing Aid Act into law,” Nancy Williams, president of Auditory Insight, a hearing industry consulting firm in New Haven, Conn., told NBC. “In a sense, you can say the OTC revolution is happening without the FDA, but the difficulty is it is happening more slowly than if the FDA issued its rules on time.” Barbara Kelley, the executive director of the Hearing Loss Awareness Association of America says the FDA delay “has done more harm than good.”
This week also saw the introduction of a nw app, fingerspelling.xyz, that uses a game to help teach ASL. A person’s webcam tracks their hand movements and the app analyzes the person’s accuracy. "The game leverages advanced hand recognition technology, matched with machine learning, to give you real-time feedback via the webcam for each sign and word you spell correctly," said Anders Jessen, founding partner of app developer Hello Monday.
“CODA” came out two weeks ago and it’s still getting plenty of coverage. Writer-director Sian Heder told Variety that she thought the double meaning of “coda” in the both the deaf and musical worlds made sense for her in a coming-of-age story. “To me, ‘CODA’ also represents the end of childhood, saying goodbye to the identity which exists within your family, bringing that part of your life to a close,” she said. Heder also noted how important the connection between sign language and music. "I see the film as a conversation between these two languages — ASL and music — which echo each other in very beautiful ways. The idea that those two things are separate worlds is a misconception and it’s important to understand the overlap between those two experiences.””
Five Other Interesting Stories:
•University of Colorado freshman soccer player Holly Hunter was born deaf and now wears cochlear implants. She hopes to someday be the first player on the US Women's Deaf Soccer team and the US Women's National Team.
•This grandma in Buffalo, New York, had her relatives and neighbors learn a song in ASL to surprise her granddaughter.
•Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is asking for $90 million for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.
•An Arizona hospital has paid out $50,000 to a deaf patient after failing to provde a sign-language interpreter.
Week in Review (Aug. 14-21)
The past week saw more positive fallout from critical fave “CODA,” the film that features three deaf actors and tells the story of a hearing high schooler navigating her potential break from her deaf family. Writer-director Sian Heder shared how she fought to have deaf actors play the three deaf roles. Marlee Matlin got lots of love from different publications – and she used it to advocate for more deaf representation in media.
Another positive result from “CODA” getting so much love is the attention being given to Troy Kotsur, who plays the father in the film. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films has signed on to help finance “Flash Before the Bang,” a film about an all-deaf track team that will also feature Nyle DiMarco and Deanne Bray.
Also, Deaf actor Lauren Ridloff may be seeing more of how she can affect the general culture in a post-“CODA” world. She is starring as a deaf Marvel superhero in the upcoming “Eternals.” She spent her childhood looking for people like her in books and movies and the worldwide influenceof the Marvel Cinematic Universe excites her. "i'm coming into this industry at a time where Hollywood is rethinking what it means for inclusivity," she said, according to CNET. "If you look at the movies before in the MCU catalog, there wasn't one superhero of color and with different abilities ... I think people nowadays are much more interested in the human aspect of those superheroes."
It also didn’t seem like a coincidence that NBC's "New Amsterdam" announced that it is gaining a new character: a deaf surgeon. The part will be played by Sandra Mae Frank, a deaf actress who previously turned heads in a guest starring role on "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist."
Four Other Interesting Stories:
•DC has finally funded its Office for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind to the tune of $836,000.
•Some "Bachelor in Paradise" viewers are annoyed because star Noah Erb said he wanted to spend time with cochlear implant-wearing Abigail Heringer because she is deaf irked a few fans.
•Here's why all the sign-language interpreters wear very similar clothing.
Week in Review (Aug. 7-13)
"CODA" opens today in theaters and on Apple+. After winning the Grand Jury, Audience Award, and Best Director, Drama, prizes at this year’s Sundance, the film that stars three deaf actors and tells the story of a hearing daughter who has been the family’s connection to the hearing world but now wants to head out to college is finally available to the general public – and it’s getting a ton of press. The media attention is mostly because of the Sundance frenzy as well as because Marlee Matlin, who famously won the Best Actress Oscar back in 1987 for her work in “Children of a Lesser God.” Matlin, long an advocate for the deaf, put her foot down when the film’s execs were considering casting hearing actors in the other deaf roles. This week, all of the deaf actors (and hearing) got coverage and the media also got down into deeper ideas, such as Hollywood beginning to show that it is ready to cover more nuanced stories of marginalized groups, why deaf actors should be playing deaf roles, and how “ASL Masters” have made inroads in Hollywood. In addition to all of the other ground “CODA” has broken, it also, after much discussion, features captions on all of its screenings in order for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers to enjoy it in full.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce new rules for over-the-counter hearing aids in the next three months. Once the barrier of high prices falls, far more hearing aids are expected to be sold. The next step, however, will be figuring out ways to destroy another wall: stigma. “The intensity with which society stigmatizes hearing loss today parallels the potency with which society once glamorized cigarette smoking,” reports Nancy M. Williams in MedCityNews. “Strategies for combating the intensity and infiltration of a set of beliefs that leads to poor health outcomes is what makes anti-smoking campaigns a powerful analog on the eve of a new OTC hearing aid category.”
Plenty of folks are still curious about Kelly Kurdi, the sign-language interpreter who came to fame while performing "WAP" at Lollapalooza. Kurdi is a freelance interpreter and now has a slew of followers on her Instagram, where she is using her newfound fame to further support Deaf culture. “If you’re new to my page, you’ll quickly see this is a space meant to amplify the work of Deaf creators and to provide access to social media content for the Deaf community. I’m a hearing interpreter, so I do not teach,” she wrote. “In this post, I will direct you to some amazing Deaf ASL teachers, Deaf influencers and other Deaf content creators.“ Meanwhile, others see the love Kurdi is suddenly getting as a form of audism.
Meanwhile, a park in Tehran, Iran, has been designed specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors. Archdaily shares the thinking behind the park, which features rounded seating so individuals can see one another to converse and entrances that can easily be seen from various angles so that no surprise visitors suddenly appear beside those who couldn’t hear them approaching. The idea is to create a space where it is easy to see others. “Lightweight doubly curved parasols are designed with angled stems to minimize visual obstructions,” reports the site. “Furthermore, the parasols are designed with height and canopy measurements that balance light and shadow, as high contrast light and shadow also prevent visual legibility during the signing.” Research for the project led to the publishing of the book “101 Tips for Designing for a Deaf-Friendly City.”
Five Other Interesting Stories:
•Last year, Rose Ayling Ellis became the first deaf actor to be featured on the British soap "The EastEnders." Now she's breaking new ground by being the first deaf competitor on the BBC's "Strictly Come Dancing."
•Consumer Reports gets into the myths and truths of buying hearing aids -- and why you should do it sooner rather than later.
•The gorillas at Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee are learning basic sign language.
•Freethink reports on the studies that show that it may be possible to regenerate damaged inner-ear hair cells and allow those with hearing issues to hear better.
•A New Jersey woman who has cochlear implants has opened up her store for deaf and hard-of-hearing events.
Week in Review (July 31-Aug. 6)
When Megan Thee Stallion performed "WAP" at Lollapalooza, her ASL interpreter, Kelly Kurdi, suddenly gained a slew of Instagram fans after a video of her was posted on TikTok. Guilherme Vital Senise da Silva posted the video and told BuzzFeed, "I decided to record her because I am really a fan of music interpreters. I've [taken] some Brazilian Sign Language classes before, so I was trying to see how she was going to sign every song of that concert." Meanwhile, Kurdi is seizing her moment and has psoted links to advocates of the deaf on her Instagram page in the hopes that her new fans will explore the deaf and hard-of-hearing world further. "Do your part to make the world more accessible and caption your content!" she wrote. "Provide ASL interpreters whenever possible. Support Deaf creators. And if you're still wondering why deaf and hard of hearing people go to concerts follow these pages and learn something new."
Also, the Hollywood Reporter preps the world for the debut of “CODA” next week. The film, a darling at Sundance, tells the story of deaf parents and their soon-to-be-college-bound hearing daughter, who has served as a translator and bridge to the hearing world. The film features three deaf actors, including the famed Marlee Matlin, who tells the publication that she nearly left the film when a hearing actor was being considered to play her deaf husband. THR also notes that while Hollywood has a ways to go toward being fully accessible to all, there are a few ways the industry is trying to be more open to the deaf and hard of hearing.
When Samantha Johnson was a sophomore at Northeastern University, she took an ASL class, she interacted with people from a Deaf-Blind program. “When I was watching the interpreter sign, I asked, ‘How do you communicate without the interpreter?’” and the answer was simply, “‘We don’t.” Johnson aimed to do something about that. Now she’s a graduate student and she’s created a robotic hand that signs so the deaf-blind can touch the hand and understand what is being communicated. “I’m very excited for this new opportunity to help improve this robot,” one of the deaf-blind people helping to test out the robot said. The robot could help the deaf-blind communicate with others even when a human interpreter is not nearby.
On a sadder note, Scientific American reports that deaf children in developing countries are being given inferior cochlear implants. “In the United States, all children, including those on Medicaid and other public assistance programs, receive the latest technology. And what does this mean for sensory life, children’s capabilities and maximizing potential? While cochlear implants are becoming more popular, differential implantation is introducing new inequalities,” Michelle Friedner writes.
Five Other Interesting Stories:
•European automaker Citroen is claiming to be the first auto seller to provide a sign language video relay service in its showrooms.
•Lots of ads are out there these days for Personal Sound Amplification Products, but folks shouldn't confuse PSAPs with hearing aids.
•Golfer Diksha Dagar didn't know she would be competing in the Olympics until pretty late in the game, but nothing makes this hard-of-hearing Indian prouder.
•To raise money to help people afford hearing aids, Ruzzelle Gasmen is creating and selling hearing aid accessories inspired by Filipino folklore and beauty-pageant winners.
•A new short film out of Canada, "Fable Deaf," aims to show hearing people the ongoing frustrations of the deaf in today's hearing world.
Week in Review (July 23-30)
Hope you've all had a lovely week. The Olympics grabbed plenty of headlines this week and here’s one for us: Dave Smith, who has only 10-15% of his hearing, is one of the stars of the US Men’s Volleyball team. This is his third Olympics. “Sports were definitely a confidence booster for me,” he said. “It was something I thrived at despite having quote-unquote a disadvantage. I think for me personally, that was great for my mental understanding of who I am and what I can do, but I think it was also a unique way of me integrating myself with the ‘normal’ hearing world.”
Also, this week marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deafblind consumers are asking for equality in telephone access. The Federal Communications Commission is now revisiting the future of the Video Relay Service program and has the opportunity to meet the needs of this community. Things are looking up right now. “When we improve access to communications for millions of individuals with disabilities, we strengthen our economy, our civic life, and our nation,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said this week, according to The Hill. It doesn’t hurt that the FCC is hearing from a slew of deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind as well as their families and friends to get this fixed. We shall see if they do.
Also this week: A deaf woman in Britain won a court case against the government over the lack of sign-language interpreters at two Covid briefings. This inaccessibility to information “served to disempower, to frustrate and to marginalize,” the judge said. The amount of financial compensation has yet to be named.
And, finally, children with solid tumors in the brain, liver, and bone are usually treated with cisplatin, a highly effective chemotherapy; it has been in use since the 1960s and half of the children who use the drug end up being hard of hearing. Now a group of researchers have identified a genetic variant that increases the risk of hearing loss in children that use this drug. The hope is that predictive tests can be developed so it can be seen which patients will likely lose hearing during or after the use of cisplatin.
Four Other Interesting Stories:
•The government of Belarus is helping its deaf and hard-of-hearing residents who are struggling with the inability to read lips due to mask-wearing by installing speech-to-text screens in some key government locations.
•An 8-year-old in Detroit is inadvertently serving as an advocate of cochlear implants.
•In 2019, 13 percent of American adults had difficulty hearing -- even with hearing aids.
•Cochlear implantation in the Black community is disproportionately low.
Week in Review (July 17-22)
Becca Myers has won six medals in swimming at past Paralympics but the deaf and blind athlete, who has inspired so many, pulled out of this year’s Games in Tokyo after she was denied the ability to bring a personal care assistant with her to navigate travel and daily rituals. Organizers are keeping the number of people at the actual events as low as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. Meanwhile, on the Olympics side, the equestrian team can bring horse groomers and the golf team can bring caddies. "I'm angry, I'm disappointed, but most of all, I'm sad not to be representing my country," the 26-year-old wrote on Twitter. "So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights? I'm speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in the hope that they never have to experience the pain I've been through. Enough is enough."
In France, vests that vibrate in time to the music in order to include deaf and hard-of-hearing concert attendees were debuted. “I think this is a big step forward for these audiences, who are often on the fringes of many cultural events,” Nathalie Perdu, organizer of a music festival, told franceinfo. Originally designed for gamers , the vests aren’t just for dance and rock concert attendees, either. The vests, valued at around $1,200, will make an appearance at classical and baroque music festival in late July. Marie-Claire Hall, who is profoundly deaf, demonstrated the vest by dancing to Michael Jackson. “Without the vest, I can’t hear the music,” Hall said. “But thanks to the vibrations, I can feel everything. I’m so happy.”
Meanwhile, at the University of Maryland, researchers launched a new online tool that should help advance medical discoveries that help reverse progressive hearing loss. It basically collects data from hundreds of studies and gives access to genetic and other molecular data. “It saves scientists a huge amount of time,” said Ronna Hertzano, MD, PhD. “Instead of relying only on identifying mutations in genes for hearing loss, researchers can easily identify which cells express any gene in the ear, and how this expression changes, for example, as a result of noise exposure or in processes of regeneration in other species."
Four Other Interesting Stories:
•One communications CEO breaks down how the FCC could provide tech funding to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.
•Bad news: More evidence shows ties hearing loss to an increased risk of dementia.
•BTS made big news when it used sign language in its latest video. William Martinez, a professional actor and musician who grew up in a deaf community, walks readers through the video's importance.
•Rockford, Illinois, has a new mural in town that honors the local deaf and hard-of-hearing commjnity.
Week in Review (July 9-16)
I hope you are all well and enjoying your summer. After taking a break from the site, for a bit, I’m back with renewed energy. Here’s a wrap-up of what’s new in the DHH world in the last week.
President Biden signed a new executive order that seeks to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter. The expense of hearing aids is a big reason why only 14% of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss use them according to the White House. The hope is that regulators will speed up the process of allowing over-the-counter sales. As Marketplace points out, though, Americans still need to deal with the stigma of hearing aids.
In Israel, the legislature, Knesset, now has its first deaf member, and she was sworn in using sign language. She also gave her first speech to Knesset in sign, breaking yet another boundary. She’s long been an advocate for disability rights. "From a young age, I have with my parents, experienced firsthand on my body and on my soul, the lack of accessibility, the lack of awareness and the inherent societal barriers," she said. Now she has the power to do something about it.
Marlee Matlin isn’t happy to be the only deaf person to ever win an acting Oscar, she tells Backstage. “We need other Oscar winners who are deaf,” says Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actor to win the coveted award. “We need to see more deaf actors hired, more disabled actors hired—and not only actors,” she said. “I’m talking about producers, directors, writers—giving the entire Hollywood workforce an opportunity for deaf people and disabled people to participate.” However, Matlin, who stars in the Sundance hit “CODA,” would be happy to hang onto her spot as the youngest woman to ever win Best Actress for her work in “Children of a Lesser God” at the age of 21. “Anyone over 21, fine! Go ahead—win the Oscar. I don’t care.”
Students made quite a stir when they debuted gloves that would translate the actions of Filipino Sign Language to speech, but a few deaf and hard-of-hearing advocates aren’t fully behind the new technology. “We’re not comfortable with that (invention), it’s like we lost our natural sign language nature because there’s a lot involved when we sign,” said China Salvo, a representative of TerpCap Services, a startup company that aims to serve the deaf and hard of hearing communities digitally through sign language interpretation and captioning. In my opinion, the technology is extremely cool, but a “listener” can miss the nuance of body movement and facial expression if he or she isn’t paying close enough attention. Sign isn’t just about the hands.
Five Other Interesting Stories:
•Deaf scientists are looking to create more ASL terms for scientific words in order to open up the world of science to more deaf people.
•BTS uses sign language in its latest music video.
•Post-pandemic, doctors are seeing an increase in hard-of-hearing patients.
•Texas is the first state with its own statewide Deaf Chamber of Commerce.
•Apple and Gallaudet have teamed up to showcase deaf-friendly businesses on Apple Maps.
Week in Review (5.8-5.13)
You never know whose name is going to pop up in deaf and hard-of-hearing news. Beyonce and the NAACP have given grants to more than 700 small businesses across the country to help them ride out the effects of the pandemic. One of them is Tampa’s American Sign Language Network, which was founded by Kentrell Martin, the bestselling author of “Shelley’s Adventures,” a book series that incorporates ASL.
In the early days of the pandemic, protests related to the poor treatment people of color disproportionately receive from police across the United States broke out. In those Black Lives Matter protests, looking for social justice, were more than a few ASL interpreters. This video tells their story.
In an effort for more voices to be heard, the BBC just commissioned 12 deaf, neurodivergent, and disabled artists to create new film and audio content this summer. “Silent World,” a short music film by deaf musician Signkid is one of the commissioned works. “It’s imperative that D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists are supported to carry on making brilliant work, as the constraints and continuing effects of this pandemic threaten to silence their total creative voice,” said Lamia Dabboussy, BBC’s head of arts.
Meanwhile, now that over-the-counter hearing aids are legal, Bose has thrown its name into the product ring with a new $850 FDA-approved aid. These aids can be programmed and controlled by the purchaser rather than an audiologist. Over-the-counter aids are still a bit of an experiment as it remains to be seen how effective they are and if consumers can program them well enough for their own specific hearing situations.
It’s also looking like deaf and hard-of-hearing folks will soon be getting a little more representation in government hallways. Legislators in both New York State and in British Columbia are looking to create offices that will offer help to DHH residents.
Five Other Interesting Stories:
•New data is showing that the algorithms within hearing aids may actually be degrading people's sound-discrimination abilities.
•Motorhead was known for being one of the world's loudest rock bands. Guitarist Phil Campbell shares what it feels like to have the resulting severe hearing loss.
•Meredith Crane is the mother of two deaf children. She also runs Keepsake T-Shirt Quilts and Blankets in Columbus, Ohio. After witnessing discrimination against her own children, she began to hire deaf and hard-of-hearing workers and has now done so for more than two decades.
•Discover goes in-depth on how exactly cochlear implants work.
Week in Review (4.30-5.7)
“Audible,” a new documentary from Netflix, follows Maryland School for the Deaf football player Amaree McKenstry and his pals during their senior year. Nyles DeMarco and Peter Berg, the fella who created “Friday Night Lights,” are the film’s executive producers. Director Matt Ogens has had a deaf best friend since 8 and told Variety how important DiMarco’s involvement was for the film: “He really helped in a significant way, making sure that we were making a film not just for the hearing community, but for the deaf community.” He also was very impressed with Netflix’s sensitivity to accessibility in general and the company’s respect toward all communities involved in a project. Ogens was also incredibly inspired by the Deaf community that surrounded him: “They don’t complain about their lot in life,” he said, “like the rest of us do about much smaller things. I learned a lot from them.”
As we all know, Deaf people get a lot of questions from hearing folks. So two deaf best friends decided to do something about it: launch a podcast, What the Deaf?, to try to explain to the hearing what it’s like to be deaf. The idea came when the two Californians were sitting at a bar in Ireland. “Let us go in their comfort zone of headphones and open the dialogue,” podcaster Sarah Tubert told the Orange County Register. “Let’s answer all the ignorant questions, or the questions that people are afraid to ask, and open it up, and prove to people that even though we’re deaf we can still have a podcast.”
Meanwhile, Deaf artist and designer Myles de Bastion put forth the idea that Virtual Reality could be a very good tool for Deaf people to communicate with hearing. Between improved hand tracking and environmental captioning, VR could be helpful in bridging the Deaf-hearing divide.
In that same vein is a new app called EqualComm that was designed by a graduating deaf senior at Arizona State University. “We see the opportunity to educate hearing individuals in American Sign Language and provide real-time virtual ASL interpreting,” said the app’s designer, Dylan Lang. We wish him success.
What we hope isn’t successful is any attempt to take advantage of those looking for a new hearing device. The U.S. Government signed into law last year a bill that allows consumers to buy hearing aids over the counter. This week, the Attorneys General of both Ohio and Arkansas gave warnings to their constituents to be careful of over-the-counter and mail-order hearing aids. “Some of these products are not much better than putting your hand up behind your year,” said Ohio AG Dave Yost, who feared that some people would soon suffer from “money loss” as well as hearing loss.
In other legal news, a jury decided a week ago that 3M had to fork over $6 million to three military veterans who suffered hearing loss and claimed that the company covered up design defects. The company is expected to appeal, especially since there are more than 200,000 other similar claims waiting to be dealt with. "The evidence is clear: 3M knew their earplugs were defective, yet they allowed our service members to suffer these life-altering injuries," said a statement from attorneys Bryan Aylstock and Christopher Seeger.
In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Walmart for not providing an ASL translator or closed captioning for a deaf job applicant. The Walmart located in Decatur, Ill., contacted the applicant for an interview and then declined to interview the applicant after he requested a translator.
Six other interesting stories:
•America adults claim that they value their hearing, but new research shows they aren't doing much to make sure its as good as it can be.
•For one week in Britain, every time someone says '"You're on mute" during an online meeting, a donation will be made to help deaf children.
•A deaf hurdler, who runs and studies in a mainstream high school in Texas, has made it to the state championships.
•A Maine game warden started to lose his hearng as he aged. Now he's a big advocate for cochlear implants.
•A British morning show is feeling the heat after presenting a segment on Deaf Awareness Week that featured no captions or ASL translators.
•John Brewster, Jr., was one of the seven original students at the first school for the deaf in the United States way back in 1817. He was also a prolific painter and a number of his portraits are now beind donated to the American Folk Art Museum.
Week in Review (4.22-4.29)
A few things stick out this week: The White House had an ASL interpreter at President Biden’s speech to Congress on Wednesday night. Incredibly, this was a first.
Another first in the last week was a debate between Gallaudet and George Washington University. It marked the first ASL-English college debate in history and interpreters were used throughout. The subject was whether DC should become a state; Gallaudet proved to be the winner.
The Academy Awards on Sunday also featured a few DHH points of interest: “Sound of Metal” won for Best Sound, while “Feeling Through,” which features a deaf/blind actor in the lead, lost for Best Live Action Short Film. While it was great to see Marlee Matlin signing the introduction for the Best Documentary categories, the broadcast got a lot of flak for moving the camera away from her without providing captions. Conversely, Google got a bit of love for the ad it ran during the Oscars that showcased deaf grandparents meeting and communicating with their baby grandson.
Three other interesting stories.
•Some deaf folks aren't happy with the rise in hearing TikTokers using ASL and have started #SignInLine, which advocates for the Deaf community to benefit from the use of ASL, whether it is being used on social-media channels or being sold on T-shirts.
•Seven students from the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind are preparing to compete in a 70-mile boat race on Washington’s Puget Sound in June.
•RIT and NTID are about to conduct the first study ever on the reproductive health experiences of deaf women.