Monday, July 26, 2010

It bothers me when you sign......

I debated about this post. It is very recent and personnel but since today is an important day for all people who have benefited from the ADA I just felt it was something I should post. I have edited out some details to protect people.

My son over the years has enjoyed the right to interpreters, a free and appropriate education and I hate to admit it cutting to the front of the line at Disneyland. About the cutting in line, please note I do not support that because he is deaf and perfectly able to wait like everyone else but he thinks it is grand.

Over the last twelve years I have also had to fight for his rights. Some fights I win and some I loose. My most recent stand was indirectly for my son and the jury is out on whether or not I won.

I posted earlier about my private preschool hiring a deaf teacher. It was a shock and I was so excited. The school seemed to support me interpreting for her at meetings and the parents loved how much their kids took off with the ASL. She was raised oral but only took the job because someone on staff could sign. It was my work place nirvana.

This is a long story so I will cut to the chase. We ended the year all very happy. I had a couple of weeks vacation and was scheduled to return full time for the summer program. The deaf teacher was to work during the break helping out around the school.

Somehow between the time I left for break and the time I was suppose to start things went wrong.

I was called to a meeting. I was told not to interpret for our deaf teacher. I was told she needed to learn to communicate with the rest of the staff using her oral skills. I was confused. I stated that she got exhausted after hours of speech reading. I was told she had been doing it all her life and it was good fo her. I stated that it was easy for me to interpret. I was told she needed to learn.

I was then told not to voice off sign with the children or the teacher. They were concerned people would think we are a "special needs" school. I stated that the parents loved the dual language environment. I was told the children would be confused when the went off to kindergarten and their teacher didn't use or care about ASL. I was told the children would most likely never meet or see a deaf person in their life. I stated the benefits of second language learning at a young age and the benefits of ASL for hearing children. I stated it was not a point if they met deaf people later in life.

There is much more to this story. Things that are so shocking to me but I will not share. I am just amazed when I realize people I spend a great deal of time with really want people like my son to take the role of disabled.

Again long story short. I texted the deaf teacher. We compared notes. She was told she was lucky to have parents who forced her to speak even though it caused her great pain which she had expressed to them. "You need to be grateful to your parents". She was told it bothered them when we signed. They thought she was grateful to get a job even though we both told them she was grateful to have someone at work who could sign. Again there is more....

We both quit.

I was later blamed for this. How could I do this to them. Not once was it mentioned what they did to us. A a parent of a Deaf child I had no choice.


  1. She needed to learn? what is she, a child? They should just let it go. I think whoever said that should have been fired for discrimination.

  2. you know, this is the type of attitude deaf people been fighting against. Sure we can speak for them, but think their attitude stink.

  3. They owned a bussiness with less than 10 employees.

  4. I quit on principle but they didn't learn a thing

  5. Report them here... Nothing legal will happen, but perhaps clients and others will see what kind of business they truly are.

    That sucks! I'm proud that you two quit that job. Nobody needs to subject themselves to that kind of environment.

  6. That's sad about their insensitivity and failure to understand what it's really like for a deaf oral person. Lipreading is almost an impossibility in a group setting, especially if one cannot benefit from her residual hearing. Lipreading is a taxing task, both physically and mentally, and wears one out very quickly.

  7. It sounds like someone with cerebral limitations took over. When that happens, it often first impacts the Deaf employee and it usually ends with the employee leaving. I've seen it happen many, many times.

    I could clearly get your frustration and anger in this blog. That the employee's parents' attitude was also brought in makes it especially hard...once two or more people fall into retro mode, they feed off each other and all the ADA rights go out the window. Presto, it's the old 1880's hostility again.

    The fight must go on. One by one, people need to be taught perspective and sensitivity. A strategy needs to be in place beforehand in case such an ignoramus takes over a key position, or the absence of a staffer who can sign puts them in an awkward position that they don't want.

    I'm with you and the Deaf teacher, however. I'd quit, too. Life's too short to deal with that garbage.(polite word substituted here)

  8. at the moment, I just filled with a deep-seated awe and happiness to see and read such a well expounded blog piece followed by the excellent supportive comments! I thank you all for your support behind this suddenly frustrating, perplexing, and sad incident that occurred.

    I new to this blog system; it's my first time posting a comment. You know, it was all so shocking for me and it happened in a way that was so quietly and subtly discriminating and insulting to my dignity, as a Deaf human being, especially with the "special ed" and "signing school" and that the child's future teacher won't care if they know sign or not concept.

    They were slowly but surely taking away my rights to an interpreter, whom didn't charge $50 an hr. and was happy to interpret for the hearing students and I. Not to mention that the only reason I applied there was because the website cited that the lead teacher signs fluent ASL, which they utilize at the school. I was relieved to find work in the hearing work field where I could go to work and no longer experience communication barriers. However, I was surprised at how they didn't take the time to learn while Mel was there and get to know her son. It's all so ridiculously stubborn and pompous to me. Whoops, I may get in trouble for writing this ha.

    There is so much more I want to input into this comment, but I worry it will transform into a boring novel, ha. It was like I was going back into time in the 1950s frustrating battles with my hearing parents all over again. At first, they appeared into it, and then slowly but surely nothing was what it really appeared to be, and I was slowly but surely becoming what they wanted to mold me into just like my hearing parents, so now that they have shown their true colors and do not genuinely accept the deaf culture nor the ASL Lang., I'm just relieved I made it out of there!!!!

    Most importantly, I am honored to have met the first hearing parent of a Deaf child whom signs ASL:) I respect you deeply for that!!!!

  9. I didn't know it was a small business. Anyway, it is not your fault (or hers). I went through something similiar. I can't describe the feeling when people start pointing at my ears and my communication whenever I try to advocate myself in workplaces. They made me feel like I was creating a "deaf" drama and often brush me off when I tell them writing is less frusting than speechreading. I'm afraid that hearing with hearing aids (or CI) is not easy as good vision (with vision, I don't have to contretrate to see what I want to see. I just see it). How well she does with speech and hearing should never be the reason why she should NOT sign. This is what she prefer because it is her life, not theirs. I tell ya, all it take is a deaf person or someone who don't speak their language to see a person's true side. That's why things go downhill so quickly after this person started working.

  10. I am disgusted. That is just pure audism at its "best", not to mention illegal and discriminatory! They should provide an interpreter for their Deaf employee, and they were LUCKY to have you doing it for free! To tell her that she needs to "learn" how to use her oral skills.... I cannot tell you how many times I've been told BY MY OWN FAMILY that I "just have to try harder to follow along" or some variation on that theme. But what they don't understand is that no matter how well I may be able to talk, I am STILL DEAF! It is nearly impossible to lipread in any kind of group setting (and that means more than two people).

    Just disgusting! I am glad you quit on principle, but wish you could have found a way to make them learn their lesson!

  11. Thank you for this post and all u r doing
    taking a stand for that which is right, just and good


    ur r a rare bird. can we clone u? (yes, i generally oppose tampering with the divine but in a few cases - i yield to the temptation to give the Big One a helping hand - we need folks like u - desparately)

    u wrote:
    "Not once was it mentioned what they did to us."

    this is one of the major victories in the ICED New Era doctrine

    It spells out some of the major harms that transpired by the oral / aural only mandate

    It says what "they did to us."

    and "us"

    is u me and our past kin and our future kin while we try to shift these wrongs to be right - it is gonna take a few more years to get the GOOD words of the New Era deal to flutter off those pages and into the hearts, hands and minds of the folks on the ground in charge of Deaf education

    its gonna take folks like us

    all hands on deck people

    one of the biggest "untold" stories is that of the parents - what u have had to endure

    how hard they made ur decisons

    how much they trampled on ur rights

    how often they tried to intimidate and shame u into doing that which u knew was counter-intuitive to being a good parent

    sadly for many parents who have gone the oral/aural only route - one of the biggest things that has been robbed from their relationship with their child is the opportunity to give their baby the full measure of UNCONDITIONAL love

    i know many of these parents chose what they were told to choose under the pretense of "its a Hearing world out there" and its in "suzy's best interest if you never sign with her" etc
    but access to a natural and fully accessible language is pretty much an inalienable right for babies - it is one of those physiological needs that Maslow speaks of

    and if u make the access to language after the critical period - u r considered cruel

    and if u make the access to language spotty by forcing the child to only have access to spoken language (with or without some extra artificial systems thrown in) and DENY them perfectly good, tried and test proven NATURAL and NORMAL language that Hearing babies are gobbling up)

    when you make them work for their language at 3 mo (yes they are implanting 3 mo old babies now) or at 6 mo or at 12 mo or at 4 yrs

    when they are never a moment where someone is signing to them ILY without any exhaustive means (auditory amplification, coded system, lipguessing...) you have INTENTIONALLY communicated - you are not ok as u were made and we can only have a relationship if u do all these things i demand of you because i love u and because its for your own good



    its for your own good to have to work to know that u r love

    i beg to differ

    i beg to differ

    sorry for the long reply but ya kinda zoned in on my biggest worry re: oral / aural only non-option



  12. typed a long blog-entry like reply and it just got rejected and sent off into cyber space without me having a copy - when will i learn "less is more"?


    so here is a different discussion in case the other one makes it in and folks dont want repetition

    i am very sorry you and your co-worker had AUDISM shoved in your face and her down her throat

    that was wrong and i admire u both for quitting

    MLK said "in justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" thank u for taking that stand and this stand / this choice to share this hard truth with all of us

    again i admire ya

    you wrote: "Not once was it mentioned what they did to us."

    this is the importance of the ICED New Era agreement - it does state what was done to us re: oral / aural only oppression and the disenfranchisement of Deaf folks and allies. maybe u want to mail them a copy of it?

    you wrote "A[s] a parent of a Deaf child I had no choice."

    this is VERY important. folks dont realize for those of us dedicated to truth force / soul force we see an moral obligation to do that which is right, just and good. When they deny us the choice to give to the child or a colleague that which is fully accessible and natural then we have no choice but to say "im outta here"

    thank u again

    *fingers crossed the comment system will accept this*


  13. as I'm reading your story, I can feel my stomach clench, because I have been in your situation many times throughout my life. It's emotionally painful, especially when in the "honeymoon" phase when everything is wonderful, and then at some point, the novelty wears off and ideal situation is no longer so ideal. I've learned that you can educate some people, but not everyone is ready to "get" it. Like Dr. DonG said, some members of my family still don't get it. Sad, isn't it? Sometimes you just have to let go and move on. You have the choice to either fight the situation or find another place for your peace of mind. One technique I've found that really helps, though, is spreading the word. So-called "programs for the deaf" like the one you describe are very conscious of their reputation in the community. When they know that people outside the program know about the discriminatory treatment of deaf people, often they will take steps to clean up their act. The program's administrators, such as the superintendent of the special education program, program specialist, or school board (the titles vary) may not truly care, but simply writing a letter may light a fire under their rears, especially if you "cc" others. Even if nothing changes in your lifetime, at least you will have some closure and feel like you did something.

  14. I thank everyone immensely for their supportive input, because I had no idea that there were other Deaf people like me going through the same challenges in the hearing work force as I. The anonymous put it well that as soon as a Deaf person started working there, everything turned around and went downhill - I was becoming a victim once again without even realizing it. It is a fact that lip reading is only 30% legible at its best, and when they cut the only lead teacher that knows ASL hours down from five days to just one day, I was finding myself in a whole new precarious situation among hearing people who were using me to their advantage or convenience because I'm an easy target - because of being raised orally with no access to any communication as an infant up through my childhood - a time frame when my parents were dealing with my deafness to their convenience and advantage because they can't accept my Deafness. The hardest part for me is how it's a lot easier for hearing people to learn a lang. than it is for a Deaf person to try to read lips and speak what they can't hear. I have had so many jobs where I couldn't read my bosses lips. Like Don G. mentioned about his family "...still not getting it..." I have the same exact unessential issue with my hearing family and parents. It's like Patti cited that what can it hurt to learn a lang. that is available to utilize so that you can provide your Deaf child with the unconditional love that is so critical in the first five years of a child's life?

  15. So wrong on so many levels, both personal and institutional. You may think that your action has no result, that they didn't learn, but I'm certain you've moved someone, something in that organization, and though it may not result in immediate change or anything that benefits you, your wonderful colleague or the children there at this moment, I think there will be a long-term effect to your principled statement.

  16. This is extremely upsetting. My only thought is that these people are so unprofessional that perhaps it is best not to be associated with them.

  17. HAHA Dianrez! Haddy said we need to feel sorry for them because of their mental dissablity! What he says is true. They really thought they knew what was best for us. There was no room to educate them. They didn't mean to be so paternalistic. That is where the story gets sad. One thing they asked the other teacher is a good example,

    "What do deaf people do for activities? Like after work."

    Serious, she was asked this. Perhaps they think all deaf people have a special needs club they go to until they are released in the morning for their menial jobs. They meant no harm but it is really clear they thought deafness was a limit to all life offers. It is as though they never really believed my son or my friend are happy and at home with their lives.

    Haddy's response to this

    "Deaf people stare at a wall waiting for a hearing person to show up and help them go to the grocery store"

    Yea, my kid is a smart ass.

    My friend's response,

    "I just go home and stare at the wall"

    oops, deaf friend is a smart ass.

    Thank you all for your comments of support. The other teacher and I are grateful.

  18. Mel,
    Are you an interpreter? (I only ask because I sure don't know)
    If you are...great...
    if you're not..why were you interpreting for a staff person?


  19. Good question. No I am not. This business had less than 10 employees.

    Reasonable accommodation was agreed upon at the time of hiring.

    My understanding is a small business can only take up to a $5000 tax credit to comply with ADA. Hiring a full time interpreter would have had a huge financial impact on this business. As I understand the law, ADA would not cover this accomodation in this situation. Of course I could be wrong.

  20. Hi Mel, so you were "signing" for a deaf staff person, not interpreting. There's is a difference. If you were signing, you as a staff person could participate in the discussion. If you were interpreting, you would be doing only that, and your opinions, thoughts, feelings would not be discussed.
    It is a hard place to be when you're trying to do two things at once, especially if you work there, too!

    I'm not a lawyer, nor am I a tax preparer (I'm an interpreter!) but I'm sad for both the deaf staff person, and for the school that thought they were being generous. Not following the law is not helping anyone.
    You COULD say that "Hiring an interpreter would have a huge financial impact," just as I could say, "Hiring this deaf staff person could have a huge financial impact, too." (and I mean that in the POSITIVE light) There could have been 10 more kids who enrolled BECAUSE of this staff person's expertise!

    But you've both quit, so lesson learned. Don't try to wear two hats at once, especially when it comes to interpreting!


  21. Point taken.

    I did interpret for the boss when she needed to convey information to the deaf teacher. I am sensitive to the role of an interpreter. Other times I signed to allow reasonable acomodation when I needed to participate and add opinion. The deaf teacher agreed to this. She is the "client".

    The law is complicated when you dig deep and advocate for a deaf child. Not all situations are required to hire an interpreter. In our case the state limits our enrollment. So the idea she could bring in more students and income does not apply. We were full. We did not have a postion open when she applied. So there is no leverage to be positive. People are not requiered to hire someone just because they apply and happen to be deaf protected by the ADA.

    The school presented as open and excited about this new teacher. The attitude changed after she was hired.

    The job was presented with the reasonable accomodation of me signing and interpreting for the teacher, who was qualified, to complete the tasks required for the job. By law ,as I understand it, the school was not required to hire an interpreter. My agreeing to this was easy and frankly welcome to me and the new teacher.

    I am reminded of the time my son needed dental work and I sought out a pratice with many employees because I knew by law they would have to provide a qualified interpreter. The lesson I learned is the law does not control human will.

    If needed, I am sure I will need to, I will wear two hats in the future. I hope that others can also be this fexiable.

    Off topic, I often advocate for the rights of qualified interpretrs as well.....

  22. You know, it's sad. Interpreting is not respected as a field, because deaf people get so marginalized. Nobody cares if they understand things most of the time. Who cares if they have a professional interpreter?

    I used to work at a daycare too, with deaf staff. It was really cool. At that time, I was an ASL student (now I'm a certified interpreter through RID, oh how times change). Anyway, I was expected to terp the staff meetings. I told my boss that I was woefully underqualified, but she and the deaf person didn't really care, so I gave it a go. Obviously, I didn't have your level of signing skill at the time (probably still don't), but the attitude of those in power is the same. Oh, well it would be nice if the deaf person understood things, but not ESSENTIAL, not anything to go out of your way for.

    It is the same crap attitude you get in the educational system too. Those who control the system are willing to let Deaf Ed. teachers NOT be fluent in ASL, or even intermediate, or even BASIC signers. Sign skill - the ability to communicate with those you teach - is considered non-essential, an extra. People who do the hiring are willing to let people who call themselves "interpreters" sit in front of deaf kids all day and give at-risk students limited, often incoherent, access to classroom content. Oh well, whatever. They don't need to learn, they're just deaf kids. They'll be on SSI. You see this attitude over and over.

    I can't believe what those people said about a 40 year old woman "needing to learn." OMFG.

    I understand why you decided to wear "two hats," and why you will again, because it's easier and you'd kind of be a jerk not to offer in that situation. Sometimes we can be too rigid in the "it's not my role!" thing. You have to remember that people are people, so it IS important to be flexible. It's just sad that people don't understand the need for professional interpreters. It's disheartening. It makes a lot of people stop trying, and that's where it can be dangerous. "Oh, he doesn't need an interpreter in the hospital, can't you do it? Oh, really, but it's just a little meeting with the judge, and our receptionist is taking an ASL class, isn't that good enough? Can't his daughter interpret the parent-teacher conference? It's really not important."

    Hey, isn't this the perfect opportunity for you to take that "Parent Ambassador" job that you posted about a while back? When God closes a door, he opens a window!

  23. I'm so sorry that you and the Deaf teacher had to experience this horrible situation, a perfect scenario of audism at its best. But it happens to all of us every single day. All we can do is take in the experience, learn from it and teach ourselves how NOT to get sucked into that type of situation again. I quit 2 jobs in the past due to audism. Think "mean girls" and that what was I was dealing with...and these people were adults! One of the jobs was at a Deaf school but it was the hearing people who made the experience miserable. Haddy is right...these people have a mental disability! =P

    Hang in there and you and the Deaf teacher will find a job that you absolutely love and where everyone is treated respectfully and equally. I know because it happened to me. I've been at my job as the ASL Program Coordinator and Professor at the University of Vermont for 5 years now (longest job ever!) and I love it with every fiber of my being. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Good luck with the job search! =)

  24. Oh Mel! I'm just catching up to your posts -- been away for awhile. This is terrible. I'm so sorry for you and your friend.

    I can't beleive that they treated you(either of you) with such disrespect. I thought they cared about you, what you both offered, and the children in their school. Clearly, not.