How to learn sign language: 9 apps and resources to teach yourself ASL

Learning to sign is easier than ever, thanks to the internet.

The visual language, designed to aid the deaf or hard of hearing, is a set of gesticulations and hand movements that correspond to the spoken word.

There are numerous ways to learn American Sign Language (ASL) outside the old classroom method. From free online lessons to video tutorials, a world of possibilities is open for those aspiring to teach themselves this hands-on language

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Walmart is getting rid of greeters; disabled workers worried

As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar blue-vested "greeters" at some 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they're being ill-treated by a chain that styles itself as community-minded and inclusive.

Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding "customer host" role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound (11-kilogram) packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods.

That came as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other physical disabilities. For them, a job at Walmart has provided needed income, served as a source of pride and offered a connection to the community. Now Walmart, America's largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain's most visible and beloved employees.

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DEAFBLIND AWARENESS WEEK ACROSS THE NATION 2018

Thanks to a lot of hard work Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week (DBAW) got some great attention around the country. The following are just a few of the activities:

  • OKLAHOMA:  Governor Mary Fallin issued a proclamation recognizing DBAW 2018 and the accomplishments of deaf-blind Oklahomans.  This proclamation came shortly after House Bill 1244, also known as the “Jeri Cooper Act,” was passed.  The bill increases deaf-blind Oklahomans' access to Support Service Providers by providing grants for the program through the Department of Rehabilitation Services. The Bill was named in honor of Jeri Cooper, a rehabilitation teacher with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services who is deaf-blind herself.  Jeri was a major advocate for creating a SSP program in Oklahoma.  Accompanying Jeri at the signing were HKNC regional representative, Molly Sinanan and former HKNC student, Don G.

  • NEBRASKA:   A proclamation issued by the Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, was read at a ceremony which included Carlos Servan, executive director of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Mike Foley, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Nebraska.  Others of note in the audience were Brent M., a Summer Youth Vocational Program at HKNC student this past summer  

  • NORTH CAROLINA:  Governor Roy Cooper issued a DBAW proclamation which was read at many events across the state by Ashley Benton, LCSW, Deaf/Deaf-Blind Services Coordinator with the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • KENTUCKY:  Families and long range service plan partners gathered to celebrate the signing of a DBAW proclamation issued by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

  • TENNESSEE: During the Southeast Transition Institute in Knoxville, Tennessee, a proclamation from Governor Bill Haslem was read and presented to the community by Lisa Rimmell,  Tennessee’s new state deaf-blind coordinator through VR.   Since Lisa came on board, there has been a lot of hard work spreading awareness, providing workshops and collaborating on various events.  One of the mentors for the Institute was former HKNC student, Ashley J.

  • PUERTO RICO:  Two staff members from the Deaf-Blind Project in Puerto Rico joined other partners in celebrating the DBAW proclamation.   Over the past year, HKNC has worked with Linda McDowell and Mike Fagbemi from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) in building relationships and meeting with families.

  • SOUTH CAROLINA:  Big smiles with families and Deaf-Blind Project members showing their proclamation from Governor Henry McMaster.  The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Stephen Benjamin, also issued a proclamation.

 

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Deaf And Unemployed: 1,000+ Applications But Still No Full-Time Job

Amanda Koller is getting her second master's degree. She has applied for more than 1,100 jobs in the past year. She hasn't gotten any full-time, permanent job offers.

She is also profoundly deaf.

The unemployment rate among the deaf is staggering. Fewer than 40 percent of those with a hearing disability work full time, according to the Yang-Tan Institute at Cornell University's analysis of 2016 American Community Survey data. Despite improvements in technology and accommodations that are making it easier for deaf people to work and communicate, deaf job hunters say employers still don't believe they can do the work.

"I apply to grocery stores and I can't even get a job there," said Koller, who lives outside Washington, D.C. "If you can't hear or speak right, you're not going to get a job. I don't think it matters what the company is, or what your background and work experience is."

On paper, Koller's background is impressive. She has a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelor's in health sciences from Temple University. She's currently working toward a second master's in health care quality management from George Washington University.

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DeafBlind, but Definitely Not Disconnected

Here’s what JennyLynn Dietrich would like you to know about her:

She’s taken service learning trips to Guatemala and Ghana. She’s a chocolate snob who wouldn’t dare touch the generic stuff. She’s engaged to be married next year. She loves to paint, draw, and perform on the theater stage. And she’s passionate about helping others, pointing them toward the resources that could help them change their lives.

You might learn these things if you just ask her. But Dietrich says people are often too afraid or intimidated by two of her more obvious traits: she is deaf and blind.

One of the main points Dietrich hopes to make in her TEDxSalem talk, entitled “DeafBlind: Blind but Not Blind,” is that people with disabilities value autonomy — they want to be seen as regular productive members of society, just like those without disabilities.

“We don’t want people’s pity,” she says. “We just want to be accepted as equals.”

Born with a rare hereditary condition called Stickler syndrome, Dietrich is fully blind in her left eye and has limited vision in her right. She’s also profoundly deaf in her left ear, but she can hear a bit in her right with a hearing aid. Her preferred method to communicate is American Sign Language. She also uses a form of communication called ProTactile — developed by the DeafBlind community — that involves signing on someone’s hand or using parts of their body to help give visual or emotional cues.

During her early years growing up in Oklahoma, Dietrich attended a mainstream school. It wasn’t until high school that she went to a state school for the deaf. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Ultimately she moved to Seattle to work as a Case Manager at the DeafBlind Service Center. She helped other DeafBlind people by providing services to make their lives easier — including advocacy, information and referrals, education, and outreach — and she ultimately discovered she had a passion for helping others.

One of the most useful resources Dietrich found in Seattle was Support Service Providers (SSPs) — sighted guides who provide DeafBlind people with visual information about their environment so that they can participate in regular mainstream activities such as grocery shopping, reading mail, or banking.

“When I moved to Oregon, it was a challenge because there’s not an SSP program here for people like me to access,” she says. “I’ve been working hard this year to get something like that established here by reaching out to other DeafBlind people in the community and leaders in public service.”

Dietrich came to the Willamette Valley to pursue graduate studies at Western Oregon University. She is no longer a student there, but she is focusing her time on attempting to develop supports for DeafBlind people in the state. She is currently a facilitator for a nonprofit called the Oregon DeafBlind Community Alliance Network, something she hopes will become a larger statewide organization to help provide resources to those who need it.

Advocacy would be a critical part of their work — to help the general public look beyond their disabilities and learn about their interests, their personalities, and their goals.

“Instead of watching us in fear from afar,” she says, “be brave, and come and learn from us by engaging with us!”

Source: http://tedxsalem.us/deafblind-but-definite...

Fort Sill sued for ending contract that employs the blind

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma state agency is suing the federal government in an attempt to block a local military base from ending its contract with a vendor who employs blind workers.

The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday. That agency is tasked with expanding independence and economic self-sufficiency for disabled Oklahomans. The lawsuit is against the United States of America, by and through Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

The complaint requests a restraining order and injunctive relief to block Fort Sill, the Army post in Lawton, from ending its contract with a cafeteria services vendor.

The argument hinges on the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act. The law was passed in the 1930s and gives priority to blind vendors, who are licensed as so through the state, when choosing vendors operating on federal property, such as military installations.

The current vendor, David Altstatt, is the Department of Rehabilitation Services-appointed blind vendor for the Army post. The current contract includes one base year and four option years, and Altstatt’s company is in the second option year, according to the lawsuit. In February, the defendants notified rehabilitation services officials that they intended to terminate the contract. The department argues that the defendants didn’t give proper notification to the U.S. secretary of education, who oversees the program. The Oklahoma rehabilitation department requested arbitration with that secretary and defendants in April, according to the lawsuit. In August, the defendants issued a solicitation for a replacement vendor. That solicitation is what the lawsuit attempts to block.

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Disability agency serving 3,424 jobseekers transferred from waiting lists since January 1

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Department of Rehabilitation Services has transferred 3,424 job seekers with significant disabilities from waiting lists to active caseloads since January 1.

DRS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services staff began providing career planning and employments services to 505 new clients in the most recent group moved from waiting lists on November 7.

In 2017, VR and VS staff helped 2,014 clients successfully prepare for and find employment and served 11,765 Oklahomans with disabilities working towards that goal. The new taxpayers earned an average of $22,212 per year and paid $3,332 in average taxes, while reducing or eliminating dependence on disability benefits and government services.

DRS’ waiting lists have been in place since March 13, 2017, due to prior year revenue reductions.

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Texas' twisted excuse for removing Helen Keller

Sara Novic is a Deaf writer and assistant professor of creative writing at Stockton University. Her first novel, "Girl at War," was released by Random House in 2015. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. The Deaf community uses a capital "D" to differentiate between people who identify with Deaf culture and identity, and the physical lack of hearing. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.

On September 14 the Texas State Board of Education made a series of key votes that could transform the way students learn to understand the world around them -- and themselves. Texas wants to remove some content from the social studies curriculum, said board chairperson Donna Bahorich, so that teachers can delve more deeply into certain topics.

Sara Novic

Billed as an effort to "streamline" the curriculum, the move spared Baptist pastor Billy Graham, the impeachment trial of former President Clinton and Moses from the chopping block -- while Hilary Clinton, Barry Goldwater, Thomas Hobbes and Helen Keller were eliminated.

Perhaps the most overtly dogmatic cut was the deletion of the phrase, "such as holding public officials to their word" from a fourth-grade unit on how to participate in civic affairs. But the erasure of Helen Keller, an iconic advocate for the deaf and blind whose social activism also included women's suffrage, birth control and pacifism -- who is currently taught as part of a third-grade unit on citizenship -- is an underhanded play with a troubling message: that homogeny is normal and exposure to outside perspectives should be limited.

To remove Keller from the curriculum also means to eliminate the single touchstone for deafness and disability for most mainstream students. Earlier this week, I asked a room of 35 of my own college students if they'd ever met a deaf person who wasn't me. Four or five raised their hands—they worked retail and had seen deaf customers. Many of these students are considering fields like social work, education, criminal justice, occupational and speech therapy and law, where knowledge of deafness and disability will be integral to their work, and still their exposure is extremely limited long past the third grade. This is the norm in a society that constantly tells us to avert our eyes from disabled people, to separate out "normal" and "other."

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Ada native wants to put training, technology to work

ADA, Okla. – Donald Gore only missed six days in the fourteen years he worked at Folger’s Drive-In in Ada.

“I like to work and be on time,” Gore said. “It’s no fun to stay around the house and be bored.”

Problems with increasing vision and hearing loss led Gore to seek help from Roy Alexander, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Chickasaw Nation.

Gore, who has Usher Syndrome, is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

The genetic condition combines hearing loss with retinitis pigmentosa, resulting in progressive loss of side vision due to degeneration of the retina.

Usher syndrome is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision loss.

Alexander introduced Gore to Gayle Lee, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for Visual Services, which is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Alexander and Lee turned to a team of Visual Services experts to help Gore learn new skills and use technology to re-enter the workforce.

Lee contacted Visual Services’ specialists on deaf-blindness Jeri Cooper and Stephanie Butler. Cooper, a rehabilitation teacher who is deaf-blind herself, travels the state to help clients with vision and hearing loss. Stephanie Butler became Gore’s new vocational rehabilitation counselor due to her expertise in deaf-blindness.

Liz Scheffe helped him improve orientation and mobility skills so he could travel safely and efficiently in the community.

Sharon Shipe provided more rehabilitation teaching training to help Gore adjust to loss of vision and develop practical skills.

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Access for All

With the help of a Teaching Tolerance Educator Grant, this teacher created a space where DeafBlind students could be themselves and teach the larger school community about DeafBlindness.

Wendy Harris wanted to start a DeafBlind club at her school. 

An educator for the deaf and blind, Harris noticed that her DeafBlind students at the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, Minnesota—one of the top schools for the deaf in the United States—were missing out on some key academic and social experiences. The club, she imagined, could fill those gaps and also raise the overall cultural competency of the school.

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