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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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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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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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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Hiring deaf employees can be incredible for your business

Top three reasons why you should hire deaf employees

Thousands of highly educated and qualified deaf and hard of hearing individuals are continually looking for jobs, but because of the prejudice among most of the employers out there, their applications are ignored most of the time or their interviews are withdrawn upon learning about their hearing loss. In this situation, the employers, as well as the deaf and hard of hearing candidates, lose out on an excellent opportunity to help each other become better.

There are three top reasons why organizations should hire deaf and hard of hearing employees:

1. Deaf and hard of hearing people spend almost all their lives trying to adapt to their environment as best they can, and that ability help to augment their hearing loss which often make them determined and flexible when faced with various challenges. Their out-of-the-box creativity and problem-solving skills can bring unique solutions to the organizations.

2. Hiring deaf and hard of hearing employees can bring to your team a whole new perspective in serving others. And, if your organization happens to serve a lot of deaf consumers, having reliable employees who are responsible and hardworking can be a fantastic addition to your business.

3. Deaf and hard of hearing employees can be an excellent addition to your company as a part of the diverse workforce that you may want for your business which also provides the opportunity to enrich the culture of your business.

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Oklahoma ABLE Tech Device Demonstration and Device Loan Program

Oklahoma ABLE Tech and its statewide partners operate an assistive technology (AT) device demonstration center and short-term loan program to increase access to and utilization of AT for individuals with disabilities. The program is available to Oklahoma residents with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals that support them.

Demonstrations give individuals the ability to see, touch, and try AT to help them in the decision-making process by providing:

  • Hands-on exploration of devices

  • Information on the latest technology

  • Low-tech solutions and adaptations

  • Vendor sources

The short-term loan program provides individuals the opportunity to borrow AT to:

  • Make an informed decision before purchase

  • Ensure compatibility between the device and user

  • Have back-up equipment while waiting for repair

  • Have a device while waiting for new equipment

The equipment inventory offers a wide range of AT, including devices and equipment for: speech communication, computer access, hearing, vision, daily living, environmental adaptations, learning/development, recreation, mobility, seating and positioning. ABLE Tech staff also provides guidance on funding resources for AT equipment.

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HB-1244 UPDATE as of April 21, 2018

HB-1244 is moving.  The bill, known as the Jeri Cooper Act, is scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Monday, April 23rd.  On Monday, the Senate meets at 1:30 p.m.  It is expected Senator Griffin, the  Senate author, will move to restore the bill’s title, which was stricken in committee.  This move means the bill will be in exactly the same form as the House-passed version, so that if approved by the Senate, the bill can go directly to the Governor for signing.  A PDF copy of the bill is attached.


Remember you can watch/listen to the Senate floor activity by going to www.oksenate.gov and selecting the link for Live Floor Proceedings. 


Also be aware that legislative agendas are subject to change.  If for some reason HB-1244 is not voted on Monday, it could come up later in the week.


We expect state agency funding bills to be introduced this coming week, so legislative attention will shortly be focused on budget for all agencies besides Education.  Soon after the agency appropriations have been cleared, legislators will hope to adjourn.


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#SolidarityOEADeafAccess

OAD sent an open letter to Oklahoma Education Association in solidarity with other organizations and grassroots. This letter comes after prior solidarity efforts mentioned in their organizations vlog. 

March 28, 2018
Alicia Priest, President
Oklahoma Education Association

This is an open letter to the Oklahoma Education Association.

Dear President Alicia Priest,

On behalf of the organizations listed below, we stand in solidarity to extend our gratitude to the Oklahoma Education Association with respect to our collaborative efforts regarding effective communication with our community.

This community includes, but is not limited to, Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard of Hearing individuals, interpreters, professionals, parents, students, and other stakeholders who are wholly supportive of education in Oklahoma.

Our organizations and grassroots associations representing the interests of Oklahomans recognize the respect OEA demonstrated toward our community. Our coalition shares the same vested interest of ensuring that highly qualified, certified interpreters and Deaf Education teachers positively impact Oklahoma’s educational system. In order to establish a cooperative legacy, we are inviting OEA to collaborate with us to bridge a distinct alliance between associations. This collaborative effort will go a long way in benefiting the future of our communities.

We look forward to working with you. If you agree, we kindly request that you respond back at your convenience. Once again, thank you for stepping up, coordinating with us, and engaging in our concerns.

Sincerely,

Presidents/Leaders, on behalf of our organizations/grassroots:
Renee’ Sites, Oklahoma Association of the Deaf (OAD) 
Anne Byrd, Oklahoma Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (OKRID) 
Donna Fine, Deaf Grassroots Movement United-Oklahoma (DGMU-OK)
Tiara Oakes, Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program (SHEP)
Andrew Pitchford, Central Oklahoma Association for the Deaf and HoH (COADHI)
Christina Williams, Oklahoma Black Deaf Advocates (OKBDA)
Jennifer Grigsby-Fannon, Oklahoma City Association of the Deaf (OKCAD) 
Caroline Crawford, Enid Association of the Deaf (EAD)

Capitol event shows ‘people with disabilities can succeed’

Parker Simpson is a freshman in high school. He makes straight A’s and is the starting quarterback of his football team. He’s on the academic team and hopes, one day, to be an electrical engineer.

Simpson also has major hearing loss in both of his ears and is one of the many students who attend the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur.

At the Capitol last week, Simpson and other students from OSD gathered to raise awareness for individuals with disabilities for People with Disabilities Awareness Day in hopes of spreading a simple message: disabilities aren’t definitive.

“People with disabilities can succeed, work and do just about anything if you give them a chance,” said Larry Hawkins, superintendent of OSD.

According to a 2016 report, Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of people with disabilities along with many states in the South. Gallaudet University estimated that 3.1 percent, or 71,442 individuals ages 18-64, are deaf in Oklahoma. This year marked the 24th consecutive year People with Disabilities Awareness Day had been held at the Capitol, and in 2018, supporters of both OSD and the Oklahoma School for the Blind hoped to converse with lawmakers about the expansion of employment resources for individuals with disabilities.

After Gov. Mary Fallin signed a proclamation declaring March 13 as People With Disabilities Day on the southern steps of the Capitol, Simpson delivered a speech about his struggles with hearing loss and the service that OSD provided that allowed him to succeed academically.

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Support Services Provider/Jeri Cooper Act of 2017

This morning HB-1244, the Support Services Provider Act of 2017 (also being called the Jeri Cooper Act) passed in the House Public Health Committee on a 6-0 vote. Members who voted for the bill were Representatives Bush, Derby, Lawson, McEntire , Ritze and Sean Roberts. The committee substitute bill that passed is attached. Lepak’s bill directs DRS to establish a grant program to expand availability of Support Service Providers for Oklahomans who are deaf-blind. The program would only be implemented if and when funds are available. An annual funding cap of $300,000 is set in the bill – but no specific funding sources are designated. The measure is essentially enabling legislation that would make action possible at such time funds are made available. Next stop for the bill is the House floor. To thank Rep. Lepak and Public Health Committee members for their support of this legislation to assist deaf-blind Oklahomans, go towww.okhouse.gov. Then select the Representatives menu item, and scroll to the name of the appropriate Representative. On this main list of Representatives, beside each name you will find an “Email” box to click on for sending email. However, this feature may not work on your system – it does not work on mine. Instead, you should be able to send an email by clicking on the Representative name, which will take you to the Member’s bio page where you will again find an “Email Me” box. Click on this one, and a web form will come up.

To read the full copy of the Jeri Cooper Act please click here.

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