- Vocre Translate: I love the idea of the translated messages being displayed in opposite directions for each user facing opposite ends of the device. This is, of course, limited to only spoken language with a text output.
- Swype Keyboard: Typing is gesture-based, predictive, super-fast, and error-proof. This allows for effective and efficient communication. Swype is on this list because it revolutionized typing on devices and changed the way users think about communicating on a mobile device.
- The Noun Project: Their goal is very similar to mine, in that they want to create an entire visual vocabulary to act as a universal language that transcends cultural barriers.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture: Being Deaf (with a capital D) is a different concept than just having a lack of hearing. It’s a whole culture and community of people.
- http://deafnotes.com/ubb/: Message board for the Deaf community. It hasn’t been updated in a long time, but it still has a lot of great content about social issues in the community.
- http://www.ehow.com/list_6023189_issues-deaf-people-face.html: This really confirms that what I’ve noticed with my hard-of-hearing friend is typical of the community.
- http://www.ehow.com/how_7371407_teach-students-using-concept-mapping.html: This gives some insight into how to teach the concepts of vocabulary to a deaf student.
- http://www.ehow.com/how_7381085_teach-writing-deaf-children.html and http://www.ehow.com/how_5079105_teach-deaf-students-read.html: These are reminders that English and ASL are very different languages, and that there is a bit of a gap between the two.
Observations I’ve Already Made:
One of my best friends is hard-of-hearing (very much so, I might add), and spending some time observing how she handles everyday situations is fascinating and disheartening at the same time. While she can hear most mid-range sounds, she is completely deaf to higher-pitched, higher-frequency sounds like sirens, spoken consonants, cell phones, and most television sounds (which she tells me are picked up differently in her hearing aids than real-life sounds). Something as simple as ordering a drink at Starbucks can be an uphill battle for her. She can communicate her order just fine, but understanding a barista’s questions like, “do you want whipped cream?” is always met with a reply of “I’m hard of hearing; can you repeat that?” or a questioning look in my direction (since we’re close friends, she’s used to my speech patterns, and I will sometimes throw some ASL in if possible to make things easier, although we’re both a bit rusty in our practice of it).
Some things that stood out in this experience:
- Hearing people mumble a lot and speak very quickly. We don’t realize that we do it, but it can be impossible for a hard-of-hearing person to understand, especially in a noisy environment or when someone isn’t directly facing the recipient. Inversely, I noticed that when I talk to my hard-of-hearing friend, I make up for this by enunciating clearly and speaking at a very conscious speed.
- Not everyone who is deaf (note the lowercase d) or hard-of-hearing knows ASL fluently. Even if a hearing person can communicate in this way, it might be of little help.
- Everyday errands and “small talk” are a struggle. When you can’t understand the person talking to you, you feel isolated and even alienated from mainstream culture.
- Texting and emailing have helped bridge the language gap immensely. It might seem trite, but texting is a great step forward and a powerful tool of mobile communication.
Other People to Talk to and Observe:
- Kansas School for the Deaf: Aren’t we lucky to have a Deaf school in Olathe? (Fun fact: Olathe ASL seems to be its own dialect. Pretty cool, huh?)
- Deaf Cultural Center: Also in Olathe, and also a good resource to have access to.
- Deaf Expression interpreters: It’d be interesting to see what kinds of obstacles they have noticed in communication between ASL and English.
- Message board members: It would be good to get some perspectives from people outside of the KC/Olathe area.
- People I already know. For awhile I took an ASL “class” from an interpreter/advocate. He’d be a great person to talk to. Also, one of his best friends is completely deaf since birth (unlike my close friend who is hard-of-hearing for only the past decade or so) and a member of Olathe’s large Deaf community (also unlike my close friend). My brother-in-law minored in ASL, and I’m sure he’d have some interesting perspectives as well.