Vol. 1 No. 8
Editor: Tom Willard
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CLARIFICATION: WHO PAYS FOR COCHLEAR IMPLANT UPKEEP?
Last week’s Deafweekly contained an item titled “Schools off the hook for cochlear implant upkeep.” The item was based on an article in the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald. We have been informed by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that the Herald’s article was based entirely on a news release issued by the opposing attorney and that the article’s conclusion – that schools no longer have to pay for cochlear implant maintenance – is completely wrong. When President Bush signed an amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act last week, responsibility for audiology services remained with the schools – though they don’t have to pay for the implant surgery itself. The Herald article has been picked up nationwide, said attorney Peter Smith, and as a result, “Parents all over the country are being misled.” (His complete letter may be found later in this issue.)
DEAF MAN ACCUSED OF HARASSMENT, BANNED FROM COURTHOUSE
A deaf man with a history of victimizing children in three states has been banned from the courthouse in Durham County, N.C., after allegedly pestering the district attorney who prosecuted him. Rex Haislip, 40, showed up at the courthouse three times last week, and officials said he would be charged with trespassing if he enters the building again for anything other than a scheduled court appearance. Haislip was accused in 2002 of violating his probation and sentenced to 26 to 32 months in jail. Since his release in Sept. 2003 after serving about a year, harassment by Haislip has been “a constant problem, very bothersome,” Assistant District Attorney Freda Black told the Herald-Sun Dec. 3. “On Monday, he rushed up yelling, ‘I’ve gotten smarter since I got out of prison’,” she said.
STUDY: CLOSE TWO DEAF SCHOOLS, BUILD A NEW ONE
A task force in Virginia has released a 47-page report recommending the closure of the state’s two schools for the deaf in Hampton and Staunton. The plan also calls for the construction of a new $65.8 million school in a central location to be determined. The study does not identify possible locations because that wasn’t part of its assignment, said Education Secretary Belle S. Wheelan, but the state Board of Education could decide as early as March 2005 where to locate the new facility. At least 50 acres would be needed, and land costs are not included in the $65.8 million price tag. Construction could begin in 2006 and the new school could be ready by August 2007, said the study. But lawmakers in Hampton and Staunton are fiercely protective of the schools, reported The Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Va., and the General Assembly has been unable to agree on whether to shut them down.
DEAF DOG DIES, OWNER BLAMES FEDEX
A woman in Stockton, Calif. who blames FedEx for the death of her deaf dog wants the company to change its policy on dropping off packages when the customer is not home. According to KCRA-TV, Dianne Venzon says that a FedEx driver left a side gate open at her home, allowing the family’s 2-year-old Weimaraner, “Mr. Peabody,” to escape from the yard and get hit by a car in front of the house. FedEx officials offered their sympathy, paid the family’s $819 vet bill and made a donation to the animal rescue group where the family adopted Mr. Peabody, but the company feels the driver did nothing wrong and said it will continue to let its carriers make home-delivery decisions. Venzon said she plans to sue the company to force it to change its policy.
KANSAS FAMILY NEEDS HELP AFTER HOUSE FIRE
The Scanton, Kansas home of Bill and Mary Palmer sustained about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of damage from a fire last Wednesday. Mary Palmer told WIBW that her husband was outside soldering with a torch to repair damage from frozen pipes. “The wood caught, and it just went,” she said. Bill Palmer is deaf and on disability, and his wife stays home to care for him, their 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old grandson. “Homes are replaceable, but lives aren’t, and we’re just lucky that everybody’s okay,” said Bill. But the family didn’t have insurance, and with a limited income it will be hard for them to recover. If you’d like to help out, send a donation to the Scranton Attendance Center, 110 S. Burlingame Ave., Scranton, KS 66537 or call (785) 793-2256.
METRO WALKWAY NEAR GALLAUDET REMAINS UNFINISHED
Accessing the new Metro station that opened near Gallaudet University Nov. 20 is still risky for pedestrians, the Washington Times reported Sunday. A special walkway to keep people from having to cross New York and Florida avenues was supposed to be completed within weeks of the grand opening, but the city is still negotiating with the Potomac Electric Power Co., which controls a key portion on land. The $7 million walkway, when completed, will be the first section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a multipurpose path running along the Red Line 8 miles between Union Station and Silver Spring, Md. But the completion date of the pedestrian walkway remains unknown, a city spokesman told the Times.
DISABILITY ACT NEEDS REVISION, COUNCIL SAYS
The National Council on Disability wants Congress to pass an “ADA Restoration Act” to restore the original intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. In a report released last Wednesday and reported by the Associated Press, the council said that recent Supreme Court decisions have reduced the status of disabled people “to that of second-class citizens.” The council wants the wording to be changed so that the ADA bars discrimination against anyone “on the basis of disability” rather than the current “against an individual with a disability.” The current language forces judges to determine whether someone actually has a disability and qualifies for protection, the council said.
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PROTESTORS DECRY FIRING OF CANADIAN HEARING SOCIETY CEO
Community members have been protesting outside Canadian Hearing Society’s Toronto headquarters since the unexpected dismissal of CEO and President Kelly Duffin after just 19 months on the job. Duffin, a former marketing vice president at Random House Canada who learned sign language at Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, had been praised for reaching out to a variety of constituencies during her brief tenure. Board chairman Bryan Searle refused to give a reason for Duffin’s firing, citing confidentiality and legal advice. But yesterday the Toronto Star revealed that a major reason for the shakeup was a perceived conflict of interest after Duffin, who is hearing, began dating Dean Walker, who is deaf and president of the Ontario Association of the Deaf. Eight of 19 board members resigned following the dismissal, the Star reported. Protestors have issued five demands: no reprisals for staff; a full inquiry into the situation; 75% of board to be deaf or hard of hearing; resignation of the current board and election of new directors; and the return of Kelly Duffin as CEO and President of the agency.
‘LOCAL LAND MAFIA’ TARGETS DEAF SCHOOL IN INDIA
Deaf schoolchildren in Gurdaspur, India are without a school building or basic facilities, reported the Tribune News Service last week. Students are taught in a meeting room at a local bank, but must go outside and brave the elements whenever bank officials need to use the room. Students did have their own building and land, donated by a nun and philanthropist, but the real estate was targeted for takeover by the “local land mafia” after its value increased. An alleged relative of the nun produced a will saying that the property had been left to him. While the matter was being debated in court, a company managed to take ownership and proceeded to damage the structure, getting it declared unsafe for children. The issue of who owns the land is still being contested in court; meanwhile, the school’s enrollment has dwindled to 30 students, and teachers say they haven’t been paid in over a year.
CANADIAN NEWSPAPER SAYS 85 PERCENT OF DEAF ARE ILLITERATE
A Nov. 30 article in The Gazette of Montreal, Canada raised an interesting question when it reported that 85 percent of deaf people are illiterate. Who says? (The article focused on a deaf woman named Paula who received $125 from the newspaper’s Christmas Fund.) Contacted by Deafweekly for clarification, reporter Roberto Rocha said, “The figure in the article was provided by the Centre Alpha-Sourds, where the interview was done. I believe the figure is specific to Quebec, which I failed to mention in the article, and for that, I thank you for bringing it to my attention.”
MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ASSAULTING ESTRANGED WIFE
Mukesh Ratnum Gounder was in court in Edmonton, Canada last week for sentencing after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in an attack on his estranged wife April 26. During the court hearing, prosecutors played a 911 tape in which the couple’s 7-year-old son says “I need an ambulance. My dad almost killed my mom,” while his mother and sister scream in the background. According to the Edmonton Sun, Gounder ignored a restraining order obtained just two weeks earlier when he snuck into his wife’s home while she was working late at McDonald’s. When she arrived home, he stabbed her repeatedly with scissors before she could push him out in the hallway and lock the door. Sharmila Gounder suffered eight wounds and required numerous sutures at the hospital. Sentencing was adjourned until February so that Gounder can undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Prosecutors want prison time; Gounder’s attorney is seeking a stay of proceedings, claiming that her client has been mistreated in jail by not getting any special help on account of his deafness.
EVERYTHING NOT FINE IN SOUTH AFRICA, DEAF MAN SAYS
David Petro, a spokesperson for the Deaf Federation of South Africa, remembers what happened two years ago when he noticed a broken window in a library and tried to tell a security guard using sign language. The guard put a gun to his head, hit him, pepper-sprayed his face and tied his hands behind his back. The experience is typical of the daily frustrations endured by deaf South Africans, he told The Cape Times this week. About 95 percent of the country’s four million deaf citizens are illiterate, the newspaper reported, and sign language is not recognized as an official language. Only about 2 percent of teachers at deaf schools use sign language in classrooms, and discrimination is rampant. “We are scared to go out, people mock us,” Petro said. “President Thabo Mbeki must stop saying everything is fine in South Africa – it’s not.”
DEAF IN SRI LANKA MAY GAIN RIGHT TO DRIVE
According to the Daily News of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, the country’s Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Social Welfare is considering the possibility of issuing driver’s licenses to deaf persons. The idea was raised last week during International Disabled Persons Day, which was marked in Sri Lanka with a first day cover (postage stamp), a concert, sports events, workshops, counseling programs and the introduction of “a special insurance scheme for disabled persons through the Social Security Board.”
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LIFE & LEISURE
SIGNING SANTA GAVE UP ON FAKE BEARD, GROWS HIS OWN
It takes Barry Howery half a year to grow his Santa-sized beard, wrote Penny Parker in a recent Rocky Mountain News column. Howery, 56, has played Santa Claus at the Cherry Creek shopping center in Denver for the past 12 years, and as a signing Santa for deaf children he gave up on the fake beard long ago. “They couldn’t even see my mouth” to lip read, he remembers. Howery took up sign language in 1974 and “stuck with it,” earning a comprehensive skills certificate in 1985. The job gives Howery a good feeling, he said. “If I don’t get accolades during the year, I’m sure to get them with those kids.”
ABOUT HALF OF AMERICA’S BABY BOOMERS HAVE HEARING LOSS
Half of America’s 76 million baby boomers are experiencing some degree of hearing loss, a recent study shows, but only one-third of those who reported a hearing loss have had their hearing tested. The Baby Boomer Hearing Loss Study was conducted by the Education and Auditory Research, or EAR, Foundation, and commissioned by Clarity, a division of Plantronics Inc., maker of amplified telephones and other assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired. According to the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., the study focused on 433 people, and though about half the respondents noticed a loss of hearing, only 15 percent received a medical diagnosis. “That tells me that the majority of people are putting up with it and not seeking a diagnosis,” said Dr. Deepkaran Reddy, a Fort Wayne otolaryngologist.
N.C. COUPLE RIDE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF ASSISTANCE DOGS
Blaine and Janet Parks of Raleigh, N.C. have spent the past seven months riding across America on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, on a mission to raise public awareness of assistance and guide dog organizations for the disabled. They’ve been joined on their journey by their two golden retrievers, Max and Bailey, who ride in sidecars with covers to protect them from the weather. According to the Marco Island (Fla.) Sun Times, the Parks started their trip May 1 in Raleigh and were expected to return home Dec. 4. The couple and their dogs have stopped in schools all over America to talk with kids about assistance dogs. Their trip, called Hogs for Dogs, covered over 25,000 miles and touched 48 states.
MISSISSIPPI SCHOOL GETS A NEW PLAYGROUND
Three years ago, state and federal education officials decided that the playground equipment at the Mississippi School for the Deaf was unsafe and ordered it removed. Since then, the school’s 53 elementary students have had only a four-seat bouncing see-saw to play on, since the school didn’t have the estimated $45,000 needed for a new playground. That all changed last Thursday when 100 Home Depot employees joined school staff and older students to build a new playground. According to the Clarion Ledger, interim superintendent Delores Mack contacted KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit playground-building organization for assistance last summer, and MSD staff worked with Home Depot and KaBOOM! officials the past two months to plan the new playground. “This is the best Christmas ever,” said Mack.
SURVEY TO STUDY ATTITUDES OF DISABLED VOTERS
Researchers at the UCLA Center for
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among people with disabilities. If you have a disability or work with disabled
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POLL SHEDS LIGHT ON DISABLED UNEMPLOYMENT
A recent Harris poll shows the percentage of disabled people with jobs still stands at about 35 percent, roughly where it was 12 years ago after the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect. Disability advocates downplay the figures, though, saying statistics do not take into account the many disabled people who are unable or unwilling to work. Earlier this year, the National Organization on Disability hired the polling firm Harris to determine a more realistic unemployment rate for the disabled, counting only people who are ready and willing to work immediately. According to a Gannett News Service report, that figure is approximately 19 percent.
SORENSON MEDIA OPENS NEW CALL CENTER IN CALIFORNIA
Sorenson Media announced yesterday the opening of an additional call center in Pleasanton, Calif. The center was needed, said Sorenson CEO James Lee Sorenson, because the company “has experienced incredible increases in video relay calls from month to month.” Pleasanton has a large pool of certified ASL interpreters trained in local college programs. Terry Tibble, director of the Pleasanton facility, said, “This new center will help provide superior communication access to the deaf community whether at work, school or home.”
GOAMERICA ACQUIRES GLOBAL INTERACTIVE
GoAmerica, Inc., a leader in wireless telecommunications services for people with hearing loss, announced Dec. 1 that it has purchased the assets of Global Interactive, a provider of wireless products, services and accessories. Global Interactive, based in Emerson, N.J., was acquired for about $375,000 in cash and stock, and GoAmerica expects the acquisition to produce new revenue for the company immediately. Alan Cohnen, Global Interactive’s president, has joined GoAmerica. Said Cohnen, “I look forward to contributing to the success of the company’s overall growth strategy in the wireless market.”
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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
BRAGG BACK HOME AFTER HONG KONG TOUR
Deaf theater pioneer Bernard Bragg is back home in the USA after an October stay in Hong Kong, where he directed two plays for the country’s renowned Theatre of the Silence. The first, “A Journey Into the World of Visual Wonders,” contained a series of vignettes and broke new ground for the deaf theater troupe by combining poetry with the action. The second, “The Monkey’s Paw,” is the director’s favorite because “it is very atmospheric and suspenseful,” he told Hong Kong’s Weekend Standard. The 75-year-old Bragg, who has been an actor, director, playwright and author for more than 40 years, returned to his Hollywood, Calif. home following the Oct. 22-23 performances, but was soon on the go again. According to the Nov. 14 Capital of Annapolis, Md., Bragg was a featured speaker at Anne Arundel Community College, where “the audience hung on every syllable” of his presentation.
DEAF DANCER IS PART OF AWARD-WINNING TEAM
Deaf high school junior Chanel Cole, 16, of Perrine, Fla., is part of a church dance team that captured first place in a state competition in April and in an international dance competition in July in Texas, where they beat out 65 other church dance teams. Chanel, who was featured last week in the Miami Herald, joined the dance team, the Miami Young Adults Christian Theater, eight years ago when she was 8. In addition to dancing with the church group, last year Chanel auditioned for her high school’s step team and was accepted, joining 15 others on the team. “I love dancing,” Chanel told the Herald. “It’s like I don’t have to think about it.” Said team captain Shantalle Guzman: “She’s very determined. She works hard until she gets it.”
MOVIE THEATER OPENS WITH CAPTIONED FILM MARATHON
A movie theater in Riverside, Calif. is celebrating its grand opening this week by hosting an open-captioned film marathon. The film “Friday Night Lights” kicked off the marathon Monday, with representatives from InSight Cinema on hand to raffle off T-shirts, bags, books and more. Thirty showings of seven different films will take place this week at the Riverside Plaza Stadium 16, located in the Riverside Plaza, with admission to each show just one dollar. For more information on captioned films, visit www.insightcinema.org.
You are invited to place your advertisements in Deafweekly. You’ll reach people in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community across the USA and around the world. For more information, please visit www.deafweekly.com.
MINNESOTA TEAM OPTS OUT OF AWARD SELECTION PROCESS
The basketball team at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf has asked to be excluded from consideration for the Top Ten rankings and All-American honors presented by the National Fraternal Association of the Deaf and DeafSportZine. Coach Randy Shank, in a Dec. 2 letter to DeafSportZine editor Barry Strassler, voiced his objections to comments Strassler wrote in regard to stronger teams that run up the score against weaker teams. In the Nov. 28 DeafSportZine, Strassler threatened to withhold All-American honors from teams that ignore his “timely warnings” not to run up scores. Shank decried Strassler’s “underhanded method of controlling scores in the nation’s Deaf schools” and suggested that deaf prep sports awards should be determined by a committee, “rather than one person who happens to run an e-zine.”
AUSTINE STAR GAINS 1,000TH POINT
Jennifer Harbart, star player for the Austine School for the Deaf basketball team, needed just 18 points to hit the 1,000 career mark when she entered last Friday’s game with Governor Baxter, and she didn’t disappoint. According to the Brattleboro Reformer, Harbart’s driving layup at the start of the third quarter put her over the century mark and propelled her into the record books – only the fourth female in school history to reach 1,000 points. Play was stopped as teammates and family congratulated her and she was given balloons, a ball and a green Austine 1,000-point scorers jacket. Austine won the game 57-17, and Harbart finished with 16 rebounds and 24 points – 1,006 for her career. Jill Donohue (1,576) and Mike Carter (1,877) are the school’s all-time scoring leaders.
COACH ‘COULDN’T EVEN TELL’ PLAYER WAS HEARING IMPAIRED
Victoria Garcia, a senior at North High School in Phoenix, Ariz., has been playing on her school’s soccer team three seasons, but it took about a year before her coach realized that she is hearing impaired. Garcia has a 90 percent hearing loss in one ear and 20 percent loss in the other, but “I couldn’t even tell,” coach Bill Osborne told The Arizona Republic Dec. 3. But Garcia can, the newspaper noted. “I know there are times when my teammates scream at me, and I really don’t hear them,” she said. “It kind of makes me feel bad and down.” Still, she’s managed to become a standout on the team. Coach Osborne appointed Garcia as a team captain this season after she scored nine goals last year with a team-high 13 assists.
VIRGINIA SCHOOL SADDENED BY DEATH OF ‘BIG BEAR’
When Lewis Sherman Harper died last Friday in Brownsville, Texas, the sad news quickly swept through the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, Va., where Harper had been a student. Nicknamed “Big Bear” for his imposing 6-foot-3, 220-pound stature, Harper led the school football team as a first-team All-American during his junior and senior years. He returned to VSDB in September to be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame and attend the 35th anniversary of the school’s last undefeated season in 1969. “I watched him grow to be a true student-athlete,” former teacher and football coach Rocco DeVito told the News Leader. “He was a wonderful leader.”
Dear Mr. Willard:
I urgently want to speak with you concerning an item in your December 1 Deaf Weekly entitled Schools off the hook for cochlear implant upkeep. The newspaper article in the Portsmouth Herald on which you based your story was itself based on a press release issued by the attorney who had represented the Stratham School District in litigation that the district lost - both at an administrative due process hearing and on appeal to the U.S. District Court.
Having lost the case, the attorney drafted a proposed amendment to the IDEA that, if enacted, would indeed have legislatively overruled the hearing officer's and the judge's decisions. The attorney sent the proposal to Senator Judd Gregg who was the chairman of the Senate Committee that was preparing the proposed revisions to the IDEA. The committee, at Gregg's urging, approved the attorney’s proposal and sent the entire bill to the Senate floor for action. (The text of the proposal as approved by the Senate Committee appears in the Congressional Record of May 12, 2004 at Volume 150, page 5288 (definition of “Assistive Technology Device”) and page 5290 (definition of “Related Services”).
When I learned of this development, I contacted Senator Gregg's office and requested a meeting with the Senator. That meeting took place on April 30, 2004. At the end of that meeting, Senator Gregg agreed to substantially change the language that his committee had earlier approved. When the Senate bill was brought to the Senate floor for action on May 12, Senator Gregg offered a revised amendment that deleted all of the language of his earlier amendment that would have removed school district responsibility for paying for audiology services for a child with a cochlear implant. (See Congressional Record, May 13, 2004, Volume 150,page S5394).
As you know, a cochlear implant is useless if the child's speech processor is not properly programmed (also referred to as "mapping") periodically by an audiologist. The only language that remained from the original proposed amendment is a sentence that makes clear that a school district has no financial responsibility for the surgical implant, itself. The responsibility for the audiology services, however, remained. The Senate adopted that revised amendment by a vote of 95 to 3.(See Congressional Record, Volume 150, page 5411; the text of the revised amendments appears at page 5413 (definition of “Assistive Technology Device”)) and page 5314 (definition of “Related Services”). When the Houses of Congress approved the final text of the IDEA changes on November 19, no change was made in the revised amendment which is now law, following President Bushes signature of approval last week.
Notwithstanding the above revised language that Senator Gregg inserted on the floor of the Senate, the attorney who had represented Stratham School District in the litigation nevertheless issued a press release that stated that the judge's decision had been legislatively overturned, thus making it seem that the language that ended up in the law was Senator Gregg's initial amendment to the committee – not his revised amendment offered on the floor of the Senate.
The newspaper reporter for the Herald who wrote the story relied exclusively on the press release, assuming it was accurate, and failed to contact either Senator Gregg's office or her opposing attorney ((who happens to be me) to confirm the accuracy of the press release. The result was a false story in that newspaper that is being picked up around the country by other entities such at yours. The consequence is that parents all over the country are being misled into thinking that school districts have now been relieved of financial responsibility for audiology services for children with cochlear implants, when in fact the exact opposite is true.
- PETER SMITH, ESQ.
POSITION AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY
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CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE
Society’s Assets, Inc is seeking a qualified individual to work as a full-time Customer Service Representative at the Wisconsin Telecommunications Relay System in Madison, Wisconsin.
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