Janna and I are pleased to announce our latest book is now available for purchase from Amazon — American Sign Language Level 5: A Field Guide for Advanced Communication Techniques for People with Other Disabilities written by David Boles, M.F.A. and Janna Sweenie, M.A. — yes, it’s an eyeful of a title, but that sort of specificity is necessary for this sort sort of real life ASL field guide.
Mandela’s memorial yesterday has ignited a firestorm today out of the Soweto rain. No, not Obama’s failed message, or the non-Michelle approved Presidential selfie with other heads of State, but rather the fraud of an impostor posing as an interpreter for the Deaf during the ceremony.
The alleged sign language interpreter was so awful, in fact, that he had to have been in on the cruel joke that he knew nothing about even creating rudimentary signs.
Unfortunately, this sort of “faking it” is actually pretty common in the Deaf Community. There are a lot of “professional” interpreters who are not well-trained but who are given jobs because they are cheap — even though they are incapable of proper signing. The Deaf suffer and the incompetence gets a paycheck.
While not many working interpreters are as fraudulent on the level of what happened in Soweto — the end effect is still the same: The Deaf person has no idea what’s being said and has to guess about what’s really happening.
I am dumbfounded by news today from South Africa that legless Olympian runner Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murdering Reeva Steenkamp, his longtime girlfriend, with four gunshots. Why would a man like Oscar ever raise a gun in fear or anger? Hasn’t his life taught him that obstacles are to be overcome and never under-gunned?
Cruelty because of disability is the unfortunate, de facto, standard of living for anyone who dares to live outside the mainstream of the able-bodied merely by purchase of birth. Janna, a Deaf Woman, and my wife, feels the sting of that cruel indignity every single day with impatient people who refuse to acknowledge her Deafness and who force her to read lips or to use her voice because they don’t feel like writing or finding a common cure that will enable a fair communication dyad that can be understood by all parties.
That inevitable cruelty is part of the daily station of the Disabled, and those of us who love and care for our Disabled friends and family feel that cruelty, too, by proxy, and we do our best to help create a cure of basic human courtesy. We are often unsuccessful.
What fascinates me, in a maudlin and depressing way, is when families of the disabled place politics above doing the right thing. A glowing example of a family member standing up and doing right is found in David Axelrod, one of President Obama’s dearest friends and campaign managers, and the fact that Axelrod is willing to shave off his 40-year-old mustache in order to raise a million dollars for epilepsy research. Axelrod’s oldest child has epilepsy.
As the world condenses, and private purses close, and public wallets tighten — the first casualties in a rotting economy are the rights of the disabled — first ugly, then protected, the disabled are now back to being the first available for kicking to the curb teeth first. When five Blind students have to sue four California law schools in order to achieve equal protection for application for study, we know the end of the civilized world is nigh upon us.
At my favorite deli — where I get my fix for homemade beans and rice — one of the female workers always tells me the latest woes of her life as she scoops the beans over piles of rice. I love listening to her stories because, even though they are filled with horrors and heartache, she relays the truth of her station with such strength and magnificence that you cannot help but be drawn into her plight and root
The first thing to wither in a failing economy are the rights of the minority individual. I’ll give you a real world example that will set the ominous tone to come for the rest of us.