Archive for 2016

  • CSD
    Headshot of Danny Lacy

    Danny Lacey, CSD’s new Chair of the Board

    - by Jessica Ellison

    By Jessica Ellison

    Danny Lacey is a partner and advisor for Kramer Wealth Managers. He leads Kramer’s advisory team for the western states where he serves pre-retirees and retirees, corporate executives, business owners, and not-for-profit organizations.

    Danny has served on the board for 3 years and we’re excited to have him serve as Board Chair. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Danny before the holidays. Keep reading to get to know him a little better!

    CSD: What are the most important goals you will work on with CSD?

    Danny Lacey: I want to be a strong and effective facilitator between CSD & its board members. I plan to ensure that our board duties, expectations and efforts are fully aligned with CSD’s vision and mission. I also think it’s very important to promote dialogue with people outside of CSD so that we can share stories about the wider Deaf community with the world, to share the wide range of possibilities in the journey of reimagining communication together.

    CSD: What do you see as Deaf America’s greatest strengths and challenges?

    Danny Lacey: This is truly an exciting time for Deaf America. Thanks to advancements in technology, particularly social media, we continue to enjoy learning about success stories in the Deaf community every day. We believe that we are exceptional in all that we do. Our biggest challenge right now is not showing it enough in the global society.

    CSD: CSD believes that instead of separate hearing and Deaf worlds that there really is just One World – and we all share it. What is your vision of One World? How do you see us getting there?

    Danny Lacey: For over 40 years, CSD’s mission has been to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people by continuously aiming to build a more inclusive, accessible world. Now, more than ever, it is the perfect time for CSD to be at the forefront of pursuing the One World vision, and in demonstrating all that is truly possible in the One World.

    CSD: What kind of food will we find on your table this holiday season?

    Danny Lacey: Along with great conversations and much laughter at the dinner table, my family loves sharing Pecan & Chocolate Chip Pie — just a perfect way to celebrate our holiday season!

  • CSD Neighborhood
    Woman Standing in St Petersburg Russia

    Russia Through Deaf Eyes

    - by Bobby Siebert

    By Bobby Siebert The Russian-American Project for Children’s Literacy (RAP4CL) exchange project requires communication across four languages: American Sign Language, Russian Sign Language, English, and Russian. It is little wonder that the most commonly asked question about this project is something like ‘how does communication work?’ A fair question, especially when considering the complexity of our project’s topic content. It’s difficult enough to discuss the cognitive benefits of bilingual education and the backing research with someone fluent in your native language, let alone in a roundtable consisting of individuals natively fluent in four different languages. There is no doubt that we have faced communication challenges throughout the project. But, we would probably have had a far more difficult time if not for the incredible Deaf friends we’ve made throughout this project, especially Vera Shamaeva in St. Petersburg, and Genady Tikhenko of Moscow. Both bright and driven individuals, Vera and Gena have the extraordinary ability to pick up a new language effortlessly, as if their brains were sponges sopping up excess water. Attaining conversational language competency would take most people months, or even years, but Vera and Gena reached it in days. Their ability to switch from RSL to International Sign to ASL were instrumental in facilitating effective communication between our parties.

    The historic theater inside the VOG St. Petersburg chapter.

    The historic theater inside the VOG St. Petersburg chapter.

    Beyond translation, Vera and Gena also took on the roles of proud ambassadors of their homeland. They shared their thoughts on the best and most challenging aspects of their country from the eyes of native Deaf Russians. As a Deaf American who has greatly benefitted from the Americans with Disabilities Act and access to interpreters and communication, it jarred me to the core to learn about the dearth of RSL interpreters in Russia. There used to be 5,000 RSL interpreters in Russia thirty years ago, Gena said; there are only an estimated 1,000 today. Despite lacking access to interpreters throughout their academic careers, both Vera and Gena received advanced degrees. I was amazed; they simply shrugged. They found ways to absorb educational content, relying heavily on reading materials and notetaking. If they were asked a question in class, a hearing student would write down the question for them to read. And then they would write their responses for the hearing student to relay it back to the professor and the rest of the class. Through persistence and determination, both remarkable individuals succeeded.

    Ryan Hutchison discusses art with Dimitry Zhevhikov and Kira Salenko inside the VOG headquarters office in Moscow.

    Ryan Hutchison discusses art with Dimitry Zhevhikov and Kira Salenko inside the VOG headquarters office in Moscow.

    Through Vera and Gena, we were introduced to the All-Russia Society for the Deaf (VOG, as spelled in the Russian language), the equivalent to the United States’ National Association of the Deaf. Vera shared the history of the St. Petersburg VOG chapter, housed in a beautiful historic building facing the English Embankment that was once the residence of the brother of Nikolay II, the final tsar of the Romanovs, the famous lineage that concluded in 1918. Officially, the St. Petersburg VOG chapter has over 3,400 members. The most striking room in the building was the 150-seat theatre, a scene lifted out of the early 20th century, adorned with pillars and sculptures. The theater is still in use; only a few days before our visit, VOG had hosted a stage play and workshops. The national VOG office, overseeing 82 affiliations across Russia, is in the heart of Moscow. Their programs oversee a wide range of issues impacting the Deaf community: telecommunications, education, employment, as well as archive and media departments. Gennady introduced us to Dimitry Zhevzhikov, an artist of extraordinary talent sculpting stone and marble who also is an active leader of the Association of Deaf Russian Artists, a group of diversely-talented artists across different artistic disciplines from all corners of Russia. We also met Viktor Palenniy, a historian and documenter who leads VOG’s archive department. In the archive room, we observed a large bookshelf stocked with books, published by VOG, on the history of the Russian Deaf community—with some of the content even summarized and translated into English (which was immensely useful in gaining a better understanding of the Russian Deaf community’s history and for writing our blog articles). The value the Russian Deaf community places on the arts, culture, and history echoes that of the U.S. Deaf community. I participated and attended stage plays at my Deaf school and the local Deaf club. Growing up, I learned about the history of my Deaf community, from the story of how Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc gave birth to Deaf education in America to the famous Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet University. Chuck Baird and other artists of the Deaf View/Image Art (De’VIA) movement remain heroes and visionaries from my childhood. Art, culture, and history are critical components of any strong, proud, and flourishing community, and the Deaf community is no different. Though this exchange grew out of a common interest in bilingual education, I come away having learned so much more. There is an opportunity to transcend this exchange between our communities—one through which we share the best of our communities, in how we express our culture through art and storytelling, build stronger social cohesion through cultural events such as stage plays, and better preserve our communities’ storied histories. Together with our Russian friends, we can build a stronger community and culture for the global Deaf community.

  • Featured News

    Cultural Exchange Drives Innovation

    - by Ryan Hutchison

    By Ryan Hutchison
    Dowager Empress Maria Fedoronova (Wife of Tsar Alexander III)
    In 1806 the Dowager Empress Maria Fedoronova (Wife of Tsar Alexander III) was walking in Pavlosk Park outside St. Petersburg, Russia. A young boy, Aleksandre Moeller, and his escort passed her without word. The Empress stopped the escort and inquired why the boy did not greet her; she was told he was Deaf and unable to communicate. After a restless night considering the boy and his inability to communicate and learn, the Empress began inquiring about deafness and education, and how the Russian empire could ensure that Deaf students like Aleksandre learn and succeed. She sent missives across Europe seeking the best educators of the Deaf, and soon received Jean-Baptiste Jauffret from the then-named Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets de Paris. With Empress Maria’s funding and Monsieur Jauffret’s knowledge, the first Russian school for the Deaf opened on December 2nd, 1806.

    Dr. Ben Soukup at Gallaudet

    On the 25th of May, 1814, Thomas Gallaudet first met the daughter of a neighbor, Alice Cogswell. He asked her father, Dr. Mason Cogswell, why she wasn’t playing with the other children and learned she was Deaf and unable to communicate. His interest was piqued, and he sat beside her drawing and writing the names of objects with a stick in the dirt – and she understood. It was a eureka moment for Alice’s father, who promptly sent Thomas to Europe to find better ways to educate Deaf children in the United States. Thomas came upon the director of the very same school for the Deaf (Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets) and brought Laurent Clerc, a successful graduate of the school, back with him to America. Together they established the American School for the Deaf in 1817.

    Incredible, right? I knew the story about Thomas Gallaudet and the founding of the American School for the Deaf, but had no idea of the similarities of the founding of both schools. It’s quite amazing to recognize the thought of providing sign language to Deaf children was a revolutionary concept, and a single school in Paris was a catalyst for what was to become a golden age for Deaf education in both Russia and America. That both Empress Maria & Dr. Cogswell recognized the need for new ideas & fresh approaches for Deaf education and sponsored cultural exchange to spark those ideas is similar to the opportunity that brought CSD to Russia. The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange project recognizes the need for invigoration within the Persons With Disabilities (PWD) community and is linking our countries together to focus on abilities, foster inclusion, and spark positive change.

    The need for innovation and cultural exchange of new ideas for the education of Deaf children today is as great as it was 200 years ago. Despite the clear benefits Deaf children receive from sign language use and bilingual education, a growing focus on oralism and “fixing” Deaf children have dropped a new generation of children into the world without deep foundations of any language in either Russia or the United States. Outcomes for our Deaf children continue to decline, and more and more students are falling behind. We must create a new wave of innovation and invigoration of bilingual education – and do it with technology and through leadership.

    Two hundred and ten years after the first Russian Deaf school was founded in St. Petersburg, a group of four and five-year old Deaf children gathered in a classroom to experience our bilingual storybook app, created through a collaboration with our American colleagues and Russian partners at Ya Tebya Slyshu. I’m so excited to continue to share this storybook app. We’re already receiving great feedback on how we can make it even better.

    I’m even more excited to exchange knowledge and create a network of partners & friends who believe like we do that bilingual education provides transformative impact on students. The power of collaboration is real – we at CSD have seen it through our Who Will Answer campaign and it is at the heart of our Unites program. I look forward to continuing to create relationships and coalitions through this project in both Russia and the US so we can march unified towards a better future for our children, linked arm to arm.

    Deaf Russian children reading bilingual storybook

    Russian children

    Deaf Russian Students

  • CSD Neighborhood
    Roundtable discussion on bilingual education in Russia

    Roundtable Discussion on Bilingual Education

    - by Bobby Siebert

    By Bobby Siebert

    Early Intervention Institute in St. Petersburg

    In a cozy building a few blocks from Nevsky Prospekt in snowy St. Petersburg, CSD and its Russian partner Ya Tebya Slyshu hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic of bilingual education for Deaf children. Gathered around the table were various professionals, including a speech therapist, a teacher specializing in special education, and a specialist working with people with disabilities. Several people at the table were parents of Deaf children themselves, all with deep, steadfast opinions on how to raise and educate a Deaf child.

    img_1111_saveforweb

    At the heart of our discussion was the hotly contested debate between the oral approach and education in sign language. We’ve seen this debate in the United States; it was fascinating and heart-wrenching to see the same arguments mirrored in spoken Russian, by parents and professionals grappling with the same issues and struggles halfway around the world. Cochlear implantation is the norm in Russia; the oral method is the dominant approach in Deaf education and acquiring fluent speaking skills is the overarching goal for Deaf children. “So much time and money is invested in the cochlear implantation process,” one parent said. “Learning sign language is counterproductive to the child learning to speak.”

    It is easy to think that this educational pathway for Deaf children is the only one, and it’s why I was grateful to be here sharing my experience. Views are meant to be challenged and invigorated by new data and knowledge, it’s why cultural and knowledge exchanges like this are so important. As a Deaf man born to Deaf parents who was taught American Sign Language from birth, I am evidence that there can be more than one successful method of raising and educating a Deaf child.

    photo-1_saveforweb

    Back in September, during Ya Tebya Slyshu’s visit to Austin, we learned a great deal from Dr. Melissa Herzig and Melissa Malzkuhn, esteemed professionals in Deaf education from the Visual Language and Visual Learning Center in Washington, D.C. We learned that the brain processes spoken and signed languages the same way—(renowned neuroscientist Dr. Laura Ann Pettito: “The brain doesn’t discriminate, people do.” The brain learns language by recognizing lingusitic patterns, whether visual or auditory. By age five, a child’s brain is 85-90% developed. That brief span of five years is critical for a child to acquire the foundations of language. Yesterday, we heard the familiar refrain “we must try spoken language first, and if it doesn’t succeed, the Deaf child can always learn to sign later”. Through deep learning research, we now recognize this way of thinking poses a risk— by the time it’s evident the oral method has failed a Deaf child, it’s already too late. The child, now entering the first year of school, having grown up without language or communication will be forced to play catch up, frantically stuffing language input into a rapidly closing window.

    I attended a conference on bilingual education legislation recently, and heard a wonderful story from a hearing father of a Deaf daughter. When he and his wife found out their daughter was Deaf, they were dazed. Professionals and specialists piled on information and options on how to raise and educate their daughter. The sheer amount of information was overwhelming. One day the man and his wife were at a restaurant. The waiter came up and asked ‘Do you want soup or salad?’ The man sat and thought about it, and then said ‘yes.’ The waiter was confused. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Do you want soup or salad?’ The man said ‘yes’ again.

    And then it hit him—he and his wife didn’t have to pick just one option for their daughter. They would give their daughter everything and ensure she had all the resources and support to succeed.

    When emerging research indicates that learning sign language does not interfere with—and potentially helps—learning speech, why would we not want to give every Deaf child both sign language and speech education? We should say ‘yes’ or ‘da’ to both!

    img_1117_saveforweb

    At the roundtable, we shared our views that sign language is a viable education option and can coexist with speech education. Advances in technology have only supported this claim. We brought out iPads and showed them ‘The Giant Turnip,’ our visual storybook presented in Russian Sign Language (RSL) and written & spoken Russian. Their faces lit up as they saw a familiar traditional Russian fairy tale told in an all-new way, bridging both languages via signed videos and accompanying text. They swiped pages, played the videos of Vera signing in RSL, and clicked on words to see them signed and fingerspelled.

    It was a beautiful feeling to share this innovative resource, the product of months of work and collaboration between CSD, Ya Tebya Slyshu, and Melissa Malzkuhn and Dr. Melissa Herzig, with our Russian friends.

    And an even better feeling emerged, to have participated in this exchange of knowledge and culture, to broaden views on both sides, and to share in our mutual passion of creating better futures for Deaf children in the U.S., Russia, and everywhere in the world. It was a brief three-hour discussion, but the impact may be felt for a long time afterwards.

    Perhaps the next time we find ourselves in a restaurant, we’ll decide to order both the soup and salad, and give our Deaf children everything.

  • Featured News

    CSD Launches CSD Learns, a New Online Education Platform

    - by Joseph Santini

    Online, independent learning is a powerful tool. When we can independently search for information, learn about new topics, and find resources, we have the ability to better ourselves.  This is why I’m so passionate about CSD Learns. Over the last few years, I’ve seen online course providers such as LearnQuest or the American Management Association revolutionize the working experience for the United States employee. The ability to study from home and earn certification in new fields has opened doors like nothing else in history. With the introduction of CSD Learns, Deaf, DeafBlind, Deaf and Disabled, and Hard of Hearing individuals now also have a fully accessible platform for independent, autonomous learning.

    We work with various Deaf and Hard of Hearing subject matter experts to develop online courses in ASL which also use closed-captioning, sound, transcripts and other techniques to ensure greater accessibility for members of our community. We use visual learning approaches to ensure information is clear and meaningful. We incorporate the latest in technology and video and develop new tools to make learning accessible and fun. As part of CSD Neighborhood, we want to make sure we’re creating courses which benefit our community.

    Our first courses, available at no cost, gives learners tools for employment and professional advancement. Work and Benefits explains the process by which Deaf people receiving Social Security benefits can smoothly transition to employment. Searching for a Job provides effective strategies and tips that help job seekers find ideal jobs that fit their skill set and personal goals. Writing Resumes teaches you how to take your employment history, education background, skills and abilities and put them all together in a polished eye-catching document that appeals to potential employers. If you’re interested in these topics, or know someone who is, please visit our website to learn more and enroll.

    We continue to add courses to give learners from our communities tools and skills for lifelong success—our courses can even help develop and maintain academic skills. Our CSD Learns courses will expand as our community grows and succeeds. These free online opportunities will help equalize the playing field for the U.S. Deaf community.

    Enroll now or learn more about CSD Learns. Together, we rise.

    • Joseph Santini, CSD Learns Program Manager
  • CSD Neighborhood
    2 women playing Ping Pong

    Russia Team visits CSD: Day 4 (Friday September 30)

    - by Bobby Siebert

    By Bobby Siebert

    Our final full day went by in a blur as we worked with our Russian partners Alla and Zoya of Ya Tebya Slyshu and the Russian signer Vera to film the glossary words in the story ‘The Giant Turnip.’ With over seventy words to film, we were in the studio quite a while, capturing every word in the method established by the VL2 storybooks: signing the word and then fingerspelling it, and signing it once more. Eventually, we wrapped up filming and thanked Vera for her hard work and patience in the studio, signing every scene and most of the words multiple times to make sure we got the best take.

    Two Video Editors editing and reviewing videos.

    CSD videographers Toj Mora and Bradley Gantt review footage of Vera Shamaeva signing ‘The Giant Turnip’ in Russian Sign Language.

    With filming wrapped up, we bid farewell. We thanked Alla, Zoya, and Vera for making the long trip and participating wholeheartedly and enthusiastically in our various exchange activities. For their part, Alla and Zoya were thankful for the experience, especially for the research-based information they learned from the VL2 presentation on the cognitive benefits of bilingual education. They hope to bring what they’ve learned over to their communities in Saint Petersburg and Russia.

    Next, we look forward to our CSD team’s trip to Russia from November 5 to 14. We’ll visit Saint Petersburg and Moscow and participate in another round of exchange activities, including a roundtable discussion on bilingual education involving educational and medical professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing children in Saint Petersburg, a presentation on the early intervention system in Russia, and filming of the RSL/Russian versions of two current VL2 storybooks, ‘Baobab’ and ‘Blue Lobster.’

    We’ll be posting more during our Russia visit—be sure to check back for more updates!

  • CSD Creative
    Russian team visits CSD office in Austin

    Russia Team Visits CSD: Days Two and Three (Sept. 28 – 29, 2016)

    - by Bobby Siebert

    By Bobby Siebert

    We began day two with a video call to Alexei Svetlov, the Russian-born deaf artist responsible for creating original artwork for our storybook, ‘The Giant Turnip,’ based on original Russian folklore. Alexei remembers reading ‘The Giant Turnip’ as a child, and it holds a special place in his heart. He is an accomplished artist, and we are honored to have him contributing his art to our project.

    Next, we wrapped up the workshops and presentations by our VL2 partners, Dr. Melissa Herzig and Melissa Malzkuhn. Yesterday, the VL2 Storybook Creator looked daunting—a wall of code can do that to you. Fortunately, we had the talented and steady hand of Melissa Malzkuhn to guide us through, and the program proved to be much simpler than it looks. The majority of the Storybook app is ‘pre-coded,’ with most of the essential structure of the app—the framework—already built, leaving us to fill in preset gaps with new text and files of our videos and images. In a way, the Creator program is essentially a more modern, technological version of ‘paint-by-numbers.’ Before we knew it, we were adding new pages, putting in our own text, inserting sentence videos and glossary word videos.

    Russian Actress practicing her lines in front of Camera

    Russian signer Vera Shamaeva practices her lines for ‘The Giant Turnip’ as videographer Toj Mora looks on

    We bid our VL2 partners farewell after lunch, and then dove into the actual filming of the storybook! For the last half of day two and most of day three, we worked in the studio, filming the RSL/Russian version of the original Russian folklore story, ‘The Giant Turnip.’ Considering that we were working off a Russian/English script and conversing in a mish-mash of Russian Sign Language, American Sign Language, and International Sign, the effectiveness of our communication was remarkable. In one and a half days, we completed filming the Watch and Read modes of the storybook, all 18 pages of it.

    Tomorrow, we’ll work on the ‘Learn’ mode of the storybook—we have over 75 Russian vocabulary words to film. We can’t wait to share the storybooks with you!

  • CSD Neighborhood
    A group of people meet in a conference room

    Russia Team Visits CSD: Day One (Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016)

    - by Bobby Siebert

    By Bobby Siebert

    The RAP4CL team looks on as Dr. Herzig presents on the cognitive benefits of bilingual education.

    For the first day of our Russian partners’ U.S. visit, we took a tour of the CSD headquarters where they got the chance to meet our majority-deaf admin staff, and then settled in the Benjamin J. Soukup conference room to begin a workshop by our Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2) partners from Gallaudet University, Dr. Melissa Herzig and Melissa Malzkuhn. With the support of enthusiastic interpreters, we proceeded for a full day of information and knowledge exchange via four languages—American Sign Language (ASL), Russian Sign Language (RSL), English, and Russian.

    The RAP4CL team engages in a discussion during the tour of CSD office.

    The RAP4CL team engages in a discussion during the tour of CSD office.

    Citing research from Dr. Laura Ann Petitto, neuroscientist and scientific director of VL2, Dr. Herzig explained that visual phonology (ASL) and sound phonology (spoken English) activate the identical brain tissue, meaning that the brain acquires language through patterns, which can be found in both signed and spoken languages.

    For deaf and hearing children alike, early language exposure plays a crucial role in language development, leading to better eye gaze and joint attention, stronger vocabulary, and literacy development. Milestones for a child to acquire language, marking the appropriate age for children to begin babbling and express certain amounts of words, were found to be the same for ASL and spoken English. Contrary to popular belief, early bilingual exposure does not hinder the development of speech, and Dr. Herzig emphasized the importance of exposure to sign language at an early age. In one study, deaf signers who acquired ASL early were able to read complex English sentences more quickly and respond to associated questions more accurately than those who acquired ASL later in life.

    Dr. Herzig also presented various approaches in using sign language to improve literacy skills and bridging both languages, ASL and English. Studies show fingerspelling skills positively correlate with stronger reading skills. Fingerspelling, reading, and writing are interrelated, and early exposure to fingerspelling helps children become better readers. To help build the connections between signed words and fingerspelled words, one can point at an object, a person and printed words and then fingerspelling its name. This will support a child’s literacy development.

    Dr. Herzig leading her presentation on bilingual education. In the foreground, interpreter Inna Giterman translates into RSL.

    Dr. Herzig leading her presentation on bilingual education. In the foreground, interpreter Inna Giterman translates into RSL.

    The VL2 Storybook App was built on this wealth of research knowledge. It has three modes: Watch, Read, and Learn. In the Watch mode, the entire story is presented via ASL. In Read mode children can watch ASL videos and read English, for a self-directed reading experience supplemented by visuals—if a child does not know a certain word, they can touch that word and a video in a box pops up, signing and fingerspelling that word. And then in the Learn mode, children build up their vocabulary through a glossary of words that are presented via chaining method, in which the word is signed, fingerspelled, and then signed again.

    To wrap up the day, we began learning how to use VL2’s Creator program, which provides a convenient platform to create new bilingual and visual storybooks. VL2’s Storybook library currently includes Norwegian and Japanese books in addition to ASL books, and we can’t wait to add Russian books to their virtual shelf. The Creator program looked complicated with its lines of code, but Melissa Malzkuhn showed us how we could alter it to create a customized book of our own.

    “Combining visual stories and the touch screen tablet—a revolutionary learning tool— we can make magic,” Malzkuhn said.

    With day one wrapped up, we look forward to learning more about the Creator app and start filming our Russian signer in the studio in day two!

    Melissa Malzkuhn explains the VL2 Storybook Apps.

    Melissa Malzkuhn explains the VL2 Storybook Apps.

  • CSD Neighborhood
    VL2 Storybook Apps

    CSD Proudly Announces the Russian-American Project for Children’s Literacy

    - by Alex Karamanova

    By Alex Karamanova

    Communication Service for the Deaf is pleased to announce our newest international partnership initiative, the Russian-American Partnership for Children’s Literacy (RAP4CL). A CSD Neighborhood Project, RAP4CL will highlight the importance of language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children in the United States and Russia through the collaborative development and deployment of innovative educational resources in both countries. We’re excited to welcome our Russian partners, Ya Tebya Slyshu, a St. Petersburg-based non-profit organization that provide resources, support and advocacy for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families to kick-off the partnership this week. We’re also proud to partner with Melissa Malzkuhn and Dr. Melissa Herzig of the Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2), an NSF-funded Science of Learning center on this initiative.

    Phase one of RAP4CL will focus on the development of four visual storybooks created with VL2’s Storybook Creator program (learn more about these storybooks at http://vl2storybookapps.com/). The project will create an all new original storybook after a popular Russian children’s story ‘The Giant Turnip,’ with two versions planned: Russian Sign Language (RSL)/written Russian and American Sign Language (ASL)/written English. Deaf Russian artist Alexei Svetlov is creating original artwork for the Giant Turnip storybook. The remaining two storybooks will be RSL/written Russian translations of existing VL2 Storybooks ‘Baobab’ and ‘Blue Lobster.’

    During Ya Tebya Slyshu’s visit to Austin, they will participate in presentations and workshops conducted by Ms. Malzkuhn and Dr. Herzig on early language exposure and its impact on the development of brain, language and cognitive development, and training on the use of the VL2 Storybook Creator program to develop visual storybooks. Together, our team will shoot film for the first storybook, the RSL/Russian version of The Giant Turnip. This November, our U.S. team will travel to St. Petersburg and Moscow for a second site visit to participate in presentations and roundtable discussions on the state of bilingual education in the United States and Russia. At the Russian team’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, a videographer from CSD’s Creative team will lead a hands-on training that will establish a Russian-based creative studio focused on the continued development of bilingual education resources to encourage language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children throughout Russia. Our long term vision for this initiative is to empower the broad development of high quality bilingual education resources and spark interest and recognition of the critical importance of early language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children in both the U.S. and Russia.

    You can follow RAP4CL project activities on CSD’s social media and on our RAP4CL blog.

    This project is funded by the US-Russian Social Expertise Exchange program under the Eurasia Foundation.

     

  • CSD
    Trudy Suggs on How Virtualization Allows Deaf Community Roots to Remain Strong

    Trudy Suggs on How Virtualization Allows Deaf Community Roots to Remain Strong

    - by CSD

    [Video Transcript]

    It’s so nice that you get to work from home and don’t have to deal with stress!

    I thought you didn’t work. You’re a stay-at-home mom, aren’t you?

    Oh, wow! You work? All this time I thought your husband was supporting the family!

    You’re so lucky you can work from home in your pajamas!

    Although I’ve worked from home for 14 years now, I still deal with a lot of misconceptions about working at home. The questions are getting better nowadays, given the proliferation of teleworking — thankfully. Even so, the number one question I get is, “How do you do it?” I’ll answer that in a bit, but first, let me talk about why working from home is so beneficial particularly for the Deaf community.

    The work-from-home model served me well when my family made the life-changing decision to move from Minnesota to Maryland in early 2014.  Unlike many other couples going through similar experiences, we didn’t have to worry about employment. My husband had already been offered a job, so we only had to sell our house, pack up, and move east without worrying about how we would afford it. This was because my employment situation wasn’t changing; I was just changing addresses.

    People always have had to relocate for job opportunities, but this is especially true for Deaf people, who may want to be geographically near other Deaf people rather than a remote location with limited access. For example, during World War II, Akron, Ohio, was a popular location for Deaf people simply because of the Goodyear and Firestone factories hiring them in droves.  Other areas well-populated by Deaf people often were, and are, where Deaf schools or agencies serving Deaf people exist: Frederick, Md., Austin, Texas, St. Augustine, Fla., or Faribault, Minn., just to name a few. While this clustering has many benefits, it also creates a unique set of problems — and virtualization is a fantastic solution.


    The CSD website states, “Our employees are leaders. By going virtual, we’re able to keep them exactly where they need to be: in their own communities. By keeping leaders in place, we keep our Deaf communities strong.”


    Exactly! Instead of making Deaf people uproot their entire lives and families, leave the area they’ve grown to love (or even grown up in), and leave their friends and activities for a job — they can continue thriving in their home communities with their friends and loved ones. They can go to their favorite restaurants, their favorite stores, and their favorite spots. They don’t have to sell the houses they’ve worked hard for, or give up anything. As anyone who has had to relocate for a job knows, especially for those who are Deaf and not necessarily in an accessible location, it can be challenging to rebuild networks, meet new people, and learn the local culture.

    Within these local networks are state associations affiliated with the National Association of the Deaf, many of which are struggling to maintain membership numbers. One reason for this struggle is the departure of key community members to their new job locations. By going virtual, CSD — one of the largest employers of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing — can nurture thriving local organizations and close community ties. As CSD’s website says, “Decentralizing our operations allows us to widen our reach. Together, we are strengthening our communities and changing the world.”

    Let’s not forget the daily commute. People don’t have to battle the highways (anyone who has driven the 270 and 495 to Washington, D.C., during rush hour knows exactly what I’m talking about) to get to work. Instead, they can get out of bed, get dressed — not in pajamas! — and get to work.

    Virtualization also makes balancing work and parenting a lot easier. Parents don’t have to make sacrifices or difficult decisions anymore; instead, they can work around their children’s schedules, and schedule work activities in between games, school events, or meetings. While this does take some impressive juggling (thank goodness for shared calendars!), it can be done.

    By now, you know the answer to how I do it, especially with four young children: technology. When I first established T.S. Writing Services, in 2003, people could not fathom how I could make money because the technology was still so new. I remember taking a business owners course in 2004, and I was the only business owner who had an Internet-based company. Without video technology and the Internet, T.S. Writing Services would never have made it this far. I’ve put together a wonderful team of writers, editors, and designers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and they all get to stay right in their communities — thanks to virtualization.

    For the revitalized and forward-thinking CSD, this virtualization is a wonderful step in the right direction. This approach strengthens our Deaf ecosystem, nurtures local communities and organizations, and fosters a stronger sense of unity among the people we share our lives with, locally and nationally.