Text-to-911 service available for deaf and hard of hearing in Denver

AT&T/Relay Colorado, the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and my business, Context inMedia, recently partnered to produce a commercial promoting a  text-to-911 service now available for deaf and hard of hearing people in Denver.

Before current technology, if an emergency happened, deaf and hard of hearing people faced serious challenges in contacting emergency services. Now, with various relay services – especially video relay – it’s much easier to call 911 using your videophone, computer, laptop, or mobile phone. However, internet or video relay often isn’t ideal in fast-paced emergency situations when you’re not at the address to which your VP/account is registered. And many deaf and hard of hearing people do not sign fluently and so cannot use video relay to call 911, and internet relay is notoriously slow.

This is where text-to-911 can help. No more chasing after hearing people, asking them to call for you. No more standing by at the scene of an accident, wishing you could do something but feeling you can’t, because you have no way to contact 911. Now, deaf people can step up and do it themselves!

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Revisiting censorship and Kristin Henson’s “Dirty Signs”

1stamendment

Now that Kristin Henson’s book, “Dirty Signs,” has been published and outrage is now circulating among the Deaf community on social media, I thought it a good time to reprint the column I wrote in early 2012 about freedom of speech and why it’s so important that we understand the distinction between banning and protesting a book.

People who write negative reviews on the book’s Amazon page are doing the right thing.

People who write protest letters to the book’s publishers are doing the right thing.

People who say it should never have been published are saying the right thing.  

People who say it should have been banned in the first place are saying the wrong thing. 

Henson’s book should never be banned, but I can support protesting a majority group member’s economic exploitation of the endangered language of a minority group. It is immensely unfair that even as thousands of deaf children are being deprived of or actively barred the opportunity to learn American Sign Language, a hearing person with very little connection to deafness is profiting from perverting the language (not only by teaching only dirty signs, but also by doing them wrong). 

I know people are not going to like my position, but I will always, always support our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the press. So, without further ado, here’s the original column.

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Incipit: It begins

"The Beginning" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

Recent events, particularly over the past couple months, have spurred me to start this blog. I used to be a prolific blogger until grad school – too much writing for academia essentially killed any desire to write in my spare time! And then I focused on my journalism career. But after a few years’ hiatus, the pieces seem to have fallen into place for me to resume a more personal form of writing. This time around, my intentions with this blog are to share my contemplations about media and journalism, explore the relationship between the media and the deaf community and sprinkle in personal tidbits about newlywed life in Colorado.

One particular piece that contributed to kick-starting this blog is the virulent criticism I’ve received whenever I write an article or op-ed about issues related to deafness. Deaf education and culture are hot-button issues and often spark very loaded, acrimonious debates in which people frequently make assumptions about others’ backgrounds, beliefs and values. This has been particularly true of comments left on some of my videos and articles, and because I generally abide by a policy of not commenting or engaging with commenters on my videos/articles themselves, I often do not respond to or correct these criticisms and assumptions. I also have not had any forum in which I could lay out my personal beliefs and reasons for covering issues the way I did and the choices I made in the process – which actually often are very different from what some people assume, particularly when my coverage does not appear to jibe with their own beliefs or perspectives. The only opportunities I have to respond or clarify typically come when individuals e-mail me about my work or I see something in a thread on Facebook that I think is worth responding to (such as when someone thought I was hearing). These limitations can be very frustrating, hence the creation of this blog to allow me a forum in which I can publicly introspect and reflect on my work and on tangential issues. Because I often muse about far more topics and issues than I actually write about for publication (and because Facebook just isn’t an ideal outlet for the mini-essays I like to produce!).

That means anything on this blog, unless otherwise stated (usually with a title that begins with Report:), should be considered my personal opinion. And I hope that, while I recognize that all journalists – myself included – have personal biases that we struggle with when writing articles, readers will give me the benefit of the doubt when I say that I make a honest effort to be factual in my reporting and reserve my opinions to my blogs/op-eds and try to separate the two as best as I can. Of course, it often isn’t that simple and I work through a very complex thought process whenever I write about a difficult topic, and that’s what I hope to write about here as well.

That said, I hope you’ll enjoy my blog and maybe even learn a thing or two about me and the topics I discuss in my blog posts!