Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Ye Olde Finger Alphabet.

Legacy of Vineyard Deaf Community Endures

By the middle of the 19th century, nearly all up-Island settlers had become bilingual in spoken English and Martha’s Vineyard sign language. So much so that years later, elders couldn’t recall who from their upbringing had been deaf and who had been hearing. 

Due to a recessive gene and an isolated gene pool, at the time, one in 25 Chilmarkers was deaf. One in four people in Squibnocket was deaf. At around the same time in Washington D.C., a new university was founded for the education of the deaf. It would become known as Gallaudet University, named after the pioneering educator Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. 

Both the history of Martha’s Vineyard deaf community and the new university would change the way people with deafness were thought of, and the opportunities they were afforded. David Martin, a former educator and administrator at Gallaudet, visited Vineyard Haven on Sunday to talk about the legacy of the Martha’s Vineyard deaf community of the 18th and 19th centuries. Mr Martin, who now lives in Marstons Mills, was a featured speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard. 

“This is not just about deafness,” he said. “What can we all take away from this from the point of view of general human rights?” By 1952, the last known descendant of the Chilmark deaf community had died. But Gallaudet University students continue to study the phenomenon of inclusion that took place on Martha’s Vineyard through Nora Ellen Groce’s book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language. 

Studying New sign languages can destroy them.

Image result for Kata Kolok deaf
Studying an emerging sign language won't kill it – so what are linguists scared of?  Connie de Vos was sitting on her hands. It was 2006, her first stay in the Balinese village of Bengkala, and visitors had come every night to her house, sitting on the floor of the front patio, eating fruit- or durian-flavoured candies and drinking tea. 

About eight to ten people were there now, hands flitting in the shadows, chatting away in Kata Kolok, the local sign language: Where is the next ceremony? When is the next funeral? Who just died?  Kata Kolok was created in Bengkala about 120 years ago and has some special features, such as sticking out your tongue to add 'no' or 'not' to a verb. And unlike American Sign Language (ASL), in which people move their mouths silently as they sign, you also smack your lips gently, which creates a faint popping sound, to indicate that an action has finished.

"If you walk through the village at six, people start to take their baths, getting ready for dinner," De Vos recalls. "You can hear this sound – pah pah pah – all through the village."

A graduate student at Radboud University in the Netherlands at the time, De Vos had come to Bengkala to be the first linguist to map Kata Kolok's grammar and list all of its signs. At that time, she says, it was "kind of untouched", having emerged in an isolated community with a relatively high number of deaf people. Like similar 'village sign languages' that were starting to be identified in the 2000s, it was rich research material. She knew that being first to describe it would be a feather in her cap.

But studying any phenomenon risks changing it.

(Or do they mean invalidating it?).

We aren't being served

Image result for access all areasThe UK national hearing loss charity, (They haven't got around to recognising devolved government in the UK yet, despite it being the reality the last 22 years), has been asked why they keep advertising accessible events that are not accessible to HoH or non-signers?  

ATR asked why one highly publicised event noting BSL access did NOT state there was NO loop or text/captioned or lip-speaking, or content access for the HoH or deaf-blind?   Should they more honestly declare 'This event is for BSL people ONLY'?

Mainly the charity cannot reconcile the Deaf and  HoH remit with the reality it is neither accurate or real in the light of highly successful 'D' 4 Deaf campaigns that mostly shun access other than that signed.  The reality is HoH will see a BSL supported event as not one for them to attend, but struggling to see what events were.  

We had other examples where deaf complained a lip-spoken tour was discriminating against them.  The fact HoH have the view BSL is 'for them not us', may well be known to charities, but they should still cover access properly and state what ISN'T provided.  Are they just playing safe by not challenging the inequalities of singular BSL access? Yes.  Because the other areas are doing the same as they are.  Equal access has a lot to answer for.

ATR Wrote:

While sign users will welcome updates on events there does seem very few events that are text, loop, ipad, or lip-spoken assisted etc, can we see a more balanced event posting approach that is a bit more inclusive?   

We have noted many BSL assisted events do not include access for hard of hearing or non-signing areas, BSL, is also assumed to be a 'Deaf' assist and events aimed at them exclusively by many HoH areas, we need more details on access to identify if, it actually is there for us all.  BSL assisted events don't mean HoH associated mostly. When posting event updates let us have more detail on access please.