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Deaf Interpretation

Ramona G. Banks can look back on some of her earliest years and see God preparing a path for her to enter ministry to the deaf.

Growing up, one of her friends from school had deaf parents. At 15, she began attending a deaf church, and a year later, she worked and interpreted for a deaf man who repaired shoes.

“The Lord started very early in my life, putting the love of the deaf in my heart,” says Banks, now 71.

Ramona met her future husband, James W. Banks, while attending an Assemblies of God church in Edmond, Oklahoma. James, 74, felt called to preach while in high school. As his relationship with Ramona progressed, he also sensed a tug to deaf ministry.

“We began to date, worked together, attended a deaf congregation in Oklahoma City, and from then on God led us to what we’re doing,” James says.

James, who serves as an Intercultural Ministries U.S. missionary to the deaf, has surpassed 54 years in the ministry. He and Ramona continue to lead a deaf congregation at Radiant Church in Colorado Springs — where they have been for more than 25 years — they say their work is as involved as ever.

The Banks arrived in Colorado Springs in 1991 after pastoring a pair of deaf congregations in Oklahoma and spending several years in Springfield, Missouri, as Assemblies of God national representatives to the deaf, blind, and disabled.

James says the main hurdle a deaf person has regarding understanding the gospel is not just that they can’t hear — which can be overcome using sign language — but rather grasping certain concepts. Because English is a second language for most deaf people, many read at around a fifth-grade level. It can be difficult to comprehend the Bible on their own.

And because the deaf do not have a written form of sign language and do not necessarily “think” in English, Banks says many of the intangibles in the gospel message present a challenge.

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SpeakSee uses mics and app to get deaf people in on the conversation

While there are already speech-to-text apps that allow deaf users to read what other people are saying, they’re often thwarted by background noise or multiple people speaking at once. SpeakSee, however, is a new multi-mic system that reportedly works much better.

SpeakSee was created by Dutch entrepreneur Jari Hazelebach (working with company co-founder Marcel van der Ven), who grew up with two deaf parents who often had difficulty following family conversations.

The basic setup consists of three Wi-Fi wireless mics (although up to nine can be accommodated), a mic docking station/charger, and an iOS/Android app. Each mic is clipped to the shirt of a person involved in a conversation, and utilizes a “beam-forming” directional system to pick up their speech while not picking up background sound, or the speech of other people.

The mics transmit the audio to the docking station, which can be located up to 20 meters away (66 ft). It processes the speech picked up by the different mics, then relays the audio data via Wi-Fi to the app on the deaf user’s smartphone. That app transcribes the data into text that is displayed onscreen in real time, with different colors and names indicating which person is speaking.

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Morristown National Historical Park News in Morristown, NJ

Peter Toth Piano Recital  at Morristown National Historical Park

 1 pm, Sunday, June 24  2018
Washington’s Headquarters Museum
30 Washington Place
Morristown, New Jersey   07960

Free Admission

Morristown, NJ – Please join Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) as it welcomes back acclaimed Hungarian pianist Peter Toth for a piano recital at 1 pm on Sunday, June 24, 2018. The free event will be held in Morristown NHP’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey.

Mr. Toth will play the park’s 1873 Steinway Grand piano in his second recital this year of a series at Morristown NHP. The programs are all at 1 pm on Sundays; future dates are:
*September 16, 2018
*November 11, 2018
*December16, 2018

Hungarian pianist Peter Toth is one of the most recognized artists of his generation. He has concertized in most countries in Europe, South America, and Asia. His first released CD recording won the Grand Prize of the Hungarian Liszt Society (2006). Mr. Toth is a regular guest artist at various piano festivals and has been member of the American Liszt Society since 2011.

For more information on the recital, contact Chief of Cultural Resources, Dr. Jude Pfister at 973-539-2016 x 204; or email:

Morristown National Historical Park preserves, protects, and commemorates the landscapes, structures, features, and museum collections of the Continental Army winter encampments, the headquarters of General George Washington, and related Revolutionary War sites at Morristown, New Jersey for the benefit and inspiration of the public. Morristown NHP also represents a continuum of our nation’s efforts to protect our common heritage: as the very first “national historical park”, the park was also established to commemorate, preserve, and memorialize American history and heritage.

For more information about Morristown NHP, please call 973-539-2016 ext. 210 or visit our website at

You can also check out our Museum Blog at

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Traveling is a Privilege – Vlog

This is a long video, but it is because it is a personal video that I wanted to share with you guys what I’ve learned about myself, my privileges, from meeting different Deaf community around the world. No matter where we are in the world, there is a sense of Deafhood between each other. However, our experiences are different.  

THANK YOU ALL DEAF COMMUNITIES for teaching me!! I hope this video will make you realize what privileges you may or may not have.

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Landmark Rochester School for the Deaf unveils new playground

A whole new world has opened up on the campus of Rochester School for the Deaf.

Tucked beside Denton Hall lies a unique landscape specially designed for the school’s youngest attendees. There is a “messy” area, where students can make mud pies or pretend to cook. A corner with wheeled toys helps children to develop motor skills. A ‘building’ section replete with sticks and logs allows pupils to construct campfires and makeshift dwellings. A nearby stage provides a venue for acting and dancing.

Together, these distinct spaces comprise the RSD Early Childhood Center’s Natural Playground, a multipurpose site designed to promote positive learning and developmental outcomes through imaginative play.

RSD officially unveiled the playspace with a ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday morning, but the seeds for the project were planted three years ago.

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Deaf pilot flying to her dream at Purdue – Vlog

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A seven-week scholarship program is giving people with disabilities the chance to get into the pilot seat of an airplane. Able Flight funds pilot lessons for the deaf and people in wheelchairs.

It’s the ninth year the program has taken place at the Purdue University Airport. According to instructors of the program, the university is one of two aviation programs to run the lessons. The other is at Ohio State University.

Two students are in a wheelchair and two are deaf. In July, they’ll all have the chance to take their test to earn a pilot license.  One student this summer is Julia Velasquez.

“Ever since I was little, I have always been fascinated by the sky,” said Velasquez through an interpreter. “I’ve always wanted to fly.”

The California native said she’d go to airshows at a U.S. Navy airbase which got her hooked. She’s even won the chance to participate in a Mars habitat simulation as part of a science-based TV network.

Her big dream is to become the first deaf astronaut. Obtaining a pilot license is a step to her dream.

She has become an advocate for the Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Heard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) communities. She would like to see the aviation industry do more to allow those people to pilot planes.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, there are more than 200 deaf pilots in the United States.

Velasquez wants her license to show it can be done.

“I think it would be a huge moment for our community because we have faced so many years of stigmatizing, saying deaf people can’t do so many things,” she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has an entire section dedicated to deaf pilots. It reports deaf pilots have a limitation put on their certificates that says the pilot can’t perform flights that require radio communications.

There are five pilot certifications a member of the deaf community can earn. The FAA adds that number could change with improvements to technology.

“We can do the same things as everybody else,” said Velasquez. “We want to be equal. We want to come up with creative solutions to make it work.”

There’s already some creativity at the lessons. The instructors aren’t trained in translating the signed and spoken word, but they’re learning on the job.

“I didn’t know any sign language when I first met Julia,” said instructor Andrea Hynek, who is entering her senior year at Purdue and earned her flight instructor license last summer. “I wanted to communicate with her as best as I can, so I learned the [alphabet] and that helps a lot.”

The instructor said she’s spelled out several words so many times that now Velasquez has given her the sign for it. So, there are some words Hynek can now use.

The instructor will sign to her student up in the air or write down instructions, which takes longer and may cause issues if the duo is in a crunch for time.

“There’s a lot of teamwork,” Velasquez said. “A lot of communication.”

The pair has even had a scary moment together. Last month, on the second day of lessons, the engine died while in the air. It wouldn’t restart.

“We took off and the plane was acting perfectly normal,” said Velasquez. “The propeller stopped. It just stopped and I was like, “what is happening” and we looked at each other.”

As the instructor, Hynek took over and glided the plane down into a field. Her student even commented that the landing was smoother than some landings on a runway.

Neither passenger was hurt and the plane had no significant damage. It was even used during Friday’s lesson.

Hynek said she had never had to make an emergency landing and was surprised to see her student eager to get back in the pilot’s seat.

“My heart was thumping,” Velasquez said. “I was nervous. It was really a challenge getting back in.”

Velasquez said along with pursuing her dream of being an astronaut, she would like to work to get more deaf pilots their license.

Velasquez and the other students in the program will be honored at an airshow in Wisconsin next month.