Posted on

Weather preparedness, awareness tips for deaf and hard-of-hearing people

Presidential alert

Making plans for weather emergencies may be challenging for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if the information is not presented visually.

Messages of emergency preparedness and weather awareness are often disseminated through radio and television announcements that are then shared through the internet and social media. However, it’s important that this information is made visible, according to Howard A. Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf.

“To be fully accessible, any auditory information regarding emergencies and inclement weather should always be provided simultaneously with captioning and sign language,” said Rosenblum.

6 life-threatening tornado myths debunked
The difference between tornado watches and warnings
7 lightning safety tips if you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm
How to stay safe when severe weather strikes at night

Weather alert radios and fire safety systems can be modified for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to offer vibrations and flashing lights with each message. And smart phones offer a wide variety of visual alerts, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Alerts System.

“Phones are very important, especially during power and/or home internet outages,” said Norman Williams, a senior research engineer with Gallaudet University, the country’s only liberal arts college for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. “They tend to continue working during the storms unless nearby cellular towers get damaged. Without TV, phone service, power and home internet, it will be tough for deaf people to get information.”


But experts say there may be a potential problem with live streaming video on social media during weather emergencies: it’s possible that the messages will not be captioned, which creates a barrier for deaf people.

“Communications that are geared towards mobile apps and smart phones are a necessary part of efficient and effective dissemination of emergency and weather information to everyone including deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as long as the information is provided in all modes including auditory, captioning, and sign language,” Rosenblum said.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities has a comprehensive guide with tips and resources about this topic.

“During an emergency, planning for the communication needs of someone with a hearing loss might help reduce stress and also save a life,” according to the pamphlet.

emergency kit for deaf and hard of hearing

Posted on

OSD teams honored at Statehouse

OSD teams honored at StatehouseOSD teams honored at Statehouse

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall (R-District 22) from Atoka honored a trifecta of championship teams from the Oklahoma School for the Deaf April 8 on the House floor.

The school is located in McCall’s district. He is a frequent visitor and supporter.

The OSD men’s football team was named the 2018-2019 co-champion, while the women’s basketball and cheer teams are both champions in the Great Plains Schools for the Deaf Conference.

McCall, who was absent to attend a funeral in his district, asked his colleague Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols to introduce the students and read a citation recognizing their achievements.

In a Facebook message posted with a video of the presentation at

 McCall wrote, “These young men and women have worked very hard to excel in the classroom and on the playing fields. I am very proud of their accomplishments, and it was truly an honor for all of our members to have them at the Capitol.”

Sen. Frank Simpson (R-District 14) from Springer stepped out of the Senate session for a photo with the student-athletes and acknowledged their presence in the Senate gallery overlooking the Senate floor.

The OSD football team’s record for 2018-2019 was four wins against Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas and three losses to Louisiana, Mississippi and Life Christian Academy. The team was also the conference champion in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2018.

The football coaches are Lawson Pair, head coach; Jason Sledd and Jimmy Mitchell, assistant coaches; and Chris Reagle, retired assistant coach.

The OSD women’s basketball record was nine wins and 14 losses. In conference play, OSD earned five wins and two losses against Kansas School for the Deaf and Texas School for the Deaf, which is the Division 1 national championship team. The OSD team also earned conference champion titles in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016.

Women’s coaches are Levi Mathis, head coach, and Deb Ulery, assistant coach.

“Our OSD women beat several teams from public schools with hearing students from the local area and gave several Class B, A and 2A schools in our area a run for their money,” Mathis said.

Posted on

Apartments for Deaf and partly Deaf opening in Gatineau

A new building in Gatineau, Que., will combine custom-built community housing with a support centre for people who are deaf and partly deaf when it opens in June.

The building in the Hautes-Plaines neighbourhood opens in June and will include 18 units with adaptations such as warning lights for fire alarms and doorbells instead of audio cues.

It will offer support services in the basement and also has space for activities, according to association de l’ouïe de l’Outaouais (ADOO), which advocates for the deaf and partly deaf in the Outaouais, and is managing the project.

“It’s important to have an apartment with nearby services so they’re not isolated for days and weeks,” said ADOO’s acting director, Rana Annous, in a French interview.

I’ve had lots of frustration over the last two years when it comes to communicating with my neighbours,” said Michel Portelance, one of the building’s future residents, through a sign-language interpreter.

“When I move in here, I’ll be happy.”

The $5.3-million project has been in the works for five years and was funded by private donations, fundraising efforts, the local health agency and the city.

ADOO said it’s the third of this type of building to open in the province.

Posted on

Three Deaf Business Owners Are Building a Tiny House Resort in West Virginia

For the past two years, a trio of Gallaudet University graduates has been working with deaf business owners, artists, and builders to launch a vacation resort deep in the forests of West Virginia. Two and a half hours outside DC, Lost River Vacations is set to be a getaway for anyone who wants to leave the city for a weekend but still have access to high-speed wi-fi. Everything visitors will see—the houses, artwork, website, and photography—will have been made by deaf people.

Jane Jonas, 36, one of the founders, says the idea started when she was having a beer with friends Shawn Harrington and Andrew St. Cyr. All three, who met through mutual friends at Gallaudet, are local business owners and had considered partnering on a bigger project for years. Jonas has operated a creative agency for more than ten years, Harrington owns a house-flipping business, and St. Cyr runs a film-production company.

“We thought about our life when we were little, going to deaf camps, and how the outdoor activities were the memories we’d cherish,” says Jonas. “We always had so much fun with them.”

The nostalgia gave birth to the idea of an eco-friendly getaway for both kids and adults. “A place for all kinds of people,” says Jonas. She immediately started looking for land that might fit the group’s vision.

While Jonas and her wife were on vacation in the Outer Banks, their resort lost power. Instead of going home, the couple searched Airbnb for other getaways outside of Washington. They drove more than six hours to the Lost River Hideaway and arrived to find a serene cabin far from urban society.

“Maybe it was just the whole aura of it,” says Jonas, reflecting on that first visit. “Not only did we fall in love with it, but we contacted our friends and said, ‘Listen, we just found the beauty in this whole weird experience. This might be the place where we might want to create our resort.’ We took pictures and started doing more research.”

While much of the resort is still in the works, the group has already secured 22 acres of forest next to Lost River State Park. Harrington has already constructed one tiny house, which is on-site and available for rental, and they’ve received zoning approval for another three. When it’s finished, Jonas says, the site will have up to ten tiny houses, a spa, a sauna, pools, a disc-golf course, and a beach right on the nearby lake. “We want this to be a family resort where you can bring your family, bring your dog,” she says.

Posted on

HIRE ME program supports local students with disabilities in hopes for job inclusion

HIRE ME program supports local students with disabilities in hopes for job inclusion

Some people may know 1975 as the year the Vietnam War ended, or the year their hearts stopped as they watched “Jaws” terrorize New England on-screen — but how many know it as the year students with disabilities were finally allowed to enroll in public schools?

Less than 45 years ago, a child with disabilities was excluded from receiving a proper education in the public school system. During this time, children who were blind, deaf or had mental disabilities were left to be home-schooled by their parents or receive no education at all.

Shippensburg University’s special education professor David Bateman has experienced the effects of this concept first-hand with a member of his wife’s family who was restricted from going to school during this period. Instead, he paid to attend a Catholic school that provided appropriate services.

“It was legal to prevent him from going to school,” Bateman said.

In 1967 alone, about 200,000 children with significant disabilities were taken from their homes and placed in state institutions with minimal food and shelter, according to the Office of Special Education Programs.

While April is the month dedicated to autism awareness, one may consider the very different world Americans live in almost a half-century later.

SU has its own part in supporting students with disabilities in the community, through the HIRE ME program provided by the special education department.

SU has partnered with Big Spring High School and Shippensburg High School to give students with disabilities an outlet to learn job skills through individualized and hands-on job coaching from SU student volunteers, including special education majors.

HIRE ME prepares these high school students for real-life jobs after they graduate. The job coaches introduce them to a job and relevant skills, such as how to interact with supervisors and tips on how to react to situations in the workplace.

For many students, this is their first exposure to the workforce environment, according to education department Chair Thomas Gibbon.

Students are placed in various sites on campus, including Reisner Dining Hall, the Ceddia Union Building, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Dr. Nicole Hill’s office, and the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel in Shippensburg.

The driving force behind HIRE ME is to address the need for inclusion in the workforce and employment of individuals with disabilities in the community, according to HIRE ME’s graduate assistant Alexandria Jones.

She stressed the importance of acknowledging individuals with disabilities’ presence in the community and giving them what they need to thrive in society.

“These individuals are here, and they exist in our communities. I have never met a person with a disability that did not want to work. They want to be included,” Jones said. “More importantly, they want to be given an opportunity. They want to be able to go out and contribute.”

HIRE ME seems to be doing just that. The program is inviting these individuals into the conversation and asking, ‘What do you need?’

The program was created four years ago when Big Springs School District approached SU with the idea to start the program together. The district wanted its students with disabilities to obtain job experience, but had trouble finding sites for them to work due to Big Springs’ rural nature, according to Gibbon.

Now that all students are allowed to attend public school and receive an education, the need for jobs within the special needs community is becoming prevalent.

Not only is it providing a resource for job coaching, but it is training the community’s students with disabilities in transferrable jobs, such as working in the campus Starbucks and Dunkin, Gibbon said.

For example, a student working at SU’s Starbucks can now go on to apply those skills at the Starbucks in town.

Gibbon said the program has seen an increase of self-confidence from the students as they begin to see themselves as employees.

“We’re trying to see some growth in their perception of themselves as workers,” Gibbon said. “One of the problems for people with disabilities, historically, is that they were not given opportunities to try some of these things and, therefore, did not know they existed.”

HIRE ME has seen its workers graduate to competitive employment. The partnered school districts have another program after they leave HIRE ME that gives students an opportunity to move toward competitive employment.

Gibbon and Jones are both working to see the program grow with classrooms on campus, in which the students could come to campus all day and give them more time working on their job site.

Gibbon would like to expand to more diverse job sites on campus that are not food service-based, but teach students skills on warehouse sites or in landscaping jobs in a nursery.

HIRE ME is open to any SU student interested in volunteering and working with these high school students. The program is always hiring employment specialists.

To get involved, contact Alexandria Jones at

“My hope is that one person realizes within themselves, ‘I can really do this,’” Jones said. “And I think they learn that from all the people that help them.”

Posted on

West Hartford Sign Language Teacher Awarded Fellowship

Mick Posner, who teaches American Sign Language at West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools, has been awarded a fellowship with the Fund for Teachers.


Mick Posner, who teaches American Sign Language in West Hartford Public Schools, was recently awarded a fellowship with the Fund for Teachers, a grant program in conjunction with the Ray Dalio Foundation for public school teachers. Only 500 teachers nationwide were selected for this prestigious award.

The fellowship is a self-designed initiative with the overall goal of becoming a better educator.

This July, Posner will travel to Nuuk, Greenland ,to spend a week with their native deaf community learning Inuit Sign Language (ISL), their survival-based culture, history, and ways of life. By becoming a pupil of a unique sign language system and a remote community, Posner plans to use that experience to better understand his West Hartford Public School students’ language acquisition experience as L2 learners.