Monday, December 31, 2007

Bike for Shalva

Now here is a combination of enjoyment that I REALLY like: bicycling and wine (and good food!).

Imagine riding a bicycle through the unbelievably gorgeous Israeli countryside, with like minded people, getting a great workout, just right for working up a hearty appetite. During the ride you make a stop or two, visiting the country’s top wineries, touring their facilities, and meeting several of their top wine critics who will regale you with stories and tidbits about ancient techniques and modern trends in wine production.

At the end of the day, after a nice hot shower, you head out for a gourmet meal, with delectable wine tastings and desserts. The next day, you get up, and do it all over again. Now, add to that picture, that whilst you are enjoying yourself to the hilt, and getting into great shape, making new friends, learning new things, you are also raising funds for Israel’s premiere organization for mentally and physically challenged children – SHALVA.

So, now, while you are having a good time, you are also doing good – engaged in the work of “tikkun olam” (fixing the world) and “chesed” (kindness). What could be better?

If this intrigues you, check out for more information on where to sign up…

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Energizer Hearing Aid Batteries vs. Immorality

Energizer is giving away FREE hearing aid a CI batteries. That's right -- FREE batteries. No catch. You go to and sign up to receive your pack of free batteries. You can even choose which kind you need. But it is supposed to be a one pack per person giveaway. On a listserv in which I participate it was suggested that one use other family members or friends to sign up for a free pack and then give the free pack to you. Following that suggestion was a comment that it was immoral. Following THAT comment was the following comment:

"Actually, trying to take advantage of the battery company fits in pretty well with what I read on here. People looking for every benefit available, trying to force other people to do things for our benefit at their expense...."

I had to respond to that last one:

Hmmm, interesting. My husband and I recently had a rather long
discussion of what is considered reasonable accommodation.

Truth is: everyone does what is in their own best interests. People
who advocate for the disabled generally are either disabled
themselves, or are close to someone who is -- either family or

No one just out of the blue decides to advocate for the disabled. That would be crazy -- because of course there is a cost to doing that.

My shul for instance: We are building a new shul. We are required to
make it wheelchair accessible. That adds a real cost to our budget.
Never mind that there is no on in the membership who is in a
wheelchair, right? (Wrong, but I am just playing devil's advocate here -- yeah, I am advocating for him of all people!).

And the
mechitza (the divider between the men's' and women's' (sections) must accommodate hearing impaired women who need to see in
order to hear -- never mind the fact that there is only ONE person who
actually needs that.

I could go on. NO ONE would ever consider making their business,
home, or public space 100% accessible to all people -- it is not
do-able -- unless it is mandated. The
ADA pretty much took care of
that but not wholly -- some of its wording is too ambiguous -- and
there are loopholes for organizations to take advantage of. And, as
discussed in previous posts, the smaller "mom and pop' places are
exempt due to the prohibitive cost of making their places accessible.

But is this comparable to finding a way around the giveaway of free
batteries, intended to be one pack per person? Nah. To be sure, the
manipulation of the system to get more than one pack per person IS
Immoral? No. Unethical? Yes. Perhaps I am splitting
hairs, but there IS a difference.

Comments, anyone?

(01/01/2008 Update: Energizer was contacted with regard to this promo and stated that it is NOT meant to be 1 pack per person. One may sign up for a free pack as many times as one wishes, as long as one waits 24 hours between sign ups! So, no one is taking advantage of anyone here...)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Israeli Folk Dancing...

Below is an email exchange I had with another participant in the CI Forum in which I participate. I am sharing it here because I found it to be funny and it made me laugh. The first posting was in response to someone stating that there is a general misconception in the world that deaf people cannot dance.

From: Deborah C
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 11:06 PM
Subject: Re: Deaf can't Dance..

That was me I was talking about my friend, whom I met at Israeli folk dancing.

I am so glad you broke through that stereotype!...and sorry you are not feeling able to dance as you did.


--- Rachel Stern rsusselj@OPTONLINE.NET wrote:

Yeah, I DO have pictures of me dancing on stage -- somewhere, buried
amidst the detritus of my life.

I thought it was you. I have WAAAAAAYY too much email in my inbox to
keep straight.

I started with folk dancing, including Israeli folk dancing.
Interestingly enough I do not really like Israeli folk dancing.
Israeli folk dancing has
too many parts:

Part 1: combination of these four steps
Part 2: combination of those four steps
Part 3: combination of this and that step
Part 12: combination of part 6 and part 7 plus an additional step
Part 18: do the twist, and the hokey pokey, wave your hand and go
back to part 1
Part 19: HUH? I cannot remember part 1!!!


-----Original Message-----
From: Deborah C
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 12:12 AM
Subject: Re: Deaf can't Dance..

Are you trying to kill me over here? LOL I'm hysterical over here...I imagine that was funny even if a person has never done a step of Israeli dance...but I was really into it about 10 years ago, and that IS how it is! Thanks! I really need to try it with my CI...I have had some chronic pain issues that kept me away for a long time, but I think I can do some of the easier dances now.

Ranting Request...

Calling all office managers, copy machine users, mailing personnel! I am in need of the following item: Multifunction Color Laser Copier with high capacity multipurpose input tray.

I need this for my place of employment. We frequently do mass mailings and I thus need to print addresses on the envelopes. Please do not suggest we outsource this. We DO outsource the three largest mailings. But I see no reason to outsource mailings of up to 5000 pieces or fewer. Besides, I find that I can create nicer looking envelopes when I print them inhouse. When we are sending out fancy invitations to a 10k plate dinner -- I think nicer looking addressing is important.

We print on various size envelopes from standard COM10's , to 8 x 8 squares, and 4 x 6 sizes, and various other sizes in between. Most machines I see have a multipurpose tray with a capacity of about 100 sheets -- which translates to 50 envelopes, approximately. This is not good when I am printing several thousand envelopes. I would even be happy with an input/output capacity of 100 envelopes at a time, but higher capacity would be better.

I have tested special machines for envelopes in the past but have hated them. I have to adjust this lever for width, this lever for height, that lever for angle, each printer head for alignment, that knob for spacing, this knob for vertical space, that knob for horizontal space, and so on and so forth. I HATE this. Why can't there be either a copier with a special high capacity multipurpose drawer for envelopes or a desktop printer, that works like a regular desktop printer but with a higher capacity tray that will allow me feed it at least 100 or more envelopes at a time? What the dickens is so hard about that? Why can I not find this? Are the manufacturers of the desktop printers so afraid to step on the toes of the envelope printer manufacturers? And furthermore, why would anyone WANT an envelope printer that requires a million physical adjustments, and testing of about 100 envelopes before one gets it right -- and to pay in excess of $3k for that privilege?

GRRR! Ok, fess up you technogeekineers who have information about what I want! Please, this is no time to keep secrets!

Thank you!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Closed Captioning Films, redux

This was in response to a posting citing the resistance of hearing people to captioning:

I would also like to relate a couple of things:
1) My husband and I go upstate NY to a bungalow colony every weekend in the summer. Every Sat night, a movie is shown. When we first started going there (8 years ago) the movies were still on reels! Then they switched to video and finally, a few years ago to DVD's. Once they switched to DVD's I knew that they could use the CC/subtitles feature. So, I requested that they do so for me. There were some grumblings initially about it but they did it. Then, the following weekend we did not make it upstate for some reason. I heard, via my SIL, that when they put on the movie that week, initially they did not put on the CC, until several people shouted out that they wanted it! Now they use the CC all the time -- even hearing people like it because they too, miss things.
2) Several of our friends and family who have had the opportunity to sit and watch TV with us have experienced the CC -- and many of them tell me that now they use the CC all the time too. They are all hearing people...
So...the couple who did not want to see a CC movie don't know what they are missing! Too bad for them.

Hearing in Shul (or church)

A discussion ensued on the list on the best solutions for hearing in a situation such as one as being in church. Most solutions centered on the use of ALD's (Assistive Listening Devices) -- all of which are prohibited for use on Shabbat by Halacha (Jewish Law). I thus posted about my experience a brief encapsulation:

I must share with you a little bit of my experience. As an Orthodox Jew, I face a pretty big problem when going to shul to pray. Men and women sit separately. There is usually a physical barrier between the men's section and the women's section. In some shuls, the women sit behind the men, in others the women's section is to one side of the shul and the men's section to the other side (usually, the men's side is bigger). In other shuls the women's section will flank the men's section (two women's sections, with the men's section in the middle). In some shul's the women sit up in a balcony.
In many shul's the divider, called a Mechitza, actually blocks the view of one side to the other. But there are many which use semi-sheer curtains, or darkened glass, or crosshatched panels as dividers.
As you can imagine, in all cases the mechitza is truly a barrier for someone like me who cannot hear and must read lips. I need both proximity to the sound and the view, and my view needs to be unobstructed, in order for me to hear well. Everytime I go to a new shul I am fraught with worry about whether or not I will be able to hear well enough to understand.
My husband and I, when we moved to our current home, became involved in the founding and formation of a new shul. As a result, for the first time in my life, I have had a say in the design of the shul and the mechitza. It was not an easy thing, though. In the beginning, there was some resentment and grumbling about designing a mechitza to meet the needs of only one person. (Forget about that fact that such design would not thwart the needs of anyone else!). However, our shul went through some major crises which resulted in the leaving from our shul of a core group of people -- all whom were those in opposition to a design that would work for me. The group of people who are still with us, are very open to working with me on the design -- so much so, in fact, that we ditched the temporary mechitza that had originally been built (behind my back and without my input and installed without any warning to me, and was completely unworkable for me-- I CRIED the day I went to shul and found it installed!) -- and three of us (myself, and two other people) did the work of designing, producing, and installing a new mechitza that works very well for me. It uses a lace curtain at the top, that is semi-sheer, and that I can slide open during the Rabbi's sermon.

Do deaf people not hear? or are they not "paying attention"?

This was my response to a post from a member complaining how her family always accuses her of not paying attention:


I really wanted to respond to your comments about "shutting down" and your family thinking that " were not paying attention...". As an HOH person I well understand this. First of all, as an HOH person, if I want to get meaning from my life in terms of what I hear, it means I must ACTIVELY listen, all the time. ACTIVE listening is actually HARD work -- this is something that most hearing people do not understand. It is TIRING. Thus, I have found that even in the midst of a good party, I can become tired easily, and it is easier for us, than most, to slip into our own reverie, or even, horror of horrors, find ourselves nodding, when everyone else is talking! If you are surrounded by fast paced conversations (multiple conversations) it is hard to follow -- so the "shut down" effect occurs. This, in turn, leads others to believe that you are purposely "not paying attention". I am sure you understand all this. I just thought putting it into explicit words might help you find the words to explain to your family what you go through. I remember being told by my mother, that teachers would complain to her that I must be turning my HA's off, because I do not seem to be paying attention to them. I was shocked when she told me that -- because at no time do I remember purposely turning my HA's off -- even as a young child! In retrospect, I believe I may have "shut down" as a result of the enormous effort involved in active listening -- and thus appeared as if I were not "paying attention".

Julie Andrews turns 69!

I received this via the listserv:
To commemorate her birthday , actress/vocalist,Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP.
One of the musical numbers she performed was "My Favorite Things" from the legendary movie "Sound Of Music". Here are the lyrics she used:

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
(Sing It!) - if you sing it, it’s especially hysterical!!!

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts ,and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
(Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes and repeated encores. Please share Ms. Andrews' clever wit and humor with others who would appreciate it.)

Deaf people can't dance...says who???

Response to posting about the concept that deaf people can't dance:
In an earlier post, I forget who posted, someone mentioned about the misconception that many people have that deaf people cannot dance. That is so true and I think my own mother must have swallowed that "bubbe meiseh" (Yiddish for Old Wives Tale).

As a child I only wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for Baton Twirling lessons. The teacher had decided before I began the class that I would not be able to do it because I could not hear. She was right -- she never made any accommodation for me(such as making sure I could see her when she gave the explanations!)

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for violin lessons. I do not play the violin.

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for piano lessons. I do not play the piano.

I still wanted dance lessons. My mother signed me up for guitar lessons. I do not play the guitar.

I still wanted dance lessons...

I cannot pick out a note if my life depended on it, BUT, I CAN move my body

1. When I was in HS, I attended a few of the school dances. I got up to dance and was surrounded by a bunch of the black kids in my class who were shocked to see a white chick who could dance (this is back in the 70's) It was fun!
2. When I was in HS, I participated in an extracurricular folk dancing class. The teacher thought I was particularly good and asked me to join his troupe.
3. When I turned 21, I began seeking out dance workshops and activities. I became an excellent dancer: I did international folk dancing, square and contra dancing, Cajun/zydeco dancing, swing dancing (my favorite!), other kinds of ballroom dancing, belly dancing, and West African dance, and even some hip hop. In 1996, I hurt my back and my early onset arthritis was aggravated. I have not been able to return to that level of dancing so now I rarely dance but miss it.

I have performed on stage numerous times.

WHO says deaf people can't dance???

How many deaf/hard of hearing in the US??

This post was in response to poster claiming that we (deaf and hard of hearing people) represent less than 1% of the population of the US -- a statistic that is so completely wrong. The discussion was about that fact that we represent enough of a subsection of the population so as to be a crucial market that businesses should be catering to us -- but for some reason are not. I suspect unity, or lack thereof, is the major reason...

According to the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) in 2005 there were 36.5 million non institutionalized adults with hearing impairments -- which represented 17% of the population of the US (non institutionalized population).

That was in 2005. I do believe those numbers have increased a bit now in 2007. We are far more than less than 1%!!!

And those numbers do not include children!

I think we have the numbers to be a market to be reckoned with.

When I was growing up, true, choices of technological aids were far more limited. But -- back then all hearing aids and all telephones were basically created equal. For a very short time public telephones were being put in place that were not compatible with hearing aids. These became outlawed, and by law all public telephones had to be HA compatible. This was back when Superman still had a booth to change in!

I remember that I could go anywhere and pick up any phone and my hearing aids would work (using the T-coil) on all phones. I also remember that I was able to watch TV, and go to the movies and I did not need captioning. My hearing has not gotten worse. Technology has -- with technological advances new cinematography could be utilized. Off screen dialogue, "realistic" background sounds, soundtracks, overlapping dialogue, etc -- all these have killed my ability to understand TV and films. It took years to make CC available. At first one needed to spend money on additional equipment in order to get the CC. Now, all TV's, VCR's and DVD's will play captioning. Theaters are WAY behind on this. And when they do provide accommodation, they look for the cheapest alternative, and seem to do so grudgingly, giving me a choice of maybe two films out of 16 or 20 to see with CC. Many times the CC does not work. And, my experience too, has been that many people with "normal" hearing, who at first may protest having the CC on, when they experience it, they end up liking it because that way they realize, they do not miss anything!

And now, the internet. At first this has seemed like a wonderful thing -- and it IS. I love it. I met my husband via the internet. I got all my better paying jobs via the internet. And I have made many friends via the internet. But now streaming is bringing whole TV shows and movies and videos to the internet -- and virtually none of them are captioned. The laws of accessibility do not cover the internet because the internet came along after the ADA! It is frustrating.

I agree with you -- amazing things have happened for us. But I want more -- I always want more. I do not think we can ever rest on our laurels and be happy with what we are given --

Posting from another listserv. Subject: SHALVA

I belong to an email list serv called 'Forum@LISTS.NUCLEUSCI.COM' and I have posted several items relating to myself. I received several comments about how good my posts were and thus I am posting those items here. The next several posts will be from the list. Enjoy!
(Some of the info in the posts duplicates parts of earlier posts I made to this blog...)
The first posting I am entering is a description of the organization for which I work... and what we do in the office here in the US...
Shalva is the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel. All their services are provided FREE of charge. Currently, they have a main 7 story facility in Har Nof, Jerusalem which is an amazing place and two satellite facilities in outlying areas.
We are building a new building, the groundbreaking was just this past August. When complete, it will be the largest facility of its kind in the entire Middle East. Shalva provides services to children without regard for their racial, religious, or ethnic backgrounds -- we serve Jewish, Israeli, Christian, Arab, Palestinian and others.
Shalva came about as a result of a tragic occurrence. When Yossi Samuels, the son of the founders, was a very young boy he, along with hundreds of other children in Israel, was given a faulty DPT shot. Many of those children died. Those who didn't suffered various disabling results. He suffered by losing his hearing and his vision and became extremely hyperactive. His loss was prelingual. Trying to reach a child in this condition and give him the gift of communication is a very difficult thing to do. His parents initially came to the US, thinking we would have many more resources to help him. But they were unsuccessful here so they returned to their home in Israel. In Israel there is a woman, Shoshana Weinstock, who is herself deaf, and a teacher of the deaf. She was considered a miracle worker and they asked her to try to reach Yossi. She initially put them off as she was a bit intimidated by the big job that entailed, but they finally prevailed and she went to work with Yossi. She spent many days, weeks, months with him. One day there was a "eureka" moment, where, just like Helen Keller, he "got it". The word that broke the dam was, in Hebrew, "Shulchan" which means table.
Prior to this, his mother, Malki, had made a vow, that if they could somehow reach Yossi, to bring meaning to his life, she would work to help other families in the same situation. When Shalva first started, they were given a "miklat" -- a shelter, a basement. According to the man who showed it to them "what more would children like these want?". Shalva's initial focus was on what they called the "fragile family hours" -- the time between when the children come home from school and bedtime. Families who have a child with a disability will usually find these hours riddled with stress -- instead of being able to cook a nutritious meal, eat in a relaxed manner, help the other children with their homework - they are usually spending most of their time dealing with the needs of the disabled child. Shalva provided for these families a place for these children to go during those hours, allowing these families a semblance of normalcy during these hours, allowing the other children to gain the attentions of their parents, allowing them a break. Today, Shalva does much more than just provide respite -- it provides all forms of therapies, learning environments, overnight camp experiences, and more. The provide this for children and their families -- for all kinds of disabilities: autism, downs syndrome, CP, deafness, blindness, etc. All of this: FREE.
Here in the US, we raise money to enable them to do all this. And that is what we do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Skype Me

I am posting here a link so people can call me using Skype. If I find that I am being bothered too much I will remove this link. Please only use it if you really have a good reason to call, if you have Skype and have a webcam. I really want to SEE you -- it is so much easier for me to understand when I can see your lips!


Skype Me™!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Further adventures with Phonak Savia Art

So. I returned to the audiologist this past Tuesday for further adjustments to my HA's. I had also requested she order a remote control for me, which she did. Jobi attempted to program my HA's to communicate with the remote (and vice versa), but she was not having any luck. She called Phonak and a rep there walked her through the whole thing but it was not working, so they concluded that my right HA is a bum HA and a new one is being sent by Phonak to replace it. In the meantime --

Unbeknownst to both Jobi and me, the various programs she set in the HA's for remote control actually did get set -- and I can control them with the click of the button on the HA. And, because of that, there actually is an OFF setting -- which is great for me in terms of the halacha of using HA's.

Let me explain, first the programs: we chose to add the following programs:
  • telephone only which mutes sound around me
  • speech in noise
  • sound from behind

So now, when I turn on the HA's they are in the default listening program which will, or should, switch to other programs automatically based on input sensed. If I click the button once after the HA is on, it goes to the telephone only program. A second click puts me in the speech in noice program (my favorite!), and a third click allows me to hear sound from behind only. A fourth click turns them off, and a fifth click puts it back to auto (the first program). I do not mind using the button on the HA, except for the following 2 issues:

  1. If I am wearing a headwrap (scarf) it is a pain in the neck to do that
  2. I suspect a lot of clicking of that button will cause it to wear out

Using a remote will obviate the need for the above.

Now about the Halacha thing. For those of you who are not Jewish or not religious: Halacha means Jewish Law. Now, on Shabbat (Sabbath) we are not allowed to turn lights on/off, or any electrical thing on/off. We do not drive. We do not light matches. We do not watch TV (technically, according to Halacha, you can put a timer on your TV (as we do with lights) and watch it on Shabbat -- but it is not according to the spirit of the law and so it is strongly frowned upon and not done- at least not by anyone I know).

So this prohibition could also affect HA users. However, the Rabbeim (Rabbi's) who studied this problem came up with the following:

  1. We CAN turn HA's on/off but only for necessity, and only with the use of an on/off switch
  2. We can manipulate the volume or programs in the HA's
  3. We canNOT use the battery as the on/off switch (ie; opening the battery case to turn the HA off, closing the case to turn it on)

Now this has posed a problem in recent years since most HA's do not have on/off switches anymore. Users rely on the opening/closing of the battery case to turn their HA's on/off.

So, it seems that we were able to program an "on/off program" -- which is GREAT for me. So...

I am still really enjoying my Phonak Savia Art HA's and soon I will be 5k poorer for it!