July 21, 2006
No Boarding Pass for You: If you’re a Deaf traveler flying on your own in Thailand anytime soon, Thai AirAsia will not let you aboard. Just this week, the airline announced that anyone who is Deaf, blind, or has a disability cannot fly unaccompanied on any of its planes within the country. Officials explained that because they are a budget company, they cannot afford to provide ground support staff to these travelers. This means if you’re Deaf, the only way you can fly Thai AirAsia is to book an extra seat for your hearing “assistant”…even if you don’t require any “ground support staff”. Here we go again with budget issues and excuses regarding access for Deaf folks! So much for their logo – if you squint your eyes to see the tag line at the right, you’ll notice that it says “Now Everyone Can Fly”. Everyone?? Hmm…
Anti-Discrimination Project for the WFD: The fact is, Deaf people continue to be viewed as disabled and denied equal access by many countries, organizations, and governments all over the world. The Thai AirAsia situation is something that the World Federation for the Deaf (WFD) could get involved with. More reason to make plans to attend next summer’s WFD World Congress to play a role in improving the lives of Deaf people on a global level. We will be definitely be going and look forward to networking with other Deaf mental health professionals there. As requested by some of you, here’s the video for the 2007 WFD World Congress. Click on the arrow and wait a few moments for the video to load. Enjoy!
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July 20, 2006
Less Stress = Better Health: Good news from the Department of Justice. Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland just signed a consent decree in which it agreed to comply with the ADA by providing interpreters to all patients and their families or companions. The hospital was sued by a group of Deaf people whose interpreting requests were not accommodated.
The decree mandates that the hospital be responsible for the quality of video relay interpreting (VRI), including equipment and connections. It also gives Deaf patients the right to request an on-site interpreter over VRI. No longer will the hospital be able to get away with making Deaf patients, who are lying down, strain their necks and eyes in order to watch the VRI on the screen. Patients will be able to have on-site interpreters who can move around and position themselves where the patients can see them best.
Making communication accessible for Deaf people needs to be a priority for hospitals everywhere. Considering how vulnerable and stressed many people already are when they or their family members have to go to the hospital, there is absolutely no excuse for adding more emotional distress to their situation by refusing to provide appropriate interpreters. It can be a very traumatic experience to be confused and upset about what is happening in the hospital. Not being able to get clear answers from medical professionals because of communication issues puts Deaf patients in a terrible position to make informed judgments about their treatment. There can be long-lasting emotional effects from these kinds of situations, including increased anxiety and depression and acute stress disorder.
We are hopeful this this consent decree will have positive effects on interpreting access in hospitals all over the country. At the very least, it is a wake-up call for hospitals to respect Deaf patients’ rights to accessible and fair communication.
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July 19, 2006
Sharon’s Frustrating Week Defining the ADA: What an experience I had at my doctoral program’s summer session last week. I am currently enrolled in Fielding Graduate University, the only APA-accredited distance learning program for clinical psychology in the USA. This means that instead of sitting in a classroom with professors and students, most of my classes are online seminars or independent learning projects.
Once a month I meet in Baltimore with my classmates and a professor, for what we call “cluster” meetings. Fielding also holds week-long national sessions where everyone gathers in the same place and spends the week attending classes together. That’s what I was doing last week in Alexandria, Virginia. What an exasperating week it was! For me, the biggest challenge at summer session was not the academic part, but the struggle to get the university to schedule interpreters for activities both inside AND outside of the classroom.
The university readily provided interpreters for all of my formal classes and seminars, meetings with advisors and deans, and featured guest speakers at night. Getting the university to scheule interpreters for other events such as the multicultural students panel, community meetings in the morning, and networking lunches was not so easy. The advisor who books my interpreters said that Fielding is required by the ADA only to provide interpreters for “academic” events, which they define as formal classes and nothing else. Never mind the fact that one of the biggest reasons they offer the week-long national sessions is so that students and professors can strengthen their relationships in face-to-face interactions.
On top of this, I am supposed to alert the university 60 days in advance about when I will need interpreters for any Fielding-related classes or meetings. If I sign up to attend a national session when registration opens up five weeks before the session, the 60-day advance notice rule is impossible to uphold. And if I need to meet in-person with a professor, am I supposed to wait two months for an interpreter to be located? I patiently explained several times to the graduate advisor and two deans about my request to have interpreters available throughout the day, since the whole week was an “academic” experience, whether in the classroom, at a poster session, or in the lobby.
Fielding finally agreed to give me interpreters for most of the week, by which time I was already exhausted from pleading my case, invoking the ADA, and arguing about what “academic” really means. This was after I had been told that my interpreting costs were eating up over 90% of the budget Fielding had allotted for “disability support services” for the entire year. And after I was informed that one student in a wheelchair was forced to pay out-of-pocket for her personal assistant because Fielding didn’t have money left in its budget to cover that expense. It was obvious they wanted to make me feel guilty about taking money from the student in the wheelchair and others. Needless to say, the next step I plan to take is to write a letter to the Fielding administration requesting an overhaul of the interpreting scheduling process.
Multicultural Students’ Support: On a nicer note, I shared my exasperation about the interpreting situation during a panel session for the Multicultural Students Association one night last week. Everyone was very supportive and empathic. Listening to students’ perspectives on multicultural issues in the university, I could identify with many of their stories. It really brought home to me the feeling of being a member of a cultural minority group as a Deaf person, especially when it was mostly other minority students and allies who offered their their warmth and understanding.
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July 19, 2006
A Different View of Psychology: For years, psychology has had a reputation of digging into people’s psyches, probing their pasts and coaxing them to share their deepest secrets, all with the ultimate goal of coming up with a label of one kind or another to diagnose whatever is “wrong” with them, their emotions, brains, relationships, lives, and so on. Tired of psychology’s emphasis on these “wrongs” and on mental illness (as opposed to mental health), in 2000, Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, shifted his perspective on psychology and came up with his own definition of a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology.
The basic idea of Positive Psychology is that positive emotions, strength-based character, and healthy institutions (including families, schools, communities) play a role in peopleï¿½s happiness. Instead of focusing on people as victims and their struggles as diseases, Positive Psychology looks at what is healthy and good about people. Dr. Seligman’s research has shown that by using Positive Psychology interventions, people can experience more happiness and satisfaction with life, find more meaning, dream bigger, and smile more. Depressive symptoms can also be reduced for the long-term.
Do Try This at Home: Here’s a Positive Psychology exercise that you can try out and see what happens. Every day for one week, stop and think of three things that you are grateful for in your life that day. You can write them down or just think of them before drifting off to sleep or while riding the subway to work, whenever you are relaxed and able to think quietly for a few minutes. Try to let yourself experience your happiness or gratitude about the three things you choose each day. After one week, see if you notice any difference in your mood, if you feel happier, less stressed, or more content.
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July 14, 2006
Women in Science Face Biases: Yesterday’s Washington Post features a story about a neurobiologist who had a sex-change operation, switching from a female to a male (FTM = female to male). According to the story, after the scientist had his operation, he returned to work as a man and gave a talk. Another scientist, who did not know that his formerly female colleague was now a male, was overheard telling someone that he had done a great job and that his work much better than his sister’s work. Imagine! The only thing that had changed was the scientist’s gender. Here was a man doing the exact same work he had done before when he was a woman, only now he was getting more of his colleague’s respect and praise.
This makes us think about Deaf and hearing colleagues. It’s not hard to imagine that in the hearing world, hearing people get more respect than Deaf people for the same work. What about in the Deaf community? If a Deaf professional and a hearing professional do the exact same work or make the exact same suggestions, who gets more respect? What might happen if two copies of a book are submitted to the Gallaudet Press, one identified as written by a Deaf person, the other identified as written by a hearing person? Which book would be selected for publication?
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