Stanford Article: Seeing at the Speed of Sound

I love “Seeing at the Speed of Sound,” a long article by Rachel Kolb that could’ve very well been written by me. I can relate to dealing with mumblers, people with accents, spy comments, darkness and encounters with the deaf community.

Not only is it hard to lipread mumblers and people with accent, but others as she lists them. “People with thin lips; people who mumble; people who speak from the back of their throats; people with dead-fish, unexpressive faces; people who talk too fast; people who laugh a lot; tired people who slur their words; children with high, babyish voices; men with moustaches or beards; people with any sort of accent.”

My older son, 15 years old, wears his hair long. And it gets to the point where his bangs cover his eyes. I can’t talk to him like that. It feels like a barrier to communication even though it has nothing to do with his lips. Like Kolb says, people with unexpressive faces are harder to understand. So not being able to see his eyes is probably part of that.

Response to Viewpoint about Deaf Community

Hunger Games captionsI appreciate Kayla Davis sharing her experience as the child of parents who are deaf in January 4’s Viewpoints. However, readers need to hear (no pun intended) another person’s perspective. When my parents found out I was born profoundly deaf, they chose to raise me orally. As a result, I learned how to communicate by reading lips and speaking instead of using sign language.

Like Davis’ parents, I’ve run into awkward situations like being offered a wheelchair. While riding an elevator, my husband’s co-worker asked him if I could read Braille on the elevator’s buttons. When my husband first told his mother about me, she asked if I can talk. “Yes, in three languages,” he said.

Yes, some people misjudge us deaf folks. It’s often because they have little experience with us and need a little education; even well-educated people like Vice President Al Gore. After I talked to him, he said thanks in sign language. I thanked him and revealed that I didn’t know sign language. It wasn’t to embarrass him – it was to teach him and those listening to our conversation that not all deaf people are the same. Helen Keller said it well: “The highest result of education is tolerance.”

Davis rightfully expressed frustration with her parents’ neighborhood theater, which stopped providing captions. She also explained they had to wear bulky caption glasses to view movies. Maybe she’s not aware, but Cinemark offers a different captioning technology.

Hunger Games captionsCinemark has a bendable arm with that fits into the theater seat cup holder. Attached to the arm is a small display with the captions. It allows me to see most movies with family and friends without the uncomfortable glasses. Sure, the device is noticeable, but no one has given me strange looks.

I also take issue with her disappointment in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. The show’s writers have done an excellent job of educating the audience on the diversity of the deaf population. The writers compromised by having the main deaf character speak, read lips and use sign language. They have introduced deaf characters with a variety of communication traits. For example, one regular deaf character uses sign language and never speaks. Because Davis quit viewing the show after a season and a half, she missed a few insightful episodes, one of which was entirely in sign language.

It’s ironic that Davis writes, “They [deaf people] are unique individuals, and they are just like us.” This is what Switched at Birth is about — unique individuals who communicate in different ways and come from families where some know sign language and some don’t. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s a great resource for educating people about the deaf.

Another valuable resource is the Special Needs Partnership of Dallas Jewish Family Services’ “Inclusion Experience: Taking a Walk in Different Shoes,” an educational program for schools, youth groups and organizations. Its interactive, multi-sensory curriculum simulates the effects of a variety of developmental and physical disabilities to build awareness and create an environment of inclusion and empathy.

Closed-Captioned Video Examples

Char James Tanny put together a great list of resources on captioned videos. I wanted to capture it here so I could embed videos, share a few notes and post screen shots from YouTube.

They are examples showing how the following types of videos differ:

Many years later, I’ve put together a caption guide.

No Captions

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have trouble understanding a video without captions and transcripts like this one.

Open Captions

Open captions always show up on the screen regardless if the viewer wants it on or off.

Note: The problem with videos having open captions is they won’t show up on YouTube when searching for cc videos. This video does not appear in the search when filtering for cc videos.


This one also has captions, but you need to click the CC symbol to turn them on. This gives the user control over captions. This way you don’t have to create two separate videos. You create one video and let the user decide.

Audio Description

Audio description enhances the video by explaining what is happening. If someone cannot see the action on the screen, AD describes what’s happening. For example: [Gibbs slaps Tony on the back of the head.] Tony: Hey!

ASL / Sign Language

Videos with sign language are specifically designed for those who are fluent in sign language. (Remember not all deaf and hard of hearing people know sign language. Yes, including those who are born deaf.) YouTube has more than 40,000 ASL videos. The IRS has posted several videos to provide tax information.

Search for CC Videos

To search for videos with captions:

  1. Enter a search term.
  2. Press Enter or Return.
  3. Select CC (closed caption) from the Filter drop-down menu.
YouTube Search Filter
How to filter cc videos on YouTube

This screen shot shows the result after filtering videos by cc. Notice the cc symbol in the entry. A video with built-in captions will most likely not make the cut or have the symbol like the example.

YouTube Search Results for CC
Results of YouTube search using cc filter

Google also allows you to filter for closed captioned videos.

Search Google for CC videos
Filter closed-captioned videos in Google

What Do Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cochlear Implants Sound Like?


Image from user Ambrozjo

I had been looking for resources that show those with normal hearing what it’s like to hear with different levels of hearing loss, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. I had two resources in an old blog post and found three more today, so I’m combining them in this post.

As I come across more resources, I’ll add them. The bottom half of this post has an explanation of what it’s like for me to hear.

Hearing simulations

Hearing loss demos demonstrates what various degrees of hearing loss sound like. It has a variety of sound clips (singing, birds, telephone, musical instruments, etc.) and how they sound to someone with normal hearing, mild to moderate hearing loss and moderate to severe hearing loss.

How I Hear is an interactive tool that lets you press play on the clip and then toggle to configure severity.

This PowerPoint file is a simulation of what a cochlear implant sounds like. Be sure to play the presentation to see it work.

The following clever video from “The Flintstones” changes the sound to show you how someone with normal hearing, mild hearing loss, and moderate hearing loss hears the show. (Source: wunderlife)

This “Cochlear implant: simulation on speech and music” video is a simulation of what users of a cochlear implant hear for speech and music. (Source: wunderlife)

Hearing Loss Simulation through “Hear the World” song

Hear Loss Simulation with Dinah Shore

What it’s like to be hearing impaired

What it’s like for me to hear

I was born profoundly deaf, started wearing hearing aids at age 1, attended roughly 10 years of speech therapy and received a cochlear implant in my early 30s. I’ve always been able to recognize human voices. Most of the time, I could tell you if it was a man, woman or child. But I could not translate the speech into understandable English.

It’s like this image.

French clip

The following questions don’t apply if you’re fluent in the language shown in the image.

  • Can you tell what the image is? If yes, that’s like my ability to figure out I’m hearing someone talking as opposed to animal and other sounds.
  • Can you tell what language it is? If so, that’s like my ability to figure out if it’s a man, woman, or child talking.
  • Can you figure out a few of the words? If yes, that’s like my ability to recognize words — people saying my name or a common word like “Hello.”
  • Can you translate the paragraph and memorize it? If yes, add music and it’s like my learning the lyrics to a song and being able to follow it.

This applies to both hearing aids and the cochlear implant. The only difference is that I pick up more sounds and from further away with the cochlear implant. However, it didn’t increase (not noticeable anyway) my ability to translate human speech into English.

YouTube Auto-Captioning

A New Meme Is Brewing: YouTube CaptionFail. This is one of those situations, where you wonder, is it better to have captions even though a lot of it is messed up or no captions at all.

I tried to autocaption two of my previously captioned videos. I took off the captions and let YouTube try its hand. Well, so much for a fun opportunity to compare the original captioned video and YouTube’s. YouTube’s autocraptions failed in both cases. Maybe my accent was too much for it.

OK, I’ll take a little something over nothing. Heck, you can get a lot of laughs by searching for YouTube caption fail in Twitter. Latest from YouTube on captioning and YouTube’s autocaptioning instructions.

Just last night, I caught a funny caption mistake. The caption said, “A strange couple” in reference to Jin and Sun on Lost. I said to my husband, “Oh my gosh… that’s so politically incorrect.”

“It’s ‘estranged,'” corrected my husband. And that made sense.

Talk about a bad typo.

More caption fails:

What are some of your favorite caption fails?

FCC Announces New Closed Captioned Complaint Rules

Jack Foley created the "CC in a TV" ...

Image via Wikipedia

Source: Deafnetwork
On Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, two important new closed captioning rules were published in the Federal Register and went into effect. The new rules require immediate attention by video programming distributors — including broadcast television stations — to ensure that they respond promptly to viewer complaints regarding closed captioning issues, and to ensure that they timely file contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010.

As detailed in Davis Wright Tremaine’s November 2008 advisory and subsequent January 2009 advisory update, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order in late 2008 that, among other things, imposed new requirements on video programming distributors with respect to fielding inquiries and complaints about closed captioning. While the implementation of some aspects of those rules was delayed initially, with Friday’s publication in the Federal Register, two of those are now in effect. The new rules, and the obligations they impose on video programming distributors, are discussed below.

Streamlined complaint process

First, the Commission’s earlier Order revised the complaint process for complaints involving closed captioning rules, and with the Feb. 19 publication in the Federal Register, the new complaint procedures are effective immediately. The revised complaint procedures are as follows:

  • Viewers who believe that a video programming distributor has failed to meet its captioning obligations may now file a complaint directly with either the FCC or with the program distributor, e.g., cable operator, television broadcaster or DBS provider. (Previously, viewers were required to first file complaints with distributors.)
  • If a complaint is filed with a program distributor, then the distributor must respond to the viewer complaint in writing within 30 days of receipt. If a video programming distributor fails to respond to the complainant within 30 days, or if the complainant is unsatisfied with the response, the viewer may then file a complaint with the FCC within 30 days.
  • If a complaint is filed directly with the FCC, the FCC will forward the complaint to the program distributor, which will be required to respond to the FCC in writing within 30 days of receipt. (Previously, distributors were required to respond to FCC complaints within 15 days.) In responding to a complaint, the video programming distributor must provide the Commission with sufficient records and documentation to demonstrate that it has complied with the Commission’s rules.
  • Viewer complaints must be in writing and must be filed within 60 days of the alleged violation (whereas previously complaints could be filed within the calendar quarter in which the alleged violation occurred). The complaint also must state with specificity the alleged Commission rule violated and include some evidence of the alleged rule violation.

New captioning contact requirements

Second, in order to facilitate the ability for viewers to (1) raise immediate captioning concerns (such as garbled or missing captions), and (2) file captioning complaints, video programming distributors must publicize appropriate contact information and also provide contact information to the Commission.

To assist viewers with immediate captioning concerns while they are watching a program, video programming distributors must publish a telephone number, fax number and e-mail address for purposes of receiving and responding immediately to any closed captioning concerns. The revised rules require that “customers using this dedicated contact information must be able to reach someone, either directly or indirectly, who can address the consumer’s captioning concerns.”

Under the new rule, distributors must ensure that any staff reachable through this contact information has the capability to immediately respond to and address viewers’ concerns, and in situations where the captioning problem does not reside with the distributor, the staff person receiving the inquiry should refer the matter appropriately for resolution.

Distributors are not required to alter their hours when they have staff available, but if calls are placed when staff is not available, such calls and inquiries must be returned or addressed within 24 hours. The FCC also expects distributors to take measures to accommodate calls placed through a Telecommunications Relay Service operator.

In addition, distributors also must separately designate a contact person for the receipt of written (non-immediate) captioning complaints. This contact person must have primary responsibility for captioning issues and compliance with the FCC rules. The contact information must include the contact person’s name, title/office, telephone number, fax number, postal mailing address and e-mail address. A distributor’s contact information must be included on the distributor’s Web site (if it has a Web site), in billing invoices (if any) and in telephone directories (if the distributor already directly advertises or has a paid expanded listing, i.e., more than merely name, number and location in standard font, in a telephone directory).

The FCC will maintain a list of video programming distributors’ contact information for purposes of resolving closed captioning issues. Accordingly, distributors–including cable systems, broadcast television stations and satellite television providers–must file their contact information with the FCC by March 22, 2010. Distributors must provide the required contact information both for handling immediate concerns and for receiving written captioning complaints.

The best way for video programming distributors to file this information with the FCC is to visit its Web site and submit the information online. The Commission’s Web site contains a detailed form with step-by-step instructions. Alternatively, the contact information can be e-mailed directly to the FCC’s Disability Rights Office at:

Video programming distributors must keep their contact information current and update both their Web sites and the Commission’s database within 10 business days of any changes.

Finally, the Commission has stayed the effectiveness of the rule that would require video programming distributors to forward closed captioning complaints to a third party in certain circumstances. Because of the potential conflict with laws prohibiting the disclosure of personally identifiable information to third parties, the Commission has stayed the implementation of this rule until it can review the issue further and potentially issue a notice of proposed rulemaking. [Source]

Additional information!input.action?form_page=2000C

Two Different Experiences in Talking to Children

Children in a Primary Education School in Paris

Image via Wikipedia

I thought I had blogged this story, but only found bits and pieces. So here’s the whole story as my daughter remembers it.

“I’d like to think that I was a unique individual from birth. I learned, at a very young age, that my family was different, but my parents instilled a sense of pride in me. Everything I was, no matter how it compared to others, was something I could wear proudly. My mother is deaf, and this never struck me as strange.

“However, in second grade when children still loved to see their parents anywhere they went, mothers and fathers would come into class to read aloud. My mother doesn’t know American Sign Language (ASL), nor does she need it. She reads lips with crisp perfection; even I couldn’t help but to imitate it in my early years. She also speaks clearly, of course with a slight accent, but as time goes on, it lessens. I never heard any strange accent, only the sound of my mother’s voice.

“This isn’t what my peers heard. They mocked her openly in front of me and asked why she sounded so weird. What a blow this was, the first time that anything about me was ‘strange’ and unaccepted. I wasn’t ashamed, though. To this day my mother remains an incredibly accomplished woman and writer. I get my language abilities straight from her. (Unfortunately, I acquired my father’s penmanship.)”

What’s strange is that I think I brought a book with a deaf character. But what was different between talking to my daughter’s class and my son’s class is that in my son’s class — I opened with an explanation of the deafness rather than letting the book do the talking.

I accept that children and even some adults will look at me in a strange way when my mouth opens and the words spill. But I do not accept my children’s classmates making fun of me in front of my kids. That puts the burden on my kids for something that has nothing to do with them.

After a great experience talking to two first grade classes this year, I hope to speak to more. It was college/career week. So I volunteered to talk to the kids about going to college, how college helped me on my career path, adjusting to college, and making a career. I explained some of the barriers and how technology has erased many of them.

I believe education is the path to understanding and acceptance.

Hearing Aid Tax Credit

The Senate's side of the Capitol Building in DC.

Image via Wikipedia

From [Hearing Aid Tax Credit web site](
What would the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act do? And, what are the differences in the House and Senate legislation?
The bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1646) would provide a tax credit towards the purchase of each hearing aid of up to $500 per hearing aid, available once every 5 years. It would be available to 1) individuals age 55 and over, or 2) those purchasing a hearing aid for a dependent. The House bill excludes coverage for those with incomes over $200,000/year. The bill in the Senate (S. 1019) would provide the same $500 credit but would cover all age groups.

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Learn more about the [Hearing Aid Tax Credit](

17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss

questionmarks.jpg17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss shares great information answering many common questions I get from people. Some are afraid to ask the questions in fear of insulting someone. But I welcome them.

Here I share my responses to the 17 misconceptions from my experience…

  1. Everyone with hearing losses uses sign language and reads lips. I know a drop of sign language, which I’ve picked up here and there like I’ve picked up words in other languages. My dad and grandmother lost their hearing as they got older. Neither knew sign language nor how to read lips.
  2. Talking louder will help a person with hearing loss to understand. No, it puts us in an awkward situation. It *is* possible to talk too loud to me, but I can’t be sure if it’s someone’s normal volume or trying to do me a favor. Either way, I don’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s all about annunciation.
  3. Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal. I wish! I’ve used both and I still cannot hear a conversation on the phone, from behind me or on TV.
  4. People with hearing loss are stupid, mute and unsuccessful. I run a successful full-time freelance business. Before doing this, I had a great career in both the government and in telecommunications. A recent article discusses two employees at a large local company, one is an engineer. Unfortunately, if we dare ask “What did you say?” or don’t look like we understand, we’re perceived as stupid.
  5. People with hearing loss tend to be older adults. I was born deaf. ’nuff said. I’ve met many deaf kids my age over the years.
  6. People with hearing loss are defined by their hearing loss. Hardly. I’m a wife and mother first. Then a writer and volunteer. Being deaf does motivate me to work harder. I’m as much as a lefty as I am a deafie.
  7. Having hearing loss is shameful. Some folks who lose their hearing as they get older do struggle with the loss just like we all struggle with different things that come with aging. But as a person who was born deaf and never experiencing hearing like the average person, it’s not shameful. However, it’s true that some folks are in [denial about their hearing loss](
  8. When people with hearing loss miss something, it’s OK to tell them, “It’s not important,” or “I’ll tell you later.” Yeah, my brother did this to me all the time as closed-captions weren’t around until I was a teen. But I know he did it because it’s easier. It’s no different than when kids ask their parents what they were talking about to each other. They just don’t need to know everything.
  9. People with hearing loss are rude and pushy. From my view, I don’t like lose track of the conversation or force myself not to care what people are talking about. So in my anxiousness to stay on track, I might come across as pushy when I don’t mean it.
  10. People with hearing loss mostly hang out with other people with hearing loss. I’ve had very few deaf friends over the years. The only ones I know are from social networking. However, it’s true that some folks do all they can to be active in the community with other deaf people. It’s no different than Jewish people interacting with each other, Blacks and so on. You’ll find this in every race, culture and creed.
  11. Everyone who needs an assistive listening system can use ear buds or headphones. I can’t use ear buds at all. They’re not loud enough and they don’t reach my hearing aid. I use headphones and switch my cochlear implant to T-Coil to shut out regular sounds and only hear what comes through the headphones. The T-Coil has been around since I was a kid. Great invention.
  12. The wheelchair symbol represents universal access. It represents people who need to know if there’s access for someone with mobility challenges.
  13. Hearing access isn’t needed because it’s so rarely requested. “Many people with hearing loss are so accustomed to there being no accessibility accommodations that they don’t inquire about it unless it is publicized.” Very true. I’ve gotten to the pint that if someone tells me about a video, I don’t bother to check it out unless they say it’s captioned or has no words.
  14. People with hearing loss read braille. My husband ran into this when he was moving to Washington, DC, and I hadn’t yet joined him. Riding in an elevator, a coworker, who knew I was deaf, asked if I could read braille. Sure, I can rub my ear all over it and know what it says. Not really.
  15. Providing access for people with hearing loss is very expensive. I can caption my own videos for zero cost. (OK, we won’t go into the fact you need a computer and Internet connection.) We can also access relay services online.
  16. Deaf, hearing impaired, handicapped or disabled one is as good as the other. Even I get lazy and say “deaf person” referring to me. But it’s true that the correct way is “people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” Using “deaf person” or “blind person” implies there’s nothing else to the person. Some deaf people (see?) prefer to be known as “deaf person.” I also get lazy and say “hearing impaired” instead of “hard of hearing.” I’ve used all three terms. The only thing I don’t like is “handicapped.”
  17. Companies or accessibility experts with no background with hearing loss can know what best meets the needs of people with hearing loss. Not all companies have the ability to hire someone to be an expert. That’s why you do research, ask questions and contact experts.

Image credit: Chris Baker

Resources for Texans with Disabilities to Transition to College

Lots of resources from DeafNetwork.

Going To College

This new website contains information about living college life with a disability. It is designed for high school students. The site provides video clips, activities, and resources that can help them get a head start in planning for college. Video interviews with college students with disabilities offer a way to hear firsthand from students with disabilities who have been successful. Modules include activities that will help students explore more about themselves, learn what to expect from college, and equip them with important considerations and tasks to complete when planning for college.

Resource Guide on Higher Education for People with Disabilities

Key Laws link to Disability Laws – General

The Next Step Higher Ed Video

TEA Special Education Division

Secondary Transition guidance:

College – Financial Aid
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Contact info: 512-427-6100
Texas Financial Aid Center: 888-311-8881
(Deaf/Blind Waiver and others)

A Resource Guide for Special Education Students on Transition Services:

AHEAD in Texas (Association of Higher Education and Disability)

Project FIRST (Family, Information, Resources, Support and Training)

Advocacy, Inc.
(800) 252-9108

The ARC of Texas

Partners Resource Network

Job Accommodation Network
Office of Disability Employment Policy

U.S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education Programs (IDEA)

Office for Civil Rights

Customer Service Team
550 12 Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-1100
877-521-2172 (TDD)
202-245-6840 (fax)

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 2600
Dallas, TX 75201
214-880-2456 (TDD)
214-880-3082 (fax)

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
*recorded textbooks

Vcampus, The e-Learning Solution Provider
1850 Centennial Park Drive, Ste.200
Reston, VA 20191
*Provides online courses through several accredited colleges and universities that allow for starting a degree from scratch or finishing up a degree.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013-1492
800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)
202-884-8200 (Voice/TT)
*NICHCY Briefing Paper is intended to serve as a guide to help parents and educators know what ADD is, what to look for, and what to do. NICHCY is one of four clearinghouses established by Congress to provide specialized information on disabilities

The Higher Education Act

Parent Tips For Transition Planning (pdf file)
Information on transition planning (TP) which helps to prepare young people for their futures. TP is required in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with a disability by age 16. Provides tips on how to prepare a student for transitioning from school to further education, employment and independent living. This link opens a PDF document.

The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is within the office of the Governor. The Committee’s mission is to further opportunities for persons with disabilities to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity, and self-determination.

The Committee is composed of 12 members appointed by the governor, and of nonvoting ex officio members. The appointed members are appointed for staggered terms of two years. At least seven of the appointed members must be persons with disabilities.

The Committee serves as a central source of information and education on the abilities, rights, problems, and needs of persons with disabilities. The staff of the Governor’s Committee supports and manages the work of the Committee. The Committee’s enabling statute is in the Human Resources Code, Chapter 115.

Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
P.O. Box 12428 Austin, TX 78711
512-463-5739 (voice),
512-463-5746 (TTY)
Dial 711 or your relay provider of choice
This document is available in alternate formats on request.