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Blog Articles by: Marta Belsky

Living Loud: Terence Parkin - Olympian

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Terence Parkin, nicknamed the “Silent Torpedo,” has been called the Michael Phelps of the Deaflympics.1 He has competed for South Africa in Olympic and Deaflympic Games, World Cup and Pan American Competitions. Parkin is the Deaflympics’ most successful athlete since its inception in 1929; holding the record of the most medals - 34 in total. He has participated in 5 Deaflympics, in which he won 29 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medals, plus South Africa won the bronze when he competed in the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne.2 He also earned an Olympic Medal for the 200m breaststroke in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.3

Terence Parkin was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on April 12, 1980. He was born deaf, but his parents, Neville and Bev didn’t realize he was deaf and it was not confirmed by doctors until he was 18 months old. His father Neville said, "We were both young when he was born and, being our first kid, we weren't really sure. His baby talk was normal, he laughed, he smiled - he was like a normal kid." There was a lack of educational options and support system for deaf children in Zimbabwe at that time, so the Parkins decided to move to Durban, South Africa when Terence was three years old. Another literal bump in the road for Parkin occurred when he was in a car accent as a child. He preserved and his scar and shaved head became one of his trademarks in swimming competitions.6

Parkin at the pool
Parkin at the pool. (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Son Koerant Twitter)

He loved water and began swimming at age 12. He said, "I just love swimming, I enjoy it so much. I actually enjoy the feeling of getting tired from swimming.”6 But it was hard work and dedication that propelled Parkin to success. His coach, Graham Hill said, "I saw a kid who really wanted to get into swimming, but wasn't quite up to the standard of the other kids his age. He had more enthusiasm than the other kids. but just wasn't there. We used to laugh about it, we still do laugh about it. Terence was really slow when he came.”6

It was at the Midmar Mile held in South Africa, the world’s largest open water swimming event, that he first made his mark. “Starting in the second batch of swimmers in the 13-and-under age group, behind all the seeds, he powered through the field and, when the times had been adjusted, he had taken a stunning victory. It was astounding, but Parkin has been doing astounding things all his life.”7

Parkin was dedicated to training and would spend hours everyday swimming, cycling, and running. He said, “Success is 90% attitude and 10% training….with the right attitude you can do anything.  The worst disability is (bad) attitude!”1

Just getting warmed up.

In 1997, at age 17, Parkin competed in his first Deaflympics in Copenhagen, and won seven medals: five gold and two silver.

Parkin's Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke
Parkin's 2000 Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Graham Hill News Twitter)

In 2000, Parkin completed in his first Olympic games at the age of 20 in Sydney. He said "I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the deaf can do anything. They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there's opportunities for the deaf.”5 He was the only deaf swimmer in the Games and claimed a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke.3 After he finished the race, unable to hear stadium commentators announcing the results, Parkin looked to the scoreboard, where he saw a “2” next to his name and thought that was just his lane number. He was ecstatic a few moments later when he realized the "2" meant he had gotten second place and won the Olympic silver medal.9

People often wonder how Parkin can hear the sound that signals the start of the race. The “signal” to start races has changed over time, from a gun being shot in the air, to a very loud buzzer, to a buzzer and a strobe light. Parkin watches for the strobe light, but before strobe lights were used his couch would signal to him or use a light like a camera flash.6 In footage of Parkin’s races at the Sydney games, it appears the FINA referee holds his hand out, giving the visual signal for “set.”8

Parkin Swimming
Parkin swimming (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Terence tried to use hearing aids during a race once, but the crowd noise was distracting. "I can concentrate, I can focus on what I'm doing. I don't have to listen to the discussion or negative talk around me, So I'm able to focus. I don't have to worry about what other people say.”6 He hopes to inspire deaf athletes, as well as athletes from smaller countries, and show that with hard work you can be successful and you can win Olympic medals.4 5

In 2001, at the Rome Deaflympics, Parkin claimed five more golds – the 100m and 200m freestyle, the 100m and 200m breaststroke, and the 400m individual medley.

Parkin won the Midmar Mile in 2000 and 2002 - the world's largest open water swimming event and the race where he first felt a taste of success when he participated in the 13-and-under age group.

And the medal count climbs.

Parkin with many medals
Parkin with many Deaflympic medals. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

At the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Parkin became the most successful competitor in the history of the Games, winning an incredible 12 gold medals and one silver.

In the freestyle, he won the 100m and 400m in Games record times and captured the 200m and 1500m with world records.

He won the 50m breaststroke with a world record time, and also claimed the 100m and 200m breaststroke titles.

To this he added the 200m butterfly, with another world record, as well as the 200m and 400m individual medley. Parkin was also part of another two world records, in the 4x100m medley relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay. His silver came in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Parkin cycling
Parkin cycling. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Additionally, his 13 medals help South Africa to win bronze in the overall medal count at the 2005 Deaflympics, with a total of 19 metals.

At the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei, Parkin was back on the winner’s podium with 7 gold medals for the 50m, 100m, and 200m breaststroke, the 200m and 400m individual medley, and the 200m and 1500m freestyle.

Oh, and he also won a cycling bronze in the 93-kilometer road race! It wasn’t his first race; in 2005, he won gold at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in the 120km road race and picked up silver in the mountain bike event.

Legacy of a Champion

Parkin South African Stamp
Parkin's 2001 South African Stamp cycling. (Photo Credit: Colnect)

Parkin has become an icon. He has won over 400 gold medals, 200 silver medals, and 50 bronze medals through various competitions, and continues to hold Deaf World Records.1 He has participated in 2 Olympics, 5 Deaflympics, 2 Commonwealth Games, 1 Goodwill Games, FINA World Championships, FINA Swimming World Cups, Pan Pacific Championships, Africa Games, South Africa National Championships, and 24 Midmar Miles. He had a South African stamp issued in his honor in 2001. He has also been named an ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. He has received many awards including World Deaf Sportsman of the Year (1997, 2000, 2001, 2005), CISS Sportsman of the Century (2000), SA Schools Sportsman of the Year (2002), and Gold Presidential Awards (2000, 2001, 2002).1 Additionally, in 2011 Parkin saved a 7 year old boy from drowning after he got his arm stuck in a swimming pool vent at a Johannesburg gym.10

Today Parkin lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife and two children. He coaches sports at the St. Vincent School for the Deaf.11

Resources

  1. Ambassadors & Advisors: Terence Parkin. Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.fondationprincessecharlene.mc/en/ambassadors-advisors/terence-parkin
  2. Terence Parkin. Deaflympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://deaflympics.com/athletes.asp?7679
  3. Terence Parkin. Olympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://www.olympic.org/terence-parkin
  4. Griffin, Stan. Olympic Silver to Deaf South African Swimmer. Deaf Friends International. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.workersforjesus.com/dfi/857.htm
  5. Terence Parkin. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_Parkin
  6. (2000, March 12). Terence Parkin - The silent success. SABC Carte Blanche. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://swimhistory.org/champions/1992/terence-parkin?start=1
  7. (2013, July 12). Parkin: Deaflympics legend continues South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from  http://www.southafrica.info/news/sport/deaflympics-parkin-120713.htm#.V64Q7WXzQUU
  8. Flaherty, Bryan (2012, April 19). USA Swimming will allow hand signals to accommodate deaf athletes at Olympic trials. The Washington Post. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/usa-swimming-will-allow-hand-signals-to-accommodate-deaf-athletes-at-olympic-trials/2012/04/19/gIQAkcbEUT_story.html
  9. Cloete, Rob (2011, November 1). The Hard of Hearing Hero. The South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.thesouthafrican.com/the-hard-of-hearing-hero/
  10. (2011, January 21). Olympic swimmer saves boy. Sport24. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/Olympic-swimmer-saves-boy-20110121
  11. romanSA (2005, April). Celebrating Terence Parkin, a South African sporting hero and icon. SkyScraperCity. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=986408
  12. Terence Parkin. Twitter. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from https://twitter.com/TerenceParkin

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Juliette Gordon Low - Founder of the Girl Scouts and Philanthropist

Living Loud: Juliette Gordon Low - Founder of the Girl Scouts and Philanthropist

Deaf Culture   |  Thursday, March 10, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.

Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts and “envisioned an organization that would prepare girls to meet their world with courage, confidence, and character.” Started in 1912 when women in the United States couldn’t yet vote, Gordon Low grew the first troop of 18 girls into a global movement of nearly 3 million Girl Scouts in 92 countries and with more than 59 million alumae.2

Painting of Juliette Gordon Low by Edward Hughes
Oil painting of Juliette Gordon Low completed in 1887 by Edward Hughes. This painting is on display in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Edward Hughes [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Background

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born on October 31, 1860 in Savannah, Georgia and nicknamed “Daisy.”4 She was from a wealthy family and was well educated, attending some of the best boarding schools.6 4

She was born hearing, but started to lose her hearing when she was seventeen10 and had severe hearing loss by her mid-twenties. She was accident-prone as a child and had many injuries and illnesses, including a case of brain fever, frequent ear infections, earaches, and recurring bouts of malaria.7 In January 1885, when she was 24 years old, she got a terrible ear infection in her right ear.5 Antibiotics had not been discovered yet and Daisy persuaded the doctor to try silver nitrate, a new cure she had heard about. The doctor used silver nitrate in her ear, which caused more damage, and she lost part of her hearing in that ear.8

An Incredible Coincidence

On her wedding day on December 21, 1886 (she picked the same day that her parents got married for good luck), a grain of rice thrown in celebration landed in Gordon Low’s left ear and got stuck. She ignored the issue until the pain became so great she had to leave her honeymoon to seek treatment. When a doctor worked to remove it, he punctured her ear drum and it became infected. The infection damaged nerves, which made her permanently deaf in that ear.8 4

A Survivor Who Doesn’t Hear “No”

Married life wasn’t the happily ever after she had hoped for. Her husband drank heavily and cheated on her. She planned on getting a divorce, but her husband died from a seizure in 1905 before it was finalized. They had been married for 19 years, however, in his will, he left most of his money to his mistress.6 4 Gordon Low contested the will, “When my husband died, I found that he had willed his entire estate to another woman. No one was going to get away with that! Against the advice of my friends, I decided to contest the will and eventually I won a $500,000 settlement.”12 In addition to an annual income, she received their Savannah Lafayette Ward estate, which included the Andrew Low House and where she would later house the first Girl Scouts headquarters (in the carriage house).6 4 5

Deaf in one ear and with only partial hearing in the other, Gordon Low would use her deafness to her advantage by refusing to hear “No.” She knew she needed help to start the Girl Scouts. "The first woman I approached tried to tell me she wasn't interested. I pretended that my deafness prevented me from hearing her refusals… I never heard a word of argument from her again!”12

A Life-Changing Meeting

In 1911, Gordon Low met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the British Boy Scouts.6 4 She wanted girls to have the same opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness, so she created a similar organization for girls. At the age of 51, she brought together 18 girls to form the first registered American Girl Guides troop in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.4

Juliette Gordon Low putting a badge on a girl scout.
Juliette Gordon Low putting a badge on a girl scout. (Photo Credit: Author Unknown [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The name of the organization was changed and the Girl Scouts of the USA became a reality in 1913. The organization was incorporated in 1915 and Gordon Low served as president from its inception until 1920 when she was granted the title of founder and stepped down so that she could focus on promoting the Girl Scouts program on an international scale.4 11

Gordon Low envisioned the Girl Scouts to be inclusive for all girls - open to girls of any race, background, financial situation, and ability.9 She encouraged the girls to be independent, make their own choices, and develop their own talents and skills. Instead of telling Girl Scouts members what to do, she would ask, "What do the girls WANT to do?"9 12

Girl Scouts can earn badges in the areas of art, athletics, citizenship, cooking, first aid, nature and, the Girl Scout way.3 However, Gordon Low explained “This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing.....but doing.....not just doing, but being.”6

The Girl Scouts started selling cookies around 1917 to not only serve as a fundraiser for troops, but to learn real-life lessons about how money is earned.9

The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.2 In line with this mission, a famous quote from Gordon Low is, “Right is right, even if no one else does it.”12

Death

Daisy remained an activist for the Girl Scouts until her death. She discovered she had breast cancer in 1923, but kept it a secret. She died from the final stages of cancer at the age of 66 on January 17, 1927.7 4 She was buried in her girl scout uniform in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.1 5 4

Juliette Gordon Low 1948 U.S. Postage StampJuliette Gordon Low leaves her "stamp" and a long legacy after her death. In 1948 a three-cent U.S. Postage Stamp was released to commemorate her as the founder of Girl Scouts. (Photo Credit: United States Postal Service [Public Domain])

She left a long legacy in her wake. The Girl Scouts organization continues to thrive with millions of Girl Scouts throughout the world and girls who begin scouting from kindergarten to first grade are called “Daisies,” just like Gordon Low was nicknamed. She continues to be remembered over 150 years after she was born with scholarships, camps, and schools named in her honor, in addition to many notable honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, having a stamp commemorating her, and much more.1

As Gordon Low said herself, “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers."12

Resources

  1. Juliette Gordon Low. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-history/juliette-gordon-low.html
  2. Our History: The Vision of Juliette Gordon Low. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-history.html
  3. Traditions. Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/traditions.html
  4. Juliette Gordon Low. (2014, August 19). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Juliette_Gordon_Low
  5. Sims, Anastatia. (2004, June 14). Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927). New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/juliette-gordon-low-1860-1927
  6. Biography.com Editors. Juliette Gordon Low Biography. A&E Television Networks: The Biography.com website. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.biography.com/people/juliette-gordon-low-20766743#final-years-and-legacy
  7. Cordery, Stacy A. (2012). The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts: Juliette Gordon Low. USA: Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9780143122890.
  8. Brown, Fern G (2014). Daisy and the Girl Scouts: The Story of Juliette Gordon Low. Open Road Media. ISBN 1497635896, 9781497635890.
  9. Henry Kleiber, Shannon. (2012, March 9). Juliette Gordon Low, who had no children of her own, started Girl Scouts in 1912. The Washington Post. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidpost/juliette-gordon-low-who-had-no-children-of-her-own-started-girl-scouts-in-1912/2012/02/28/gIQA5CBO1R_story.html
  10. Juliette Low. Gallaudet University. Adapted from: Goodstein, A. & Walworth, M. (1979). Interesting Deaf Americans. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://www.gallaudet.edu/tip/english-center/reading-(esl)/practice-exercises/juliette-low.html
  11. Juliette Gordon Low (Last modified: 2016, February 29). Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliette_Gordon_Low
  12. Juliette Low Quotes. Scouting Web: Online Resources for Scouting Volunteers. Retrieved 3/4/2016 from http://www.scoutingweb.com/scoutingweb/subpages/juliettelowquotes.htm

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Curtis Pride - Major League Baseball Player

Living Loud: Curtis Pride - Major League Baseball Player

Deaf Culture   |  Monday, April 13, 2015

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.

Curtis Pride was a Major League Baseball (MLB) player - he was the first full-season deaf player in the modern era of Major League Baseball. He is currently the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University.  He has been awarded NEAC Couch of the Year (twice), the MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for outstanding community service, and the Tony Conigliaro Award for overcoming adversity through the attributes of spirit, courage and determination. He was also appointed to the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Background

Curtis Pride was born deaf as a result of his mother having rubella (German measles) while she was pregnant.

He loved sports and, in addition to baseball, played soccer and basketball. In 1985 he was named one of the top 15 youth prospects in the world for soccer and was part of the U.S. soccer team that competed in the FIFA Under 16 World Championships (the Junior World Cup) in China. Afterwhich, he received a full basketball scholarship to attend William and Mary College, where he was a starter on the basketball team for four years while earning a degree in finance. During this time, he also signed with the New York Mets and played baseball in the Mets' system part-time. Curtis played his first Major League Baseball game in 1993 with the Montreal Expos.

A History-Making Player

“I had a lot of people that doubted my ability to play major league baseball because of my disability. It was important for me to talk about what I could do, not what I cannot do.”

Curtis Pride became the first full-season deaf player in the modern era of Major League Baseball (the first deaf player in the majors since Dick Sipek in 1945). Curtis said, “I had a lot of people that doubted my ability to play major league baseball because of my disability. It was important for me to talk about what I could do, not what I cannot do.”

Curtis played for six Major League Baseball teams during his career including the Detroit Tigers, 1996-1997; Atlanta Braves, 1998; Boston Red Sox, 1997 and 2000; Montreal Expos, 1993, 1995 and 2001; New York Yankees, 2003; and the Los Angeles Angels, 2004-2006. In 421 major league games, he compiled a .250 batting average with 20 home runs, 82 RBI’s and 29 stolen bases. His best season was for the Detroit Tigers in 1996 when he had a .300 batting average with 10 home runs, 31 RBI’s, and 11 stolen bases. 

Hear Curtis tell his story, watch this short (under 8 minutes) story about Curtis Pride:

Making a Difference

"Keep believing in yourself and good things will happen."

Curtis Pride established the Together With Pride Foundation, to encourage and support deaf and hard of hearing youth across a number of programs. These programs include scholarships, a hearing aid bank that supplies new and refurbished hearing aids to young people, literacy and mentoring support, and baseball and fishing clinics. He says to "Keep believing in yourself and good things will happen."

Because of his outreach and support for deaf and hard of hearing young people, he was awarded Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award for outstanding community service and the Tony Conigliaro Award for overcoming adversity through the attributes of spirit, courage and determination.

Still in the Game

"Work hard, stay focused, and be positive."

Curtis Pride is currently the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University. He was named NEAC Coach of the Year two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. He said he learned something from each of the coaches he played for in Major League Baseball and applies those lessons to his own coaching. Curtis encourages others to "Work hard, stay focused, and be positive."

In 2010, he was appointed to the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Curtis said, “It is truly an honor to be appointed to serve on the President's Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. I am extremely excited about working with the other esteemed council members to support the President and First Lady’s initiative to promote a healthier lifestyle for children and adults throughout the country."

Resources

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Certified Deaf Interpreters Explained

Certified Deaf Interpreters Explained

Interpreter Tips   |  Friday, November 14, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

While the concept of Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI) is not new, many people are not familiar with what they do, so misunderstandings can occur on how to utilize deaf interpreters.

What is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)?

CDI’s are deaf or hard of hearing individuals who are nationally certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). They serve as an equal member of the interpreting team along with a certified hearing interpreter. The CDI interprets the message from the deaf consumer to the hearing interpreter and the hearing interpreter then relays the message to the hearing consumer.

Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) explained

When to use a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)?

A CDI is always a great addition to the interpreting team. Certified Deaf Interpreters have extensive knowledge and experience with deafness, the deaf community, and Deaf culture, in addition to having sign language as their native language – all of which can enhance the interpreting experience.

While a certified hearing interpreter may be adequate in many situations, CDIs are particularly useful when the communication mode used by the deaf consumer is unique, such as when they have minimal or limited communication skills or use signs that a hearing interpreter may not be familiar with (non-standard signs, "home" signs, a foreign sign language, regional signs, etc.).

It is important to remember that except for Children Of Deaf Adults (CODAs), American Sign Language is not the first language of hearing interpreters. CDI’s provide interpretation to the deaf consumer in their native language without the addition of an English accent and may also have a better understanding of what the deaf consumer is communicating.

Why to use a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)?

Some hearing interpreters may be hesitant to work with a CDI. They think, "I can interpret very well so there is no need for a deaf interpreter." Others feel "demoted" or "insulted" to have a Certified Deaf Interpreter working with them because they feel it indicates their own interpreting skills are lacking. Some may even feel intimidated to have a certified deaf interpreter "watching" them.

While all these feelings are understandable, hearing interpreters would not have those feelings if they had proper training and knowledge of how to utilize a Certified Deaf Interpreter.

Reasons to support the use of a deaf/hearing interpreting team include:

  1. Often when a deaf consumer meets a hearing interpreter they tend to worry about their English. With a CDI present they are more relaxed and express themselves more freely.
  2. When the hearing interpreter hears a question and signs it to the CDI they have the opportunity to double check if the message is the same when the deaf interpreter signs the question to the deaf consumer.
  3. The hearing interpreter can watch the deaf consumer’s answer and then watch the deaf interpreter sign it to double-check before voicing the answer.
  4. The deaf consumer has the advantage of being able to double-check as the deaf interpreter relays their message to the hearing interpreter.
  5. If there is confusion, the CDI and hearing interpreter can work together to better understand the message and provide the best interpretation.

More deaf interpreters are now obtaining CDI certification. Including a CDI as part of the interpreting team enhances the experience for the consumers (deaf and hearing), improves the service the hearing interpreter is able to provide, and makes communicating the message more successful.

Resources:

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Living Loud: Heather Whitestone - First Deaf Miss America

Living Loud: Heather Whitestone - First Deaf Miss America

General Interest   |  Tuesday, September 16, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous deaf people and their impact in the world.

Heather Whitestone was the first deaf Miss America and the first Miss America with a disability. She competed for the Miss Alabama title three times before winning it, which finally sent her to the Miss America competition. She won Miss America in 1995 in Atlantic City.

Background

Heather was born hearing in 1973. When she was 10 months old, she got sick with a high fever, which left her deaf.

Did you know?

Fevers burn off the hair receptors in the inner ear (cochlear); without those receptors, sound isn’t recognized or processed by the ear.


Communication and Education

Heather started out at her local school, using speech and hearing aids, but by 4th grade, she wanted to meet other deaf kids. She attended the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, which focuses on developing speech and speechreading skills as the primary form of communication. She went back to her local school for high school.

Did you know?

Deaf students can go to schools that teach different methods for communication, including sign language, lip reading, speech, and fingerspelling. Some schools use a mix of methods, some primarily focus on just one. Deaf students can attend the local public school, some go to day schools that have programs specifically designed for deaf students, and there are residential (boarding) schools where deaf students live during the school year and go home during breaks and vacations.  Read more about Educational Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing


Learning the Ropes

Heather's first experience participating in the Shelby County Junior Miss program (now called the Distinguished Young Women program) gave her confidence to begin entering pageants. She started competing in pageants, including Miss St. Clair, Miss Jacksonville State University, and Miss Alabama. She won Miss Cullman Area in 1994, which sent her on to the Miss Alabama competition and she was also crowned Miss Alabama in 1994. Each pageant helped her to figure out how to communicate with judges and make an impression.

There she is, Miss America!


Heather Whitestone crowned Miss America in 1995
Heather Whitestone signing "I Love You" in ASL after she was crowned Miss America in 1995. (Photo Credit: Tom Costello, AP Photo)

Heather said, “The first time I stood on the stage in Atlantic City and looked out over the empty convention about a year before I won the Miss America title, I was amazed not at its size, but at the fact that I was there. The journey to the Miss America Pageant did not begin four years ago when I first competed in a local pageant. It began when I was eighteen months old, when I lost my hearing.” She explained that when her mother was told she was deaf, she was also told that a normal life would be impossible for her because of her deafness. However, her mom had faith and was determined for Heather to have the life she wanted. Heather said she was molded by parents, teachers and speech therapists. When her mom struggled to explain the concepts of rhythm and pronunciation, she enrolled Heather into a ballet class in hopes she could better understand rhythm. She soon developed a love for ballet and danced all the way to the Miss America competition.

The Miss America pageant rules do not allow contestants to have any help (like coaches or interpreters) while competing. For her talent, she did a classical ballet en point to Sandi Patti’s “Via Delarosa.” She had spent two years preparing it, counting the beats with her hands on the stereo speakers. Once the music started, she did every move according to the memorized count in her head.

Watch Heather’s dance:

During her year as Miss America, Heather introduced her five-point STARS program: “Success Through Action and Realization of your Dreams.” She traveled to every corner of the country speaking to corporations, non-profit organizations, churches and government, including the FBI and CIA.

Heather Whitestone
Heather Whitestone, after becoming Miss America, in 2012. (Photo Credit: Heather Whitestone [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

In the Spotlight Once More

In 2002, Heather elected to get a cochlear implant for her right ear. She had depended on some residual hearing in her left ear in conjunction with the implant, but lost that. In 2006, she got a second implant for her left ear. Her decision to have the implants was big news, and she was featured on several news programs.

She said she decided to get a cochlear implant because she wanted to hear her family’s voices, make further strides in achieving her goals, and experience the hearing world.

After the Crown

Heather has traveled nationally and internationally as a motivational speaker and has been a spokesperson for the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation, the Cochlear Implant Company, and the Helen Keller Foundation.

Heather is an author of four books - Listening with My Heart, Believing the Promise, Let God Surprise You, and Heavenly Crowns

She has volunteered her time for Republicans causes and spoke at the Republican National Convention for both Senator Bob Dole and George W. Bush.

She met her husband, John, in Washington, D.C. during her year of service as Miss America when he was working as a Legislative Aide to Speaker Newt Gingrich at the Capitol. They now live in St. Simons Island, Georgia and are raising four sons.

Related Books (by Heather Whitestone)

Listening with My Heart

Believing the Promise

Let God Surprise You

Heavenly Crowns

Resources

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

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