Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview with John L (Blog #4 for LS 581)

This blog entry is for a course at the University of Alabama that discusses people with disabilities, impairments and the aging society in regards to technology. This is an interview I did with John L on Sunday, April 19, 2015.  

John told me that he was born in the 1960s as a preemie. He wasn’t sure if the medication used during that time caused it his hearing impairement. He went on to saying that hearing impairments and deafness does run on his mother side of the family (some of his cousins and an uncle, his grandmother was born deaf, grandfather qualified for cochlear surgery [although declined]) and his mother is severely hearing impaired. His specific kind of hearing loss is a high frequency hearing loss which means that sounds like watch alarms, whispers, etc., he cannot hear at all. The use of American Sign Language (ASL) was a necessary second language growing up. He told me that he learned it that way a child learns Spanish in a Hispanic household, it is kind of a homegrown “dialect” of formal ASL.  

He went through school well enough, although he failed his first hearing test in 2nd grade. He did admit that his delinquent behavior in school could have been linked to not being able to hear well in school, but he felt like it wasn’t a huge detriment until his late teens when he tried to enlist in the armed services. He failed it outright. At 18, he wore his first hearing aide, which was one that went inside. Today he uses a very powerful over the ear aide to be able to hear people, although he needs to read lips. He is unable to hear without them, and he told me that as he gets closer to 50s the decline in his hearing has progressed. 

Meeting John, you would never figure he was deaf until you realized he was staring at you so intently to read your lips. He doesn’t “sound” deaf although if you are more of a soft spoken individual or mumbles or speaks in a heavy dialect, he will ask you to repeat what you say. He said that often times, people shout and slowly pronounce every single word once they realize he is deaf. It has affected him in securing steady work and he backed up that statement by saying that the unemployment rate for a deaf individual ranges from 40% - 50%. He said that he was glad to have made it through his school years under the guise of “normal”. He is very well aware how cruel kids are to those with disabilities. 
Within the last 10-15 years, John has embraced technology to the fullest. He never was fond of the TTD/TTY relay systems. He said he never liked the idea of someone “listening” in on a private conversation. 

When I asked him how else technology has helped him outside of “text messaging” he said this, “…Interesting question. For me it allows expression through writing. It allows me to have closer mental relationships and companionships with people which I wouldn’t have otherwise. It allows me to practice videos with lyrics for my band pursuits (he is an ex drummer and singer for various local metal bands), and I’ve met some really wonderful and unique people via the internet, some of which I’m honored to call family. As far as romantic liaisons…you’ll just have to find me and find out for yourself.”

Technology has also allowed him to fulfil the dream of publishing his first children’s book, The Adventures of Itty Bitty and Lulu which can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Itty-Bitty-Lulu-Book-ebook/dp/B00NWSUYFI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413829832&sr=8-1&keywords=adventures+of+itty+bitty+and+lulu

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: "How to Age" by Anne Karpf

This blog post is to satisfy an assignment for LS 581 Universal Design for Information Technologies which is a course that focuses on aging, ageism, and disability in correlation to technology.

Book Review: How to Age by Anne Karpf published in 2014.

This small handheld book covers the topic of aging in approximately 200 pages. But do not be fooled, it is a witty and charming read. Krapf, a sociologist and award winning journalist,  discusses the history and the many cultural views of aging. She talk about various trends and stereotypes like newest trend , the “youthful old”, the impossible ideals that may stress someone beyond their 40s thinking they will become old and decrepit. The chapters are broken up with examples of aging famous people and interesting facts, like where the word “fogey” came from.

She takes on the fear of aging head on with sound confidence that truly there is nothing to fear, just to embrace life for all it’s worth. She gives a different insight to aging, why not simply age gracefully? She urges readers to think about how they want to be when they hit a particular age, to be proud of your age and realize that aging is not the end of the world. It’s life.

“Age zestfully!”

Her very personable approach to the topic makes you feel like you are engaged in a conversation rather than reading a lecture.

Beware, if you are looking for a fact book, this is not it.

I gave it a 4 out of 5. Worth the read. Support your local library and check out a copy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

LS 581 Blogpost 1 & 2 - Thoughts on Aging and Technology


What is Ageism? Here are two. Robert Butler (1969) coined the term ageism defined as, “negative attitudes towards aging”. New Ageism coined later by R. A. Kalish (1979) and C.L. Estes (1979) came up with a kinder definition of, “the desire to help older people who need special treatment due to poor health, poverty or lack of social supporters. Although this positive form of ageism tries to do good, it supports the stereotype of old age as a time of decline and loss.”

What is a disability? The ADA considers a person to have a disability if: He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities; he or she has a record of such an impairment; or he or she is regarded as having such an impairment. The ADA is divided into five titles: Title I requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment. It also regulates medical examinations and inquires. Title II, public services (which include state and local government agencies, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and other commuter authorities) cannot deny services to people with disabilities or deny participation in programs or activities that are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Title III requires that all new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Title IV Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices. Title V includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against individuals with disabilities or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

ICF is the measurement and policy formulations for health and disability. It is a universal classification system of disability and health for use in health-related sectors. ICF is named as it is because of its stress is on health and functioning, rather than on disability. Once upon a time, disability began where health ended and therefore placed in a separate category. ICF is a tool for measuring a person's level of health and their ability of function in society, no matter what the reason for one's impairments. It is very versatile and can be used for a number of uses, like as a planning and policy tool for decision-makers.

The BMW model is focused on the equal access of information to patrons with invisible or temporary disabilities that the ADA may overlook. They define an individual with a disability as one who is despite their health condition; they will experience limiting factors when accessing information. They believe that disability is socially created problem and the direct effect of the environment, therefore the more limiting the environment, the stronger the disability. In the library setting there should be dialog between the professional and the patron to help facilitate receiving of information, empower them to retrieve information themselves by pulling down barriers that blocks this process.

My in initial statement for my “elderly” drawing: An elderly woman comes into the library using the walker as her means of support. Smaller and frailer, she takes her time, trembling as she placed her books on the circulation desk counter, refusing any help at all. She doesn’t want to be asked, I already got yelled at by her last week for offering. Her reserved James Patterson novel is on hold, and she collects the book. She is so thrilled that her eyes light up. Next she slowly makes her way to the public computers to check her Facebook really quick, mostly to see pics of her grandkids. She doesn’t need help, but appreciates if someone would hold the computer chairs steady for her as she transfers herself from the walker to the chair. When she pulls out her card, taped to the back of it is her library card number and pin number, rewritten by me and taped on, so she can see it better, even with her glasses.

The only thing I found not referenced in these two articles that always comes to mind when everyone talks about equality and such, in Florida, especially in the Southeast part (never live down here), we cannot touch anybody. People are so eager to sue someone that if someone falls, you hesitate between helping and just calling the ambulance. For us, we have fire rescue right next to us, so they gladly come over, after we have received the patron’s verbal permission, to come and help them.

I do often come across the whole gap in technology with, oddly enough, not the ageing population, BUT the population of those in their 20s. At least half that come in cannot type, surf the internet, or even compose an email. I find I have far less issues with the elderly community, they are eager to learn and only ask for basic help. The 20-somethings want you to do it for them. So maybe this whole technology gap applies to people in different demographics. Even my father used a computer into his 80s.

My initial statement for my “disabled” drawing: A limping older woman leans on her cane to enter the library to use the computer. But she is seasonal and comes from Canada every year so she has to see me to update her account. This year, she notices the layout of the computers are different, there are more computers, than last year. She comes to see me and I wave and smile, and immediately welcome her without using my voice, making sure I pronounce my syllables. Then I hand her a pad and paper – she is deaf. We exchange a simple conversation. She hands me her card, no changes to her address and phone number, and I update it. I carefully, and silently, explain the new sign in procedure, but I know she likes a little extra space and the new layout is tighter and more claustrophobic, so since she comes in the morning, when the children’s area is empty, I show her how to log in on a child’s computer. She is thankful for the extra space and less people. She knows she unknowingly makes “noise” from her throat that is loud, and prefers to be a bit more secluded. We have no issues accommodating her.

Most of the time, I am not aware that I do not use “people-first language”. When I write something up, it is more prominent. The community our library serves are mostly people of foreign origin, mostly Hispanic, so when I talk to them I chose simpler and more condensed wording. It is easier for them to understand and easier for me to not have to try and explain when I am alone most of the day. I switch that mind process off when in general conversation or writing and then I use people – first language. I know that some people prefer “hearing impaired”, but I find it interesting that the deaf refer to themselves as deaf, rather than hearing impaired, or at least the many I have encountered. I worked at a mental health facility and we had three regular clients who always called themselves “deaf”. At the library, we have 4 patrons who are hearing impaired who call themselves “deaf”. Of course in conversation with others and in writing, I use the term hearing impaired, but I find it fascinating how “pc” terms are not always used or less preferred.

As for fairness, I can easily see how allowing the Canadian woman to sit in the children’s area could cause trouble, but we had a meeting over this, years ago, we figure, as long as no one complains that she gets to be over there, it is fine. We actually some many patrons complain that she was too “noisy” and this was our only solution that would appease both sides and we felt as if everyone won.
When considering disability, I do feel as if we have to consider all definitions and all aspects of the situation. Rules and codes are there as a reference and I believe it is up to the institution to incorporate those rules into their policies, but people’s individual circumstance varies. There are variable kinds of disability and if I had to chose which disability definition to follow, I could not. It would need to be a combination of all three, with wiggle room. To limit ourselves to only one definition; I feel it would prove moot when the variety of disability is as unique as the individual.