Austin film festival showcases disability


This annual event highlights films that “positively and accurately represent disability.”

According to the event’s website, “The Short Film Competition provides an opportunity for independent filmmakers from around the world to screen their own films about disability, from documentaries to animated shorts to the avant-garde.”

The theme for this year’s event is “Look World, No Limits!”, which relates to both selected films, A Brave Heart and Right Footed.

This year, CTD required that submitted films for the competition contain subtitles. ASL interpretation and Closed Captioning will be provided at the event.

The festival will be located at the Alamo Drafthouse Village at 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Austin, TX 78757 (map).

Admission to the festival is free. However, a $10.00 food voucher will guarantee your seat and can be redeemed for $10.00 worth of food and drink from the Drafthouse menu. Note that past events have sold out, so purchasing the vouchers is a way to ensure seating.

Purchase a food voucher for Friday night. This evening Right Footed will be viewed. There is a pre-show, adaptive martial arts demonstration by Jessica Cox, star of Right Footed, and One World Karate at 5:45 p.m. on Friday evening only. Cox will join Cinema Touching Disability afterwards to present her film and answer audience questions.

Purchase a food voucher for Saturday night. This evening the film A Brave Heart will be shown.

Cinema doors open at 6:15 p.m. each evening and the program runs until 9:45 p.m. each night. Arrive early to ensure parking availability.

Subscribe to Cinema Touching Disability News, the organization’s free monthly e-newsletter.

Hello Everyone and Welcome!


So happy and excited to make this publication to introduce myself and being my first time to post this. My name is Michael AKINOSI, Deaf Community Advocate with Sign Shares. My duties and responsibilities center on Advocating for the Rights and Resources available at the disposal of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Deaf-blind, the cognitive speech-impaired and the Deaf senior citizen and children who are Deaf. It’s my duty to educate them and offer advice and resources that are available at their disposal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws. Most often, they face such obstacles as: problems getting qualified and Certified Interpreters for their communications needs under accessible communications for medical appointments, problems with law enforcement agencies, job interviews, etc.

It’s a great pleasure representing Sign Shares’ Advocacy Team and to provide the best and effective Support Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in Texas, especially Houston. I am equally the President of Houston Black Deaf Advocates.

Sign Language-Themed Items on Sale

Harris Communications has offered a variety of hearing loss products for 30 years.

Currently, 92 themed items are available on sale, including items with “interpreter,” “I love you,” and “friends” on pins, Christmas ornaments, soaps, notebooks, key chains, bags, and jotter pads. The company offers free ground shipping for most items.

New products on sale include hard-wired smoke alarms, the Bellman & Symfon Visit Baby Cry Alerting Value Pack, and the Williams Sound Pocketalker 2 Personal Amplifier, which can be used with telecoil-equipped hearing aids.

The iLuv SmartShaker Bluetooth Vibrating Bed Shaker and Sound Alarm for iOS and Android offers a new version of the standard alarm clock with bed shaker. This bed shaker “pairs to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to set your alarm by time and date with the free app, as well as choose whether to be woken by vibration, alarm tone or both.” The mobile-compatible bed shaker comes in a variety of colors and offers greater freedom for travel.



Governor recognizes Sign Shares at awards

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recognized Sign Shares, Inc. | International of Houston at the 2015 Lex Frieden Awards in Fort Worth on Oct. 21 for the Small Business Award.

The Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities renamed the annual employment awards after civil right’s champion, Lex Frieden, who was “instrumental in conceiving and drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

The Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities hosted the sold out event.

Governor Abbott speaks about Sign Shares.
Governor Abbott sent a video to the awards ceremony.

Though the governor couldn’t make the ceremony, Governor Abbott recognized Sign Shares in a captioned video, where he said, “These awards honor those who go above and beyond what is required to ensure that all Texans have a chance to put their skills and talents to use in the workplace.”

“Today I’m proud to help recognize the award winners . . . It includes Sign Shares International of Houston, where the entire staff focuses on ensuring full inclusion and raising awareness of accessibility issues in the community,” he said.

Sign Shares staff at awards (l-r): Christina Goebel, Eva Storey, and Anthony Butkovich
Sign Shares staff at awards (l-r): Christina Goebel, Eva Storey, and Anthony Butkovich

Sign Shares’ CEO, Eva Storey, was present to accept the award. Together with Storey were Sign Shares’ Executive Assistant Anthony Butkovich and Advocacy Community Projects Manager, Christina Goebel.

“We are proud to employ people with all disabilities and wish to inspire other companies to do the same as our company is here to guide both employee and employer through the process within such a deserving community,” Storey said.

Eva Storey and Christina Goebel concentrate on their speeches before taking the stage to accept the award.
Eva Storey and Christina Goebel prepare before speaking at the Lex Frieden Awards.

At the ceremony, Goebel thanked Storey and Butkovich for making her feel wanted, needed, and accepted with her deafness, and for the access and inclusion Sign Shares provides to staff.

If you are an entity that wishes to open the doors for people with disabilities,  contact Sign Shares’ offices at .





Ways to Communicate Better at Work

Most people face at least a few communication challenges at work, enough for Forbes, U.S. News, Instructables, and Lifehacker to write content addressing how to communicate effectively in the workplace. These strategies may assist all staff, including those with hearing loss or deafness.

Two men carry rocks that will help them build a bridge together.
Though communication is a two-way effort, it’s important to reflect on your give and take in communication. Art by: Frits Ahlefeldt

According to an article in U.S. News, top communication strategies include both listening and speaking. As a listener, employees should pay attention when others are speaking, read body language for additional clues, and repeat or rephrase what the other person says to ensure everyone has the same understanding or to get clarification. If the other person has difficulty understanding what you say or didn’t hear you well, try rephrasing what you said using different words. Some words are easier to hear than others.

Most of the communication tips concern speaking, according to the U.S. News article, including asking others about their communication preferences (email, voice or videophone, texting, etc.), controlling your tone, avoiding casual speech, watching your grammar, and asking others about their personal lives, which often invites others to speak more informally with you.

News cameraman begins filming.
3-2-1, action! Speaking as if you are vying for air time is one way to make effective, direct communication. Photography by: Paul Brennan little paul

A Forbes article on communication strategies takes a reporter’s approach. Veteran TV news reporter, Karen Friedman, says her number one rule is: “It is absolutely critical to be as direct, to the point and concise as possible.” Other tips include being specific about deadlines, asking open-ended questions to avoid simple yes/no answers, and delivering bad news plainly.

According to an Instructables article by Trent Jonathan, we should be nice during communication, and ask questions. Jonathan says, “Even if you are an expert in your field, you can always learn more.”

Skier raises hands in air triumphantly.
Does your body language say what you want it to say? Photography by: Petr Kratochvil

According to a Lifehacker blog post, watching your body language is essential. ” We’ve pointed out before that you should minimize ‘moving away’ behavior like sighing, averting eyes, and negative body language so you don’t communicate something you don’t intend. Instead, focus more on positive body language like long periods of eye contact, uncrossed limbs, and genuine smiles.”

People with hearing loss or deafness use body language as a clue, so ensure that your gestures and facial expressions match your meaning.

Communication is lifelong. Coworkers and family members will appreciate your efforts to do it more effectively.





10 Ways to Open the Door to New Deaf Employees

By Christina Goebel

Whether deaf employees choose sign, voice, or a combination of both to communicate, unless they they are deaf-blind, deaf employees hear with  their eyes. Some employees who are deaf-blind will also use the following techniques if they inform you that they use large print.

Red door on building

Here are 10 ways to open the door to enhanced communication with deaf and deafblind employees.

  1. According to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf website, employers should “ensure upper-level management support.” If employees will need sign language interpreters, captioning or other supports, managers approving these costs need to know.
  2. Providing written information, such as: organizational literature including flowcharts and training manuals, written itineraries, name tags with job titles for staff, links to the company website information, and outlines for training sessions will prepare employees with deafness or hearing loss for communication, according to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf website. Anything in writing helps deaf and partially deaf employees see communication. If employees also have vision loss with deafness, large print materials may be needed, or a manual interpreter if they don’t have enough residual vision.
  3. According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network website, “When using an interpreter, speak directly to the person and not to the interpreter.” Whether the employee uses a sign language interpreter, a manual interpreter (if they are deafblind), or a live captioner (if they have hearing loss but don’t know sign language well) to assist with communication, it is still the employee you hired and they are the one doing the thinking.
  4. According to Modern Disability blog, employers should “choose well lit, quiet settings and keep your mouth visible” when communicating with individuals who are deaf or partially deaf. Many individuals with hearing loss or deafness read lips and facial and body expressions to help them gain meaning. Having better light enables them to do so efficiently. If they also have partial vision loss, good lighting becomes more essential.
  5. “Gain the person’s attention before starting a conversation (i.e., tap the person gently on the shoulder or arm).” According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network website, this is another strategy to provide accessible communication with employees. If you imagine that you needed to gain all employees’ attention, the room was loud with chatter and no one could hear you, then you might wave your hands as a visual signal, flicker the lights, or tap someone on the shoulder to help you gain attention. These strategies also work with people who aren’t receiving auditory stimuli like other staff members. Ask your employee about the best method for getting his or her attention.

    Conference room with computers
    It’s not always easy to see or hear across a conference or meeting room.
  6. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network website recommends to “look directly at the person when speaking.” Plan ahead how employees with deafness or partial deafness will participate in the communication when you turn your back to write on a board or walk around the room and they can’t read your lips, facial expressions, or body language. If you plan a meeting with necessary movement, consider using an interpreter or captioner to assist your employee during this process.
  7. According to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf website, if sharing videos, provide videos with captioning, or ensure that the television used has captions activated. Ensure that captions are large enough to be seen from the distance where staff will be seated. Providing seating near the front of the room assists with picking up sound, and reading lips and captions.
  8. According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network website, “Speak in a normal tone.” While it seems illogical to speak in a normal tone to someone with hearing loss or deafness, hearing loss affects people differently. Some people with hearing loss are sensitive to sound and loud noises may in fact hurt them to hear. Hearing your voice is part of their communication experience. Reading your lips, facial expressions, and body language helps them to gather meaning. In some cases, all of those cues together may not be enough, and an interpreter or captioner may be necessary during extended communications.
  9. According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network website, “Never touch or distract a service dog without first asking the owner.” Service dogs are working animals and getting them in the habit of being distracted could mean life or death for their owner, who needs the animal at attention for their safety.
  10. Ask your employee which telecommunications method they use, which might be a captioned telephone, videophone, TTY, or mobile phone with text. Then ask which numbers to use. If your employee hasn’t discovered a telecommunications method yet, you can offer them this resource from North Carolina Health and Human Services that discusses telecommunication devices and provides links to learn more. Some telecommunications devices are provided at no charge to the individual.

Hopefully, this list of ways to integrate your new employees with hearing loss or deafness has expanded your communications knowledge and given you new ideas for communicating with all staff.

Woman in business suit listening
1 out of every 8 employees probably needs hearing support.

Don’t forget, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in eight Americans has hearing loss in both ears, meaning that for every eight employees you have in a meeting, at least one may need communication supports to fully participate in meetings and training sessions.


Job Fair for Interpreters at LSC-CyFair!

By David Bass, Staff Writer

Guess what? Yep! It’s that time! Job Fair and Workshop at Lone Star College – CyFair for ASL interpreters. We will be at the Job Fair on October 16th from 5pm to 7pm and workshop from 7pm to 9pm at LSC-CyFair Conference Center. Come on over to our booth and meet us!

For more information, feel free to go LSC’s Facebook page at , LSC website or contact us.

We hope to see you there!

LSC CyFair Job Fair

A Great Season with Disappointing Ending.

By David Bass, Staff Writer

I know this blog is not related to our services but it’s a nice break to have something different once in awhile.

As we gather together at restaurants, pubs, friend’s home, and our own home to watch last night’s (Wednesday, 14 October 2015) Postseason baseball playoff game between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals. We were disappointed with the result of Game 4 the other day and it was the last chance for Astros to win Game 5 or go home. Unfortunately, we lost the critical game. It was a great and exciting season for the Astros after having terrible losing seasons in the last few years, having lost more than 100 games three seasons straight before finally breaking the 100 losses last season. This year is the first winning season since 2008. It was great year for the Astros but it is far from perfect. Everything went well until Astros outfielder, George Springer, got hit by pitch on his left wrist that forced him to go on disabled list for about two and a half months. After that, things went south. Several problems came up, especially the road woes. Jose Altuve, rookie Carlos Correa, and Springer are the most constant batters on the team but with Springer out for two months and a half, things slowly went down because it was not enough constant batters on the lineups, and the Astros ended up in second place. Fortunately, Astros managed to grab the Wild Card spot and played in playoff against KC Royals for American League Division Series (ALDS). Also, Astros did not have enough strong and constant relief pitchers on the roster. From what I have observed over the season that the Astros did not have enough constant batters and relief pitchers to help them maintain high in first place throughout the year as it was too close for my comfort. In my humble opinion, the Astros would need to add or trade for stronger constant batters and relief pitchers during the off-season and hopefully, would have better chance to go all the way next year.

Tips for Communicating with Employees with hearing loss

Tips for Communicating with Employees who are Deaf/Partially deaf
By Christina Goebel

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf has published a booklet, “Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Employees”
( ). Some of the strategies in the booklet include:
• facilitating lip reading by pronouncing words more clearly,
• having the individual with deafness or hearing loss sitting next to the primary speaker at meetings
• having one person speak at a time during meetings, and
• communicating messages such as announcements directly to the individual.
The institute also lists a plan for integration into the workplace, beginning with pre-employment and extending to on the job supports ( ). Some pre-employment tips include: providing written literature about the company and the meeting itinerary prior to the meeting, while orientation activities include hiring an interpreter during the first day and providing captioned videos. Ask new employees which communication methods they prefer, since there are a variety of communication styles used by people with deafness or hearing loss.

On the job suggestions include:
• asking the person how to get their attention,
• using visual cues,
• assigning buddies for emergency situations,
• using written communication or texts during emergencies, and
• making sure employees with deafness and hearing loss are included in conversations, breaks, and social events.
Phones that allow for using sign language or captioning exist and many are provided free-of-charge to individuals with deafness or hearing loss. If you notice your employee is struggling with telecommunications, you may find resources to share with them. If your employee uses sign language, they may already have a telecommunications service they use. If not, here is a list of service providers for Internet and Video Relay service providers ( ). Some employees, generally those who speak, might prefer having someone to type what speakers say, and they might use some of these free captioning telephones ( ).
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, provides extensive information and resources regarding communicating with employees ( ). One of JAN’s most useful resources is their free, live assistance. You can post questions with JAN consultants at this link ( ) or call them at (800)526-7234(800)526-7234 FREE (Voice) or (877)781-9403(877)781-9403 FREE (TTY).
While most of the responsibility for communication is often placed upon the individual with deafness or hearing loss, don’t let that stop your employees from learning sign language via YouTube, website, or popular apps ( ) or by texting, emailing, instant messaging, or handwriting notes, depending on the needs of your employee. These alternative methods of communication are helpful when environments are loud or during emergencies. When all employees take active part in ensuring effective communication, everyone wins.

Audiology Awareness Month

Audiology Awareness Month
By Christina Goebel

Audiology Awareness Month is celebrated during October. Audiologists are health care professionals who evaluate hearing loss.

The American Academy of Audiology has created downloadable documents related hearing loss ( ), including “Assistive Listening Devices” and “Age-Related Hearing Loss.”

Not sure if you have hearing loss? Try the academy’s “Hearing Health Quick Test” ( ).

The academy has also created PowerPoint for various audiences, including adults, different school levels, and physicians ( ).