Holiday Gift Ideas with Free Shipping for People with Deafness, Hearing Loss, and Interpreters

Presents under a Christmas tree.
Have you found some unique gifts for your loved ones with deafness or hearing loss?

Harris Communications offers many products for individuals with hearing loss. Currently, the company offers free shipping.

Harris Communications has provided a holiday gift guide, including the following gift guides:

Girl with Christmas tree lights behind her.
Products with lights offer alternatives to products that might otherwise have sound, such as fire alarms and phones.

Gift ideas include bed shakers–which now work with cell phones and have many options, light on cell phone signalers, new devices with different light signals for different sounds, assisted listening devices, amplified or TTY  phones, and also includes items such as apparel, rugs, keychains, drinkware, and jewelry. They also have products for interpreters. sells more refined jewelry, apparel, home decor, and games. Novel items include:

Two boys stand in front of Hanukkah candles.
This season is a time to show our loved ones how much we care with thoughtful ways of showing our love and acceptance.

Both companies offer ASL books and videos.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Sign Shares

Sign Shares team in the office.
Celebrating Ms. Bettye’s birthday (l-r): Eva Storey, Christina Goebel, Tonia Osberg, Anthony Butkovich, Bettye Washington (back), Sijaama Branch (front), Lorinda Hernandez-Howard, and Michael Akinosi.

We have so much to be thankful for, most of all for you and for one another!

Sign Shares has  celebrated birthday hugs and awards, supporting the disability community through arts and more.

Group of people signing to one another.
The Sign Shares family at the Disability Touching Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Sign Shares was honored to be a part of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Sign Shares was a Director sponsor for the event.

In a recent Facbook photo album, Sign Shares’ staff Eva Storey and Michael Akinosi interact with Lizzie Velasquez. Velasquez is an international speaker and activist who is the subject of a film, A Brave Heart. The film explores how Lizzie turned a malicious viral video touting her as the “world’s ugliest woman” into a stigma-shattering victory.

Eva Story and Lizzie Velasquez talk.
Lizzie Velasquez shares a moment with Sign Shares’ Eva Storey.

The Sign Shares team also viewed the Jessica Cox film Right Footed. Cox is an advocate, pilot, and martial artist who was born without arms. The film follows her advocacy for disability rights.


Cynthia Carvey signing.
Sign Shares’ Cynthia Carvey in action.
Sherri Frost talking with others in background.
Sign Shares’ Sherri Frost interpreting.

Enjoy these pictures of Sign Shares’ interpreters in action.


Group poses for birthday in front of large balloons.
Sign Shares staff Michael Akinosi, Eva Storey, and Sherri Frost celebrated a milestone birthday with William “Randy” Gunter.

Our pictures also share our family with you–recent birthdays for Sign Shares’ family members Bettye Washington and William “Randy” Gunter, and a picture of the Sign Shares’ Lex Frieden award!

Quote: Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first or the last time. Then your time on Earth will be filled with glory. Betty

Hands raised in blue light.On Facebook, Sign Shares’ President and CEO, Eva Storey, said, “We have more memories to create and wrap up by the end of the 2015 year. We always have you all in our hearts and minds. Love and Blue Light, the SS Family!”

Woman and man pose for selfie.
Eva Storey and Anthony Butkovich at CTD’s film festival.


Veteran with hearing loss saves woman during park fire

A veteran and camp host with hearing loss was undeterred when fire threatened his campground in Montana’s northernmost park.

Alan Deegan is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1964-68, with a tour in Vietnam in 1966-67. Deegan has service-related hearing loss. During the war, Deegan worked in aviation ordinance, which is munitions for planes. Doors of the four turbo-prop planes were often open, so sound inside the planes was amplified and loud. He thinks this likely contributed to his hearing loss.

Alan Deegan stands in grass in front of mountain.
Alan Deegan at the Rising Sun Campground. Photo credit: Christina Goebel

After the military, Deegan worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 34 years, serving in numerous capacities, including as Postmaster of Marshall, Minn. and Junction City, Kan.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Deegan realized he had hearing loss. An emergency room visit for something else in Canada led to a series of doctor’s appointments and the pronouncement, “Mr. Deegan, your left ear is dead.”

“No wonder you were so damn loud on the telephone,” Deegan says a friend told him.

Close up of Alan Deegan in camp host attire.
“I don’t think anything has ever, ever held me back from anything I wanted to do,” Alan Deegan said. Photo credit: Christina Goebel

When asked if hearing loss ever affected his career, Deegan said, “Never had an issue in my entire working career. I don’t think anything has ever, ever held me back from anything I wanted to do.”

Deegan is an avid traveler who has visited all 50 of the United States. This past summer, he volunteered as camp host at Rising Sun Campground in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Volunteering as camp host at the national park was a way Deegan and his wife Ellen earned a free campsite for their recreational vehicle, or RV, and also free electric, sewer, and propane. He and Ellen worked 40 hours a week, with two days off. As hosts, they recorded information for the 83 camp sites, answered questions, helped new campers learn about camping, and ensured camper safety from hazards such as bears and fires.

Deegan said that he might have missed some information when visiting with people because of his hearing loss, but the ranger he worked with “never gave me any problems” about his hearing and was accommodating with any radio difficulties.

He had already adapted to his environment by the time of his interview, cupping his hand around his hearing aids to block out the interference caused by the wind.

Adult black bear close up
Black bears and grizzlies are frequently sighted by tourists in Glacier National Park. One of Deegan’s duties at “Bear Central” was notify rangers of bear sightings and to make sure bears and tourists didn’t get too close to one another. Photo credit: Christina Goebel

According to Deegan’s wife Ellen, the Rising Sun Campground was what the Glacier National Park rangers called ‘Bear Central.’” “Apparently we have more bear activity here than any other campground in the park,” Ellen Deegan said.

When bears got too close to the campers, Alan Deegan took action. Ellen Deegan said that one time, a visitor reported a lot of noise around his campsite. When her husband arrived, he found it was a bear. Ellen said, “He immediately called for a bear ranger. He had the visitors present to all stand back and clap and yell. He had his bear spray out and ready. The bear was only foraging for food and went back into the forest. He came back a bit later into another camp site. The bear ranger arrived and took charge of the bear. We had 4 bears that day.”

Fire and smoke above trees on a mountain.
The Reynolds Creek Fire threatened Glacier National Park–and Deegan’s campground. Photo Credit: Alan and Ellen Deegan

Deegan’s greatest contribution as a camp host occurred during the Reynolds Creek Fire at Glacier National Park. The fire began in the park on July 21 and the perimeter was contained by late September. According to the National Park Service, the fire burned 4, 850 acres.

During evacuation from their camp ground, Ellen said that Alan “went around both loops again shaking tents and trailers yelling to evacuate. He found one girl asleep in a tent. Good thing he did, because she would have been left. He did the loops twice and we were sure everyone was gone.”

In the meantime, Ellen packed items they would need into their truck and waited for Deegan to check the camp sites again.

Tour vehicle leaves smoke cloud behind.
Everyone had to evacuate from the areas around the Deegans’ campground. Photo Credit: Alan and Ellen Deegan

The scene around them was hectic. Ellen said, “The helicopters are flying dipping water out of the lake with their buckets and dropping it in the hot spots. There were fire trucks from towns, U.S. Forest Service, other government agencies like BLM, and more men and women in green and yellow clothing than I could count.”

Travel trailer in the midst of mountains.
Despite the vast amounts of smoke in their campground, the Deegans’ camper was unharmed and they continued their travel itinerary with few changes. Photo credit: Alan and Ellen Deegan

Later, the Deegans and others evacuated. Fortunately, they and their RV were fine and they finished their summer trip. The Rising Sun Campground remained closed for the remainder of the summer.

Alan Deegan stands against large tree.
Alan Deegan has visited all of the United States. Photo Credit: Alan and Ellen Deegan

Ellen Deegan said that in four months this year, they

  • “traveled through 12 states,
  • drove 11,300 miles,
  • took 13,500 pictures,
  • rode the quad (ATV) 550 miles,
  • visited 12 National Park sites,
  • 2 National Forest recreation sites,
  • and 1 Canadian National Park.”

After his summer travels, Deegan contacted Christina Goebel of Sign Shares, Inc. to learn about more assistive technology they had discussed during their interview in Montana. He’s seeking to share information with friends.

Woman signs I love you to mountain.
Sign Shares’ staff member Christina Goebel promotes Deaf and Hard of Hearing awareness, education, and advocacy during her travels. Photo Credit: Gerald Goebel

If you’d like to travel and volunteer like the Deegans, you can learn more at  or

If you’re a veteran with hearing loss needing to apply for benefits to help purchase hearing aids, you can learn more at this link to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Deaf, hearing loss organizations unite for wireless access

Organizations representing the Deaf and partially deaf communities joined efforts to make wireless handsets accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. This includes cordless and mobile phones.

According to an article by the Hearing Loss Association of America, “When mobile technology moved from analog to digital in the 1990s, it created a huge barrier for people with hearing loss in that suddenly people with hearing loss who could use wireless handsets were faced with interference when they held the phone to their ear.”

a young woman talking to herself on the tin can phone
Many phones still aren’t accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Currently, 82 percent of mobile phones on the market are accessible for hearing technology. Only 66 percent of cordless phones are accessible. The association said it has joined with organizations to ensure greater telecommunications accessibility.

Man talks to video image
There’s an 18 percent chance this man’s mobile phone isn’t accessible for hearing aids or cochlear implants.

To do this, the association filed comment with the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

“We were joined in this filing by the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Together we make it clear that our goal has remained unchanged: we want to see 100 percent of wireless handsets built to be hearing aid compatible,” according to the association’s website.

Number 66
Percent of wireless handsets the phone industry had proposed to have accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. Advocate organizations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community said that’s not enough.

According to a comment from the three organizations, “It’s our understanding that the Industry is proposing a modification of the HAC rule to require both manufacturers and service providers to increase the percentage of M-and T-rated HAC wireless handsets they sell to 66% . . . If adopted, Industry’s proposal would leave fully a third of wireless handsets potentially unusable for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants.”

The consumer groups “look forward to working with the Industry and the Commission to ensure greater access to wireless handsets for all consumers with hearing loss,” according to the comment.


Welcome to Our Vlog


Sign Shares boat logo with blue handsHello, everyone of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Sign Shares’ VLOG.

My Name is: Michael AKINOSI. I am a Deaf Community Advocate with Sign Shares.

We gladly welcome you to our Web Site – We love hearing from you, your ideas, concerns, questions and feedback you may have to better serve and work in partnership for better services through Advocacy and Understanding your Rights. Thanks for watching and be on the look out for future events and announcements as often as possible and kindly spread to others.

Have a Nice Day. Take Care. Bye.

Webinar, Training Provide Tips for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Want to have a more inclusive work place and hire people with disabilities, but not sure how? Onsite training from Sign Shares, Inc./International and a free webinar offer you solutions.

Sign Shares boat logo with blue handsSign Shares provides meetings to train and answer any questions you have about interpreting services for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind. Sign Shares is the oldest, professional,  and unique provider of Sign Language Interpreting and Translation Services in the United States. Sign Shares’ staff know this may be a new type of communication for many people and can share strategies to make the transition smoother.

Workshops are catered to your needs and may include:

  • Why do people who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Deaf-Blind request interpreters or captioning?
  • What are the differences between the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Hearing cultures?
  • Which Americans with Disabilities Act laws apply to my company?
  • What are common misconceptions about people who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Deaf-Blind?

Schedule your workshop today!; 713-869-4373; Fax: 713-869-8463; Video Phone#1: 832-431-3854; Video Phone#2: 832-431-4899

Need to request Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services? Contact Sign Shares here.

Workplace shows roomy open seating
Desk areas that are open on the bottom allow staff with wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility conditions easy access to their work space.

This free webinar, from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network, will provide strategies learned through eight nationwide consortia to increase the capacity of small businesses to employ people with disabilities. Participants will hear from small businesses about their experiences and learn about a new online resource to help them take action.

The network is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy in cooperation with The Viscardi Center. The Viscardi Center provides programs that educate, employ, and empower children and adults with disabilities.

Television with captions.
All TVs since the 1990’s have been built with the capacity to provide captions. Enabling captions on workplace TVs enables Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees to read what’s being said, and also allows staff to watch TV during breaks without disturbing others.

Registration is required for the  free “Small Business & Disability Employment: Steps to Success” webinar on Dec. 8, 1:00-2:00 Central Time.

Click here to register.







Responses needed about VRI in medical settings

According to a recent vlog/blog from the National Association of the Deaf, or NAD, the organization joined forces with Deaf Seniors of America to “find out which situations calls for a live interpreter or VRI [Video Remote Interpreting].”

At a hospital or clinic, a person who is deaf or partially deaf may receive a live interpreter, or a remote interpreter via computer (VRI). Problems from remote interpreting may stem from a litany of technological difficulties. In 2008, the National Association of the Deaf posted a position statement on VRI and included a list of potential problems.

Medical professional holds stethoscope to patient's chest.
Are there situations in which remote interpreting won’t work?

In the vlog/blog, Vice President of Deaf Seniors of America, Al Sonnenstrahl, says the organizations “recognize the challenges in using Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) in medical settings such as hospitals and doctor’s office. Some experiences are positive while others are not.”

According to vlog/blog, the organizations need to learn what people who are deaf and hard of hearing’s experiences are so they can better advocate for their interests. This does not involve a lawsuit.

In order to do this, the taskforce is requesting less than three-minute videos or English texts of your experience.

Information they need is: “which city and state this story happened in, the name of the doctor involved, which hospital this took place in, and your experience while using VRI. The Taskforce will report back to both organizations with information and strategies to address the growing use of VRI at hospitals and medical facilities.”

Stories can be submitted to: Email, / or by Videophone, / GLIDE, QDA BEIE .

According to the vlog/blog, “the purpose of the Taskforce is to gather information and are not covered by the attorney-client privilege. With these stories, we will be able to develop guidelines to be shared with doctors, hospitals, and others in the medical setting.”

The deadline to send in video or text responses is Dec. 1, 2015.


Healthcare registration has opened

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace has begun and will last until Jan. 31, 2016. During this time, individuals may sign up for health insurance at

Red tile with number seven
Be aware, the Medicare deadline is earlier than the Marketplace.

According to, Medicare enrollment has an earlier deadline, Dec. 7.

For those continuing their Marketplace plans, changes must be made by Dec. 15. Stock imagery says to "Update & compare plans for 2016." Stock imagery says to “Update & compare plans for 2016.”



Individuals can locate and compare plans at the Health Insurance Marketplace. Those who have not used the Marketplace before can learn more here.

On the Health and Human Services blog, Cynthia Robinson, a self-employed mother who had congenital joint problems and several spinal surgeries, reduced health insurance costs for herself and her daughter from $1200 a month, to $438 monthly.

Tiles over money read, Save.
There are several ways for people who have low income to potentially save money at the Marketplace.

According to, some people qualify for Advanced Premium Tax Credits, which are “based on your estimate of your expected household income for 2016,” and can “lower your monthly insurance bill (or ‘premium’).”

The higher-priced Silver plan may offer additional savings in fewer costs per visit. “If you have a Silver plan and qualify for out-of-pocket savings, the deductible is thousands of dollars less than a typical Bronze plan’s,” according to the website.

If you’d like to know if your income qualifies you for additional savings, click here.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, coverage “includes prevention, early prevention, and treatment of mental and/or substance use disorders as an ‘essential health benefit’ that must be covered by healthplans” offered through the Marketplace.

Quote from Dr. Seuss: I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
Children’s book author Dr. Seuss was ahead of his time recognizing the rights of all.

About half of all Americans meet the criteria for mental illness at some point in their lives, according to the agency.

Picture of man who resembles Santa Clause.
Navigating healthcare can be a challenge for seniors, advocates, and people with disabilities.

“The Open Enrollment Period is the only time all year when every Medicare beneficiary can change coverage, and the options can be confusing,” according to Justice in Aging, an organization that “fights senior poverty through law.”

The organization has created a resource for advocates serving low-income, Medicare-eligible clients.

According to, the process to apply for Medicare has been simplified and doesn’t require a visit to the Social Security office. “Use our online application to sign up for Medicare. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done.”

Individuals needing it may apply for Medicare at this link.

According to, people with disabilities who already collect benefits “automatically get Part A and Part B after you get disability benefits from Social Security or certain disability benefits from the RRB for 24 months.” People who have Lou Gehrig’s Disease “automatically get Part A and Part B the month your disability benefits begin.” Pending meeting some requirements, those with End-Stage Renal Disease may qualify for Medicare.

Need more help? You can call staff at with questions between 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday, Eastern Time, at 1-800-706-7893 (TTY: 711).







President’s council reveals startling overcharges for hearing aids and solutions

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report on age- related hearing loss with recommendations to the president.

According to the report, “Aging American & Hearing Loss: Imperative of Improved Hearing Technologies,” “Only a fraction of consumers who need assistance with hearing obtain and use hearing aids, in large part because of high cost, complex dispensing procedures, social stigma, and performance shortfalls.”

Red hearing symbol
According to the report, hearing aids cost thousands to consumers, but only $100 or less to manufacturers.

The report focuses on making access to affordable technology more available. According to the report, cost keeps people from seeking out assistive technology for hearing loss. “A 2014 survey found that the average price of one hearing aid was $2,363, with premium models costing $2,898. Many, if not most, individuals need two hearing aids, one in each ear, doubling the cost.”

“One survey found that 64 percent of people with the most serious hearing loss reported that they could not afford a hearing aid, and over 75 percent identified financial factors as a barrier,” according to the report.

For older Americans, legislative action is required to allow Medicare to pay for hearing aids. One survey finds “50 percent of consumers identifying lack of insurance coverage as a barrier to their acquiring a hearing aid. That failure dates from the original 1966 Medicare amendments to the Social Security Act, which bar Medicare from covering hearing aids. Congressional action is required to change this policy . . .”

Blue hearing aid
Congress will have to make a law to allow Medicare coverage for hearing aids. First, they must be more affordable.

According to the report, legislation to permit Medicare coverage for hearing aids has been introduced by both political parties, but cost has prevented Congress from adopting the laws because of the number of Americans who could potentially need the technology. “If market forces were to lower costs, the analysis and potential for Congressional action would change.”

“When compared in complexity to today’s smartphones costing a few hundred dollars each, even premium-model hearing aids are simple devices but can cost several thousand dollars,” according to the report. “A 2010 study suggested that a hearing aid’s components then cost less than $100; the number today is likely less.”

Picture of pink piggy bank with one dollar symbol
Costco may offer the best prices on hearing aids.

There is room for innovation, according to the report, especially when there are only six manufacturers of hearing aids in the country. Which is the most affordable? “Costco now accounts for about 10 percent of all hearing aids sold, and it sells its house brand (reportedly manufactured by one of the big six manufacturers) for about one-third of the typical retail price. . .”

Asian woman has hand over ear.
Education is needed so that more seniors embrace having hearing aids.

Besides cost, seniors may avoid getting hearing aids because they are worried about how others will perceive them. “Public education can play a role in expanding use, and the arrival of the Baby Boomers as new seniors with different attitudes, including greater familiarity with wearable electronics and greater use, may shift attitudes toward social acceptance,” according to the report.

In a recent email, the Hearing Loss Association of America said it “enthusiastically endorses ” the new report, which it says will “serve to open the market for new innovation in hearing device technologies and also increase choice for consumers with hearing aids…”

Otoscope, or device used to check ears
What would happen if people didn’t have to visit doctors to get hearing aids?

According to the association’s email, the report makes four claims. Two regard the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. One claim is that the FDA “should approve a class of hearing aids for “over-the-counter sales” without requiring an audiologist or doctor.  Another is that the FDA should withdraw a “draft guidance on Personal Sound Amplification Products that would forbid the manufacturers “from making truthful claims about the functionality of the product in certain situations…”

Potential problems with this would be some individuals might purchase hearing devices not understanding non-age-related potential causes of hearing loss, including earwax, fluid, or a condition that may be causing hearing loss as a side effect.

Audiogram, or hearing test profile showing hearing loss levels
Shareable hearing tests would allow people to share their hearing needs with their vendor of choice.

According to association’s email, the report also recommends that the Federal Trade Commission should require hearing-aid dispensers to “provide the customer with a copy of their results at no additional cost” and “define a process to authorize hearing aid vendors to obtain a copy of a customer’s hearing test results . . . from any audiologist who performs such a test . . .”

While the council’s report recommends changes affecting the hearing aid marketplace, Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission, it closes with the alternative: “the costs and risks of inaction with respect to untreated hearing loss in the aging U.S. population are large.”

Resulting changes would make hearing aids more affordable for all, while enabling Congress to finally allow Medicare to cover hearing aid purchases.