Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#deaflivesmatter - except in Kingson - here I address the Democratic Mayoral Debate & Kingston's inaccessibility for the Deaf

#deaflivesmatter - except in Kingston
Frustrated, I decided I would address the Democratic
Mayoral Debate & Kingston's inaccessibility for the Deaf

The Kingston Democratic Mayoral Debate last night (8/25/15) & the inaccessibility to the event as well as to events, programs & services in Kingston, has me on my soapbox so no comedy in this blog today - just frustration and addressing the inaccessibility to Deaf residents of Kingston to anything much less a mayoral debate.

After an email back & forth with one candidate in last night’s debate that was one sentence from him & one sentence from the League of Women Voters of Kingston who ran the event – has me beyond livid when it comes to full accessibility as per the ADA law for inclusion of Deaf people in our city. The event was NOT interpreted NOR captioned to provide equal access to all citizens but when I offered to interpret the event, I was sent a one line email “they said it’s ok if you come” with no regard to the profession nor required accessibility and this email was sent to me at 2:36pm – the DAY OF THE DEBATE with an assumption I would be available, and would do it for free. Without any forethought as to the LAW requiring accessibility as per the ADA law. Not that anyone besides Noble made any effort at ALL though. In reality it’s up to the hosting party (in this case the League of Women Voters and the Temple who hosted it) to provide this access. So at least one candidate out of the entire bunch made an EFFORT.

Regarding the debate: I’m quite sure measures were taken to be accessible to the mobility impaired. The fact that the hearing impaired, ASL using population of voters were considered to understand what was going on was not considered by those running the show, much less that it was completely blown off in the emails, is outright discrimination to the Deaf population of Kingston. No captioning, no interpreter, but I’m sure ramps were in place, special seating up front and so forth, in order to be considered “accessible” but it was not. It was not even considered to be of any importance by anyone but you! That’s outright discrimination, pure and simple. The organizers, host nor your opponent gave a single thought to the Deaf voters of our region to make the debate fully accessible to everyone.

There was no access to the Deaf population; a voting, tax paying, working population of people who have no idea what's going on because nothing is captioned nor interpreted for them in their language, which is required by the ADA Law. There are usually Spanish interpreters (which is not a disability nor required by law but a population that is not learning English is more favored than citizens who do speak English but can’t hear & need an interpreter to have access like everyone else – it’s not a choice not to learn a language), ramps for wheelchair users & so forth, but nothing is ever done for the Deaf population. It's absolute discrimination in its most passive aggressive form.



The lack of education to emergency services in terms of understanding hearing impaired people’s needs is sorely lacking as well. When there is a weather emergency or something similar & responders are out trying to find/help people they don’t realize that deaf people can’t hear them calling to assist them & back to the telephone issue, the Deaf person can’t call to GET help!

Regarding interpreters as required by LAW as per the ADA:

When an interpreter is needed, the general responses are:  “you can read lips”, or an attitude of “you can speak therefore you can hear” or “we can right back & forth” etc.

IF an interpreter is found, the services are expected for free or a cut price for some reason. Instead of respecting the education, knowledge, skill & time of the interpreter is not considered in terms of expecting payment for these services, which is mentally & physically exhausting.


So many topics addressed in the debate were about “minorities” that only includes “the people of color” population. Deaf people are a minority & their communication accessibility is a right as outlined in the ADA Law. But the current Mayor’s open door policy is a bunch of bunk: open door when someone needs an interpreter to address him? When calling the office to sit down with him, a staffer states that the person “needs to bring their own interpreter” & so forth? No that’s not an open door policy. If perhaps both candidates addressed the true need for full communication accessibility, education of & for the Deaf, had someone who is deaf in offices consulting, representing & provided an interpreter at every event they attend, speak at or public event they address – nobody has a true “open door policy” nor is creating fully accessible communications or information to the public in its entirety. There is no consulting, no accessibility, no education, and no support being offered to the Deaf population of Kingston. That includes this debate, as no Deaf person can understand it, leaving each Deaf voter out of the loop with no idea what either candidate stands for. The offer of accessibility was blown off by the people running & sponsoring the event & those included in the debate including those filming it to put out to the public.

The League of Women Voters as well as the Temple Emmanuel where it was held & whose brotherhood sponsored the event, should have made a concerted effort to assure this event was accessible to EVERYONE & not with an assumption by anyone that interpreting services were ‘free’ or a “they said you can come” kind of response. The deaf population of Kingston is the MOST ignored population and yet their needs are required by LAW – but are not followed nor is a precedent nor example of this accessibility being provided anywhere in this election, by anybody. Honestly, being told “they said it’s ok for you to come”. This message at 2:36pm the day of the debate.

Their response to your brief message said: “as long as this individual is regarded as impartial with no ties to either candidate, its fine” – ‘it’s fine’ & the entire sentence is completely ignorant as to interpreters for the Deaf and the ADA law as it relates to the Deaf. Interpreters have no partiality towards anyone while interpreting – their job is to provide communication from English to ASL & from ASL to English. Period. So even an interpreter with ‘ties’ to someone can interpret at ANYTHING as part of a qualified or certified interpreters job is to remain impartial & just facilitate communication no matter the arena.

That there was an assumption that these highly qualified services to provide ADA accommodation is provided free is outrageous. The assumption that an interpreter can just show up at such an event without any prior discussion as to pay, placement & so forth in order to provide such ADA accommodations as per the law, is also mind boggling. There was no following the ADA law at this event (nor most events connected to this election or anything else in Kingston for that matter), & is outright discrimination against a group of people whose disability via communication inequality & whose needs for such communication accessibility is required by LAW – is the perfect example of how inaccessible Kingston truly is and that only people in wheelchairs, the elderly, the Spanish or the “minority” of people of color’s needs are more important than those of residents of Kingston who use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication. The League of Women Voters should be ashamed of themselves for not making SURE this was a primary concern prior to the day OF the event & then expecting you to relay a message to me that says “they said it’s ok if you come” which to me indicates it’s ok to come as a member of the public not as a person facilitating communication as per the ADA law – which is NOT free & is not expected to BE free to make things accessible to Deaf people.

It’s insulting to me as a hearing impaired/Deaf person (who uses a very expensive – (paid for out of my pocket ALD, as no devices or communication enhancers for the Deaf are paid for by insurance or anything else for that matter) that connects via my hearing aids to a mic’d source that allows me to interpret at the highest level of certification. I am quite sure that nobody involved would expect to put forth their education, experience & high skill set to work for free at their job. I’m sure that people who make accessible ramps & so forth are paid for their efforts & materials. The same goes for providing these required services to the Deaf as per the ADA Law. The fact that this was all done last minute & just blown off, is very discouraging and is outright discrimination to the Deaf population in meeting requirements of the ADA Law.

Very discouraging indeed.


As for the debate: the League of Women Voters were running the show & it was also produced/hosted by, Congregation Immanuel hosted, said they have many of these ‘community minded’ events – but clearly not inclusive nor accessible to all. Their ‘brotherhood’ sponsored it & neither they nor the LOWV managed to make it accessible to everyone.


If the debate had been considered to be fully accessible, there would have had to have been promotion to the community that it was going to be interpreted, the interpreter would have had to have been fully visible throughout (standing between the moderator & the candidates on camera at all times) & there would have had to have been front row seats made available for deaf attendees & not the press seen in the front row.


In the video of the debate, Part 1 at approx. 54min Gallo states how he is going to make sure a boat on a pier is ADA compliant but he does NOTHING to make things compliant nor accessible to the Deaf. (Including his ‘open door policy’ as I describe below). When will various tours & events be accessible to the Deaf? When will musical/theatrical events be accessible to the Deaf? (Yes Deaf go to concerts & enjoy music.) When will local movie theatres show open captioned films or provide accessible devices to the Deaf that do NOT include assistive listening devices made for hard of hearing people? Never if it’s up to Kingston.


Deaf lives matter!  #deaflivesmatter #deafvotesmatter


Excellent community policing re black lives matter – do Deaf lives matter? Where there is no communication nor understanding of communicating with deaf people, do #deaflivesmatter? Does it matter that the emergency agencies assume all deaf people can read lips, or assume writing back & forth in emergency rooms is enough for a Deaf person, or providing incapable ‘interpreters’ who merely took one sign class somewhere & can put someone’s life in danger due to their lack of skills; do #deaflivesmatter ?. Deaf Lives Matter too! But when Deaf people sign – it looks like gang signs to people that don’t know. There have been many deaf people who have been abused by the police forces because of not getting it, myself included. There have been deaf people abused, hurt or killed by using signs on a street corner all over the country, because gangs, police or whomever, because instead of thinking these people were deaf they were thought to be gang members. A deaf person can’t hear the police thus cannot respond, they are left to their own accord if stranded somewhere without accessibility to contact emergency services via text to get help. The deaf community is ignored completely, nothing is made accessible & no jobs are offered to deaf people in the area.


In cases of emergency services: Deaf people died in 9/11 because deaf people can’t hear emergency workers searching for them. Deaf people were stranded (& died) during hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms & flooding, because emergency workers are not trained to know how to look nor communicate with them & because someone didn’t answer their calling out, Deaf people are stranded & alone.  During “Super Storm Sandy” every deaf person I know (including myself) was stranded, without ability to get emergency services or help because of the need to be in front of their televisions & video phone devices to make any calls & there is no texting service for Deaf people from a cell phone (again the expenses of being deaf & having ‘accessible communication’ is broken down below.


Do we want the same thing to happen on a similar level in Kingston during states of emergency? Without proper training in dealing with hearing impaired individuals in emergency situations, without qualified interpreters at the ready for these agencies & emergency rooms in hospitals, without services in place to communicate to emergency personnel in the case of an emergency via texting & affordability for the costs of phone devices for the deaf to be able to call emergency services via phone – Kingston will never be accessible nor equal in any way, for its’ Deaf citizens.


On EDUCATION/JOBS in the community: Hearing people, not Deaf people, are not educating our young deaf students. Hearing people, not Deaf people are not the ones teaching American Sign Language (ASL) at the area colleges or schools.

Hearing people, not Deaf people, are educating the public & students about Deaf Culture & the language & life of the Deaf.


These jobs are held by hearing people whose first language is not ASL. These hearing people & most notably the teacher at UCCC who self-runs the entire department is an audiologist. An audiologist’s job is to ‘cure’ deafness. They have no right to be teaching a language and culture of people who live it every day likens itself to the Rachel Dolezal issue of a white woman teaching black culture where she has no first-hand experience on the subject and also took jobs away from black people who could have taught this with first-hand integrity & knowledge. What about JOBS that are also accessible to deaf people in the area who want to work but there is no understanding nor access to them? What about making sure the education of deaf youngsters and hearing people who want to learn the language of the Deaf & Deaf Culture, is taught by a qualified DEAF PERSON?


During the debate the following issues/topics were brought up & discussed as follows:

Question #12: Communicating with residents. Why is ‘minority’ ONLY to be considered people of color? The minority is DEAF – who are not given full access. The debate was not interpreted nor captioned. I gave a card to one of the candidates who took far too long to get to the people running the show, who then took too long getting back to him who then took too long getting back to me – sometime after 2pm the DAY of the debate. The League of Women Voters did NOT respond to his email to ME but rather blew off the suggestion of an interpreter, sent it back to him & I got the following “they said its ok if you come” was the only communication I received from a candidate who contacted them about me interpreting the event. The League of Women Voters sent him back one sentence, that clearly showed they have no idea what an interpreter does, ignoring the ADA Law regarding access to such an event & expecting it to be free, last minute & just “whatever” attitude. 


“Coming” indicates attending NOT WORKING the event putting years of skills & education to work, expecting me to just show up, for free, without any communication as to the propriety and access of providing an interpreter (placement, seating & so forth to assure the interpreter can be seen at all times in the space as well as on camera for viewers). No, the suggestion of an interpreter was instead completely BLOWN OFF into “they said it’s ok for you to come”.  To the League of Women Voters of Kingston & Temple Emmanuel, shame on you for not just offering this accessibility much less for completely blowing it off, thus discriminating against the deaf & full access as per the ADA. Shameful.


The Mayor of NY (as well as other cities) – have an interpreter with them for announcements, debates and so forth. The Mayor of Kingston? Nope.


Knocking on doors – how are you going to communicate with a deaf resident? How are you going to get your point across to a deaf resident? How are you going to get help to a deaf resident?  Not addressed.


Noble: “We don’t have a city work force that represents what Kingston looks like” No we do not. Where are the deaf workers? Where are the Deaf represented in government, committees, advocacy groups and so forth? Nowhere, that’s where. So WHY are ‘minority’ communication issues being addressed to people of color and NOT being inclusive of a true MINORITY in Kingston of a Deaf population with a specific communication need? Providing Spanish interpreters is not required by law, nor the ADA as it’s not a disability. In my personal opinion if you speak Spanish & you are in America, learn English – instead of being handed an interpreter while Deaf people who have no other choice in the matter are NOT given interpreters as freely if at all?


What about interpreters at the ready 24/7 on call for Emergency services? Nope not available & someone who took a sign class & says they “know sign” is NOT an interpreter & can cause more harm than good, and usually do.


“…both women & minorities in city government” – again – no hearing impaired person in any representative position nor any consulting position in a place of visibility nor have any been reached out to, in order to make this more visible.


Gallo: “hundreds of thousands of dollars have been put toward community centers & such for people of color” (the minorities talked about” where is the money to make all programs accessible to the deaf, emergency services accessible to the deaf, daily phone communications affordable & accessible to the deaf as being hearing impaired is extremely costly just to be able to call 911. Nope nothing – just focus on the minorities of color and no one else. That’s outright discrimination. So now ONLY black lives matter? That’s the sentiment – but #deaflivesmatter too & THEIR needs are REQUIRED BY LAW. Spanish interpreters are always provided for everything – but not an ASL Interpreter for the Deaf as required by law. Instead of providing interpreters for people too lazy to learn English in America – teach them ENGLISH. It is NOT required by LAW to provide them with an interpreter, awarding their laziness in learning the language of the country where they live. BUT no interpreters for the DEAF are provided ANYWHERE and it’s an ADA REQUIREMENT.


Gallo said: “I have an open door policy to communicate with everyone. You come to my office you don’t need an appointment” but you DO need an interpreter – a deaf person being asked by a staffer “you will bring your own interpreter” is against the law. So your open door policy Mayor Gallo is actually closed – to anyone who uses ASL.

“the tent includes everyone regardless of your ethnicity or your race” – but does NOT include you if you are deaf & use ASL because you NEVER have an interpreter with you at any of these events to promote full open communication with your citizens – not EVER. So your ‘open door policy’ mayor is discriminative in its very nature and clearly your door is ONLY open to able bodied, hearing individuals who can understand you without the need of an interpreter. So your door is “open” to everyone – except Deaf people.


2 most important initiatives:

Gallo “bringing back Broadway” & work with community college etc., & offering career paths & jobs – but is it accessible to people with disabilities? Not to all. Jobs for the Deaf are taken by hearing without the skill levels nor knowledge required for their position, no offerings of interpreters at job fairs & because of the ADA, an employer will STILL hire a hearing person over an equally qualified Deaf person to avoid having to deal with getting an interpreter as per the law.


Move around the city better – transportation planning motorized & non-motorized bus system needs overhaul move people around the city better – making sure all transportation, sidewalks, bus stops are fully accessible to people with all disabilities. Creating more disabled parking & accessibility in places that already exist in the city, and making reporting & enforcing disabled parking laws, more accessible & actually mandating the police forces to ticket or tow the vehicles in violation of the parking law. Messed up sidewalks with no accessibility to the mobility impaired, lack of handicapped parking up & down Broadway & uptown and no enforcement of those that violate the little handicapped/accessible parking. Kingston is not accessible to all – far from it. Let’s focus on fixing what is already there – making everything accessible to everyone and inclusion for ALL citizens of Kingston, as a priority, not as a second thought if it’s a thought at all.



In ‘addressing quality of life” minorities are mentioned constantly, but the Deaf quality of life is not good & their needs for communication access is neither addressed nor given a thought – only ‘minorities’.  Nothing is as instantly accessible to the deaf as it is to the mobility impaired, mentally impaired, Spanish speaking or minorities. The costs to the deaf to use the phone, no events are offered to be captioned & there are few qualified interpreters because there is no qualified Deaf person teaching these programs to create qualified interpreters for all things legal, medical & entertainment – equal no equal access to all.


No accessible art programs for deaf, disabled or low income. A recent event at UCCC sponsored by the Office for the Aging – not accessible – not one of their programs offered that day. “Meet the candidates” events – not accessible to the deaf. Various tours, historical events, street festival performances, and so forth – not interpreted or accessible to the Deaf. The DEAF are the minority & yet nothing is accessible to this population. No Deaf person in representative positions, consulting positions, visible positions of a public nature. The “Diversity Day” events – not interpreted. The ONLY reason the National Anthem WAS – was because I offered. The rest of the daily program, Gallo’s presentation and so forth – NONE of which was interpreted for the deaf (& the stage was not accessible to the handicapped) so once again, the Deaf population & their families – left out – that is NOT ‘diversity’. I could make a mile long list of events such as this that are in NO WAY accessible to everyone. Deaf people in our community are the LEAST VISIBLE of ANY population because there is NO ACCESS. Interpreters are expected to work for free or a Deaf person is expected to bring their own (which is against the law). Deaf people can’t communicate with emergency services in emergency situations. The list goes on and on but it is not people of color who are the minority (for whom there are an incredible amount of services offered free of charge) but there is nothing offered to include the deaf population in ANYTHING, much less job support for qualified Deaf people.


Again jobs: jobs where it is required to hire Deaf people to teach their own language & culture to hearing people for all reasons and especially to train interpreters. This should be REQUIRED & JOBS need to be accessible with interpreters for Deaf citizens to be able to work in ANY job a hearing person does with fluid, natural, accessible communication. Does it exist in Kingston? No.


On another note related to disabilities is HANDICAPPED PARKING ENFORCEMENT – and a way for everyone, including deaf people – to text the photo of the car & license plate to police authorities to ticket, tow or have people utilizing these spaces illegally, be reported DMV or the police to get towed/ticketed by mail. I’ve had this issue personally on far too many occasions. There is NOT enough handicapped parking available in the city of Kingston. 2 or 3 spots available under the bridge on the waterfront, few & far between if any, up and down Broadway. Stores have the absolute minimum of spots required by law & they are often not the closest to exits or entrances. Walmart for example, has limited spots & other spots closer to doors are regular, non-handicapped parking spots. Those that ARE marked for handicapped parking are often taken by people with no placard, people parking in the designated lined spots for people with wheelchairs or walkers & no way to report violators. Handicapped parking & accessibility is sorely lacking in the city of Kingston & enforcement of parking is NIL.

 So take some of the focus on helping the ‘minorities’ of Kingston that are only of color & start providing better access to ALL people with needs as per the ADA and ways to report violations without repercussion.

 Kingston is the most inaccessible place I’ve ever lived. It’s the only place I’ve lived that ignores the ADA Law, doesn’t encourage  ‘political correctness’ in any area that does not include minorities of color, doesn’t make sure a qualified person is teaching THEIR language & that it’s not taught by someone who’s education & job is to ‘cure’ deafness by testing their hearing & encouraging oral language and NOT sign. Where Deaf people don’t educate Deaf students, where it’s assumed a Deaf person will ‘bring their own’ interpreter, where the hospitals think that someone who just raises their hand & says “I can sign” but can’t, can put someone’s life in their hands before a surgery or in case of an emergency. Where public events expect free interpreting if it’s provided at all, which is not.

Even, while it’s not in Kingston, the music festivals at Hunter, will take anyone who says they ‘know sign’ in exchange for free tickets, to interpret for the musical acts and where these people have NO business saying they “know sign” at ALL much less are they qualified to interpret. Interpreters are REQUIRED BY LAW they are not some FAVOR for the Deaf. They’re REQUIRED to facilitate communication & understanding to the Deaf public. Assuming a qualified interpreter will work for free, or providing “people that sign” with NO qualifications nor regulation check as per the ADA of qualifications or certifications required, as ‘interpreting services available’ at events or concerts and so forth – is not only DISCRIMINATION – IT’S AGAINST THE LAW.  I’ve never in my LIFE seen a place LESS accessible to the Deaf than Kingston – where only a minority of color is considered important to address their ‘needs’ but an entire population is ignored even when it’s required by law. I've offered my services up to places like UPAC & other venues, only to be blown off and nothing is accessible for Deaf audiences to attend these entertainment events. Absolutely shameful.

Then, in the case of the debate, you offer to PROVIDE this access and it’s expected you will show up last minute, for free & with no respect nor information in order to facilitate such access as required by law. More shameful. No, providing an interpreter to provide equal access to the Deaf community at all events in Kingston is not some ‘favor’ you’re doing for the Deaf, nor are you opening up the community TO the community – is not some ‘favor’ it’s the LAW & yet the law itself, emergency services, hospitals, doctors, community events & yes, mayoral debates – are getting away with breaking this law – every single day.

#deaflivesmatter – PERIOD!

** costs to be a Deaf, ASL user – just to call 911 in case of an emergency:

The costs of being deaf just to call 911 & inaccessibility and communication equality for Deaf people: 

 Did you know that as a deaf person who cannot use the voice phone the costs of just being able to call 911 are insane? To use the phone, I have a video phone. The camera & box that comes with it is given to ASL using Deaf people, free of charge through Sorenson Video Relay Service (SVRS). When I want to make a call I need to be sitting on my couch in front of my TV in the living room and a highly skilled & trained ASL Interpreter appears on my TV. He/She calls the number & interprets the voice on the other end of the phone in English to ASL & the ASL of the caller into voice, complete with animations & intonations of the deaf caller.

In order to have access to this free service by SVRS, there needs to be electric, cable TV & high speed internet. At the cost of approximately $77 a month through TWC JUST to make/receive a call, including to 911. That does not include the electric to have all of those devices on at all times, plugged in and ready to go as well as the extra light that needs to be on in order to be seen & understood by the interpreter on the other end. When there is an electrical outage, a Deaf person can't reach anyone even for an emergency. If someone like me (who is also disabled due to a spinal fusion) with limited mobility etc., falls in their home or needs help, is understood by the interpreter on the other end. When there is an electrical outage, a Deaf person can't reach anyone even for an emergency. If someone like me (who is also disabled due to a spinal fusion) with limited mobility etc., falls in their home or needs help, is out of luck because I’d need to be sitting on the couch in front of the SVRS equipment with my TV turned on to call for help.
Then there’s the additional need for a cell phone. There is an SVRS app for the cell phone but it uses tons of data, there are no texting availabilities to emergency service agencies & so to TRY to be able to have any emergency services available we also need to spend upwards of $80 a month to also have a cell phone because after all, you can’t sit in front of your TV & SVRS equipment 24/7 in case something comes up.

Back in the days of typing devices for the deaf, we were given a significant discount because our ability to call was limited. Now with the advance of technology, it costs MORE to be a deaf person in the Hudson Valley (& other places) just to make a phone call, than it does for any population. Shouldn’t the need for access be complete for all at the same cost? Yes, but it’s not. Nothing is equally accessible to the hearing impaired, especially in Kingston.
Perhaps instead of building ANOTHER (inaccessible to disabled kids or their parents/grandparents), creating ANOTHER program for minorities of color, or making sure some boat gets to the waterfront – some of these candidates or leaders make sure these costs are CUT for Deaf people & that telephone access is truly EQUAL & so just being able to call 911 – doesn’t cost each deaf person approximately $160+ per MONTH JUST to call 911 in an emergency much less for any other reason.

STOP creating new programs for “minorities of color” as both candidates stated in the debate, and start with some INCLUSION for ALL residents that includes assuring communication is TRULY EQUALLY ACCESSIBLE to every resident of Kingston – not just the poor, underprivileged or ‘of color’ but to EVERYONE including EVERY SINGLE DEAF RESIDENT OF KINGSTON – 24/7, 365 – focus on INCLUSION of ALL PEOPLE especially those whose rights are protected by LAW & stop allowing every agency, company & service get away with violating that law. Lead by example.
The change starts with YOU.


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