Signing Santa Says the Landscape is Changing (as told to him by his elf…) – Cochlear Implants and ASL

cochlear implants, ASL, deaf culture, sign language

Signing Santa at Deptford Elks Lodge

by Dr. Daniel Swartz, CI, CT, SC:L, ED:K-12, EIPA

Small children, and those who believe in Santa, look away. You were warned.

The secret is out. I, Daniel Swartz, am Signing Santa for 360 Translations. With the help of the Deptford and Millville (New Jersey) Elks, we threw Signing Santa parties for area children. We also paid visits to Durand Academy (Woodbury, New Jersey), and the Swift School in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. I had lots of fun being Signing Santa. And none of it would have been possible without the help of many volunteers, as well as a few staff at 360 Translations (Patrice, Empoy, and Kimmi). We all had a good time, and it was a lot of hard work. We will all be back next year, 2017, bigger and better than ever.

But what does that have to do with the title of this article (…landscape is changing…)? Well, I have been acting as Signing Santa for over 20 years now. First in Maryland, and now in New Jersey. Over the years, the demographics of the children who visit me has changed dramatically. Back in the early days in Maryland, we held most of our Signing Santa events in Frederick, Maryland, near the school for the Deaf there (Maryland School for the Deaf). This was in the early 1990s, and very few children had cochlear implants. All kids were avid signers. But things have changed over the years. It has been a gradual change, and I haven’t really taken that much notice of it.  But my son has.

According to an Elf

See, my son is Hermogenes (Empoy) Swartz, one of our elves, and the billing clerk at 360 Translations. He is also deaf. He does not have a cochlear implant, and he signs. As we were driving home from one of our Signing Santa engagements (none of the ones listed above – let me make that very clear), Empoy seemed very down and out. I sensed it (you know how a parent senses those things, right?). I asked him what’s wrong? “Nothing.” Oh come on, you can’t fool me, I know that something is bothering you. What is it? “Nothing.” Okay, I will pull over the car and park it until you tell me what’s wrong. Then he unleashed! He was very sad, troubled, and angry that, in his words “The Deaf Community and Deaf Culture are dying.” He went on to say that most of the kids we saw had cochlear implants, and not a single one of them could sign. The best they could manage was rudimentary fingerspelling. Empoy was very upset. Empoy was right about their signing ability, but I don’t know if he is right about the forecast for the Deaf Community and Deaf Culture…?

Now mind you, I have nothing against cochlear implants. I am not deaf, but I am hard of hearing (stemming from a car accident in 2003). But I have always had the philosophy “live and let live.” A person has to do what works for them and their children/family. I am not in their shoes. There but for the grace of God go I. You know all of the euphemisms. I remember when I was younger, and a bit more militant in my thinking, that I was pretty much with the crowd-swell when it came to cochlear implants – they were the work of the devil. When I taught at an Interpreter Training Program (more than one, actually), I would always make it a point to show the film “Sound and Fury,” a documentary on how different families were facing hearing loss in their children. To me, at the time, I considered the film a shining example of the repression of the Deaf Community. But now, over the years, I am less militant about cochlear implants, and have replaced that with being very militant about Deaf Rights and advocacy.

Deaf ≠ Defective

My son is deaf. My spouse is deaf. I live in pretty much a deaf world. The only ones in my house that are not deaf are my dogs, Hope and Jake. I take that back – Hope, in her old age, has lost most of her hearing and is losing her sight. So it’s just Jake and me, and I’m hard of hearing. I have been a part of the deaf world for more than 30 years. It is a part of who I am. I felt (and still feel) Empoy’s pain. I tried to explain, as best I could, that things are changing, but it is our job to make sure that the heritage of Deaf Culture, and the language we use (ASL), is preserved for all times. Empoy feels the trend of audism, the notion that those who can hear are superior, and those who can’t are defective. My son is not defective. My spouse is not defective. The many deaf people I know are not defective. No more so than any hearing person.

Change can be very difficult.  Sometimes a hug helps.  At least it helps temper the pain.  Maybe the inevitable.  I just don’t know…

signing santa hug cochlear implant deaf culture asl

Signing Santa hugs Matthew Thompson

News from our Intern: Kacy Wilber, a future trilingual interpreter, and future 360 Interpreter!

Kacy-108x300Hello! My name is Kacy Wilber, I am a student in the ASL/ English Interpreting program at Bloomsburg University. I plan to do my practicum as well as reside in the South Jersey/ Philadelphia area upon (expected) graduation this coming spring. I have a minor in Spanish and one day wish to become a trilingual interpreter. I hope to educate the nation and spread awareness of Deaf and Spanish cultures. Along the way, I wish to influence others to think freely and to not only accept the “norm”. This summer, I was lucky enough to have joined the 360 family. When I saw how structured and organized the agency went about executing tasks, I made sure to jump on this opportunity. I knew my motivated work ethic would match those of my fellow staff members, and my assumption was accurate. I look forward to becoming an interpreter for 360 in August of 2014!

360 Translations is proud of its tradition of hiring summer interns. This provides interpreting students with invaluable experience in the field, and better prepares them to work as professional interpreters upon graduation. 360 Translations is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We are also a Veteran-owned (Vietnam Era) employer.

360 Translations is proud to announce our new Assistant Coordinator, Melissa Powell

Melissa-pic1-215x300360 Translations is fortunate to have Melissa Powell as our new Assistant Coordinator of Interpreting. Melissa represents a wonderful addition to our team at 360! She has a few words about herself in this brief bio:

“My name is Melissa, and I graduated from high school in 2004. I have been married for a little over 2 years now to a wonderful but sarcastic husband. I currently do not have any children but would love to in the future.  I love working with children and hope to get a degree in social services or teaching.  I love animals. I have a yellow lab and a Siamese/Snowshoe cat.  I also hope to own a pig in the near future.  In my spare time I love watching movies, sitting by a fire, and reading.  I like sports; mainly hockey and football.  I love to explore and eventually want to visit as many places as I can.  Even though I would love to visit many places, I am truly a Jersey girl at heart.”

Please join us in welcoming Melissa to 360 and the interpreting world!!