Major Decision About Where To Major

Sarah Honigfeld is just like any other college senior, finishing up her undergraduate program, spicing up her resume, getting ready for the “real” world. Only she is doing it all as a member of the deaf community.

Honigfeld was diagnosed as completely deaf between 10 and 12 months old and has not let it slow her down since. She is currently a student at Northeastern University (NU) who is studying to receive her undergraduate degree in human services with a minor in sociology and her graduate degree in early intervention. She wears two hearing aids and lip reads in her daily life and is fluent in sign language. Honigfeld grew up being mainstreamed in public schools and said she is very comfortable with it.

“I’m very comfortable with hearing people, I’m comfortable with mainstreaming,” Honigfeld said. “What was most important to me was education and the opportunities available. ‘Deaf’ was not a priority.”

All deaf high school students heading towards their college years have to decide where they want to continue their education. Some choose traditional “deaf” schools while others decide on predominantly hearing schools. In that case there are a number of resources available to enhance their learning experience.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) housed inside of Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, is one popular “deaf” choice. NTID had over 1,300 deaf and hard of hearing students and over 14,000 hearing students in their undergraduate class in 2012. The school is known for integrating deaf and hearing together.

Jim Lipsky, a NTID alum and current professor at Northeastern who is deaf himself and communicates in ASL, liked the mix of deaf and hearing students together. In fact, he named the integration as one of the main reasons why he chose to attend NTID. He said that he preferred the mix of students that NTID had to offer over the all-deaf population of Gallaudet.

Lipsky greatly enjoyed his experience at NTID. He said that there was “great support for deaf.” He graduated with a degree in computer science and a minor in business. After six years of working in a job where he was the only deaf employee Lipsky was frustrated with the communication limits and decided to try teaching ASL at a friend’s suggestion. He enjoyed the challenge and chose to switch from the business world to the teaching one. He said that he learns from his students while they learn from him; in the classroom they are equals. Lipsky is celebrating his 20th anniversary for teaching and still loves it.

Gallaudet University in Washington is another “deaf” school; in fact it is the only deaf liberal arts college in the United States. Its mission statement describes the school as a “multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language (ASL) and English.” The school had a total enrollment in the fall of 2011 of 1,873 students, the overwhelming majority of them deaf.

There are multiple discussions on the forum that have deaf people discussing whether college is right for them or not. This is a choice that has to be made on in individual basis, but the resources are definitely available to those who make the decision to go. For students who are more interested in a mainstream option there are schools like Northeastern who have services available for deaf students in their predominantly hearing population.

The National Association of the Deaf mentions the responsibility that higher education institutions have for “providing communication services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing” in their position statement.

Lauren Barr, who works in NU’s Disability Resource Center as the specialist with deaf and hard of hearing, listed the services the school has available. There are four main services provided: interpreting, Communication Access Realtime Translation (better known as CART), note takers, and preferential seating. These services make it easy for deaf students to keep up with their studies.

Angela Herbert is a nationally certified interpreter on staff at Northeastern where she is also an instructor in the ASL interpreting program. She said that as an interpreter she works for deaf staff members, students, and the general audience including prospective students who visit campus and anyone who attends NU events. She said that there is “nowhere on campus I haven’t been” interpreting. “There is the potential to be anywhere on campus.”

So far Honigfeld’s college experience has included participation in on-campus clubs, such as the NU Deaf Club and the Interpreting Club at NU (ICNU), and various community service activities including Americorp’s Jumpstart and Relay for Life. She has completed three separate co-op experiences, one at Bright Horizons in their infant/toddler department, and the other two at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club as an inclusion specialist. She has also been able to study abroad in the south of France and go on the birthright trip with Northeastern’s Hillel club.

Honigfeld, who has always been very independent said the hardest part of college was making the transition from high school life at home to college life, which is something, she pointed out, that all students have to deal with, deaf or not.

Both Lipsky and Honigfeld chose which college to attend based on their own needs. Honigfeld’s advice to young deaf students exploring college options to go with what they are comfortable with. She said, “if being with deaf people is important to you then go to a school with a large deaf population. If you are comfortable with mainstreaming then go with that. College is not the time to push yourself; it is difficult enough.”


Click on the below for a comparison of deaf and hearing classrooms:


Hockey Loving

I grew up in California where there is no hockey in public schools. There is an NHL team in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Kings, but they were about two hours too far north for me to take an interest. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston and started going to my school’s hockey games that I developed an appreciation for the sport.

One important factor a team must possess in order to be successful is communication. At hockey games you will often hear players yelling at each other that they are open and you will even hear the goalie smacking his stick against the ice to indicate the end of the shot clock. So how do you achieve that communication when you can’t hear each other?

A group of 23 Deaf Americans got to represent the United States in the World Deaf Hockey Championship recently. Here is the full story.

How cool is that? Not only do these people get to represent their country in a major sports tournament, but they get to prove that they can do anything along the way.

Communicating Earlier

One frustration that new parents often have is that they can’t communicate with their babies in an effective way. A reason for this is that our fine muscles like our vocal chords take longer to develop than our large muscles like those in our hands. A solution to communicating with your baby before they can talk is to teach them a few basic signs.

Here are 10 suggested signs that are easy to learn and can really help to know what babies want. Signing Savvy posted a write-up of a way to incorporate these signs into play to help children learn the signs. The signs may not be perfect when a baby starts using them, much like a child’s speech is much harder to understand than an adult’s, but they can get the point across.

Here is an example of a mother signing with her child:

More to AGB than the Phone

Most Americans learned in their elementary school years that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and therefore should be celebrated. However, as I learned in studying Deaf culture, Graham did a lot more than just create the telephone; that was actually an accident.

Alexander_Graham_Bell (1)

Graham spent his life working on elocution and speech. He taught deaf people how to be oral and tried to make them as “normal” as possible. Despite the number of deaf people close to him (his mother and wife, Mabel Hubbard, were both deaf), Graham tried to do everything he could to eliminate deaf people. He was a part of the Eugenics movement in the United States. He believed that deaf parents were more likely to have deaf children and therefore deaf people should not be allowed to get married.

Knowing that many people consider Graham to be an enemy of the Deaf community, I was surprised when I found that the Alexander Graham Bell association for the deaf and hard of hearing exists and offers a scholarship for deaf college students. Upon further research I learned that the scholarship is for deaf and hard of hearing students who “use listening and spoken language.” Students who choose to communicate in their native language, ASL, are not eligible for the scholarship.

So, you decide. Does Graham deserve the praise?

Photo By Moffett Studio (Library and Archives Canada / C-017335) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bohemian Rhapsody: Capturing all the Elements

One of my friends from high school took an ASL class at our local community college. For her final she was required to perform a song in “sign language.” I am putting sign language in quotations because she did her performance in signed English; a direct word-for-sign translation of the song. This is what the majority of ASL music videos you will find on YouTube are, and one of my annoyances. Signing each individual word in a song is NOT the same thing as performing the song in ASL.

Last night my friend showed me the below video of Stephen Torrence performing the Queen Song “Bonhemian Rhapsody.” And it is actually in ASL with the meaning and essence of the song translated. Here is a blog post I found that shows the translation. (The lyrics are in normal type and then the translation follows in all caps.) For instance, the lyrics says “little high, little low” which Torrence translates in ASL as “sometimes happy, sometimes sad.”

Torrence also does an amazing job of catching all of the dramatics Queen included with the music. I am impressed.

Benefits of Online: Interactive Data Visualizations

I had a conversation with someone over the weekend about the difference between print and online journalism. I have found that there are many more options for information in the online world; both a greater volume of articles and a wider array of ways to present the information. While graphic displays like the one the Washington Post recently used to show terrorism convictions could appear in a print newspaper as well, there are interactive data visualizations online that allow readers to customize them to their liking.

I like the terrorism convictions graphic because I think it is a good way to lay out the data in a clear way that is easy to look at and understand. I would have preferred to see something more interactive for the online version of this graphic. While it is effective at presenting the data, it has the potential to tell a bigger story by being more detailed and interactive on the website.

The Boston Globe enhanced part one of their Boston cab corruption spotlight piece with this graphic. I like that this has a short tutorial to help viewers understand what they are looking at. It is also visually appealing and clear. I like the statistics across the top that change as the graphic finishes. I like that it is interactive and allows the viewer to zoom in on each dot and view further details. This is a big story that the Globe just broke and including the graphic was smart to help readers understand the full story being told. Seeing the red and blue dots helps conceptualize exactly how much money cab drivers are losing.

My favorite data visualization thus far is a graphic by the New York Times that shows how strikeouts are increasing in the MLB. The line graph alone backs up the facts in the accompanying story that strikeouts are actually increasing, but they do so much more than that. I like that the graph shows the average in blue but all of the data in gray so you can see how the trend fits. Each dot can also be rolled over to see more details. I love that you can filter the data by team and I think the historical data along the timeline enhances the data as it allows the reader to make more sense of why strikeout percentage might have changed at that time.

Limits of Lip-Reading

It has been brought to my attention on multiple occasions that lip reading is not an exact science. In fact, only 30 percent of the English language is visible on the lips, which means that someone who is lip reading is missing 70 percent of the conversation.

Here is Rachel Kolb, a Deaf senior at Stanford University’s, detailed account of what it has been like growing up reading lips.

Kolb has received attention for speaking out about lip reading. Kevin Hartnett quoted her article in his Brainiac blog on

While it is clear from these accounts that lip reading is not an easy task, here is a guide for hearing people with tips on how to learn the skill.