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Sign Me Up! Online Edition

William G. Vicars, Ph.D.

MCSE, MCT, MCP+I, A+, Network+, EdNet

Opening "Chat Log Session 8" 
(Chapter 8) 

DrVicars: Okay I just turned on my log  manager.  There was an awesome storm in our area last night, knocked out several power lines so I drove to Ogden, [Utah] to use Vince's computer. 

Sandy: Everyone ok? 

DrVicars: We are fine physically   : -) 

Lii: Was it a snow storm? 

DrVicars: It was a wind storm--no snow. 

Lii: Ouch!!! 

Art: Bill, I really screwed up sending the answers to the class :-( 

[Note from Dr. Vicars:  I gave an e-mail test and Art sent her answers to everyone instead of just me.] 

DrVicars: LOL I don't mind 

Sandy: promise - I took it before I got her e-mail 

Monica: Thanks, Artz!! 

DrVicars: heh, I'm sure the others appreciated your help Art. 

Art: What are friends for. 

Lii: It was a bit of a surprise, Art. 

Art: For me too. 

DrVicars: Any questions before we begin? 
Monica: No, we got all of them from Art :-) 

DrVicars: Heh, okay lets go--tonight's agenda:  we will talk a bit about attention getting
behavior, we will discuss deaf culture a bit more, then we will finish up our previous discussions
about terminology. 

DrVicars: How do you get a deaf person's attention? 

Sandy: Tap him on the shoulder? 

DrVicars: Good that is one of the best ways.  Any others you can think of? 

Sandy: position yourself in front of them 

Lii: Wave across a room 

DrVicars: Suppose he or she is far from you?  Facing the other way? 

Tigie: ! 

DrVicars: GA Tigie 

Tigie: I apologize for being late, I had trouble getting online tonight. 

DrVicars: Welcome to class Tigie, GA San 
Sandy: Can you maybe tap your foot on the floor and they'll sense the vibration? 

DrVicars: Right, yes! 

DrVicars: There are many ways to get-attention in the Deaf community, you have covered all but one--the lights.  You can flip the lights on and off and they will look up to see who wants what, and then you can tell them your message. 
[A note of caution here.  The Deaf Cultural Police out there consider it to be inappropriate for hearing people to use the foot-stomp or the light-flash methods of getting attention.  My response is this:  After a hearing person has become enculturated in the Deaf community he or she is no longer just a Hearing person, rather he or she is considered culturally Deaf and as a Deaf person he or she should therefore be entitled to use all of the various methods of getting attention.] 

DrVicars: Lets talk about when it is appropriate to use the various methods:  If it is a whole room full of people the lights work well. 

DrVicars: If you are within touching distance of one person and you are behind him I suggest you tap lightly on the shoulder with the pads of your fingertips--DON'T poke him with the tip of your index finger.  If you are in front of him or to the side you can wave your hand in an up and down motion, (this is what I  call the "HEY" sign), basically a way to say, "Hey look!" 

If the person is across the room (depending on the type of floor and whether or not she is looking at me), I tend to stomp my foot.  [Light or hard depends on the situation and my emotional state]  That works well when the person is reading or looking the other way. 

DrVicars: A funny example:  I went to a "Deaf" party at Rod Jex's place.  He had a second floor apartment.  There were about 25 Deaf milling about, constantly stomping on the floor.  The people downstairs got mad, came up and asked us to, "stop making all that noise!"  The whole rest of the evening we had to really suck it in and not do that which was very, very culturally ingrained.  We couldn't stop--it drove us nuts.  We spent our time catching each other stomping, and wondering when the cops would show up. 

Sandy: <grin> 

DrVicars: You might run into some people who feel that it is inappropriate for a Hearing person to flip the lights or stomp to get attention.
My viewpoint is that a "culturally Hearing" person should not flip the lights or engage in stomping because they have not yet learned how to do such things in a culturally appropriate way.
So,  you happen to be cursed with the ability to hear, but have "hung out" with Deaf people enough (a year or two) to understand and respect their culture--eventually you will learn when and how to flash the lights and appropriate stomping behaviors.  My point is this: If you flip the lights too fast, too long, or too slow, you will annoy people or make them think there is an emergency. If you stomp too hard or too much or around people who don't understand Deaf culture you will make people think you are mad or just inept. So do not use such attention getting devices until you have become acculturated. If you are taking a class or a test taught by a teacher who uses a book that prohibits Hearing people from fliping the lights--fine put down the answer they want, but don't worry about it.

DrVicars: Okay now let's talk about conversation maintenance techniques, specifically, behavior you use to get information. 

When you are conversing with a Deaf person and he signs something you don't recognize, use the "HEY" sign to stop him before he goes much further.  (Because if he keeps going and you are "lost," he is only wasting his time.) 

The "HEY" sign is not the same as waving "hello."  The sign is palm down, fingers spread, fingertips pointing forward, fingertips moving up and down about four inches, in a fluttering motion.  The movement is from the wrist.  "HEY"  is a great way to tell someone you want immediate attention.  After he stops, you show him the sign you didn't understand, (approximate it if you aren't sure).  He will then sign it again, or fingerspell it to you... 

[Note:  My internet connection was lost and I had to re-connect.] 

OnlineHost: *** You are in "Classroom". ***: 

DrVicars: I'm back again :) 

Lii: Welcome back!!! 

DrVicars: Where were we? 

Monica: Just discussed attention getting 

DrVicars: Oh yes that's right, thanks.  Then we talked a bit about how to ask for clarification of a sign. 

DrVicars: If he spells too quickly then you might have to tell him slow down.  You all know the sign for slow? 

Lii: Yes. 

DrVicars: Anyone need me to explain it? 

Crazy: no 

Art: Please 

Tigie: Up and down the arm? 

DrVicars: Okay take the right "b" palm with the thumb relaxed, and place it palm down on the back of the left "b" palm.  Then drag the right palm up the left forearm. 

Sandy: Are there degrees of slowness?  i.e., I thought you just dragged from fingertips to wrist. 

DrVicars: San you are right about the degrees.  If you move just to the wrist, it means a normal, everyday, casual "slow."  The higher up the arm you go, the more slow you want.  Strangely enough, if you do the movement very quick, it means "extremely slow."  (Also you can do the sign very slowly to mean "extremely slow," but this takes up too much time.) 

DrVicars: Good question and comment. 

Sandy: :)  You can guess why I learned this sign quickly! 

DrVicars: LOL 

Lii: LOL 

DrVicars: Okay after the deaf person spells it slow and you catch it, you might want to sign it back to the Deaf person (slowly and with a yes/no facial expression) to give him a chance to see if you are signing it right or to correct you if you don't quite have it.  Then you go on with your conversation until the next unknown sign pops up.  Any questions about the information getting process, or anything else at this time? 

Lii: ? 

DrVicars: ga Lii 

Lii: I'm kind of confused.  Do Deaf use the sign "Finish" when stating a past tense? 

DrVicars: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  If I start a sentence with the 
phrase, "WEEK-PAST," then the rest of my sentence is automatically past tense.  So if the tense is already established, I don't need to sign "FINISH." 

 DrVicars: If I wanted to ask, "Have you eaten?"  I could sign "EAT, FINISH?" [with  a yes/no facial expression]   The other person might respond by signing, "FINISH." [with an affirming head-nod] 

DrVicars: or If I said, "YOU HUNGRY?" (or "HUNGRY YOU?") then you could reply  "FINISH EAT"  to mean, "I have eaten."  But if I said, "WEEK-PAST, RESTAURANT, FANCY, I EAT" I wouldn't need to sign "FINISH."  By first signing "WEEK-PAST," I automatically changed the concept EAT to ATE. 

Lii: Oh, ok!  That helps.  Thanks.  :-) 

DrVicars: Sure. 

Sandy: Are the months of the year really spelled out (even if abbreviated), or are there nicknames, kind of like people's "shortcut" names? 

DrVicars: Signed English has signs for the months. 

DrVicars: ASL abbreviates most of the longer months to three letters.  The "rule" is:  If a month has five or fewer letters, spell it out, otherwise abbreviate it to three letters.  Except for September which is abbreviated to four letters. 

[Note:  Last' night I noticed one of my friends spelled "A-P-R-L," dropping the "i."  So, watch out!  You will see variations.] 

Sandy: What is snail mail? 

[Note:  earlier in the evening I used that term.] 

DrVicars: Normal mail--the kind delivered by a postman. 

Sandy: Oh, cute 

Lii: LOL 

DrVicars:  Let's move on to my next topic, terminology.  Any one know what RID stands for? 

Crazy: i dunno 

DrVicars: Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.  They were set up in 1964.  Prior to that there really wasn't a professional organization for interpreters.  Interpreting wasn't even considered a profession.  What do you imagine Deaf people did when they needed to go to the doctor? 

Sandy: Pointed to where it hurt? 

Lii: Bring a deaf friend? 

DrVicars: Lii you are close but it would be a hearing friend that they would bring.   Or sometimes they would bring one of their hearing children.  Can you imagine being seven years old and having to interpret for your mother's gynecological exam? 

[Discussion followed] 

[New topic:  A student asked how to find more information about Deafness and signing on the Web.] 

DrVicars: I just use yahoo, or google, or any other search engine.  You type the following address into your browser: or  Then when the program comes up, you type in "American Sign Language," or "Deaf," and end up with a very long list of resources.  Some have signs, some don't.  More and more sites are set up each month.  There are also a few news groups out there like "Terps-L," (for interpreters) and "Deaf-L" (for Deaf people and their associates), where they post ongoing messages to each
other and have quite the discussions.  After a while though,  I unsubscribed to any such lists because my mail box was always full.  It's not that they aren't interesting--they are--but I don't have the extra couple hours per day to spend reading them. 

Sandy: Are the messages in "regular" letters, or do they use a signing font? 

DrVicars: They are in regular letters.  But you can set up your own monitor to give you signing font.  You can even do it with chat rooms for more practice reading fingerspelling. 

DrVicars: There is also a group out there that use something called "signwriting."  (I bet you can look it up using your search program by typing in "Sutton sign writing."  Add words like "Deaf" if you need to.)  Signwriting looks almost like hieroglyphics. 

Lii: What would be the purpose? 

DrVicars: It is very useful for transcribing ASL.   Let me give you an example.  A local church wanted to translate a certain set of writings into ASL. 

The models needed an exact script to follow for the creation of a video. Rather than videotaping from an English based script , the project directors used signwriting.  This allowed numerous researchers, technicians, and language models to work together and see on paper exactly what signs would go into the finished product. 

There is actually a software program that allows you to type in signwriting, (not an ASL font, mind you, but specialized signwriting symbols.) 

Sandy: I hope this isn't offensive.  In taking Lii's comment re: what's the purpose, why would  you need to write in sign?  Is it because of lack of hearing that many deaf were not able to be taught to read? 

DrVicars: Good question, not offensive at all.  Most Deaf people have no real use for signwriting.  I see it as a great tool for linguistic research and for fun, but that is about it.  I have heard that it is being tried in schools as a way to help Deaf children access and acquire language.  It will be interesting to see if it succeeds and catches on. 

DrVicars: Someday we might use a hybrid form of written ASL in, of all places, computers! 

Computers are starting to use more advanced 3-dimensional-like processing  systems, (for example:  using a box of intersecting lasers instead of wires to turn on and off "switches"). The computers of the future might just need a new 3-dimensional  grammar system for their programming languages.  A language system based on 3-dimensional concepts instead of just a string of words.  Hmmm. Where could we find a 3-dimensional grammar system... 

Lii: Cool stuff.  Is that what an interpreter for, lets say, a church does?  Do they sign concepts instead of word for word? 

DrVicars: Depends again on the client.  A good terp will match the signing style of the client.  No offense to those of you who might interpret at church, but most church terps tend to be less skilled.  They get "roped" into it or just become interested and start doing it without any formalized training.  Later some even decide to make a career out of it. 

Sandy: most of them end up using PSE instead of ASL? 

DrVicars: Yes.  Exactly!  That is not necessarily bad however.  It all depends (again) on what works for the individual Deaf person. 

DrVicars: PSE [pidgin signed English] is "contact signing"--used to smooth the way when two separate cultures come into contact.  Mind you, that PSE is not  an separate language but rather it is a system of communication. Some might consider it a creole or a bridge language.  Watch out though, some people run around claiming that ASL is the only sign system out there worth knowing. 

Sandy: Well, PSE works for me now -- I'm finding it difficult to "think" in ASL - I'm afraid I'm not giving signing enough information. 

DrVicars: I tell my terp students not to worry about it so much right now.  Just do your best.  Later on as you hang out with Deaf you will "pick it up." 

DrVicars:  I look at it this way.  Becoming  skilled at ASL takes many years of practice.  It also requires someone to practice with. 

Many hearing people simply are not in a situation in life where they can "hang out" regularly with a variety of Deaf people, nor can they afford to take many years of expensive classes.  Does that mean hearing people should just forget about learning sign language altogether? 

Rather than teach our hearing friends a little-bit about Deaf culture and a couple hundred signs in an eight-week course, should we just hand them a pad of paper and sharpen their pencils for them?  I think not. 

Each new sign they learn, each viewpoint they broaden becomes one more rivet in the bridge of understanding between the hearing and the Deaf. 

Sandy: :) 

DrVicars: Aww.  Gee.  Listen to me wax philosophical.   It's about time we wrapped this up.  I have enjoyed having you as students. 

Sandy: Can't thank you enough for putting this together - Thank Vince and David, too -- it's been so informative 

DrVicars: Vince is here with me since I'm borrowing his machine.  We'll tell David. 

Lii: I agree with San.   How do you like teaching ASL online? 

DrVicars: I feel very fortunate to have had such neat students.  Also I have had great support from Vince on the technical side and David with his art. 

Lii: I think the only problem is that you can't "see" when signs are being made.  It makes it a little harder, but I've really learned a lot! 

DrVicars: Great,  glad to hear it. 

Tigie: I've really enjoyed this course, thank you! 

DrVicars: You are welcome. 

Art: Will your site be available to brush up on the signs? 

DrVicars:  Yes, you can access it at 

Art: OK, thanks for all your efforts. 

DrVicars: Okay then.  Class is over, I'll stay for a bit and talk with anyone else who has comments or questions.  Take care everybody. 

Tigie: Bye now 

DrVicars: :) 

Crazy: Thanks so much, bye . 

Lii: Thanks for everything.  Wish you well. :-)  Bye. 

Crazy: ( ^_^ ) 

Monica: Thanks for a great class.  Sure will miss attending every Monday :-( 

Sandy: Gee, hate to say good-bye -- see  you soon in the advanced class!  :-) 

DrVicars: Okay, I'm going to sign off.  Feel free to stay in touch. 

Closing "Chat Log February 24." 

Chapter 9 

I've had many requests to include the following article in this book.  The article is one I wrote for a Sign Language Club newsletter. 


Here are some principles of success:

Each time the club sets up an activity, you should choose a chairperson for that activity. The chairperson should be someone who is PERSONALLY excited about the activity and would enjoy doing it even if he or she were the ONLY person in attendance.

For example, suppose the club is hanging out and someone mentions that it would be fun to go to Zoo. Then the idea gets on an agenda,everybody seems to think it would be fun, and gets approved as an activity. It should ONLY get approved if there is at least ONE person who is VERY excited about doing it and is willing to accept TOTAL responsibility for its
success. That person would choose a date that is:

1. Personally convenient for him or her.
2. Reasonably convenient for everybody else in the world.

Then that person would develop the mindset that "I'm going to go to the Zoo and have a great time. I just happen to be inviting the whole Sign Language Club to join me. If they want to come have a great time WITH me, they are WELCOME to do so.

This mindset is the reason my ASL trips to Disneyland are so successful. Each year I take the mindset that I am going to Disneyland and have a great time. If anyone else wants to come with me they are welcome to go. Then I work my tail off to make it happen.
Let's continue our discussion of the Zoo activity. So, now we have a person who has decided that she really wants to go to the Zoo. She is elected chair of the Zoo Activity. The meeting might go something like this:

SLA Chair: Okay, next item of business on our agenda is the Zoo trip. Amy, this is your item, would you please talk about this item?

AMY: Yes! I want to go to the Zoo this summer and thought it would be a great activity for the Sign Language Club. Deaf people can get in free and for each deaf person, we can have one free escort (hearing person). Typically what happens is we all show up and the group leader goes to the ticket booth and reminds the operator that this is the deaf group that was
scheduled for the day. The operator says, "Tell them the line up." Then they open the gate and we all file in. I would be willing to chair a committee.
[Note: Check your local Zoo's policies ahead of time!]

SLA President: That sounds fun, what type of resources would you need from the Club?

Amy: I would need flyers, classroom reps, a calling tree, and a van.

SLA President: Any discussion?

Cindy (Treasurer): We don't have the money to rent a van, couldn't we just carpool?

Bill (Advisor): I think carpooling is a good idea, also could we charge money for non-members of the club? For example $2 for non-members and FREE for members?

[The President lets this go on for a bit then stops the discussion]

President: Okay it sounds like something most of us support, do I hear a motion to accept this as an official activity of the Club with Amy as chairperson?

Cindy: So move.

President: Is there a second?

Amy: Second

President: All in favor?

ALL: <hands raised>

President: Looks like it passes. Amy when would it be convenient for you to have committee meetings? How about at the Saturday morning breakfast?

Amy: Yes that will work for me.

President: Fine then, Amy, if you would please pass around a sheet of paper, write at the top:
"Zoo Trip Committee," Put yourself at the top as chair, then those of you who personally want to go to the Zoo put your name, phone number, and address. If you want to help Amy organize the activity then put a star by your name.

Fred: Doesn't she already have our addresses on the membership list?

President: Yes, but a moment of your time writing your personal information saves her the hassle of having to look it up and makes it more likely she will actually contact you and get you involved.

[The president then puts the Zoo trip on the agenda for the next general meeting.]

-------------------------------------- ---

Then Amy goes about the process of organizing and advertising the activity. She gets an Activity Planning Sheet, checks the state Association for the Deaf Calendar and local Community Center for the Deaf Calendar for an open date, then she does the following things to
the BEST of her ability:

1. Create a flyer that clearly states: Who, what, when, where, how, how-much, what for, how long, how to get there, how to get more information, and--if necessary--a map.

2. Create a mini-flyer containing all of the above information. Preferably this flyer will be an eighth of a sheet of paper and a small stack of them can be carried in her pocket to hand out to everyone she meets between now and the event.

3. Write a news release and email it to the Advisor. The news release would state something to the effect of: News release: The Sign Language Club is hosting a no-voice trip to the (specific name) Zoo on
August 16th. Friends and family members of people who are deaf are invited to participate. For more information contact Amy Smith at 916-555-1234 or Bill Vicars at 916-555-6779. [The advisor will then fax or email it to the local newspapers for publication.]

4. Submit the information to the local school newspapers and any school Radio Stations.

5. Contact as many high school and college sign language club Presidents as you can and have them submit the information to their school newspapers.

6. Meet with the High School Presidents at the ASL breakfast and hand them a stack of flyers.

7. Contact the sign language instructors at the various schools throughout the state. (This might require a concentrated effort of calling the schools and finding out who their instructors are and their addresses and email.)

8. Contact the editor of your state newsletter for the deaf, submit the activity as a flyer and pay for it. [Prior to submitting any flyer to any newspaper you ought to clear it with the Advisor.]

9. Show up in every sign language class taught at the local university and tell the students about the activity.

10. Send or take a flyer to the State School for the Deaf.

11. Have a committee get-together at someone's house. (Invite anyone who wants to come, but remind them that this is to discuss and promote the Zoo trip activity.)

Do a potato bar or whatever, and invite a few deaf people. Have them bring their phone list. Make sure there is a tty available and then everybody take turns calling all the members of the Club and any deaf people you can think of to let them know about the activity.

12. Work with the Club newsletter person and see to it that the Activity gets put in the newsletter and or a special mailing to ALL the members.

13. See to it that details of the activity are E-mailed to everybody who might possibly be interested.

14. Take a group of Club members and a stack of flyers with a few rolls of tape and or a stapler and "plaster" the campus with flyers. Warning: Don't put flyers on any painted surfaces, or any doors. (Some painted walls may already have plenty of flyers on them--use your head and make a judgment decision as to the appropriateness of posting. The point is, don't cause any damage or cause any inconvenience.) 

If you have five or six people and about a hundred flyers and each person has some tape you
can get done in a very short period of time! 

A good time to do this is after the breakfast on Saturday mornings. 

Such flyers, in addition to advertising the Hogle Zoo trip, should include an ad for the Saturday
morning breakfast and also any currently available classes, for example, any free classes being

A final thought in regards to hosting successful activities: 

The presidency and board of directors of the Club should subscribe to the local and national
Deaf newspapers. They should also try to include as many Deaf as possible in the planning

Good luck.  Work hard.  Have fun!