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Is Dr. Bill Vicars Deaf?
Question: Are you Deaf?
Answer: Yes. I was born hard-of-hearing and as time goes on I become more and more physically Deaf. I live in the Deaf World. I married a Deaf woman, work in the field of Deaf-Studies, hang out with people who can sign, use close-captioning (or subtitles) when I watch videos, seek out open captioned movies, watch the news in ASL, lived at Gallaudet during an internship (Benson Hall), only attend churches that use sign language, have a daughter who attended the Utah School for the Deaf preschool program, have a text-only (no-voice minutes) phone, and devote my time to developing ASL-related resources for others.
Question: Are you a member of the "Deaf Community?"
Answer: Yes. I've lived my life serving in Deaf organizations, setting up Deaf events, working with other Deaf, teaching ASL, teaching Deaf Studies, etc.) I met my wife (Belinda -- who is Deaf too) at a Deaf church. Our youngest child, Sarah (our fourth) was born with a substantial hearing loss due to having Aperts (a rare syndrome) attended the Utah State School for the Deaf pre-school program. Almost all of my close friends and associates are either Deaf or strongly tied to the Deaf Community.
Question: Are you certified?
Answer: I hold a doctorate in Deaf Education / Deaf Studies from an accredited university (Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas). I also hold a masters in Deaf Education from Lamar university. As far as I know, I was the first person from Utah to become ASLTA certified. I was a member of ASLTA back when they were still S.I.G.N. (Sign Instructors Guidance Network). I'm now in California.
Question: Where did you learn ASL?
Answer: Growing up in a small town I started learning ASL from a Deaf woman, (Kathy Hadfield of Brigham City, Utah. She later married Mark Erwin -- so she is now Kathy Erwin.) As I grew older I lived with Deaf roommates, hung out with other Deaf people, read every ASL book I could lay my hands on, and took as many formal classes as I could find -- eventually leading to a doctorate degree in Deaf Education / Deaf Studies. Here are a few of the experiences that influenced me:
* Worked as a volunteer at the the Indiana School for the Deaf (as a teacher's assistant in Laura Gaalema's third grade class)
* Worked as a volunteer for GLAD Orange County Outreach in California
* Worked as a volunteer the (former) Indiana Branch Office of the National Association of the Deaf
* Lived on-campus at Gallaudet University during a summer internship program
* Took night classes at the Oregon School for the Deaf (Salem).
* Participated in a hundreds of hours of "American Judicial System" - related ASL training at California State University Northridge
* Attended many (!) workshops
* Researched ASL Linguistics, ASL acquisition, and Computer Assisted Language Learning during my doctoral studies Lamar University
* Directed/participated in 15 years of "immersion excursions" to exciting places with Deaf co-hosts
* Directing an interpreter-training program for Davis County school district during which I interviewed, hired, and worked closely with many (over 30) Deaf guest-speakers and/or trainers
* And lately I spend much of my time discussing the nuances of ASL with my d/Deaf colleagues at work and online.
Question: What kind of experience do you have teaching ASL?
Answer: I taught ASL at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for over a decade. I have taught ASL classes and/or workshops at the Utah Community Center for the Deaf, the IRS, Hill Air Force Base, Defense Depot Ogden Utah, Mills Montessori School, the Newgate Mall, Your Community Connection of Ogden, Clearfield Community Schools, Davis County School District, Weber County School District, Ogden City Corporation, The Sign Language Studio, Lifeprint Institute, Lamar University in Beaumont Texas, The Sign Language Association, ASL University, California State University--Sacramento, and dozens of other places. As of this writing I am a full-time, tenured, full professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. Teaching ASL is my life's work.
Update: Since I wrote the above, I've added "Guyana, South America" to the list. Guyana was by far the hardest work -- and the most fun.]
Update: Add Singapore to the list. I've done two separate week-long sign language-related workshops for the National Association for the Deaf (in Singapore).
Question: Do you lip-read?
Answer: If I'm familiar with the topic, there is plenty of context, my hearing-aid on, in a quiet environment, "one-on-one" (not a group), I can see their face clearly, and a non-distracting background -- I can often figure out most of what a person is saying. However if the person is more than a few feet away, has a mustache, an accent, a bright light behind them, covers their mouth, mumbles, talks about an unfamiliar topic, discusses something out of context, or if it is a group setting chances are I'll miss it and would prefer to have an interpreter or at real-time transcription.
Question: Can you talk or do you just sign?
Response: The vast majority of people who identify as Deaf can voice to some extent. The vast majority of people who identify as Deaf are not "stone" Deaf but rather have varying levels of residual hearing.
I was born hard of hearing and went through a lot of oral training as I grew up. I became more and more Deaf as I got older. These days it is rare for me to voice because those around me are mostly signers (my children sign to me, my wife is also Deaf, my coworkers and colleagues all sign and/or we have interpreters on call for Department meetings, my intern has a degree in Deaf studies (and signs very well) so there is rarely a reason for me to ever use my voice these days. I honestly don't recall the last time I voiced.
The problem with voicing "in public" is that Hearing people assume if you can voice that it means you can hear well enough to hold an equitable conversation -- and they start voicing to you. It is awkward and creates an unlevel playing field.
Also I'm going to tell you something not in an effort for you to feel bad but rather in hopes that you can become more sensitive to the feelings of others: Many Deaf people don't like the question: Can you voice? -- or "Can you lipread?" It is invasive, asks us to expose ourselves, and implies a level of intimacy or access that you have not yet earned.
I have answered your question (instead of just deleting it) because I am a professional educator and have made the choice to "put myself out there" -- yet I would encourage you in the future to postpone asking that type of question* until your degree of involvement with the individual has naturally evolved to one of mutual trust and sharing rather than simply seeking to satisfy your own curiosity.
Audiogram: William G. Vicars (Age 19)
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