The grave danger to the deaf from 'kosher' cellphones

‘Kosher’ phone merges technology, faith describes an alarming development, which may adversely influence the quality of life of deaf persons in certain communities.

Basically, some communities, which practice religion in a strict way (such as some of the Haredi Jews and some Moslem communities), are bothered by the technology of cellphones, which make it easier for young people to form “improper” relationships.

Therefore, those communities would like to have cellphones, which allow only voice conversations – no text messages, no video, no Internet, no camera. Such cellphones have been developed.

However, there is a problem:

Text messages are an essential function of a cellphone, which makes it accessible to deaf persons. Thanks to this function, deaf persons have at last gained the ability to directly contact anyone via phone, without needing special help from sympathetic hearing persons or from relay services. This function is useful only as long as most, or all, cellphones used by the deaf person’s associates have text messaging capability.

Therefore, a community, which bans text messaging, in effect bans an accessibility provision needed by its deaf members.

Even if the religious leaders allow the deaf alone to have cellphones with text message capability, this feature would be useless if the other members of their community are not allowed to use it.

Therefore, a consequence of introduction of kosher cellphones in communities is the re-marginalization of the deaf in those communities. Those deaf persons would again be cut off from their hearing family members, friends and co-workers.

Visualize a community, which has ordinance prohibiting the use of TTYs.

I think that cellphones without text messaging capability should be as illegal as cellphones without ability to dial to the police, emergency medical service (such as Magen David Adom, Red Cross or Red Crescent) or firefighters.

Accessibility problem from which even mighty Google suffers

In several forms – both paper and Web-based ones – you are expected to enter a phone number.
The phone number presumably needs to be a valid one.
Some Web based forms enforce this. They validate the phone number and do not allow you to proceed unless you enter a valid phone number.

However, in my case, no matter what phone number I enter, it is not a valid phone number. At least according to the criteria that if anyone makes a phone call to that number, he/she’ll get a reply from me. I am deaf and never use the phone for talking.

In order to be true to the spirit of the forms, I need to enter a FAX number, and indicate that it is a FAX number rather than a phone number.

The snag is that by entering “FAX +972-x-xxxxxxx” or something similar (972 is the international prefix of Israel), I run afoul of the validating software behind some Web sites. Especially Web sites running Google programs, such as Google Analytics.

So in order to proceed, I am forced to enter a nonsense phone number, lie or skip when this is possible.

There may be also people, who do not have their own phone number at all, not even for FAX messages. Yet they surf the Internet. How would they cope with such bossy forms, which require something which looks like a phone number?

A Swedish hard of hearing pilot is circumnavigating the earth

Johan Hammarström is a Swedish hard of hearing pilot. His life dream was to be an airplane pilot. His initial attempts to apply for pilot license were thwarted because his hearing loss is about 65dB. Regulations in effect at the time allowed maximum hearing loss of 45dB.
He fought the authorities, and was successful in getting permission to have pilot license after an audiologist tested him and proved that he can clearly understand instructions from control towers under the circumstances in effect in airplanes.

(In USA, there are deaf airplane pilots. But they are restricted to flying in areas without radio contact.)

Now, Johan Hammarström is flying around the world and is trying to raise consciousness of the world to the hard of hearing, and to raise the aspirations of hard of hearing youths.

Today Johan Hammarström is in Israel, about two weeks after starting his journey.

This evening (27 March 2006) he gave a presentation about his project and his struggles in Bekol’s Wolf Chagle’s center of accessibility for the hearing impairment. The room was packed full with attendants. Two people from the Swedish embassy came as well. One of them told us of her childhood experience with fingerspelling signs and how the hearing schoolchildren learned them in order to communicate without the teacher noticing.

Hammarström’s presentation was made accessible by assistive listening devices (for those hard of hearing, who understand English) and by a notetaker who listened to the English lecture and typed in Hebrew (for the deaf and/or those who do not know English).

Addition from April 4, 2006: an article in Haaretz’s Web site about Johan Hammarström.

The accessibility problem of the deaf due to lecture recordings

One of the Free Software clubs in Israel (there are several such clubs, some of them organize Linux related lectures, others speak about Perl, and yet others do Python) wants to start making available from its Web site the audio recordings of lectures organized by it.

Of course, I am screaming murder about this. Before the new service is made available, my ability to access lecture contents after the fact was equivalent to that of hearing people. I could read presentations as well as they could. Now, that the lecture recordings would be available, they would be available only to hearing people. I would be left out in the cold.

This problem currently exists with Larry Wall’s lecture in Present Continous, Future Perfect, at least until all volunteers finish transcribing it (so far, 37:53 minutes out of 72:39 have been transcribed).

Now the search for technical, attitude and organizational problems is being conducted. One of my grave sorrows is that I am the only champion of the interests of the deaf in this discussion. Other Israeli deaf software developers (both oral and signing) are still hiding in the shadows.

At this moment, I feel very very very alienated

A TV program about the Israeli space program is now being broadcasted in TV channel 1.
Without captions.
I am very interested in the Israeli space program and would like to be able to follow this program.
But I cannot.
So I cannot relate to the Israeli achievements and the Israeli space program.
I feel very alienated.

Hello Eurocomm?

Few years ago I bought a Nokia 9110 cellular phone-FAX, after having developed Hebrew support for it. Eventually, I upgraded to Nokia 9210i. Now Eurocomm is advertising Nokia 9300, and I am considering buying one.

However, there are two problems:

  • Their ads advertise a Web site and toll free phone number. No FAX number even though the 9300 has also FAX capability and part of its target market are the deaf.
  • The Web site is not effective for selling Nokia 9300 because they do not answer people who fill the online form and inquire about the product (if to judge from my experience in going through the above twice).

It is a shame to require deaf people to go in person to Eurocomm to buy this cellular phone if the normally-hearing can arrange for this without leaving their homes.

Lack of accessibility kills people (cont'd)

Tomorrow, Monday 9 January 2006, the organizations of and for the hearing impaired in Israel will hold a memorial event (combined with demonstration) in memory of Shmuel Katz Z”L, who was killed a month ago in a train accident, whose root cause is lack of accessibility of the train to people with hearing and sight impairments.

The memorial event will be held at 18:00 in the entrance to the Hagana train station, Tel Aviv.
Few weeks ago, I wrote about the accessibility problems of Israel Railways.

The Web site of Israel Railways is at They list the following E-mail address for suggestions/remarks/comments:

Philosophical dilemma of very creative people with disabilities – my opinion

I wrote about the philosophical dilemma and left a dangling hint that my own answer is forthcoming.

Henry Kisor, a deaf journalist, was educated by Doris Irene Mirrielees, who used an obscure methodology of educating deaf children. Her methodology was the oral one (teach ’em to speak and lipread and do not expose them to Sign Language) but with the twist that she emphasized general knowledge over communication skills. Her methodology was different from the usual practice of educators following the oral methodology, which emphasized the utmost importance of communication skills.

Henry Kisor did all right and grew up to be a successful journalist. He had good communication skills, certainly when using the written word as a medium of communication.

So a good answer seems to be: when there is a working substitute to the lost ability, then do not bother with the lost ability but invest your time with those abilities which you have. Cannot hear? Read, write and use Sign Language. Cannot walk? Use a wheelchair. Spend your time perfecting that profound scientific discovery rather than overcoming your deafness, blindness and loss of your hands.

כותרת: דילמה פילוסופית של אנשים יצירתיים מאוד עם מוגבלויות – דעתי

כתבתי על הדילמה הפילוסופית והשארתי רמז שהתשובה שלי עוד תבוא.

הנרי קיסור, עיתונאי חרש, חונך על ידי דוריס אירינה מיריליס, שהשתמשה בשיטה לא נודעת לחינוך ילדים חרשים.  השיטה שלה היתה אורלית (למד אותם לדבר ולקרוא שפתיים ואל תחשוף אותם לשפת סימנים) אבל עם השינוי שהיא הדגישה ידע כללי (תוכן) על חשבון מיומנויות תקשורת. השיטה שלה היתה שונה מהנוהג המקובל של מחנכים שעובדים בשיטה האורלית, שהדגישה את החשיבות הרת הגורל של מיומנויות תקשורת.

הנרי קיסור יצא בסדר גמור וכשהיה גדול הפך להיות עיתונאי מצליח. היו לו מיומנויות תקשורת טובות, כמובן כולל שימוש במילה הכתובה כאמצעי תקשורת.

כך שתשובה טובה היא כנראה: כשיש חלופה שעובדת ליכולת שלא קיימת, אז אל תטרח לשקם את היכולת החסרה אלא השקע את זמנך באותן יכולות שיש לך. אינך יכול לשמוע? קרא, כתוב והשתמש בשפת סימנים. אינך יכול ללכת? השתמש בכסא גלגלים. השקע את זמנך בליטוש התגלית המדעית הגדולה ההיא במקום להתגבר על חרשותך, עוורונך ואובדן היכולת להשתמש בידיך.

Is a Jewish cyborg allowed to live on Saturday?

There is a thread (in Hebrew) about the subject in Ort’s Sci-Fi forum. The topic was opened by me after having seen a discussion in a forum of Israeli cochlear implant (CI) users about using CI on Saturdays.

The next question is: are there any halachic considerations concerning life with heart pacers. They are not ordinarily turned on or off by the human who carries them, unlike hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, the heart beat rate might be varied according to what the human is doing with himself. I do not know the details but I assume that it is possible to vary the paced heart beat rate by performing certain actions, such as running. The question is now whether this is allowed on Saturday by the Jewish halacha.