Israel Zak 1927-2011

ישראל זק תרפ”ז – תשע”א

לימדת אותי לכפול ולחלק כשהייתי בגן. אחר כך שכחתי איך מחלקים עד שלמדתי בבית הספר.

השגת לי צעצוע שמחירו היה מיליוני דולר – CDC6400 שהיה המחשב המרכזי של האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים.

בזכות השבתון שלך, הייתי בארה”ב וזכיתי לטייל שם בתקופה שבה ישראלים עדיין לא הרבו לטייל בחו”ל.

יום אחד הבאת הביתה מכשיר טלפון שבעזרתו הצד השני יכל לשלוח לי מסר על ידי קוד מורס. הנסיונות לא עלו יפה כי אני ואלה שניסו לשוחח איתי טלפונית לא היינו מיומנים בתקשורת מורס.

כשהייתי בתיכון, פתחת חברת ייעוץ גיאולוגי ועזרתי לך בתכנות. לאחר שנים, הנסיון שלך בצד העסקי של הייעוץ הקל עלי את המעבר מעובד שכיר לפרי-לאנסר עצמאי.

ליווית אותי בתקופה שבה התחלתי לנהוג ברכב, מה שהקל עלי את ההשתלבות בתרבות הכביש הישראלית.

כשכתבתי את עבודת המסטר שלי, קבלתי ממך עצה להוסיף לה רשימת שאלות להמשך המחקר.

אתה ואמא ניהלתם אורח חיים שלא הדגיש את החומרנות וצריכת הראווה. המותרות שלכם היו לטייל כמעט בכל חור נידח בעולם. לכן גדלתי בתחושה שכסף לא יהיה מה שימנע ממני להשיג מה שבאמת חשוב בחיים. היה פתרון תקציבי ללימודים בקולג’ גלאודט כך שיכלתי לבחור לא ללמוד שם לא בגלל שיקולים כספיים. עזרתם לי לרכוש דירה מיד כשידעתי איפה אגור. בחרתי לא לעבור ניתוח שתל שבלול אבל דאגתם למימון, כך שאם הייתי רוצה, הייתי יכול לעבור ניתוח זה – גם בתקופה שלפני שהניתוח נכלל בסל הבריאות.

פרויקט הטלכתבים, להנגשה לחרשים של רשת הטלפונים לפני יותר מ-25 שנה, נזקק גם לכל מיני קשרים עם כל מיני בעלי השפעה. פעלת רבות מאחורי הקלעים. אצלנו מקובל להתגאות כשלא נזקקים לקשרים בשביל להצליח. אבל זה היה פרויקט שבשבילו זו היתה מצווה לנצל כל קשר שאפשר ולהפעיל כל השפעה פוליטית שצריך.

לאחר שנים קראתי את ההיסטוריה של הטלכתבים בארץ שבה הכל התחיל – ארה”ב – והתחושה שלי היא שבסך הכל בישראל הכל הלך לנו יותר בקלות מאשר ליוזמי הטלכתבים בארה”ב.

בניגוד להרבה אנשים אחרים, לקחת על עצמך את האחריות לאפשר ולהקל על התקשורת איתי. אני לא זוכר שאי פעם תיקנת לי את הדיבור, ואני זוכר פעם שאמרת לי שכשאני מרגיש בנוח אני מדבר יותר ברור. השקעת את המאמץ בלימוד ואימונים בדיבור מרומז ותמיד היה לי קל להבינך כשדיברת אליי, פרט כמובן לשבועות האחרונים שבהם כבר היית עייף מדי בשביל זה.

אני זוכר שהיו נסיבות שונות בילדותי שבהן לא הבנתי מה הולך ומה רוצים ממני – עד שבאת והסברת לי בבהירות מה הולך שם.

מאז שהטלכתב נכנס לחיינו, היית שרות הממסר שלי, לתיווך ביני ובין אנשים אחרים שהייתי צריך להשיגם בטלפון. לשמחתי הצורך שלי בשרות הממסר הלך וירד עם השנים, עם שיפור הנגישות התקשורתית של הציבור הכללי, הודות למסרונים ולדואר אלקטרוני.

תודה לך, אבא.

Israel Zak 1927-2011
You teached me to multiply and divide when I was at kindergarten age. Later I forgot how to divide until I relearned it in school.
You obtained for me a toy which costed multimillion dollars – CDC6400, which was the central computer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Thanks to your Sabbatical leave, I was in USA and got to travel there at a time in which Israelis still didn’t travel abroad as much as they do today.
One day you brought home a telephone which had the means to let the other side pass a message to me by Morse code. The experiments were not successful because I and my conversation mates were not proficient in Morse communications.
When I was at high school, you opened a geological consulting company and I helped you in software development. Few years later, your experience with the business side of consulting eased my transition from employee to self-employed freelancer.
You escorted me when I started to drive a car, making it easier for me to integrate into the Israeli road culture.
When I wrote my M.Sc. thesis, you advised me to add a list of questions for further research.

You and mother had lifestyle, which did not emphasize materialism or conspicuous consumption. Your luxuries were to travel to almost every distant hole in the world. Therefore I grew up with the feeling that money will not be what’ll prevent me from achieving whatever is important in one’s life. There was a financing solution for my studies in Gallaudet College so I could choose not to study there not due to financial considrations. You helped me buy an apartment as soon as I knew where I’ll live. I chose not to undergo cochlear implantation but you secured financing for this, so that if I wanted, I’d be able to get this operation – even before the operation was included in the Health Basket.

The TDD Project, for making the telephone network accessible to the deaf more than 25 years ago, needed also all kinds of pull with all kinds of people with influence. You did a lot behind the curtains. It is our custom to be proud when pull is not needed in order to succeed. However it was a project for which it was mitzvah to exploit every exploitable connection and pull every available rope. Several years later I read the history of the TDDs where everything started – USA – and my feeling is that overall it was easier for us than for the TDD innovators in USA.

Unlike several other people, you accepted the responsibility to facilitate the communication with me. I do not remember any occasion in which you corrected my speech, and I remember that once you told me that when I feel relaxed, I speak more clearly. You invested the effort into learning and practicing cued speech and it was always easy for me to understand you when you addressed me, except of course for the last few weeks during which you were too tired for this.
I remember various circumstances during my childhood, in which I did not understand what was going on and what people want from me – until you arrived and explained clearly what is going on there.
Ever since the TDD entered our lives, you were my relay service, to relay messages between me and other people whom I needed to contact by telephone. Happily, my need for the relay service was lessened over the years, with improvement in telecommunications accessibility of the general population, thanks to SMS and E-mail.

Thank you, father.

The Earth Hour and the Deaf

שעת כדור הארץ והחרשים

ביום חמישי 24.3.2011 שעה 20:00, שוב יכבו את האורות לשעה כדי להעלות את המודעות לאיכות הסביבה.

ושוב, אצטרך להחרים את האירוע כמו שהחרמתי אירועים דומים בשנים קודמות. וזאת למרות תמיכתי ברעיון השמירה על איכות הסביבה.

הסיבה – בגלל חרשותי, אני צריך אור ואביזרים חשמליים שונים כדי לתקשר עם אנשים אחרים.

קישורים נוספים (additional links):

Omer Zak and Peretz Zack – a medical examination confusion

Today I was in Memograph in Petah Tikva, a medical diagnostics institute to which my health fund refers patients who need to have their ankles (and some other body members) X-rayed or subjected to ultrasound examination.  I needed to have my ankle X-rayed.

I arrived at the place to find a long and overdue queue.  The delay was about an hour and half.  I gave the X-ray requisition form and Form 17 to the receptionist and told her that I am deaf.

Then I waited.  The wait was made more bearable thanks to the coincidence that three other Deaf men came for their own tests, two of whom I already knew and the third was a new acquaintance for me.  It was nice to pass the time chatting with them.

About the time I was due to enter the X-ray room, the receptionist surprised me by trying to hand over to me a CD which purported to have already contained my X-ray photos.  I protested and explained that I was not examined at all.

After some investigation and head scratching, it turned out that the X-ray technician called out for a Zak.  The receptionist did not realize that my shoulder needs to be tapped.  So another Zak got in – Peretz Zack, who by coincidence needed to have his ankle X-rayed as well.  His ankle was X-rayed according to the instructions in my form and he left soon afterwards.

After the confusion was clarified, I was called in and had my ankle X-rayed.  Some time later I got the CD and analysis results – which I hope that they indeed correspond to my own ankle rather than to Peretz Zack’s.

As I walked back home, I analyzed the event.  The mistake was due to the following:

  1. The patients have their paperwork taken by the receptionist, who hands it to the X-ray technician.  When a patient enters the X-ray room, he is not positively identified by the X-ray technician as corresponding to the paperwork waiting for him inside the room.  A post-it paper with the patient’s name given to the patient in exchange for the paperwork would have solved the problem.
  2. The receptionist was not trained to warn the X-ray technician NOT to use the public address system to summon a deaf patient, but rather to have someone tap on his shoulder.  This is more tough one, given the relative rarity of deaf patients.  Today’s get together of 4 patients was probably once in a lifetime coincidence.

From now on I’ll probably have to be on the lookout for medical records really belonging to Peretz Zack, which got into my medical files because he, by mistake, somehow assumed my identity.  At least until the medications, which I take due to my heart attack, kill him.

“You are fortunate to be deaf because…”

One of the clichés to which the Hearing World subjects us deafies countless times is the remark, by some sufferers of the so-called “noise pollution”, that we are fortunate not to suffer from the noise.  Nevermind the fact that the hard of hearing are even more bothered by noise than the normally hearing.

Few days ago, I witnessed a new twist of this cliché.
Recently, I started working for another company, meaning that I have new co-workers.  One day, at lunchtime, one of them remarked to me how fortunate am I, as a deaf person, to have no use for cellphones.  Obviously he got tired of the constant interruptions due to cellphones.

With glee, I pulled out my cellphone and showed him that I, too, was assimilated by the culture of the cellphones…

Now he knows what he needs to know about SMS and 3G video chats.

Guide dogs for the deaf and the deaf-blind

Everyone knows about guide dogs for blind people.

There are also guide dogs for deaf and deaf-blind people.  Those dogs are trained to alert their masters when there are some important environmental noises.

Those who serve deaf-blind people are also trained to pick up things, which are dropped on the floor, and bring them back to their masters.  This is useful since when, for example, a deaf-blind person loses his keys, he doesn’t hear the noise of their dropping on the floor and once he notices the loss, cannot easily look for them by sight.

People, who need to have such dogs trained in Israel, can contact the Ali Hope nonprofit, which specializes in such a training.

Two 25th year anniversaries

One famous anniversary is the 25th anniversary of the GNU project, which happens today.

One much less famous 25th anniversary will happen three days from now, on Sept. 30, 2008.  This is the best choice for an official starting day of the Israeli TDD Project.

On Friday Sept. 30, 1983, I at last went to the computer shop, plucked down my money and bought my Commodore 64 home computer.  This model was chosen because it supported software-defined fonts, and because it had a cheaper brother, known as VIC-20.

My game plan was to use the Commodore 64 to develop software for both VIC-20 and Commodore 64.  This software was to serve as terminal/chat program, which supports textual communication in Hebrew.  At the time I already had a 300bps modem connected to an ADM 3A terminal, which belonged to my employer at the time, and which I used to connect to my employer’s computer systems and monitor jobs, which ran overnight.

When I returned home with my spanking new computer, I found in my mailbox a letter, which took 23 days to reach me.  The letter was from Susan Bullowa, who subsequently partnered with me in the project.  It took us a while to meet, but when we met, it turned out that she has a lot of useful information which complements my own information.  And on the other hand, I had in my possession technical information and experience, which complemented hers.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

An accessible video clip

… which is in stark contrast to the ultra-Orthodox attitude against people with disabilities.

The captioned (in Hebrew) video clip is the second video in http://www.hofesh.org.il/articles/books/books.html (in Hebrew), and it is about a book shop, which avoids displaying an anti-religion book due to threats from the town’s rabbi’s wife.

Mark Drolsbaugh’s question to parents of deaf children

Mark Drolsbaugh is a Deaf guy, who also runs workshops for hearing parents of deaf children.

In his Evolution of a Cochlear Implant Attitude article, he writes about getting a number of parents breaking down in tears in a simple workshop closing exercise:

“All I did was ask them to share positive traits and abilities their kids have. More specifically, traits and abilities that have nothing to do with deafness or the ears. All I wanted was for them to stop looking at the disability and start looking at the ability. Even though I made my point, the emotional reaction catches me off guard.”

This reminded me of the deaf man from nightmares. This man, DB, is a deaf psychologist, who is very strong advocate of oralism. He spends a lot of time improving and polishing his speech. What I find especially troubling about him is that every time we meet, in a social function of the hearing impaired, the one and only subject, which he would discuss with me, is the uttermost importance of my getting speech therapy and improving my speech. Nothing else is important or worthy of discussion. SHUDDER!

We the deaf are not only ears. We are also software development, sports, art, parenting, and simply living human beings. This is what those parents and DB failed to acknowledge.

A new software developers’ mutual help Web site (no longer) rudely excludes deaf software developers

The newly announced http://www.stackoverflow.com/ Web site confines all communications to the audio format. No provision for textual transcription of the audio podcasts exists. Users’ submissions are accepted only if they are in audio format. This is probably the founders’ newest idea for filtering out spam and flames.
However, it is a case of rude inaccessibility. Please do not contribute and do not browse the Web site – and let the founders know your opinion about this case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
The announcements in the founders’ blogs are as follows:

What next, a Web site, which excludes gay software developers?

23 APR 2008 UPDATE:

The podcasts are now transcribed into text, making them accessible to the deaf as well as being helpful to people, who want to discover them using search engines, and people having no time to listen through the entire podcast.
The transcription mechanism is Wiki-based, allowing people to transcribe text piece by piece. So even if you have only 15 minutes to spare, you can still make a contribution.
It is still necessary to persuade them to accept questions as text in addition to sound clips…

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