The 5th Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Day

The 5th Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Day was held in Tel Aviv University, Mexico Building on last Thursday 27th October 2005. The Day was jointly sponsored by the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel and the Tel Aviv University Student Association.

The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel celebrated its 13th year of operation. When they started the pilot project for helping deaf and hard of hearing students in Israeli postsecondary educational institutions, in cooperation with the National Insurance Institute (the Israeli counterpart of Social Security), they helped 6 students. Now they are serving 300 students in a full spectrum of topics of study.

The formal program of the event consisted of three parts:

  • Handing out of scholarships
  • Panel discussion about the world of work in Israel and integration of people with special needs into it
  • Art program


Five scholarships, donated by the Globes newspaper and by Motorola Israel, were handed out. In her acceptance speech, one of the scholarship recipients, Yifat Ben-Zeev, a M.A. student in conflict resolution, pointed out the difficulties she endured in her B.A. studies before Sign Language interpreting or notetaking were available to students. Today’s situation is a dream relative to the situation several years ago.

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion hosted two employers of deaf persons, three administrators of various rehabilitation programs, and two working deaf employees.

There was one glaring accessibility problem in the event. The hall, in which the formal program was held, is not accessible to people with wheelchairs. They are forced to stay in the hall’s back and they cannot reach the podium where speeches are made. The representative of the Tel Aviv University Student Association told the audience that they are fighting for full accessibility of the university halls.

It is easier to make workplaces accessible to hard of hearing employees than to deaf employees. This is because the hard of hearing need only equipment, which is one-time cost (plus deprecation), whereas the deaf need Sign Language interpreter or notetaker, and this is a recurring expense.

Today, the bottleneck in employing people with special needs is with educating the employers. Self-help NGOs which work with people with special needs serve the important role of bridging between the know-how accumulated in them and the employers, who were not exposed yet to this know-how.

In the past, deaf boys learned metal working and deaf girls learned to be seamstresses, and everyone was happy with this state of affairs. Today several well-paying professions need a M.A. or M.Sc. degree. Accordingly, the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel and the National Insurance Institute started a pilot program for helping deaf and hard of hearing students study for their M.A. or M.Sc. degree. Today there are 50 students in the pilot.

Art Program

The art program was supposed to include a group of drummers. However, they did not show up. The other three artist groups did show up. One of them was a group of folk dancers. The second was a single woman, who rated a wow wow. The third was a couple of man and woman acrobats.

The wow wow woman had a rubber-like body and danced her way into and out of all kinds of seemingly impossible positions. She had plenty of talent left over, and she poured large part of it into making the dance a sensuous one. Her clothes, while covering most of her skin, were uncovering her beauty. Overall, this was a wow wow.

Do air force combat pilots use a true Sign Language?

As I am continuing to read the book “Language in Space – a window on Israeli Sign Language” by Irit Meir and Wendy Sandler (ISBN 965-311-056-X), the following question arose in my mind.

Combat pilots serving in air forces of the world are used to describe their dogfights by their hands.
Apparently spoken language is not sufficiently expressive to do justice to the nuances of tactical maneuvers performed by pilots during the heat of air battles.

My question: do they use only pantomime, or do their gestures have elements of true Sign Language?
Was any research done about this subject?
Are air force cadets taught, in a systematic way, how to describe dogfights?

Sara, the deaf Bedouin

On September 28,29,30, the Kamri Theater and Ariella House in Tel Aviv are holding a festival of art by people with disabilities. This is the first festival of its kind in Israel, and it is called “100% Art”.
On Sept. 29, three short movies were shown in the “Visual Sound” track.

One of those movies was about Sara, the deaf Bedouin. Her deafness is hereditary, and she has lots and lots of deaf relatives.

Her primary education was with Jewish deaf children in “Niv” school, Beer Sheva. Her deaf nieces and nephews now have their own class in the local Bedouin primary school. The deaf in her tribe use a Sign Language, which is different from the Israeli Sign Language. Sometimes it was confusing in school.

Anyway, the thing which struck me was the simplicity of her life ambitions. She wants to be the first wife of a Bedouin man, rather than 2nd (or 3rd) wife like her female deaf fellows. She wants to have her job back. And the job was not an engineering one or top level management. It was folding clothes after having been washed in a laundry. She worked in this job and had to leave it for few months due to health reasons. Then she had to struggle with tradition to get her job back. She got her job back and was happy with it. And she did not look to me mentally retarded or so. Just a woman bound by her limited education and limiting tribal traditions.

I wonder whether she is alive today, because near the end of the movie, she mentioned a nice man whom she met at work. And her people have a tradition of “family honor” killings.

When the “Visual Sound” track movies were shown, there were only five people in the auditorium. Two workers who operated the projection equipment, a newspaperman and his girlfriend, and the TDDPirate. Sometime in middle, the journalist and his girlfriend had to leave. At the end, the TDDPirate exchanged quips with the two workers and left the auditorium. Apparently there was insufficient public relations effort.

Shira Ben-Hur's Blog

Finding Shira Ben-Hur’s blog was for me like finding at last a distant relative in the world of blogs. Before seeing her blog, I saw no blogs of Israeli hearing impaired persons. There is an important difference – she lost her hearing several years after having acquired speech and having been acclimated in the world of the hearing, while I am deaf since birth.

One thing is painful for me (in an egoistical way): I had to wait until she wrote it in her blog in order to know her story, even though I knew her from Bekol. She was in a group of activists, which excluded me because I was “too deaf” for them, even though I was involved with Bekol even before it was officially registered as an amuta.


After all, to my big surprise, I won a prize in the August Penguin 4 prize drawing near the end of the event. I already own a copy of the book which I won, so I was given another (and much thinner) book instead.

This event marked the real end of my first year as the Accessibility Coordinator of Hamakor.

The story starts with the AP3 (August Penguin 3) prize drawing a year ago. I had a prize drawing ticket number. There was a drawing. Someone won. All announcements were made using vibrating air molecules. No one was charged with the task of writing down the winning numbers. So I had no way to know whether my number won. After AP3 I wrote about this, and the response was that I was right – there was an accessibility problem in AP3.

ladypine asked me if I am willing to volunteer to work on improving accessibility. I accepted the job and took over the title “Accessibility Coordinator”. During the year which elapsed since then, I gave two lectures about accessibility in Linux (in Haifux and in Telux lecture No. 28). I owe thanks to Ori Idan, for his help in filling in the blindness relevant information.

As preparations for AP4 (August Penguin 4) started, I became more involved. The first order of business was to ensure that the chosen location is accessible to people with mobility impairment. The Israel Accessibility Web site was helpful with this. I appreciate the cooperation, which I got from Limor Ben-Yossef. She let me know which locations are being considered, so that I could check for information about their accessibility.

After a location was selected, it was time to consider accessibility for blind and hearing impaired people. Blind people need a copy of presentations in their own Braille-enabled PCs. However, no one requested assistance with this.

Hearing impaired people need one of few accessibility provisions: Wireless microphone for HOH (hard-of-hearing), typist (notetaker) with laptop and projector and/or Sign Language interpreter for the deaf. I publicized a call for interested people in a forum of HOH and deaf people asking anyone, who wants to come to AP4, to let me know about this. I got zero responses. So I needed to arrange for accessibility only for myself.

Here again I got cooperation. I took upon myself to book a notetaker. I indicated that neither projector nor Sign Language interpreter are needed. AP4 organizers agreed to let the notetaker enter without payment. I asked to reserve a cluster of 5 chairs for the notetaker and four hearing-impaired people. Again, no problems.

Few days before the event, I publicized a call for interested hearing impaired people, with intention of asking for a projector and screen at the last moment, should there be more demand. I received one response.

In AP4 itself, the decision to bring extension electrical cord paid off. I got electrical power for the laptop from a socket several meters away from where we sat. One of the workers secured the cord to the floor using maskingtape. Initially, there was a problem with a desk. However it was solved by our using the Geeks’ desk until they needed it during the AP Trivia Contest.

Until lunch break, the notetaker served two hearing-impaired people – me and another person, whose name is not disclosed here due to privacy considrations. At lunch he left the event and until the end I was the sole beneficiary of this accessibility provision. It proved to be adequate for the event, as evidenced by the fact that I could contribute an audience answer to one of the Trivia Contest questions (another way to determine the bandwidth of snails vs. Bezeq ADSL links).

I noticed that the organizers were thoughtful to put a big screen with status information in the Exhibitors’ and APCHI contest hall. The big screen alternated between the APCHI contest participants’ status and the most up-to-date schedule of the AP4 lectures. The screen was useful as another accessibility measure for the hearing impaired, as in AP3 I had another rant about not knowing when will the current lecture end. I assume that the screen was helpful also to all participants and to the event organizers, who needed not be bothered by participants wandering on the halls and asking for starting time and subject of the next lecture.

When the prize drawing began, ladypine made a point of ensuring that the notetaker does type down the numbers of winning cards. When my card’s number came up, I at first stared with unbelief. It is so Douglas Addamsish to win a drawing the very first time after a drawing, which was inaccessible to me.

What is 15797? It was my winning number.

SIUA 05 Exhibition – accessibility of seminars

In the past, when an event was held, such that parts of it were about deaf people, only those parts were made accessible to deaf people. For example, when there was a deaf-related item in a news programs in TV, only that part was subtitled. Other parts, not directly related to deaf people, remained inaccessible.

This week, the SIUA 05 Exhibition is being held. This exhibition exhibits assistive equipment for people having all kinds of disabilities. One day (today) was designated as the Hearing Day.

During the SIUA 05 Exhibition, there are also some conferences and workshops.

Originally, only the conference scheduled for today was planned to be accessible to deaf people.

However, I was interested in another conference (held yesterday) – “Healthy Mind in Active Body”, because of a panel about “Accessible Community”.

A week ago, I inquired at the organizers of the exhibition whether this conference will be accessible to deaf people. The answer was – No. Only the conference to be held on Hearing Day will be accessible to people with hearing impairment. I CC’ed Bekol about this.

I do not know if and how much cord pulling and arguments were held behind my back, but few days later I was informed that a Sign Language interpreter will be available for the conference, which I wanted to attend. I wrote back, informing when I plan to come there (I did not plan to be there all day).

I arrived at the designated hour, and was delighted to find that they booked Sign Language interpreter for the entire day, in case other deaf people would be interested as well. The interpreter told me that he was informed ahead of time that someone is due to come at the hour which I said, but he enjoyed listening to the conference starting from the morning.

I came. I sat through the relevant part. I had an opportunity to speak as well (the interpreter translated my “deaf accent” into standard Hebrew). When it finished, I went away with the relaxed and content feeling that a person with disability has when he has been in a place, whose accessibility is adequate for him.

Hopefully, next year they’ll announce ahead of time that all conferences, workshops and seminars will be accessible on demand. I hope that in the standard brochure about the exhibition, they’ll also give instructions how to ask for accessibility.

Memorial event for IDF and terror casualties in Tel Aviv

On Tuesday evening, I attended the memorial event for IDF and terror casualties, which was held in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.
The event consisted of introductory words, appearances by singers, some music, speeches (by the mayor of Tel Aviv and the top man of IDF) and some video clips consisting of interviews with bereaved family members.

This was the first time such an event was fully accessible to me as a deaf. There was a Sign Language interpreter. We had two rows of chairs reserved for the deaf near the position of the interpreter. The video clips were fully subtitled (!).

Kudos to the organizers, who made the event accessible to the Israeli deaf and allowed them to share the grief with the other Israelis.

Contact information for hard-of-hearing and deafened people in Israel

Recently some people asked me for contact information for their hearing impaired relatives or friends, who used to be hearing but are now having hearing problems.

Well, to save everyone’s time, it is:

Bekol – is a self-help organization of hard-of-hearing and deafened people.
Voice phone (inside Israel): 03-5257001
FAX (inside Israel): 03-5257004
E-mail: info at bekol dot org

Information about other relevant organizations can be found at:

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