Guest Post from Marsha Graham

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The above image is a picture of an old and dear friend of mine. It’s an analog synthesizer as manufactured by Buchla – circa 1975. I used to program these bad boys. While doing so, I learned of a device called a Votrax. This was a speech synthesizer that was supposed to be able to convert text to speech. Problem was… well, it didn’t work too well.

I should also tell you that part 5 of Felix’s interview will be up tomorrow. I was hoping to have it ready for you today, but I ran into a problem with the aspect ratio – which took me some time to fix. The interview is very good though, and he devotes a lot more time to language and communication issues.

All of which has nothing whatsoever to do with this post.


A few days ago, we posted an article about Internet Interpreting possibilities, entitled Inspired by a Lipreading Mom. This response was written by Marsha Graham – a fellow blogger for whom we have much respect and gratitude.

I’d like to clarify some things. I don’t know everything, but I’m getting a pretty good grip on communication modalities.

CART is relatively good for oral deaf (note the lower case for deaf), while it is less good for the Deaf (upper case – Deaf culture) community. CART has it’s limitations as the operator has to load “dictionaries” in it. It is a stenotype machine, not a typewriter.

For someone who is a native ASL speaker CART is in English. ASL is NOT English. ASL uses some English words, particularly in finger spelling. However, ASL is its own language. It came from French Sign Language. We still have about 60% compatibility with FSL. SEE is English. ASL (not SEE) is the 4th most spoken language in America. That will probably change in the next few decades to reflect SEE in schools.

I was talking with a terp friend and we were discussing signing songs. She mentioned a line of a song and I realized that in ASL it would have none of the same “words” as in English. The grammar is different, the syntax is different. When we see people signing songs on YouTube it is really more SEE or PSE than ASL.

I don’t see using a lot of technology to fill the gap outside of office locations – at least not at this time. I can use FaceTime to talk to Deaf friends, but the Girl Scout needed someone to be there for rock wall climbing. This isn’t happening on an iPhone or even a 4G iPad. Human required. And, honestly, captioning is cold in comparison to human to human communication.

I have a friend who uses Captel and it is okay for when the CI isn’t cutting it and she needs help while on the road (on her cell phone). Other than that she uses VP.

Technology like Purple is fine for doctor’s offices and stuff but it is not ready for prime time for things like scout troops.

Social media connects lots of people including the deaf, the blind, the physically disabled, etc. It levels the playing field in many ways. However, it is also true that many native ASL signers who are older and were not educated using SEE are often wretched communicators in writing. They do better with VLOGS. As I said, ASL and English are distinct languages.

Ditto the blind – individuals who are blind from birth and use braille as a first written language often have terrible written English skills as braille 2 and 3 are full of contractions (to save space). I’ve been on email lists with many blind from birth and many of them cannot spell, punctuate, etc to save their lives.

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I suppose that I should add that the pre-lingually Deaf Blind have the added difficulty of using ASL to talk with humans and Braille to read and write. The issue with higher grades of Braille (Grade 1 equates letter to letter with English) use contractions, so by the time the Deaf Blind child really gets into “writing” Braille is the way to go. Braille, due to it’s contractions, it is not written English. It is sort of like the phonemes the stenotype machine converts into English. When Deaf Blind go on the net, unless someone has schooled them how to convert Grade 3 Braille into English, they have serious problems with written communication.

And how do I know all this? Ex was blind and learned Grade 1 Braille late in life as he had been partially sighted much of his life and learned English. Grade 1 Braille is English. When he hit Grade 2 Braille it was like he hit a wall. All he ended up doing was labeling things with grade 1. I knew probably a thousand blind folks online through him and even tested Jaws For Windows, Window Eyes, and HAL and wrote a technical paper on them comparing the ins and outs of those text to speech screen readers.

3 thoughts on “Guest Post from Marsha Graham

  1. Thanks for the acknowledgement. BTW, your comments on the old tech machines are quite on point. Without them there would be no computerized Braille writers, no Text To Speech programs as we know them today. You were a pioneer, BitcoDavid, so give yourself a pat on the back!


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