Presenting A Deaf Identity At DEAFinitions

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

It is the week after DEAFinitions and I am back in my apartment ready to tell you all about the event.

If you don’t know, DEAFinitions is a two-year-old Deaf Studies conference held at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The organizers of the conference e-mailed me back in November 2016 about attending and giving a presentation and everything was finalized in February.

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

DEAFinitions had many presenters that hosted a one hour talk each. There were multiple ASL interpreters and CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and a fancy CART system. I say fancy because instead of an actual stenographer, you (or an interpreter) would talk into a regular mic and then some sort of recording device and the words would show up on a screen. It was pretty accurate, which surprised me.

I gave a presentation on a topic I hadn’t really talked about live at an event before: growing up as a mainstreamed deaf child and finding Deaf culture as an adult. Contrary to what you might think since I talk about it a lot on YouTube, it was pretty difficult for me to talk about live. I guess it’s because I’m so used to giving workshops and such on closed captioning. If you ask me to talk about this stuff at a panel, that’s easy since there are usually questions regarding specific things. But one hour to talk about my life story live? Much different. I had everything planned out, even wrote a script to go off of, but my brain ended up mixing everything up and things didn’t quite go the way I planned them to.

Nonetheless, it seemed to go very well. At the end of the presentation, there was a line of people waiting to talk to me, something I didn’t expect. (This is the part where a few friends of mine go, “But, Rikki, you’re famous!” and I go, “No, no, I’m not.”) A lot of stories, experiences, and sweet messages were exchanged and it got to the point where I was literally starting to tear up in front of everyone.

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

I did go to a few other presentations, most of them done by people I had never heard of before. Of course, I had to go to Carlisle’s presentation which talked about how comics were a great learning tool for d/Deaf and hard of hearing children.

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

One of the best things to happen that weekend was finally meeting my friend, Whitney Meyer, in person for the first time. She is an actress, model, and figure skater and you may recognize her as Tiffany DeSalle from Scream Queens. She came to Amherst from Boston to see my presentation and she, myself, and Carlisle along with Whitney’s mother went out to dinner, drinks, and dessert. It was a fun time.

Overall, it was a great weekend and I thank the organizers for inviting me and flying me out. Hampshire College in the process of raising funds for a third year of DEAFinitions. If you would like to help out, you can donate to their GoFundMe page here.

My Relationship is Different, Not Lesser | Guest Post

I’m a deaf girl in a relationship with a hearing man, and I consider myself the lucky one by virtue of not (usually) having to hear the ridiculous comments we get.

My hearing loss is progressive—I’m mildly-moderately deaf right now, but I’m going to continue losing my hearing. Moritz, my boyfriend, once explained to his mother that I’ll likely lose all of my hearing one day. She responded with a (genuinely concerned) “Oh no, what’ll happen then?”

“She… won’t be able to hear?”

I imagine that comment came from the same place a surprising amount of comments towards us come from: “How do you two communicate with each other?” Or, if they’re feeling particularly presumptuous, “But you can’t communicate with each other!”

With the place my hearing loss is in right now, I can still actually communicate orally. But as it gets increasingly harder, I’ve been using American Sign Language more and more—when I’m around other people who know it, it’s my preferred method of communication. When my boyfriend and I are anywhere where the background noise is loud enough that communicating orally is impossible for me, we sign.

If I need to ask a question to a store clerk, I sign it to Moritz and he asks them for me; which often results in “Why can’t she ask me herself?”. Because she’s deaf, sir.

The comments given when I’m around can be annoying, but the most annoying ones always seem to be directed to my boyfriend when he mentions that his girlfriend is deaf. I guess people are tactful enough to not say them when I’m around, but not tactful enough to know not to say them at all.

“She should get a cochlear implant!” Nope, thanks for the input.

“Is she, like, really loud when you have sex?” Definitely inappropriate!

“Doesn't that bother you?” If it did, he wouldn’t be dating me.

Of all the comments directed at either of us, though, there’s only one type that really bothers me:

“Wow, you’re such a good person.”

“Hey, good for you, that must be hard!

“I could never date a deaf person.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Yes, this bothers me more than any of the others. (Yes, including the sex one). These comments are hurtful to me because they’re coming from a place of viewing deafness as something undesirable, something bad. My boyfriend is a martyr for dating me, a saint, because who would ever want to date a deaf person? He deserves sympathy for dating me, because dating a deaf person is inherently lesser.

That’s what bothers me. Deaf people don’t need hearing people looking down on us. My boyfriend and I haven’t been in a three-year relationship because he pities me. There are a few unique challenges to our relationship due to my hearing, but we’re a pretty standard young couple. We go on dates, we video call, we kiss. And we talk constantly—we just talk with our hands instead of our voices.

Miri Josephs

See Rikki Poynter Present At Hampshire College

[Image Description: collage of a board with Hampshire College written on it. Right side shows presentation info which is written in the article. Not enough space in image description area.]

[Image Description: collage of a board with Hampshire College written on it. Right side shows presentation info which is written in the article. Not enough space in image description area.]

I am very pleased to announce that on Saturday, March 25th, 2017, I will be making an appearance at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts for their DEAFinitions Deaf Studies conference.

A few months ago, the school contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in giving a one hour presentation there. A few months later, I was confirmed. 

My presentation is called Finding A [New] Deaf Identity and it will be about my personal journey with being diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 11 (yeah, I finally did the math correctly and it turns out I was diagnosed at 11. More on that in Thursday's video), growing up as mainstreamed oral deaf kid, going through middle and high school, and finding Deaf culture and acceptance after a few years of being uncomfortable with my deafness.

The conference lasts from March 25th through the 26th. My presentation with be on March 25th at 6 p.m. Amherst is about two hours away from Boston, so if you're in the area, I hope you can come. I have made an event page on my Facebook page, so please RSVP here if you are interested. Make sure to fill out this registration form if you are attending.

Hope to see you there! 

Being Confident As A Deaf Person

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

A video has been uploaded on my YouTube channel to go along with this article. If you would like to view the video, you can do so here.

Over the past few years of talking about deaf awareness across my social media platforms, I’ve received comments asking if I was always as confident as I am now, how I became confident, etc. I thought that this was a good thing to talk about since self confidence is something that affects everyone all the time (and I’m doing a presentation about deaf identity at the end of March, so this post will help me get my thoughts together).

Growing up, I was not as confident as I am now (and even now, I’m still not always confident or accepting of my deafness). 

Now, I was 11* when I was diagnosed. At 11-years-old, having hearing loss wasn’t much of an issue for me. All I cared about was Pokemon, Sailor Moon, food, etc. Even around other people, I didn’t notice or pay attention to it. When I was hanging out with my friends, all we did was run around and play games outside or play Pokemon. Not much communication needed for that. Regardless, I don’t remember having much of a problem with communication then.

Fast forward a few years to middle and high school and that’s when low self esteem and self consciousness started to pick up. School was really the biggest and only culprit, as the life of a normal teenager typically consists of just school and home. School work was difficult depending on the subject. Having to write down facts from uncaptioned videos was the worst. If you haven’t seen my video about the time my U.S. History teacher in 11th grade made fun of me in front of the class, you can see that video here. I’ve also dealt with comments from my math teacher who would tell me I should be “paying more attention” when I didn’t understand something.

Making friends was difficult, but I believe there were more reasons to that than just being half deaf. However, there were plenty of cases when my peers would talk to me and I wouldn’t get all of what they were saying and I was too scared to ask them to repeat themselves. Sometimes, I’d guess what they were saying, reply, and say the wrong thing because I misunderstood what was being said. Lunch was a fun time, but it was difficult to keep up with 2-3 conversations at once.

My confidence was really in shambles once I graduated high school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Not only could I not afford school, but what was I going to do about accessibility? How was I going to get a job? I spent four years trying to apply for the simplest jobs. I only got one interview during those years and they told me I didn’t pass it.

I wondered about my dating life (or lack thereof). During years 18-21ish, I was constantly worried about whether or not I was going to find a boyfriend because, oh no, what if I don’t understand them? I was resorting to online dating which didn’t make it any easier. 

Things didn’t start to look up until my early 20s when I became more active on Tumblr. There, I came across the “deaf” tag and started reading posts from real live deaf people. Since I grew up knowing only one other deaf person who was also oral, it was so weird seeing a group of people who were like me but also different. This was when I discovered there was a deaf culture, identity, etc.

And that’s how I got to where I was today. Even though I was doing makeup videos on YouTube when I discovered more deaf people, I would not have been able to do the videos I do now if I hadn’t discovered them. The new friends I made then inspired me to create videos like the first deaf related video I ever did and “Shit Hearing People Say”.

Representation is important. Seeing movies like “The Hammer” and “SuperDeafy” makes me feel good. I feel less alone when I see people like me on the screen. I’m a big believer of representation helping with someone’s self esteem and confidence. That’s why I wanted to make these videos  and continue to do so. That’s why I’ve wanted to branch out and do different things. So that people like me who feel alone will now that they’re not.

Note: For a few years now, I said I was diagnosed when I was 12. As it turns out, I’ve been terrible at math for the last few years. I was diagnosed in 6th grade, yes, ‘cos that’s when I started a new school. But it seems I forgot how old I actually was in 6th grade. I was 11. So I was diagnosed at 11-years-old, not 12, oops.

A Deaf Experience In The Education System | Guest Post

[Image Description: A man with short hair, glasses, a bit of facial hair. He is wearing a black hoodie.]

[Image Description: A man with short hair, glasses, a bit of facial hair. He is wearing a black hoodie.]

I was born hard of hearing. To me all sounds were muddled and vague. And I thought that was normal. At least that was the case until I reached third grade, when I took a hearing exam and I was told that there was something wrong with me. Very quickly, the news was delivered to my parents. They took me to a few doctors but they couldn't figure out why I was completely deaf in my right ear and had minor hearing loss on my left. And for some reason, hearing aids were never brought up so I never had them.

As a side note to any doctors (or future doctors) out there. Don't tell a 6 (or 7 year old, don't remember exactly when this happen) who's going deaf that he (or she) is just gonna randomly not hear one day. Because that just creates a bunch of anxiety that a kid just doesn't need to deal with.

Now a thing to note about my Mom and Dad is that they were born and raised in Mexico. So in true Latin pride fashion, they didn't want me to be labeled as a "special needs" kid.

I gotta admit, I was really happy when my parents told me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I shouldn't let anyone try to convince me otherwise. So like any kid I followed their lead. I refused to be called special and pushed away everything associated with the word from that point on. This of course led me to misinterpret their behavior and chose to ignore my hearing situation instead of actually dealing with it. However I couldn't hide the fact that I was beginning to struggle in school. I kept confusing one word for another and that often led to awkward situations.

Not wanting me to fall behind, my parents set me up with a hearing teacher and I started speech therapy. It's here that I began to realize that I was different. A few times during the week, while all the other kids were at recess playing. I was stuck in the classroom with my hearing teacher, practicing how to read a person's lips.

“Now Jessie, I'm going to say potato and tomato. I need you to watch closely and see how my lips move differently when I say each of these words.” These were the types of exercises I would do. I would watch my speech therapist's lips repeat words over and over and over again until I could notice the subtle differences. 

This eventually became a routine for me, training my eyes to focus in on the minor details, piecing together what a person is saying from the bits and pieces I did hear to hold up conversation, and getting me to sit in the front of the class where I could better interact with the teacher. Needless to say this took a lot of work. Luckily for me, my grades greatly improved and I managed to graduate elementary school with honors. 

Now a thing to note is that I was taught a bit of ASL as a kid, but to my parents English was their second language and they were still trying to fully master it. So being taught ASL in a language they were still figuring out at the time, meant that they wouldn't be able to get very far. Not to mention, like most immigrant parents they wanted me to carry on our native language, so we only spoke Spanish in my house. 

Because of that, I quickly dropped ASL because I thought it was pointless to learn a language that nobody else knew. Up until recently I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a deaf community or deaf culture.

This is how life was for me in middle school and high school. And occasionally I would run into frustrations when I told people I was deaf. I would get responses from people like "oh you don't look deaf" and "I'm surprised you're an honors student despite being deaf". Which made me go "Seriously people?"

One of my biggest frustrations about school was that I would put in a lot extra work to not only keep up but to stay ahead. Only to have the schools go ahead and say, "oh he's doing great in school so there's no reason to accommodate him." Despite the fact that I was running myself into the ground. But I still kept up this pace because it was the only thing that I knew that would work for me. 

And it's during high school that I suppose I became more jaded when interacting with others because the way I saw it. If a person wasn't going to put in the same effort to communicate with me as much as I did. Then they weren't worth getting to know.

Now after graduating high school, I was planning on going to college to become an engineer in the hopes of developing technology to better accommodate my limited hearing. However due to personal circumstances, I wasn't able to attend college. So I instead entered culinary school and pursued my other passion which was cooking.

It was in culinary school that I discovered a love for writing and I grew to love chef culture because there is a mutual understanding between chefs that doesn't require words to be spoken. 

Now to me, Chef work seemed like a good field to be in because I was taught that in a restaurant when a person talks to the cook, the cook repeats what is said and the person confirms what was repeated. I loved that this form of communication was encouraged in culinary school. 

However from my experiences that wasn't the case in some of the restaurants I worked in. I eventually decided to stop working in restaurants when I found myself in situation that I never want to be put in again.

It was a busy dinner rush and there was a lot of background noise. While I was busy cranking out food orders (I was a line cook), the owner barged in and said he needed cooked rice ASAP. But before I could tell him that I didn't hear him he quickly left the room. About 15 minutes go by and he comes back, looks at me and says "Where's the rice that I asked for?" I told him I didn't understand what he was asking me. His response was saying that I was "fucking useless." After that it's no surprise that things didn't end well at that job.

Now recently I took a hearing exam and found out that my hearing is getting worse. One the reasons why I never knew this was happening is because it's been dropping at such a slow rate over the years that it was difficult for me to notice. So in the hopes of making up for lost time I decided to directly do something about this. 

I put in the work to learn about deaf culture and the deaf community, started the process to get hearing aids and learn ASL on my own. Now I am planning to take ASL classes but I'm trying to work things out at my job so I can get the needed free time and work schedule to do so. 

At this point I'm even considering take a break from work entirely and focus more on learning ASL and attending deaf events to meet other people like me. But I worry about how that would eliminate the financial stability that I've worked so hard to build. And if I choose to remain in this path it maye remove my chances of living independently from my family because they worry about me and don't want me to live on my own. 



The Same… But Different | Guest Post

[Image Description: A man sits in front of a patterned wall. He has very short, dark hair, glasses, and a grey beard. He is holding an instrument in his ear.]

[Image Description: A man sits in front of a patterned wall. He has very short, dark hair, glasses, and a grey beard. He is holding an instrument in his ear.]

We’ve all heard that statement at some point in our lives, or a similar one.  It always means we (or something) are all the same but, we also have our differences.  On a grand scale, we are all human beings but, our differences lie in our nationalities, history, race, gender identification, and much more. 
How does this apply to those of us who are d/Deaf?
We are the same through the commonality of hearing loss.  We are all d/Deaf to one degree or another.  Maybe we’ve only lost 10% of our hearing, or we’ve lost 100%.  We can identify as hard of hearing or d/Deaf which, again, is the same but different; different words meaning the same thing.
Our differences lie in how we became d/Deaf and our experiences during that process.  If you were born deaf and raised in a hearing environment your experiences are vastly different than someone born deaf and raised in a Deaf environment.  Personally, I am a late deafened adult.  I cannot give voice to the experiences of a person born d/Deaf.  I can tell you what it’s like to be hearing all through school and early 20s before realizing my hearing was going away.
Born hearing, I enjoyed the same things all hearing children did.  As a teenager, I hung out with hearing friends, learned to play the saxophone, went to concerts non-stop, performed on stage in several plays, and could identify my friend’s cars by their distinctive rumble coming down the street.
By the time I started noticeably losing my hearing, I was married and living in an area with no resources for hearing loss.  I sucked it up and started doing something we’ve all done, I faked it.  If I couldn’t understand someone I’d just smile and nod and hope I didn’t just agree to help hide the bodies on a night with no moon.
As the years passed, and several moves later, my wife and I had two boys; I watched them grow, learn to walk, and talk then suddenly, I realized I couldn’t understand what my own children were saying to me.  As someone who had been hearing, this was devastating.  My hearing began going downhill quickly and I didn’t want to lose my children’s voices.
This led to finding an audiologist who prescribed hearing aids.  God, I hated those.  Yes, they worked remarkably well for about six months but my hearing fell off so rapidly they ended up not doing anything for me other than amplifying sounds.  They did nothing for clarity or understanding.  I felt I had spent $5000 for nothing.
Fast forward about five years and my wife and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, France.  Without expounding in great length and detail about how wonderful Paris is, I’ll skip ahead to my “ah ha” moment.  We were standing on top of Notre Dame when, as it happened, the bells began chiming the hour.  I knew this because I could feel the sound vibrations of the bells.  The ah ha moment was realizing I couldn’t hear them.  Think about that for a moment, I’m standing on top of the bell tower with these huge melodious bells ringing the hour and I can’t hear them. 
That moment sent me in the direction of researching and opting to have bilateral cochlear implants.  This wasn’t a quick decision, I spent over a year researching and talking with my wife. I weighed the pros and cons, ultimately deciding to do it. 
I am happy with my decision.
Are they the “be all and end all’ of my deafness?  No.  I will always be deaf, from this moment until the end of my life.  But, when I have them on, they allow me to function as close to my old self as I can.  Do I think all d/Deaf people should get them?  No. 
Hearing aids and cochlear implants, while the technology is great, are not for everyone.  The decision to use HAs or CIs is extremely personal and should be researched thoroughly which brings me to the real point of this post.
We are all d/Deaf but how we got here is different.  We should unite among ourselves; accept that each person has their personal way of coping with their hearing loss.  Support each other in our decisions and educate those asking questions.  If we can do this, without bias toward each other for our decisions, then we can truly make a difference in our advocating for the removal of communication barriers; a united front to caption movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos.  Educating the public and private school systems in how to approach and use different teaching tools and methodologies when working with d/Deaf students.  Carrying this advocacy to the business world to let companies know we are employable and valuable.  We can do all this once we accept, we’re the same …
… but different.


Rob the Deaf Guy

Gallaudet Academic Bowl (North Carolina School for the Deaf) Recap

From February 9-12, North Carolina School for the Deaf hosted the beginning of this year’s Gallaudet Academic Bowl. Other schools will be hosting the matches, but NCSD is the first on the list.

[Image Description: a group of people sitting at their assigned tables watching a man on stage present an introduction and rules for a competition.]

[Image Description: a group of people sitting at their assigned tables watching a man on stage present an introduction and rules for a competition.]

Back in November, a teacher at the school emailed me about the Academic Bowl and invited me/said I should come check it out if I can. Well, I did! It was the first time I had ever set foot in the school. I’ve been outside of it, driven by it, but I’ve never stepped foot in the actual parking lot or the school.

Until now.

[Image Description: a team of four people sit at a table contemplating an answer for a question posted on a screen]

[Image Description: a team of four people sit at a table contemplating an answer for a question posted on a screen]

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl had teams of four from twenty different deaf schools. Two teams sat down at their own tables and would answer three rounds of questions. You had the typical categories like math, social studies, current events, science, and pop culture. The matches started at eight in the morning and ended around five in the afternoon. Day two lasted until later in the evening, but I didn’t go to day two (I was way too tired from being out all day for day one), so don’t quote me on that.

It was pretty fun. Although I didn’t compete in the actual games (obviously), I did answer the questions in my head. (Who wouldn’t?) There were quite a few that I got right. I was very proud of myself.

[Image Description: a man and a woman looking at a camera, smiling]

[Image Description: a man and a woman looking at a camera, smiling]

I wish there was more to say about the event, but it was pretty tame. Nothing really exciting happens when you’re just sitting at a table and answering questions. The best part though was actually seeing my DTV News coworker, Jesse Jones! Nobody at work told me he was flying to North Carolina to host some matches. It took him a couple of seconds to realize who I was (since we all work in different states for DPAN), but it was a pretty awesome moment. It was the first time we met each other in person.

[Image Description: a woman in a suit standing in front of an audience giving a presentation]

[Image Description: a woman in a suit standing in front of an audience giving a presentation]

Later in the evening, there was a Gallaudet club social event. It was actually more like a board meeting where a few people explained the new things happening at Gallaudet. The current president of the school, Bobbi Cordano, spent the last half hour of the event presenting to us. It was pretty cool to see her in person. I didn’t get a chance to meet her and talk with her personally since we were being rushed out once the event was over.

Overall, it was a fun experience. The Academic Bowl isn’t over. It will be on its way to California School for the Deaf, Riverside next. Good luck to all the teams (especially NC)!

ASL Gloves (SignAloud): Helpful or Not?

[Image Description: On a light tan table sits a pair of gloves which are black and blue with a miniature motherboard like thing sitting where the wrists would be.]

[Image Description: On a light tan table sits a pair of gloves which are black and blue with a miniature motherboard like thing sitting where the wrists would be.]

In April 2016, two University of Washington undergraduate sophomore students named Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi created SignAloud.

SignAloud consists of a pair of gloves that is supposed to translate sign language (I’m assuming this is just for ASL - American Sign Language) into speech and text (which, again, I’m assuming is just English).

The video introducing this product has gone viral. You’ve likely seen it on your Facebook feed, shared by your friends multiple times.

I’ve seen mostly two reactions to this invention and they’re both very different from each other. 

The hearing community, or more specifically, the hearing community that knows very little to nothing about sign language, d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, Deaf culture, etc., praises this invention. They’re under the impression that these gloves will close the communication gap between hearing people and deaf people.

On the other hand, you have the Deaf community, along with the hearing community who does know a little bit about Deaf people and Deaf culture, who will tell you that this simply doesn’t really do anything.

Now, those obviously aren’t the only opinions, but they are the two most popular ones. You will also find a group, a mixture of the two groups actually, that can see this going somewhere and that it may have a point.

After watching the video, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is only an invention for hearing people by hearing people. It is nothing more than a device that will only help hearing people. I’ll tell you why.

[Image Description: Two young men look toward a camera. The man on the left is wearing the ASL gloves and signing, while the one on the right is simply standing there.]

[Image Description: Two young men look toward a camera. The man on the left is wearing the ASL gloves and signing, while the one on the right is simply standing there.]

First of all, this is supposed to translate ASL into spoken English, but how does that work when the two guys making it don’t even know ASL themselves? Now, we know I’m not fluent in the language, but I do know that what Thomas is signing is nonsensical. Plus, those who are fluent in ASL can back my statement up because they’ve been saying the same thing. He completely butchered his message from the beginning. If you can’t do “My name is”, that’s a problem. He also attempts to sign, “Hello. I’m well. Thank you.” His “I’m well” is 100% incorrect. Sure, it’s a prototype, but if you can’t even get “Hello, my name is,” and “Hello, I’m well. Thank you.” correct, then that’s a problem. You can’t make a piece of technology translate a language if you don’t know the language yourself. Facial expression is also a big part of the language and these gloves don’t include that.

Also, you know how people who use spoken language have accents? The same works when using sign language. Not everyone signs the same way, not everyone’s hands move the same. Not all signs in ASL are the same, as there are regional signs.

Secondly, they say this is an invention that will help Deaf people who use ASL communicate with hearing people who don’t know ASL better. Okay, but how? Because if a Deaf person is using the gloves, the hearing person will know what they’re saying, but how do they respond back in a way that will be understood? Keep in mind that the gloves are meant to eliminate the use of phones and pen and paper.

[Image Description: A man and a woman sitting on a bench outside, facing each other. The man on the left is wearing the gloves and signing, "How are you?" The woman remains sitting still, watching him.]

[Image Description: A man and a woman sitting on a bench outside, facing each other. The man on the left is wearing the gloves and signing, "How are you?" The woman remains sitting still, watching him.]

If you watch the demo in the video, you’ll see one signing “How are you?” How does the hearing girl respond? By talking, using spoken English. There are d/Deaf and hard of hearing people who have residual hearing and might be able to read lips, yes, but what if that doesn’t work? In the demo, they act as if speaking is the correct thing to do when it isn’t. How does that help us? How does that help a more profoundly d/Deaf person who relies on ASL, not lip reading and/or residual hearing?

I’ve spent a long time thinking about what situations these could be used in. People said emergencies, but do you think we’re really going to be carrying a pair of bulky gloves around on a trip to Target? Emergencies happen when and where you least expect them. That's why they're called emergencies. Keeping them in hospitals and police stations was also suggested, but you’d be better off getting an interpreter, which is required by law in the United States, and actually have 100% access to communication instead of being on a one-way street.

People say that it’s not perfect, but at least it’s a first step in the right direction. But how can that be true if the first step isn’t even right and isn’t actually doing or improving anything?

Another thing to note - At 1:55, Thomas says that no other commercial product translates sign language into text, that nothing else is in the market. That’s actually false. 

In 2013, the ProDeaf app was created. ProDeaf translates Portuguese into Brazilian Sign Language and English into American Sign Language. In my opinion (and a friend’s), the ProDeaf app is better than SignAloud seeing as it’s more portable, can be used by both parties, and is free. 

In the early 2000s, others have made an attempt at ASL fingerspelling gloves but were unable to do so due to technology not being up to date. In 2012, the Faculty of Engineering at the Islamic University of Lebanon made ASL fingerspelling gloves with the same technology, but the project fell through due to the gloves being inefficient.

To wrap it all up, if you’re going to invent something that translates a language, be sure to have a basic understand in that language. I can’t become a teacher and teach students Mandarin if I don’t know the language and expect to be taken seriously or be helpful.

How To Ask Your Favourite YouTubers To Caption Their Videos

Since I started suggesting emailing YouTubers and other content creators and asking them to closed caption their videos, people have been asking me exactly what they should say or if I have any tips on what to say. A long time ago, I made a post on Tumblr with a template people could use, but due to my annual “delete all posts from Tumblr” thing, the post was removed.

So, why not make a brand new template on a website where it is most likely to stay? I don’t plan on doing any annual deleting here.

This template is going to be neutral so both hearing and d/Deaf and hard of hearing can use this. Of course, you’re also welcome to tweak it in any way you need to. If you are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, I encourage you to your own story about how captions benefit you. Hearing folks, if you’ve got d/Deaf or hard of hearing friends and family members, you can add that in. Your emails do not need to be an exact copy of this template. This is just for reference.

I have included hyperlinks to all videos and websites mentioned in this template. Before you send the email, make sure the links show up. If not, you will need to go back and add them yourself.

This template can also be used to email anyone else about captions. It does not have to go to only YouTubers; however, you will have to tweak it since a few of the options are YouTube only. 

Now go out and get ‘em.


My name is [INSERT NAME HERE] and I’m a big fan of your channel. 

I’m emailing you today because I’ve noticed that your videos are not captioned. This leaves out your current and future d/Deaf and hard of hearing viewers who cannot understand your videos 100%. Captions not only help d/Deaf/HOH people, but those with auditory processing disorder or those learning English as well.

Captions will benefit you too. People who need captions will be drawn to your channel, giving you more subscribers and views. Plus, English captions can be translated into other languages, thus giving you even more people from around the world.

You can add captions in three ways: doing them yourself, having a volunteer or volunteer team submit them, or go through a captioning service.

You might think adding captions yourself is difficult to do, but it really isn’t. Please watch Rikki Poynter’s 3 Ways To Caption Your Videos video here

If you choose to have a volunteer submit captions through community contribution, it is extremely important you find someone who takes it seriously and can type well, which includes having a basic concept of proper grammar and spelling. Please watch Rikki’s #NoMoreCraptions video which explains what not to do here.

If you choose to go through a company, Rev and 3PlayMedia are affordable services.

I really hope you will consider adding captions to your videos.

Thank you very much,


Lights, Camera, Caption!

[Image Description: Rikki is standing in a crowd of people in front of the Anaheim Convention Center, under a big sign that says "VidCon."]

[Image Description: Rikki is standing in a crowd of people in front of the Anaheim Convention Center, under a big sign that says "VidCon."]

Not long before July 2015, I created the Lights, Camera, Caption! campaign and workshop.

Lights, Camera, Caption! was created to help spread awareness about the importance of closed captioning on YouTube (and the rest of the Internet). In the name of this campaign, I made videos about what closed captioning is and how to do it, sent emails and letters to various YouTubers asking them to caption their videos, and hosted workshops and talks about the subject.

I have taken Lights, Camera, Caption! to VidCon two years in a row. I’ve also taken it, to some degree, to a talk I gave at Lycoming College in November 2015 as well as a ten minute segment at the CSUN Disabilities Conference with Google. This campaign has gotten many people to caption their videos.

Now, I’ll be honest. I’ve been slacking on this since VidCon 2016 came around. When I was watching the Women on YouTube panel at the mainstage arena, as well as other panels, I had plans to e-mail the YouTubers I would be interested in watching, who I knew didn’t caption their videos. Some, I had already e-mailed sometime ago, and didn't get a response, so I wanted to ask again. I planned to do these things, but I didn’t do any of them. I got sidetracked by other things that I was working on.

I do not wish to slack any longer. One of the reasons I created this website was to help me get this back on the road. Currently, I am working on a list of people to email. I am putting together supplies so I can also write letters to these creators if they have PO boxes (since YouTubers like to read their fan mail). I want to ask Google and YouTube questions. I’m hoping to get back to VidCon and other conferences and conventions that are similar.

If you would like to help out with supplies and other donations, you can view the available options here.

If you cannot support financially, you can support in other ways. I want to be able to talk about this to people and companies in person. I want to be able to host this workshop in more places. Talking to your schools is the best way to have people make a visit. Put in word to places like the YouTube Spaces and conferences. I, myself, have plans to try to work with the Spaces to see if I can make a workshop happen, just like they do their classes for people with a certain amount of subscribers. If you are interested in my work and want to know what I’ve done and what I can talk about, please see my resume here and my public speaking page here.

Before I end this, I want to make a note that there are people who have asked for tips, or an e-mail/letter template that asks YouTubers and the like how to caption their videos. I will be making a future post about this when I re-draft one up. Please stay tuned for that in the future.


Introducing Deaf Poynters:

It’s time to make a change.

[Image Description: A photo of Rikki sitting at a Starbucks table in front of her laptop and coffee cup. She is seen to be looking down at the laptop screen, typing.]

[Image Description: A photo of Rikki sitting at a Starbucks table in front of her laptop and coffee cup. She is seen to be looking down at the laptop screen, typing.]

For the last two years, I’ve dedicated a large amount of my life to spreading closed captioning awareness, deaf awareness, and sharing my story about growing up as a mainstreamed, oral deaf kid and learning of and moving into Deaf culture as an adult.

I like to think I’ve made a lot of progress in two years, though that progress has had its ups and downs.

More YouTubers know about captioning now and why it’s important. YouTubers, both big and small, have started captioning. Tyler Oakley and Lilly Singh are two of the biggest YouTubers I can think of and they’ve kept on going for over a year. Some big YouTubers started and kept it going for a little while, but then dropped the ball and stopped captioning their videos after a few months.

On September 25th, 2016, I ran a successful (I mean, when you think about how small my channel is and how this topic isn’t as thought about as others) campaign called #NoMoreCraptions, where I and around 40 YouTubers made videos talking about why using automatic captions and/or allowing viewers to submit captions with jokes, irrelevant commentary, etc. was a bad thing to do.

In two years, I have been written about on Huffington Post multiple times, ABC News, BBC News, Mic, Upworthy,  Mashable, and more. I’ve been on news websites written in foreign languages. I was one of UNICEF’s Digital Champions 2016. I’ve hosted my Lights, Camera, Caption! campaign and workshop two years in a row at VidCon. I premiered videos at Buffer Festival two years in a row. I’ve stood on the same stage as Google at the Disabilities conference at CSUN. I was part of the first Accessibility summit at YouTube Space LA.

Spreading awareness on YouTube has done a lot of good, but for me, it hasn’t been enough. It hasn’t changed enough for people like me who have trouble watching YouTube videos or have to deal with ignorance from people who know little to nothing about being deaf. It also hasn’t been enough for me, business wise.

By quitting the makeup community on YouTube and moving to the vlogging, lifestyle, and activism community, YouTube went from being a hobby to becoming a career. It gave me hope because finding a “regular” job as a deaf person isn’t easy.  Not only did I get opportunities to go to events, but it got me my job at a news station made by d/Deaf and hard of hearing people for d/Deaf and hard of hearing people. It created a public speaking career for me that I am currently working on getting started.

If you really want to make a difference in the world, just being on YouTube isn’t enough. You cannot grow if you’re only on YouTube. You cannot reach out to everyone if you’re only in one spot. Not everyone watches or visit the same places. You have to branch out to reach as many people as possible and build your career.

That’s why I created Deaf Poynters. (Yes, like Deaf Pointers it’s punnier with my name.) I wanted another way to spread awareness. I wanted another way to promote my campaigns. I wanted to reach out to the market that has people preferring to read rather than watch. I wanted to talk about more subjects, subjects that are better off written than spoken about in a video.

On Deaf Poynters, I plan to talk about a variety of subjects:

  • Closed Captioning Awareness
  • Deaf Awareness
  • My Deaf Culture Story
  • Disability Awareness
  • Public Speaking
  • Events

This is just a few topics that I plan on talk about on here. When something big happens or when something piques my interest and I feel like I need to talk about it, I’m going to.

I’m very excited about this new part of my journey and I hope you are too. Let’s work together.