Q&A: UFC fighter Matt Hamill

9 03 2009

Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, 32, a native of Loveland, Ohio, is billed just below the main event at UFC 96, the mixed-martial arts fight card in Nationwide Arena tonight. Hamill was a three-time Division III national champion when he wrestled for Rochester Institute of Technology. He won a silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling and a gold in freestyle at the 2001 Deaflympics. Hamill is a veteran of the reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter. He owns a 7-2 record in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Hamill, a low-budget movie about his life, is soon to be released.

UFC fighter Matt Hamill of Cincinnati will take a 7-2 record into a fight against Mark Munoz tonight in Nationwide Arena.

UFC fighter Matt Hamill of Cincinnati will take a 7-2 record into a fight against Mark Munoz tonight in Nationwide Arena.


Question: Have you been deaf your whole life?

Answer: Yes. I found out when I was just a little kid and my mother was trying to communicate with me. “Matt, Matt,” she would say, and there was no response. The took me to the doctor and they did tests. I can’t hear anything. Nothing. I am totally deaf. I have been since birth.

Q: Did you go to a school for the deaf when you were young?

A : No. I had an interpreter. Whatever the teacher said, the interpreter signed to me. If I went to a deaf school, it would not have been as much of a challenge. But I am more comfortable in the deaf community. I am not uncomfortable outside of it, but I am more comfortable in it. That is just my style.

Q: When did you start wrestling?

A: When I was 4 or 5 years old. My stepdad was the coach at Loveland (High School). Wrestling kept me busy. It kept me out of trouble. It was something that didn’t need much communication. It liked it because it was physical. It was rough. It was something I really enjoyed.

Q: You managed to take your wrestling as far as you could, didn’t you?

A: As a true freshman, I went to Purdue on a full scholarship. My goal was to be a national champion in Division I. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there, so I transferred to RIT — in an area where there is a very large deaf community. It was a great experience there.

Q: Your stepfather got you into wrestling, which is one thing. Does your mother approve of ultimate fighting?

A: She looks at me and I’m happy. When I’m happy, she’s happy. She supports me in whatever I do.

Q: Was this what you wanted to do when you graduated college?

A: No. I hadn’t even thought about it. I had a degree in electrical engineering and I thought I’d get a good job somewhere in Utica (N.Y.), to be near my daughter. I met my ex-wife at RIT, and she lives in Utica. Somehow, I got on a different path.

Q: How excited are you to have a big fight in Ohio?

A: I was supposed to take another fight in Montreal. Montreal or Ohio? That was the question. I’m an Ohioan. I wanted to fight in Ohio where I’m close to my friends and my family and my fans. Two years ago at UFC 68 (in Nationwide Arena), I beat Rex Holman and I never felt a vibration like that in my career. It’s my home state, more deaf people are coming — and I can’t wait to feel the vibration. That’s how I get my heart in the fight. That’s why I came here. The vibration.


We need to yell

3 03 2009

Deaf school supports call for maintaining current state funding

By Vicky Wicks
For The Weekly News

Posted 3/2/09

Two advocates for deaf and hearing-impaired students met with concerned Rapid City people to pitch a plan for maintaining services currently provided by the South Dakota School for the Deaf in Sioux Falls.

Magnet schools are existing schools modified to add services for the deaf, Olsen said. If that approach isn’t taken, then deaf students will be scattered around the state in public schools not equipped to receive them.

Small schools will bear great expense hiring interpreters for just one or two students, and those students will be isolated if there are no other hearing impaired students, he said.

Olsen is pushing for the state Department of Education to take control of the School for the Deaf. Currently it’s under the aegis of the Board of Regents, which he said doesn’t understand that the deaf are bilingual ��” using ASL and English ��” as well as bicultural.

The Legislature should establish a commission on Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a bill of rights for deaf children, Olsen said.

Puthoff said the school was established in 1880, nine years before South Dakota became a state.

The South Dakota Constitution provides for continuation and funding of a school for the deaf, Olsen said, and he doesn’t understand how the state can close the school without changing the Constitution.

“We need to wake up. We need to yell. We need to complain,” Olsen said.

Larry Puthoff, left, speaks about education for the deaf while Gary Olsen looks on. Puthoff and Olsen are advocates and lobbyists with the South Dakota Association for the Deaf

Larry Puthoff, left, speaks about education for the deaf while Gary Olsen looks on. Puthoff and Olsen are advocates and lobbyists with the South Dakota Association for the Deaf

The school is on Gov. Mike Rounds’ list of cuts to balance the state’s 2010 budget.

Using American Sign Language, with interpreters for those few people in the audience needing them, Gary Olsen and Larry Puthoff with the South Dakota Association for the Deaf said that if the school closes, magnet schools should be created in or near Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Pierre.

The two men, both retired from careers in education, gave their presentation at Communication Services for the Deaf on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

Sign of the times

2 03 2009

ASL, a new world language option in St. Mary’s County schools, gains following in first year

Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

Happy 200th birthday, President Lincoln

13 02 2009

President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday will be tomorrow. Students in more than one school district in Pike County have been learning about Lincoln as his 200th birthday approaches.
Last Thursday at Pikeland Community School (PCS) in Pittsfield, Warren Winston, a member of the Pike County Historical Society, and Illinois State Historical Society, spoke to fifth-graders about Lincoln.
Students learned many things about Lincoln, including how he was responsible for establishing the first university for the deaf in the United States.
“When Abraham Lincoln was president he signed a bill that established a college/university for deaf people called Gallaudet University,” Winston said.
If one looks at the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., he or she can see that one of his hands is shaped in the sign language letter “A,” and in his other hand he or she can see the sign language letter “L,” which are Lincoln’s initials. Winston said it is not known for sure if these letters are really supposed to be seen in Lincoln’s hands. It is possible that the sculptor of the statue, Daniel Chester French, could have done this because he would have known the letters since he had a deaf son.
A handout was given to the students that told about the urban legend surrounding the statue. The handout also included a picture of the statue and all of the sign language alphabet letters. Students were encouraged to practice signing the letters “A” and “L” with Winston.

Palestine’s School For the Deaf

13 02 2009
  • Feb. 12th, 2009 at 1:21 AM
  • 9 year old K is on the right with the blue backpack on her chair

    9 year old K is on the right with the blue backpack on her chair

    Before the strikes, the group 14 Friends of Palestine asked E and me to make contact with a little girl they sponsor via Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children. It’s taken a while for us to catch our breath and follow this up, but we got there today. We followed our usual pattern; meeting at Al Shifa hospital, grabbing a falafal sandwich, then striding off down the dusty streets ignoring all the beeping taxis that want to drive us (shared taxis are as close as Gaza gets to public transport.)

    20 minutes later, I am startled by the wholeness of the Atfaluna building. Several of the buildings nearby are in small concrete pieces, but Atfaluna has grass, Atfaluna has windows. I doubt Israel avoided Atfaluna deliberately, since they bombed schools and hospitals, so Atfaluna also has good luck. Inside, we meet S, our initial contact, who has arranged for us for K’s social worker M to take us to visit her family. They live in Shayjaiee, in four rooms – K’s parents, and their 7 girls (born in a row), followed by 4 boys, the last one a smiley 5 months.

    K’s mum S is a friendly woman, who tries mostly in vain to coax her girls, just home from school, to appear for us in anything other than shyly giggling glimpses, though we do eventually manage a photo with some of them. She manages to introduce us to two of the little boys with the lure of the arabic sweets we’d brought. We ask her how the Israeli strikes had affected them; she says they stayed in their home for the first ten days but the rocket attacks then became too close and frightening and they moved in with their downstairs neighbours, that being the only place they had to go.

    K's mum S in the kitchen

    K’s mum S in the kitchen

    The bread shortage has hit them hard, she says, describing bargaining for a bag of flour and being 20 shekels (about £3) short. A wave of guilt hits me; if only we had got to see them before the attacks, they would have had the equivalent of K’s dad’s salary for a month (he’s a cleaner) that we are bringing them today from 14 Friends of Palestine. S, apparently not giving this a moment’s thought herself, cheerfully says they did manage to get the flour after all in the end, and I remind myself the bread shortage continues, and the money is just as welcome now.

    K's family in the room the girls' bedroom

    K’s family in the room the girls’ bedroom

    K’s home is very simple, they don’t have much, and when we ask S what the donation might go on, it’s clear they will carefully keep themselves in the basics for the children to be well and comfortable: mattresses, floor mats, food, clothes, gas maybe. J from 14 Friends of Palestine said we could use our discretion as to whether to buy the family things or hand over the donation itself, and it’s clear to us that the family will know better what they need than we will and use it wisely. Also at J’s suggestion, we’ve kept a little money back to buy some unnecessary things for the children that we think K’s parents might feel they shouldn’t buy with it themselves, so we’ll be back another day with the rest of the donation and maybe things like coloured pens, drawing books… we’ll see what’s available that looks like it will last a series of small hands.

    E heads off to see if 18 year old Abd at Al Wafa is managing to imagine some sort of life for himself in a wheelchair yet. Back at Atfaluna, I am taken in to meet K, in amongst a class full of beaming kids. She leaps from her chair, glowing at finding herself the centre of attention. M signs to her that we come from Jane and 14 friends, and have met her family. She introduces herself to me with her sign name, a curving stroke of her finger from her forehead to her cheek, imitating the sweep of her dark curly hair. I am pleased to be able to return the sign name I was given once, the placing of an imaginary hat on my head (I like hats.) I meet also her sister S, also deaf, a calm 14 year old, smiling in her own more restrained class.

    Then I am taken down to the kindergarten class, in a series of green carpeted rooms that imitate a lush outdoors that Gaza city children don’t see, except here where there are also gardens outside. They also bubble over with enthusiasm for a visitor, and I learn the Palestine sign for salaam aleikum. Surrounded by energetic and joyful small people, I realise what incredibly expressive faces and bodies deaf children can develop, with space and permission to move, from supportive teachers, many of whom are deaf themselves. Next I go to see some of the traditional craftwork the adults who work here produce.

    This place is amazing. For the first time ever, I am seeing what Palestinians look like when they are surrounded by beauty: by art, by books and resources, by unbroken, unbombed, undamaged, working things. It makes me want to cry. (Currently a lot of random stuff makes me want to cry; I didn’t cry for any of those broken, bombed, damaged children in my ambulance and I guess that sadness is waiting somewhere deep.)

    That makes me think of the modern sweeping design of the Jabalia Red Crescent building. I saw the Jabalia building before Israel fired shells at it, when it was new and whole like Atfaluna. It still works, only one room is burnt out. But now it looks like everything else in this place. Big shell holes, smaller bullet holes. Blackened patches.

    300 children are studying at Atfaluna. 150 are on the waiting list. While it continues to stay in one piece, they will grow up with a vision that hearing Gaza children will simply have to imagine; what the world looks like when it isn’t all dust and crumbled concrete.

    ‘Sesame Street’ actress still serves as role model

    12 02 2009
    Linda Bove visits Strong museum.

    Linda Bove visits Strong museum.

    Wednesday, Feburary 11, 2009

    Laura Borrelli stood just beyond the double doors of the Strong National Museum of Play, smiling and having more fun than her two children. She was having a star-struck moment, seeing Linda Bove, the deaf actress who played Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street from 1971 to 2003.

    “I remember growing up and Linda being the first deaf person I saw on television,” said Borrelli, of Greece, who watched Sesame Street in the late ’70s and early ’80s. “It was wonderful seeing someone doing sign language, and she was a strong role model for young children.”

    Margo McCluskey of Greece is thrilled to have deaf actress Linda Bove, who played Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street, autograph toys from the children's series at the Strong National Museum of Play.

    Margo McCluskey of Greece is thrilled to have deaf actress Linda Bove, who played Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street, autograph toys from the children's series at the Strong National Museum of Play.

    Bove, who introduced thousands of children to sign language and issues surrounding the deaf community, made an appearance Tuesday at the museum. She was in town to narrate two television public service announcements featuring deaf actors and dialogue in American Sign Language. The announcements are intended to promote awareness in the deaf community about depression and the importance of seeking help early.

    “This is an issue that the hearing community has had accessibility in learning about for a long time, and that isn’t the case in the deaf community,” said Bove, through an interpreter. “I want people who have a problem with depression to know how and where they can get help.”

    Robert Pollard, a psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and director of the Deaf Wellness Center, said there is a dearth of public service announcements in the deaf community focusing on mental health issues. The 30-second and 60-second announcements will air this summer.

    “It’s all about access. Radio is not an accessible way for the deaf community to learn about depression and even closed-captioning requires a high level of literacy,” he said. “This is an important message that needs to get out.”

    During Bove’s two-hour stay at the museum, she signed photographs, talked to parents and teenagers who grew up seeing her on television, and toured the Sesame Street exhibit. She said she was impressed to see the original Ernie and Burt puppets at the museum.

    “What I like about this museum is that you can actually touch some of the exhibits and you don’t feel like you have to put your hands away or at your sides,” Bove said. “It was so exciting reliving some moments about a great time in my life.”

    ASL Tales: Telling Old Stories In A New Way

    11 02 2009


    Salem, OR  —New children’s books come out everyday, but it’s rare that someone creates an entirely new way of storytelling.

    But the creator of a new version of The Princess and the Pea has come up with  a book for the hearing-impaired that’s written in both English and American Sign Language. Allison Frost reports.


    Creator Laurie Meyer is a long time American Sign Language interpreter.

    When she couldn’t find any books in ASL, she decided to create her own — if you can call it a book. It’s really something new.

    0211_aslpageASL Tales: “Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived in a lovely castle.”

    The text of the book is in English, and it comes with a companion DVD.

    ASL Tales: “But the prince was lonely. . . So he set out on a journey to find a princess.”

    What you see on the DVD are rich, colorful illustrations and an expressive ASL signer telling the story visually, while you hear the English narration.

    ASL Tales: The prince heard someone knocking at the door. (knocking)  When he opened it, he found a princess who was all wet.”

    What makes Princess and the Pea so new is the fact that the ASL story is told by a native speaker and not translated.

    Laurie Meyer is energetic and passionate about ASL. And she’s completely convinced her books, in the right hands, will make a difference.

    Laurie Meyer:  “Deaf children are denied this amazing language all the time. 80 percent of deaf kids don’t get access to ASL. AND — huge numbers of hearing children are learning what they think is ASL that isn’t that doesn’t create them being able to talk to deaf people.”

    <<Bus sound. . . honk honk. . . >>

    Hearing-impaired kids come from all over the state to attend the Oregon School for the Deaf. The K-12 public school in north Salem sprawls across 52 acres. Patti Togioka heads the school.

    <<fade bus sound down and out>>

    Patti Togioka: “Young deaf children are not getting ASL.”

    <<fade in sound of kids from Oregon School for the deaf>>

    Togioka says that’s because most deaf kids have hearing parents — many who may have never even met a deaf person before. Some parents are told their kids won’t ever learn to speak if they learn ASL first. Totally untrue, Togioka says.

    Patti Togioka: “When they have something they can count on, they feel freer to explore in a second language.”

    No one says learning German will make you less able to speak English, Togioka says, and it’s the same with ASL.

    Patti Togioka: “Having access to a full complete language gives you the confidence and the linguistic skill to manipulate your second language. We find that with bilingual education; it’s no different with deaf children.”

    0211_aslvideoStory creator Laurie Meyer says what most hearing people don’t understand is that ASL is not English in sign form. It is truly a language all its own, and like any language has its own vocabulary and grammar.

    You can’t learn Spanish by memorizing some Spanish words or phrases. And just because you learn a few signs — or even a lot of signs — doesn’t mean you know ASL.

    ASL Tales: “The princess asked to come in, and promptly made friends with the dog.”

    Try describing a painting using only facial expressions. You can’t do it.

    Just like hearing people use facial expressions AND spoken words, Meyer says, deaf people need a third dimension — space.

    She says signing isn’t just about the shape you make with your fingers and hands — it’s also the position of your hands and how they move through space that’s crucial.

    Meyer says most sign language books get it wrong.

    Laurie Meyer: “(The) palm orientation is always wrong, the movement’s always wrong, that’s how I learned it first and then I had to spend a lot of time unlearning everything I learned.”

    Since deaf people rely on sight to communicate, instead of hearing — that third dimension of space makes all the difference.

    Laurie Meyer: “You cannot learn sign language at all from a two dimensional thing. Try it.”

    Susan Mather: “My mother didn’t sign to me but she gave me books. You know, for me, that was key in my educational development, that’s how I acquired English as a second language.”

    Susan Mather is a linguistics professor at Gallaudet. It’s the world’s only university devoted completely to hearing-impaired students, and one that’s fully bilingual in both English and ASL.

    Mather spoke to us through an ASL interpreter.

     Calypso Tucker and Isolde Strandberg

    Susan Mather:  “I think that ASL Tales, with the DVD, is a critical component, both of them together are just a beautiful  tool, that families can actually learn together with and enjoy.”

    <sound of Calyso Tucker and sister Isolde playing>

    6-year-old Calypso Tucker is a student at the Oregon School for the Deaf. Her mom Haley says she loves her bilingual school. She had a visceral response to the Princess and the Pea.

    Haley Tucker: “She said, that lady’s deaf, she’s deaf. You know, right away it was, a connection of, a natural language use and she really connected, so it was great. And this one loved it too. . . ”

    Isolde: “I do. I like stories.”

    Haley Tucker: “Yeah, you like stories.”

    Calypo’s  3-year-old sister Isolde can hear. She’s grown up with ASL, so she’s bilingual.

    Allison: “And do you sign to talk to your sister?”

    Isolde: “Yeah, I do.”

    Haley Tucker: (to Isolde): “What else do you say to sister?”

    Haley Tucker: “How do you say that”

    (Calypso vocalizing) (fade down conversation)

    Having a book that reaches both her children would be good enough for parent Haley Tucker. But she also appreciates that Laurie Meyer has updated the fairy tale.

    ASL Tales Sound: “It seems you like this Princess,” said the Queen. “I do,” said the Prince. “And she can read the biggest, heaviest books,” said the Prince.

    In addition to American Sign Language and English, Princess and the Pea is recorded in ASL and French, Spanish, Mandarin, Thai and Vietnamese.

    Creator Laurie Meyer will soon have an entire series of books coming out which she calls ASL Tales.