Disabled Lives Matter


July 29, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 22

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Nic Novicki 

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hello everybody, this is Nadine Vogel coming to you with another episode of disabled lives matter podcast joining me is my partner in crime Norma.


NORMA STANLEY: Hi everybody.


Nadine Vogel: And we are joined today by someone I think, Nic, I think you nd I met maybe, four years ago now, five years ago we kind of knew of each other  but we met in person, Nic   novicki so Nick is a comedian and actor producer, I think you perform now on six seven continents that's right I go yeah you know I think I’m busy until I see what you're doing and then I’m like oh my God I’m exhausted let's just start with if we can talk to us about just life as an artist as a producer with a disability right because that doesn't take away from you being this amazing artist and producer but it adds to it so talk to us about that a little bit.


nic novicki: Yeah, yeah Well, first of all thanks so much for having me on and for those of you that don't know me I’m as you said, an actor comedian and producer. I’m also a little person so I’m three foot 10 and I would say in terms of my career as an artist and producer and having a disability they definitely intersect. But for me it's always about you know the art first you know, creating writing doing the stand-up producing creating my own content. I think part of that you know went side by side because of the fact that I am a little person, I am a person with a disability. So, to you know, have the kind of career, I wanted to have I learned pretty early in my career that I have to be in charge of all aspects learn how to write how to produce how to market how to get myself out there how to connect how to bring people together how to help other people, rather than just ask them for help. So, and then ultimately that's where you end up building a network and then from that network, you get hired but you hire other people, and then it just sort of just all goes you scratch my back I scratch yours, but it's this kind of beautiful community that I’ve you know worked with and I just feel honored to be a part of people with disabilities that are working comedians, singers, producers. You know, a step further, is eight and a half years ago I created the disability film challenge, which is a weekend film competition where you need to have somebody with a disability in front of or behind the camera. In 2017 I partnered with Easter seals southern California, the nation's largest disability services organization. Or now that Easter seals disability film challenge, we've had hundreds of films created from all over the world, so it's kind of another layer to that you know connection with artists with disabilities, because now it's not just me as a working artist with a disability, but I’m also somebody that in many instances ends up referring people and becomes a facilitator that helps others get jobs but.


Nadine Vogel: Well first of all I have to say thank you because the Easter seals disability film challenge is amazing, I have had the opportunity to actually be there in person. I know many of your award winners and oh my gosh I don't know what well, you should be aware of our foundations, Springboard foundation, we had a fundraiser and what we did we worked with a Carl right and what we did was we actually showed award winners from the film challenge.


nic novicki: That was awesome that was so cool.


Nadine Vogel: And it was it was a way for us to introduce your filmmakers your actors to a much, you know casting a much wider net, right, so people know about who they are, I think it's really important because, just how you open Nic I mean it just sounds like as someone with a disability, you have had to work that much harder. Do that much more to just get to that same playing field as others, would you say that's true.


nic novicki: To an extent, you know I think in some senses, as a person with a disability, to be honest, I got in the door really quick. Because I happened to be a little person, when I was you know, only a couple years in the acting I was on the sopranos so that doesn't happen for most people with disabilities. But with that being said I got on sopranos I got to work with all these other people and then all the sudden I was limited with the kind of roles that I was able to get because they were like well you know we have this kind of role for you it's a non-speaking thing and it's bad and I’m like well I’d rather be the romantic lead so I’m gonna write down to produce that and I’m going to be the gangster you know that's what I want to be so. That way, you know, so I think in some senses the doors can actually open up a quicker if you haven't disability. And so, if you're listening in and you're thinking well it's going to be harder for me with a disability, I actually disagree. Because right now I mean, even if you look at the sponsorship that we have for the Easter seals disability functions response by Sony pictures and you know, universal pictures and you know Viacom CBS and all these studios and networks and Warner media and adobe and they're all actively trying to include more people with disability, so I think now is like the best time to get your foot in the door, and I think whether you have a disability or not, or you don't have a disability it's a very difficult industry so you're gonna have to work hard. And you know, depending on what your disability is there may be other things that you're going to have to learn about in terms of what you need for accommodations. How, you know what your talent is honestly, you know as a little person I’m probably not going to be the best key grip and daring like heavy stuff. You know, you got to find your place in the industry and what you're passionate about. And what you are able to do the best and utilize your disability, because I also think is people with disabilities, we’re used to being kind of entrepreneurs in a certain sense. You know as a little person I can never reach things like public restroom sink; I have to move the trash can stand on it. So, the fact that I can do that in real time that's Problem Solving and that's what I needed and most you know TV sets film sets because they usually don't go 100% the way that you plan you know and location it rains. You know somebody gets sick; you know it's a very fluid process. So, if you have that ability to kind of roll with things, and you know you're better off, and so I think as people with disabilities, we bring a lot to productions with having that sort of you know, entrepreneurial spirit, but also just that willingness and experience and adapting.


NORMA STANLEY: Resourcefulness


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, absolutely. Do you think people know that readily though or is that something we have to educate.


nic novicki: You know, I think that people learn it through working you know, it's work gets your work, so a lot of times it's still the process of you know people being exposed to the talent within the disability community and so that's what I’m really proud of you know, we do screenings around the country and workshops and seminars and you know we're able to have not just you know referral but we're able to show films. So we're able to show the people doing the work not talking about what they want to do, but seeing that their work as a writer or their work as an actor and so I think the more that people are familiar with and get to know, then they see that talent and they see that work ethic and yeah that resourcefulness so you know it's a process, and I think the more and more we're able to be in the same room together doing in person workshops, obviously with the last year that's been a little difficult because nobody's been in the same room. At all been you know, in a zoom or you know Microsoft team’s meetup event so.


Nadine Vogel: So, I’m hearing that the doors are open more readily now. Do you think, though, you know, like you said early on about you want to be a romantic lead me like well no that's not the roles here for you. So, while the doors have opened, which is great, we need to start somewhere, do you think it is still limiting in terms of how people in the business view individuals with disabilities, relative to roles, whether in front of the camera or behind the camera.


nic novicki: I think to an extent, but I also kind of think that just in general, you know I know so many up and coming actors comedians writers that don't have disabilities, you know that are from other marginalized communities or just you know view quote unquote the stereotypical you know and it's very difficult, you still have to find your own path to an extent. You know, I think a lot of times people are expecting you know networks and studios and the Academy award winners to kind of be the person that just breaks everybody in when in reality it's you know from my experience it's been people that you're starting out with the end up hiring you, and then they you know you climb the ladder together. But I think sometimes you know the to be able to work with the High-Level Martin Scorsese’s the you know P, you know Farley brothers people that I’ve had the honor of working with. I don't think that would have been a possibility, had I not done a lot of other things, to get started, and so I think, really there was no such thing as the dslr camera or a smartphone when I started, I mean I’m getting old.


Nadine Vogel: You’re getting older to.


nic novicki: 20 years 20 years ago, you know I got started in 2001 you know. Doing stand up and doing things that but literally the technology wasn't there that's before YouTube that's before you know you would have to shoot something and put it on a little tape and then the tape to a competitor.


Nadine Vogel: You know you're a new daughter will never believe that when you tell her.


nic novicki: Yeah, and honestly, by the time she gets to be you know college age there's going to be new stuff that we don't even know about you know technology's always kind of just you know shaping in a way.


NORMA STANLEY:The jetsons you know with the flying cars.


Nadine Vogel: Oh I love that show.


nic novicki: I love the Jetsons. I love it. I mean it feels like we’re there though.


Nadine Vogel: It does. It definitely does and I think that that's important, I think technology is the great equalizer right and but, again, we have to know how to use it. And how to use it for us and not against us. You know we're talking with someone I don’t know if you know John Kemp, you know we were having a conversation with him, you know these companies say that are using technology in a discriminatory away when it comes to talent acquisition right. Using ei to make determinations and that doesn't work well for people with some disability types, so I think technology is fabulous but, again, we do need to know how and where to use it.


nic novicki: And I think even beyond that it's also just a balance of you know not everybody's going to be great at everything I’m not the most technical person I’m better at kind of putting people together, so I think you know it's about you know learning how to kind of build your network, you know and that's the way that somebody's going to be better with certain technology. With interpersonal skills somebody who's going to be smarter or better writer, you know somebody's going to be the comedy person somebody be the straight man person you're like acting you know you got to have Laurel and hardy you know or the Alec.


Nadine Vogel: No, I agree completely, and you know it's interesting because there's so much to think about and so much to consider, and I think you touched on earlier, you know. I’ve talked to people with disabilities to say you know they're tired of always being the ones who must educate and train, and you know tell the companies what to do and how to do it, but at the end of the day, if not us then who. Right and who's going to tell the story correctly right in a way, because I’ve seen many organizations try but not succeed. And sometimes it's just because they haven't really engaged with people with disabilities to really understand exactly what's needed You know.


NORMA STANLEY: It’s the same thing with the African American Community and companies who don't really have like an advertising, and they don't have people making decisions who understand the Community and they're putting out ads that just do not, they don’t connect. They don’t know the messaging because it's not their experience.


Nadine Vogel: Right. Absolutely.


NORMA STANLEY: So those kinds of things you must have the people limiting the lived experiences to talk about it.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, and we must go to commercial break when we come back Nic I would love to touch on that this is a big discussion around people who do not have disabilities playing roles of disabled individuals. So, let's go to commercial break, because I know that's a hot topic important one, so I think we should go to commercial break first and we come back let's touch on that, so everybody don't go anywhere we'll be right back.




Nadine Vogel: Okay, so this is Nadine Vogel back at you with disabled lives matter podcast with my co-host Norma Stanley and today's guest Nick Novicki. So Nic before we went to commercial, I brought up a topic that I know is always controversial but so important to address, which is this issue of individuals who do not have a disability visible or invisible playing roles of disabled individuals. Can you talk to us about that.


nic novicki: Yes, during the whole commercial break I was screaming. So I mean this is it's a controversial topic, but look, you know, for me, as my goal and kind of the mission of what I do with the film challenge and in my work it's about creating solutions for future things. It's about putting the keys in people's hands themselves to tell their own stories so that's generally what I focus more on I focus on you know the bigger problem, which is how do we get more people to be further in their career. You know I think sometimes as a whole, we do focus on that a lot and look, we want an authentic portrayal and that's you know a lot of that too is not just in front of the camera that's behind the camera. And that's about who's telling the story who's writing it who have you consulted with but certainly. You know I always feel personally that the most authentic performance is when you have somebody with that disability portrayed that is that character. But, but again I think sometimes it's interesting that this ends up being in the press a lot, you see a lot of articles and they want to point it we've got to fix this one and it's like one You know film or one TV show when it's like we have all these networks, all these studios all this talent out there, you know I think sometimes that we need to focus on uplifting those that are doing it right. More so than you know attacking those they're doing it wrong. But I don't fault anybody for that frustration, and you know as a consumer myself I would like to see a story of a little person portrayed by somebody there's a little person. You know me, I think you know it's about authenticity, so I think the other kind of problem is, I think now audiences with them with and without disabilities are getting smarter and they're starting to see oh well, I don't know that's just doesn't feel like that's coming from a place of truth or authentic, so I think you know, really that's something to think about. And then, on the other side from our studio network independent film production side you need to think about that huge 61 million Americans that have some form of disability. One in four roughly according to the CDC. And that translates around the world, you know, a huge demographic of people with disabilities. So we haven't been marketed to enough. You know, so I mean, I think you know, think about you know all those attack ads but think about all the uplifting ads and the like, embracing you can get you know, and we've been honored to have gotten you know a lot of press with the film challenge you know, last year, there was a New York Times article that. featured me talked about the challenge Forbes a couple times CNN variety, we’ve been in the Hollywood reporter. You know, during our awareness campaign people have been picked up on, you know people magazine and all these other things, so the community loves embracing these positive stories. But you know if you're thinking about you know hiring somebody that doesn't have a disability and one of these roles. You have to know what you're getting into to that there's going to be people that are not going to be quiet online and it's a hot topic, and you know it stems to from there has been a lack of access, you know, historically, for a lot of people with disabilities and it's not like hey this wheelchair user with cerebral palsy is getting you know 25 auditions a week. So, when a big role comes or for somebody who's blind or deaf or little person or would you name it autism any fill in the blank disability there's a lot of talent out there with disability and I think you know there's more and more opportunities that are coming now where the casting society of America has been unbelievable and supporting the film challenge and the disability community as a whole and they're reaching out on a weekly basis with roles and trying to authentically cast so there's a lot of people doing a lot of great work and I just want to point that out, you know that there's so much collective.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, I think you're right the negative stuff is what you know sticks and is out there you know, but we do hear things like well you know we need to watch the box office right and the revenue, but you know there could be a major box office hit with an individual with a disability if we give them the chance, so we find out their just as talented as the other lead that you had right. So, it's tough and Norma you know I mean, in some ways, now I’m going to get really controversial, but in some ways, you know think back all those years ago to blackface.


NORMA STANLEY: Exactly I was thinking the same thing you know, and I didn't realize what was really going on. And that was definitely you know not something that we would ever do today or anybody who has any sense would do today and that was something that they thought was somehow appropriate way back then. But again, who are they listening to they weren't listening to anybody who really knew it was inappropriate anywhere.


Nadine Vogel: And now look, I mean look at all the roles, you know award winners, who are from the black and brown Community right but another I you know I seem to be in a controversial mood this afternoon. Another topic I’d love to hear from you on is this issue of movies that has been out where the person with the disability, you know gives up on life. They would rather just you know die and not live, and it is all these questions that come out about quality of life. And I’d love to hear what you think about that, because there was a study just recently, not the entertainment community, but in the medical community. Where doctors admitted that they actually felt that people with disabilities had lesser quality of life and therefore it impacted their diagnoses their recommendations for treatment things like that so I’m just curious from an entertainment industry standpoint, what are your thoughts.


nic novicki: Well, you know I think a lot of times you're hearing stories that were not written by people with disabilities, you know you're not going to hear you know somebody who's a little person talking from that standpoint of I’d like to you know get rid of my child because they're a little person or something so it's like I think a lot of times it's you know it all goes back to authenticity. And yeah, just saying you're going to end your life because of your disability, I mean that's an awful portrayal of somebody with a disability. I think that it's about telling our own stories, you know it all boils down to who's writing this, who's it for. Because generally that's not for the disability community and generally that's not written by the disability Community if you're talking about my life isn't, yeah.


NORMA STANLEY: They both pass the disability Community it's from the perspective of you know, whoever it is this writing it and whoever it is so who's even doing this study in that they're assuming about a community as to what think can’t be any good, because of whatever the situation is. And so, prescribing whatever they're prescribing and diagnose what admitted diagnosing and not giving that community an opportunity to decide for themselves.


Nadine Vogel: And you know, look if someone would ask me, you know 35 years ago, you know if you had a child with a disability, who couldn't do this this this this and this you know what would you do and I’m almost 100% sure that what my answer would have been then not having that experience would have been very different than what it was after my girls were born and what it is today. So Nic I think it goes back to what you were saying about authenticity. And experience right and bringing that to the forefront, and I think that certainly would be Easter seals disability film challenge you've done that. So, my next question and no pressure here. Well maybe some pressure. Where does the film challenge go next right, what's next on the horizon, maybe the next you know, three to five years for the challenge.


nic novicki: Well we've grown every year, so every year we've had more films more partnerships more screenings. We get success stories every week so honestly, it's grown more than when I came up with this idea eight and a half years ago, I never would have thought is going to change people's lives it's people would literally do what they wanted to do. Because of you know, entering this and that they would build lifelong you know mentor ships and get to work with Oscar winners and work multiple years in another country from you know, taking part in the challenge so it's the Community is building. And so, I think you know I'm optimistic that we're going to continue to grow. I’d love to see you know we already have projects that are being turned into feature films and TV shows in development, so I’d love to see one of those you know go full force into in the movie theaters you know into on TV. You know, documentaries are being made from last year's every year to different genre so, which is also kind of cool so it's not the same type of film. The film's change in a different block every year, so last year's documentaries are being turned into features, right now, some of those. Some you know films from five years ago, six years ago, are still in development and really close and people are winning grants and you know getting jobs, so what I’d like to see is the continual growth in that it's you know, creating opportunities for people with disabilities in front of him behind the camera and ultimately building people's networks and giving them a chance to screen to be proud of their art and themselves and also families, people with disabilities have just so much pride. The amount of pride from the communities, you know, we have an awareness campaign where it's a 10 day campaign where people are trying to get as many likes views and shares for their films, but they're bringing in their local network their local news their you know their families work everybody and so they're sharing and getting kicked off of Twitter and Facebook, because you know getting themselves out there, so much so. That’s just continuing to build, and I want to see that you know happened more, but you know even going back to what you were talking about before. You know all this space it's interesting because you know I’ve met you know parents that are you finding out that their child is going to be a little person and they're so scared about certain things where I’m like I don't even think about what you're like concerned about like that you know as a 38-year-old man like. I you know my wife's a little person, you know we don't know if our daughter is a little person or have a type actually because of my kind of dwarfism we won't know for a couple of years, but that's not even something where I’m like scared oh it's you know it's just that a lot of it is to just coming to terms with look it's going to be different, but accepting the situation. Because in reality many times, I think from a medical standpoint and just in general, from societal standpoint people really get nervous and it's just a lot of fear I think that kind of drives why they want to change things I don't want to have this because what will others think or they won't be able to live a normal life when reality is yeah, we will be able to live in normal life and, yes, we're going to do everything. Some things may be done a little differently, but you're still going to be able to you know, do whatever you want to do, including in the arts and so going back to what the film challenge what I hope is over the next three to five years. You know, we continue to see just great stories they've never been seen before, to which is something I’m really proud of with these films. Where we have like love stories of people with down syndrome and you know they never talked about having down syndrome or things that are a part of their downstream from it's just them, you know living their lives or you know, being a gangster being the you know romantic lead yeah just like everybody else, and so that's what I want to see more and more of. And because honestly and I think that's where we're going to see a breakout hit come from, because you know generally TV shows and movies. You know they haven't you haven't seen some of these stores or haven't seen these kinds of portrayals. So, the fact that we can do it and it's all volunteer driven, and you can use Union talent, so we've had Oscar winners take part in the film challenge. I think that we're going to see a real breakout calm and I encourage everybody to go to our YouTube channel and check out all the films, we have hundreds of films, this year we had 93 films shot from all over the world, including India, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland UK Canada. You know so it's all kinds of different interpretations. Of what disability is and many times, never addressing disability you're just seeing it. From a different accent or different way of talking or looking.


Nadine Vogel: Well, you know, Nick I always say it's not about what happens in life it's about what to do with it, that the counts and certainly you have done and continue to do amazing things and I just I can't wait for your daughter who was only five weeks old to grow up what an amazing dad she has and all the info that you are doing, I can't wait to see over the next three to five years how the film challenge grows. Because I have watched it and you’re right it's grown tremendously. And you know look you illustrate better than anyone disabled lives matter that's what this is about, first and foremost so Norma I don't have any other things you want to add but.


NORMA STANLEY: One question. Drop that is one of my favorite shows, how did you get to play in that I thought I saw every episode remember I didn't know it was you.


Nic Novicki:  Yeah yeah yeah well what was funny was I played like a kid lawyer. So, there was a whole episode about how my mom, it was funny because like this is the how Hollywood works for those of you that don't know, I was almost 30 years old, and I was playing like a kid yeah and they just kind of you know and shaved and I kind of got that kind of face. Without the beard you know if I shaved and. But this is, you know from 10 years ago or. Nine years ago, and so, basically, it was a whole episode, where I think it was called dream big or something I can't remember the name what it was it was it was all about me I kind of be in like a kid lawyer and I was like a teenager. And it was funny because one of the leads, you know we're talking, I was like yeah you know so when I was on the sopranos and they're like the sopranos how old, are you waiting to you're supposed to be like a teenager that's been off for six years.


NORMA STANLEY: Yeah, yeah, no doubt. I’ll have to go back and check that episode out.


nic novicki: Yeah yeah it was it was such a fun show to work on and josh Berman, the creator of that show he's just an unbelievable guy and really kind of created an awesome role for me and he's been supportive beyond drop dead diva he's you know, creating and working on all these other awesome shows.


Nadine Vogel: Great well this was just so amazing Nic Thank you so much for your time today and for our listeners, I know you have enjoyed this as much as Norma and I did we have big smiles on our faces although you can’t see us.


nic novicki: If you guys want to know more about what I’m doing follow me online at Nic novicki you could go at this ability film challenge or disability, some challenge COM to learn more about some of our upcoming screenings workshops, seminars.



Nadine Vogel: Excellent and, yes, you all should follow him for sure. So, with that this is Nadine Vogel another successful episode of disabled lives matter Norma Stanley my co-host.


NORMA STANLEY: Another great show.


Nadine Vogel: And Nic Novicki again Nic thank you so much, we will definitely want to have you back and hear what you're doing.


nic novicki: Arlight well, thanks so much for having me.


Nadine Vogel: Thanks, bye-bye.


NORMA STANLEY: Be blessed everybody.


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July 22, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 21

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley

Guest: Jane Fernandez

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hi I’m Nadine Vogel and I want to welcome you to today's podcast of disabled lives matter, this is not just a podcast, this is a movement and joining me in this incredible movement is my co-host, Norma Stanley.


NORMA STANLEY: Hi everybody.


Nadine Vogel: Hey Norma how are you.


NORMA STANLEY: I’m doing great how are you guys doing today.


Nadine Vogel: We are good, I am really, good because I get to join you in interviewing an old friend of mine Jane Fernandez. So, Jane is the President of Guilford college and she's the ninth President and the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university, so she totally exemplifies this issue of disabled lives matter so Jane welcome to the show.


Jane Fernandes: Thank you I’m excited to be here, look forward to talking with you.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, so tell us, I mean my gosh obviously there's a lot of history between you know you growing up going to college and becoming a college President. So, talk to us a little bit about that path that journey.


Jane Fernandes: Well, I grew up as a deaf child, and I was fortunate because I had a deaf mother who already know how to work with a deaf baby or to tell yourself that was a benefit that helped, I was very much many streamed into this world not aware of deaf world I’ve been painting my family.


Nadine Vogel: Got it.


Jane Fernandes: Went to public schools and I had support at home to really teach and really learn what's going on in school. So, I committed a lot of my time to learn how to speak read and write English. Large amount of time. And eventually, it did come to fruition. I always liked public school. I did I did fairly well, I have some interesting stories I could tell you about my school. Before I go into my career.


NORMA STANLEY: Let's hear it.


Jane Fernandes: Okay well I have a couple of stories. They show things about how the worlds not really made for deaf people. And we are always negotiatinh with the hearing world about who we are and what we're capable of.




Jane Fernandes: The world sometimes put assumptions on us and generally those assumptions hold us to a lower expectation, my feeling.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, I agree.


Jane Fernandes: They have limits. With something like speed limits. Speed limits try to have a strike safely you must slow down and follow us on that journey keeps us safe, those are good ones. But I feel that the world has put a lot of these limits on me as a deaf person on deaf people in general where they underestimate what it means to be done. So anyway, for example, I went to kindergarten in a public school near my home. I’d rather from walk to school. I was excited because I’ve never saw so many kids before. They went into the class and a few days in I got excited because we all got pencils and we were practicing handwriting. They were thick pencils we used those a long time ago. And then I saw oh they have a pencil sharpener over there on the wall and I saw people go over there, so oh so I don't know what one point in the day, I decided I’m going to go over there now, I want to sharpen my pencil. And when I turned around everyone in the class was laughing. Maybe I don't know, maybe they were just laughing but I felt like they were making fun of me I didn’t know what's going on, and I saw the teacher was stern, sit down. And I got so overwhelmed I don't know what happened exactly so that I decided to bolt I left I ran out of the class I ran out of the school, I ran home. I was crying because I didn't know what I did wrong. Everyone else sharpened the pencil but I went at the wrong time, or something. My mother, she had to calm me down and later she walked me back to school and she made it clear that that was my school. Even though it didn't feel like it was my school she told me this is your school, and you have to make it your school. In her mind you know, she knew other children all went to deaf schools separate schools for deaf students, which are fine they're good but for a decision for me, was to go to a public school right. And that had to be mine but then after that my mother got more involved in school so she helped the school understand somethings about how to do better with someone like me.


Nadine Vogel: Right, well she wanted you to focus on the hearing world, more so than the deaf world, correct.


Jane Fernandes: She did yes. I’ll talk more about that. But yes she did.


Nadine Vogel: Oh okay.


Jane Fernandes: Yes, she wanted us to focus on the hearing world. So another example, just because you brought that up. When it's short time later, maybe one or two years later we practiced different things about how to do things in the world. So she sent me to a local drugstore. I could walk home. She gave me money and she told me what to buy, I forgot.  But the goal was that I would go in and buy it get the change and come home and then no one would know I was deaf. So she taught me more to do have act, I went in the store, which person in the store by the way they look for how about you most likely to help me. And which probably wouldn’t. Okay, so anyway, I did I went, and I bought the thing I got the change I got the bag and I walked home crowd around them didn't know. But so, my mother was helping. But when I look back on it now, I wonder what was in my mind that I was happy to be something, or I appeared to be something that I wasn't. And I felt proud to be hearing or act as if I’m hearing and not so proud to be deaf. I had to hide the cover. But yes, my mother did want me to know about the hearing world she did and I'm not sorry about that. Okay I’m glad I did that, at the same time, I have a lot to do, on the other side when I realized what I had missed, and what I never knew about deaf people. That was a big loss, I had to make up, but one thing I will say in my high school in Worcester mass door high school. I went to highschool and I had some close friends. Not huge number but some close ones, and again mostly succeeded if I didn't really make everyone, I can hear you I don't know what you're sad or just go along keep everything. But one time, one of my friends was an African American girl. I’m a white girl, she was an African American girl and she's way ahead of me I remember I just followed along. We were both in the same English class. and generally, I always thought it. always got a or a minus or something generally I always got an A or -A and generally she got a B or C, generally. Well for whatever reason, we just decided to swap papers, so I wrote my paper she wrote her paper buy we swapped we put each other’s name and we sent it inn. And then the paper that she wrote, I it had my handwriting it looked like mine, I still don't match. She still got to a B or B- or something.


NORMA STANLEY: That’s interesting.


Jane Fernandes: That’s when I started to get an inkling of things going on, I didn't yet apply to me. But I understood that there are assumptions being made about people, based on attributes that we’re born with attributes human attributes and assumptions are being made about what that means. Actually, our principal. Dr john he was an African American man. He almost blew his top. We just told him what we did. And you know nowadays it would never happen, because now, they have anonymous scraping all the school they don’t see them, they just grade the paper he's very upset that what we did, and he tried to explain that, if we have some mode if about clothing something about race which really made me my friend did, but I didn’t. I didn’t have a motive that it was the wrong way to go about it. Research and go to college get a degree figure out how to work on this problem. But anyway, so that’s the reverse. Get that A that I always got it was assuming I couldn’t do something so much pity for me as a deaf person.


Nadine Vogel: Right.


Jane Fernandes: I must not be able to do it. So even then, I wasn’t doing what I was capable of doing. Whatever I was getting was based on pity and my friends with based on race. Hearing things about hearing privilege and white privilege something like that.


Nadine Vogel: Well, so I have a question, do you think that that plays into or has played into what you've created at the College, which is the edge initiatives, my understanding is the edge initiatives all but equity and things like that so how does that all relate.


Jane Fernandes: It all does relate, yes, because in the end of the day, my life is about giving access to education. Good quality education to everyone who wants to receive it. And Guilford college is a very diverse campus mixed population of students who have learning disabilities a significant population of students on the autism spectrum and wide variety of races and ethnicities. Most recently 49% of the first year class are from racial and ethnic underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. So yes, at the edge a lot of the ad was founded in equity for all students, we wanted to create more connection between the world and the classroom.


Nadine Vogel: How do you do that?


Jane Fernandes: So, one way we did, that is to create a calendar we created a three-week term, and we gave everyone in school access to a three week experience off campus. And in the past, some people might have had bad experience, but only if they could afford to pay or they could afford the time or somehow they could manage it. But most of the students couldn't afford the time or the money so they never did it. This way, we may financial resources available to everyone. And they all have experiences off campus and may not that big them an edge when they went back to class because they understood what they were learning. Liberal arts courses, for they could see the direct connection between liberal arts and real world. And with so much speculation about college degree a lot the parents don't even believe it's worth the investment that's good evidence to show that it is really worth the investment.


Nadine Vogel: Well on that note I, we do need to go to commercial break, but I know Norma that you have some burning questions so as soon as we come back, I’m going to turn it over to you to ask so stay tuned for commercial break.




Nadine Vogel: Hi this is Nadine Vogel joined by Norma Stanley my co-host on today's episode of disabled lives matter. Again, more than just a podcast, it is a movement, and let me just tell you, the world is being moved right now by Jane Fernandez. The person that we are interviewing, who is the President of Guilford college. So Norma I think you had some questions.


NORMA STANLEY: Well yeah, I mean I just love what you shared about the childhood, and I was just wondering, you know when you became an adult did you actually find it was part of your purpose to become an activist for the Deaf community. As you know, as you were pursuing becoming a building into the Education Forum and becoming a president like what you are today at Guilford college is that something that came quite a bit you wanted to become, and you know do for the Community decides what you want to do for yourself.


Jane Fernandes: Well, it started, because what I was doing for myself, for example, the first time I learned about deaf people finally the first time I learned that deaf people most deaf people sign all day it’s a visual gestural language made for them, I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa. I went to deaf clubs and I learned that I’m deaf like them, but really we're so different. And you know that we both can't hear, but we have different ways of working in our world with that. But I became fascinated with that and my understanding that really bothered with my language, if only I knew that I would have learned growing up, maybe I wouldn't have been, so I committed to activism on behalf of deaf people. Because I thought, a little bit like I was denied. The world denied me knowledge of a language that I should have known or I denied myself I don't know what, but when I learned that turned everything around and the deaf community as a whole.


NORMA STANLEY: That’s important. We were interviewing a woman this morning from the network call sign one news and there a forum or station that dedicated to making sure that the deaf community is included in the news cycle, every day, you know. Journalism and you know she was sharing how that is certainly a critical component of making sure that they get the same news, and the same way that they understand it, the way they need to hear it and communicate it and that wasn't happening, and so you know, all this innovative, you know programming that like that like Nadine was talking about edge that you guys initiative that you're working with and it takes people like us to make that happen because not everybody sees the opportunity to change or to help make change others and that's what I believe that you're trying to do with you know the programs that you're implementing.


Nadine Vogel: And Jane we're going to introduce you to the CEO. The founder and CEO of sign one news I mean the entire news station is just sign, nothing is conveyed verbally, so I mentioned you to her and I promised I was going to mention her to you. And I’m going to connect you because I think it’s important.


NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely.


Nadine Vogel: So, you know, I have a question oh go ahead, oh go ahead Jane. Ok, I have a question about you know fast forward and thinking back to your mom and everything that she did to instill this this work ethic for you educationally and to work and fight for you at a time where we did not have the laws that we have today. Whether in the education system idea or the Ada. So, as we fast forward and look at today, you know I would love to get your perspective. on how that has changed. How it's changed for not only the student or the adult with disabilities in college or working, but maybe also how you think it's changed for parents.


Jane Fernandes: It's changed a lot. I don't know, but I feel in my lifetime things for deaf people have changed profoundly. I don't know we have a sense; I have a sense that I can get a new job I’m qualified for If I’m qualified no one can say I can't have a job because I’m done right and that wasn't the case when I was 20 years old. When I was 20 years old, I was full of anxiety that I’ve would never been hired, and we were doing anything right everyone in the. room all the time because I couldn't hear it's completely change. For parents there’s alot more information now and it's a lot more neutral it's more about the parents having all the information may need to have to decide about what they want to do for their children with disabilities. Completely changed and technology of the big change as well. Because that's our communication method last level playing field exist, yes, deaf people who can read and write English, but even that's not where you are now boom. The whole time or chapter on the zoom everything about it is about access and equality.


Nadine Vogel: Right right so in the years that you have been a college President obviously people go to college to get themselves ready to become employed. So, what changes have you seen or do you still have concerns that you see about your students as they graduate getting employment.


Jane Fernandes: That is the number one priority of the students for today and for their families there's an incredible amount of pressure on the student and on college, especially on the College to show that the education we provide is practical enough to be useful in career choices. That's why the edge combines the real world, and the clash makes it clear why students go in the oil and experience, jobs and then come back and go to class metaphorically, or to man, why bed go to college. At one time, we have more of a war about death babies yeah, they would be all manual. or sun and it would never mix the two things. Spain and have that will have an implanted in them have a cochlear implant or maybe they won't. Now I think it's more about our parents knowing all the information about all the options and may decide that's best for their child and later the child can make their own decision for some of the options there. That they can always do something else if they if they wish, I don't think it will happen again remind I hope never again that someone like myself could not even know that sign language existed. And at 23 and must start. But I don't have any regrets at all worked up on.


Nadine Vogel: Right. So do you find that students do really change and switch from perhaps how they were brought up either to use sign language or not. And that through their college and life experience that you're bringing that they choose to switch for some reason or change it up in some way.


Jane Fernandes: Yes. always happen, I mean I switched from not knowing sign language. So, for years I find I’m not been good my course for years and then I came back to I can do all these things are all part of one is not better than the other doesn’t make me more deaf or less deaf. Everything is probably and I do what I want with them.


Nadine Vogel: Well, and I think that's kind of although quite different, I do think it has some similarity to a family that's bilingual or trilingual. In that they're teaching the child multiple languages and the child will determine which one becomes their primary language or that they could use all of them at some point. But actually, on that note I do want to ask the question that we have been debating and other conversations, which is why is sign language not offered at least generally speaking in undergrad you know in high school and junior high school they offer Spanish and French and why isn't sign language, a core offering for language I don't understand.


Jane Fernandes: So that is my dream. I wish, I don't know how to do it, maybe the US Department of Education would pass a bill that everyone in every public school in the US alone sign language and culture say grade 3, grade 8, grade 12. Some people will not have any money not really like it up, they will be hurt by take my beloved son with our terms with them yeah. And, but everyone would know everyone would not have to go oh, she’s deaf. Everyone wants to be a community so public schools should teach our students about that, and I often think about that. We teach French, we teach German, those aren’t American language. I don't mean to be America is the best but that's our people were speaking time right people and our times speaking an American language and have an American culture that's different than the majority and, most of us don't even know they’re there. So, to have the Community dedicated to being quality and individualism I wish that we would teach more people about that why it doesn't happen I’m not sure I’m not sure why that doesn't happen.


Nadine Vogel: Because I think.


Jane Fernandes: Deaf people I don't know the low incidence I don't know.


Nadine Vogel: The fact that it doesn't happen to me is bothersome because it undermines what we're saying that disabled lives matter. Right, no matter what the disability, because if you if you know, to me, if someone is not willing to learn how to communicate. Then they don't think you matter then they don't think you matter enough to do that and that's bothersome you know at springboard at my company as an example, our business cards my business cards are brail. And we get asked all the time, oh, you know you must have someone who works in the organization, who needs reads brail. I said no, but I never know who I’m going to meet. That doesn't need that right, it goes back to your education is it's about equity and it's about equality, and when I think people don't understand is equality to me anyway, is not about treating everyone the same. it's about giving everyone the same ability to be successful right, and I know you shaking your head, I mean, so I guess you agree with that.


Jane Fernandes: Yeah, I agree with that completely. It's not about on everyone speaking English, so does all deaf people speak English because that's what we speak here right that we have a language that the American sign language. That helps us have access to information and knowledge, and we have ways that we can use that to gain equal role in society and be engaged citizen, as everyone had the right to be and should be.


Nadine Vogel: So, I know we're about out of time, but I do have one more question and I think normal, you may have as well, which is. How have you or have you been able to use your position with your colleagues, Presidents of other colleges and universities to kind of come around. And to understand the importance of people with disabilities at their schools and for mainstreaming them within their universities have you been able to do that.


Jane Fernandes: Well, I’ve done it on a small-scale small scale, because the work that Guilford does with students who have learning disabilities and on the autism spectrum that is probably unknown not very well known, but very, very astonishing. Basically, my students are just being themselves we are not about changing anything, and we accept who they are. But we provide them support and many of them are change, they transform while they're at the school and very successful after school. But it's sort of a I don't know it's a personal or a deeply help out and it's not about making and it's not like you're making a movement right.


Nadine Vogel: Right.


Jane Fernandes: You’re good at the movement. I’m so onboard with your movement.


Nadine Vogel: So important oh my gosh. Norma, I know we’re running out of time but is there anything else you’d like to ask.


NORMA STANLEY: I was just wondering; you know if there are any corporations that may be working with some of the graduates of your school that you might want to you know anyone that you see they're really trying to include the deaf community as a look for hires, are there any companies, you might want to recognize or you know mention or you know do you get any of that attention from companies.


Jane Fernandes: I could, I have to think about that, but yes sure I can think of some corporations and companies in Greensboro North Carolina with whom I work that have been helpful in the employment. I'm on the board of industries for the Blind solutions and Winston Salem. And we work with Guilford, and I work together to provide education for blind people at the IFP and we are developing a program started with just a class one class and one of my other classes class the last day of class on her own sort of a diploma. I will now we're talking about having the students come to your admin role as. The constraints that awesome yeah. I think I could get back to you with some of the corporations.


Nadine Vogel: Right that's really important well Jane Thank you so very much. Unfortunately we are out of time this half hour I just flew. But we absolutely cannot let so much time pass this time until we speak again, I definitely am going to introduce you to Sign one TV and talk to you more about some other opportunities, so thank you, we wish you all the best. Keep going with Guilford doing great work and we will talk soon, this is Nadine Vogel signing off along with my co-host my partner in crime. Norma Stanley on Disabled Lives Matter.



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July 12, 2021

Disabled Lives Matter

Season 1, Episode 19

Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanely

Guest: Karen Graham

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley... yay!

Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone, this is Nadine Vogel coming to you from disabled lives matters podcast and I am joined by my co-host who just returned from a trip to Vegas.


Norma Stanley: Hello everybody, hope everybody is well.


Nadine Vogel: So, Norma, did you have a good time in Vegas?


Norma Stanley: I really did I was very thankful for the opportunity I got to visit my niece and her horses she trains, and you know it was just a very quiet vacation, which is what I needed.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah no, absolutely and I’m curious you know for Sierra for your daughter, how was it from an accessibility stand.


Norma Stanley: Well, there was challenges there. That was her first time going to Vegas and it was just now opening back up, so there were areas where you know I don't know how long you’ve been there, but there are spots with you can walk and then you have to go, what do you call those things.


Nadine Vogel: Bridges.


Norma Stanley: Yeah, those things. The elevators weren't working. In a couple of situations, so I turned around. So, that was not happy, I wasn't happy, so I am going to be writing an article about that, because a lot of people, a lot of seniors there with wheelchairs. And even if even if you could go up the stairs there are like three flights of stairs it's tiring for older people, you know, and we just really need to stay on top of that. They say they didn’t have that problem before, but the fact is it's happened to me twice, while I was there.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, that's not good. I want to see some social media, I want to see some articles.


Norma Stanley: Yeah, I’m putting something together because I was not happy. But other than that, it was great.


Nadine Vogel: Okay, well good. Well, this podcast as we always say is more than just a podcast it's a movement and to help us lead this movement today is Karen Graham. Karen is a 20-year broadcast journalist, Karen, I think you started when you were two. And co-founder and CEO of sign one news so welcome to the show and Karen.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Thank you so much it's my pleasure.


Nadine Vogel: Wow I have you know what I don't even know where to begin, because I have so many questions to ask. Norma do you want to get started for us today.


Norma Stanley: I just kind of want to get an understanding of what incentivized you to start sign or news. How did that come about? Was it something that ou had in terms of a family relationship, because sometimes we get motivation to do this because of a personal situation, how did you get started?


Nadine Vogel: And before that Karen just, what is sign one news.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Well, first thank you both. Sign one news is a digital news network for deaf and hard of hearing viewers all over the world. That's it in a nutshell. We're cloud based, you could reach us if you got a social media platform, we're on them we're everywhere we're in 45 countries. And the staffing is majority death, even though we are technically a hearing company. The majority of my staff is deaf, and I wanted to make sure that was the case when I started the company so basically the news that you see we're doing the exact same thing, just an American sign language that’s it.


Nadine Vogel: Love it.


Norma Stanley: How did that get started, like, why did you feel the need to do that.


Karen Graham Sign1News: How much time you got.


Nadine Vogel: We got some time babe.


Karen Graham Sign1News: No, I’m going to give you the short version I had, I can say had now, I had no entry into the disability Community before I started sign one news I have no deaf family members, I’m going to just again truncate it and say God told me to do it, and a lot of people say that I’ve heard a lot of deaf people say oh yeah we've heard 1000 times. You that, and you know, but in this case, it was it was true I knew that I had a gift to give which was broadcasting. My co CEO Jabari Butler he's not here, he has technical knowledge that was beyond even what was being put out there now. And we brought those two forces together and decided to just create this platform and say here deaf Community we're here, take everything we've got you become the stars me being on this podcast quite honestly, I think it's just third time I’ve been on camera since I’ve started this company. Because it's not it's not about me it really isn't it's about the face of the Deaf community and empowerment. And that's what we've done our, I'm going to say our anchors are superstars now. They are, they are household names, they have covered some of the biggest events in the world super bowls, nascar, political debates, they have been toe to toe and a lot of people say to me well. Why don't you become a nonprofit and I said well nonprofits fine we may do that, eventually, but I want it my staff to stand toe to toe with my colleagues. I didn’t want that to be well let’s have the nonprofit def group come in and  interview, no, no, no, no, no I’ve seen my photographer goes toe to toe with shoulder to shoulder with other photographers trying to get that shot I’ve seen my anchors throw their question in in what we call a scrum where questions are flying and right there on the front and I wanted them to be seen as journalists. Not deaf journalists, journalists. And that's what has happened I’m so proud so proud.


Nadine Vogel: You know I'm so excited to hear that. When I started Springboard my company 16 plus years ago and people heard it was around disability everybody asked me the same question, they said oh it's a nonprofit, I was like no. I want disability to be as important as any other thing.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Come on Nadine, yes.


Nadine Vogel: So I’m like bring it on babe. Bring it on. I completely understand, and I remember people looking at me like I had four heads like well that’s not going to make sense.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Nadine, I found my tribe. I found my tribe.


Nadine Vogel: How is it ever going to make money, how is anybody else like you let me worry about that right.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Yes, and it hasn't been an easy journey, no, it has not been. it's worth the fight it's worth and we're making headway we're making headway.


Nadine Vogel: Well, you know something that actually Norma, I think you know, in the next couple of weeks, one of our shows we're going to be interviewing Jane Fernandez, and if you don't know Jane you need to know her. She’s the President of Guilford college and she is deaf and so, if you don't know how I want to introduce it. Cause she would be an amazing guest on your show.


Karen Graham Sign1News: And see now switching to my reporter had that name again Jane Fernandez, possible interview.


Nadine Vogel: Yes, I’m going to send you the email but let's talk about that, because I think people need to understand your background, so you know, Norma asked why you started this. But it wasn't like you know you were working in the mailroom and suddenly decided, I mean you got you got some chops here, can you share some of that with us.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Again, I'm a 20-year journalist in news sports and Infotainment as we call it, I was a host of good day Atlanta in Atlanta Georgia before I left to start this network, I have three Emmy awards and so to the point. I was very well, I had a really good job I did not have to go, I could have basically just killed over the anchor desk, and I would have been you know fine I would have been a great career. But God was calling me again to do something different, and the call was very loud, and I could have saved, but it would have it would have ripped my spirit, if I had done that. If you watch very closely the last six months of my time on TV, my friends who know me know that I was torn because my body was on the set. But my mind spirit and soul was already at sign one news I had already left the building, if you will, and already creating an idea eating this this this thing that was just being born and had never been done before, so I had no blueprint, we were the blueprint yeah all of my heart was in that, and I was I couldn't have stayed I would have been I couldn't I at all of my being was in this space over here and I was just and I can't do anything if I if it's not with passion.


Nadine Vogel: Yep.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Well, I figure it's not fair to the audience, who was watching me that Karen, you’re phoning it, you’re phoning it in. No, you need to go you're being called to go and do that thing and so yeah, I did walk away from a lucrative career um but sometimes it's great to make a living, but sometimes it's better to live and feel alive and I felt alive doing this and I wasn't alive and everything so.


Nadine Vogel: You know I what I’m hearing is do that which others can do won't do or don't know how to do, right, and you just threw it together, I’m, wow. Now you yourself know sign language.


Karen Graham Sign1News: I do, if you asked me why I don't know I honestly, you've got this weird guest, that I have no idea why I’m fluent in the language, I have no idea why I understand the language I had no exposure to it coming up. But, again, I said ok God I’ll take I’ll take some courses that was like 12 years ago I’ll take some courses if a just a quiet. And so, the very first class I’ll never forget it my professor, who was death was signing away and I’m not in appropriately in the right places and I’m laughing at the right spots, and he looked at me strange and he signed you understand me I’m like yeah, I do and I have no idea why, there we go there. I guess it was another gift the hidden talent, that I had and that's when I eventually became just immersed in the deaf community, and now I had yes, now I have tons of deaf friends and family. I found a family member, I literally found a long-lost cousin like three generations down, we were chatting and chatting, and he goes your last name is what I’m like my family's last name is it you live, where. You’re my cousin. So, technically I have debt family members, now, so I didn't know.


Nadine Vogel: That’s pretty cool and it’s interesting, I have a pet peeve and love to know what you think about it, which is that. You know when kids are in school and they're taught foreign language to given a choice of like Spanish, Italian, German, whatever I’ve never seen sign language as a language being offered I don't know if in Atlanta you see it different I’ve not seen it at all, no.


Karen Graham Sign1News: But I do know that a lot of people that I meet who said oh I love sign language I learned it as a kid. It's not an official Lee taught language and in classes, but somewhere someone's exposed to it in schools yeah so, I’m not sure how that but that's where a lot of if you asked a lot of interpreters. It’s like, I was exposed to it in school, and it was maybe what and, for me the same thing was one guy signed something when I was in the third grade and I think that's where the seed is planted, but I think to your point I would love to see that movement. As an elective like Spanish and French, and you know German I’d love to see it.


Nadine Vogel: Well maybe sign one news could.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Okay, alright, here we go thanks.


Nadine Vogel: The instigator.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Now I’m going to have to focus my brain just literally just took a right turn, let me see how to make that happen.


Nadine Vogel: I’m gonna volunteer Norma and she's like you need to you know find one or two schools, that would say yeah we'll do it, maybe sign one.


Norma Stanley: Absolutely I’m sure we can find some schools or something.


Nadine Vogel: You create a model, that others can follow.


Norma Stanley: I think that's a great idea I think it's something that the younger they start, the better. After me, I will use our students with disabilities, whatever they are to others and hold in terms of opportunity.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Okay, this is a sign for you just blew my mind.


Norma Stanley: So much happened that needs to be done.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Our mission is to be a pipeline for schools to be a pipeline for young people to employment, eventually, because that's our job if you know the numbers, if you read the studies. I’m sure disability numbers, but in that number the unemployment number for the Deaf community is like 80% it’s just ridiculously high. So, granted we're just a small wheel in this thing, but we want to make a pipeline to employment. That would ideal.


Norma Stanley: That would be awesome.


Karen Graham Sign1News: I’ll be sure to attribute when I'm talking about this story in about five years when we get started, thanks to Nadine and Norma.


Nadine Vogel: It can’t wait five years baby. 2022, I want to see the first one.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Goal setting. My other thing.


Nadine Vogel: You and I are kindred spirits. And you graduated from university of South Florida right.


Karen Graham Sign1News: I got my masters from the University of South Florida my undergrad was from Vanderbilt university.


Nadine Vogel: I went to USF my first two years of college.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Wow. I love the connections of a small world. Yes, you’re a south Florida Bull. I lived in Tampa That was where I started my television career, I’m in. Florida, with TV channel 13.


Nadine Vogel: Very cool all right well on that note, we are going to go to commercial break and then we are going to come back with the amazing the amazing guest that we have today Karen Graham and hear more about Sign One News.

Voiceover: And now, it’s time for a commercial break.



Hi I’m here to talk to you about springboard 20 21/7 annual disability correct form save the date it’s happening Tuesday, September 14 via live stream you know we take the phrase we are better together why because together we can achieve change especially since this forum focuses on the intersexuality of persons with disabilities the LGBTQ I a plus community and veterans the major issues impacting these constituents and more so join us for the conversation again the 2021 disability connect forum live stream Tuesday, September 14 learn more purchase a ticket and register visit www.consultspringboard.com front/2021-disability-connect front/#WelcomeCan’tWaitToSeeYouThere


Voiceover: And now, back to our show.


Nadine Vogel: Hello Hello, this is Nadine Vogel and I am back on today's episode of disabled lives matter with my cohost the wonderful Norma Stanley.


Norma Stanley: Hey everybody.


Nadine Vogel: And we are interviewing another wonderful lady Karen Graham CEO of sign one news so Norma, take it away.


Norma Stanley: Well, you know we recently had one of your anchor’s martha anger on our show, and that was really a learning and teaching moment for us because we're trying to communicate with her and we didn't know sign and we were having to depend on the captions to be able to answer, and so, how do you, you know, in terms of making sure, and if communicating to others who are working with the deaf community, what are the keys that that you know just basic information that you have to have that you should always have when you're when you're communicating with people who are deaf, I mean companies are still not really there. In terms of communicating internal staff that may you know may need that assistance, much less those who have tried to talk to externally, what recommendations would you make.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Higher and interpret. That really is that's The bottom line, and I do want to share this story with you because you bring up an interesting point. Just as the Covid vaccine was hitting the world, and there were press conferences all over people were doing press conferences all over from different TV stations. As a CNN affiliate we have access to just feeds people doing press conferences about everything, and so we were piping this information into our network, because it was vital. Here's what was happening, and you know this already so there would be this great big wide shot there's an interpreter standing in front of the rooms like great and the photographer would just zoom in and crop out the interpreter, to which I was like  can I get the assignment desk for who W H TV. Please, can you please tell your photographer and did that 1000 times to just please don't crop out the interpreter. No disrespect to the photographer because they don't know they just want to quick shot and that great shot is like just the one person talking about who's that strange person standing on the side. I literally made that call 1000 times, I was very nice about it, although inside I was deeming that here's, the world is being informed about something that was so new and so tragic and had us all on our heels, and yet one population was left out. So, you know, eventually, though you if you notice, you see more and more interpreter staying in the frame I’m not going to take credit for that, however, there are several newsrooms are like please don't let that woman call again. If there's an interpreter in the room, I do not want to hear that woman's voice again, because I called incessantly and so it’s just awareness. It's just awareness just know that if there's an interpreter in the room they're there for a reason. they're there to make sure access is for everyone, everyone so just FYI be aware, if you're a company, and you know you have diversity, when it comes to language accessibility just be aware of it don't be like this and just not paying attention and then Oh well.


Nadine Vogel: Otherwise, you know, otherwise what happens is it's almost like you know you know when you go to a conference like the voice of God, like where's the voice coming from right, you know I mean it's just you must see who is communicating and that person is part of the communication.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Correct exactly.


Norma Stanley: And that is part of what we have to do as advocates basically is educate enlighten so that you know community can be an hour and a lot of companies doing it right and that it just missing out on pockets of the Community.


Karen Graham Sign1News: And let me applaud you ladies to because I’m gonna tell everybody what you did before we came on air they said, make sure captions on, and I was like thank you. It’s something as simple as that, if you don't have an interpreter and you're doing video just make sure the captions on that's it that's another viable option what we learned with fine when news is, as we did a little secret survey, we asked our audience, would you prefer asl would you prefer captioning. 100% they were like we prefer signing that's our first language is signing but but don't take anything away we would rather have something versus nothing night. But if English is not, I think I don't think a lot of people understand this, English and asl are not the same they're completely different languages, completely different grammatical structure is completely different rules. Right and so it's like I know, Spanish and I could pick out a few words, and I know I know what you're saying, but comprehension, is what I would be missing and that’s like captioning.  I understand English words, but do I know what they need, that’s kind of the same concept as ASL. I know English when I see it, but the complete understanding I’m not so sure if asl is your first language, so I was grateful to have, bottom line I was just grateful that you had captioning I was so happy to see it.


Nadine Vogel: Well, and I think that people don't realize, you know about captioning that it's, not just for someone who may be deaf but someone who English is not their first language. For speaking in English more if someone is aging and has slower processing or learning disability or you can get transcripts, I mean there's so many benefits to captioning. That you know it's like.


Karen Graham Sign1News Also, if you see captioning it looks like basically a puppy is on a keyboard sometimes no offense against captures but sometimes it's like that's not what we say it's just grabbing mess exactly it's like oh my gosh.


Nadine Vogel: No that's and that's important because, like when springboard has our big conferences, we don't use auto captioning we have a caption or that has worked with us for 15 years and knows disability like knows the disability language. Yes, in and out so this way it's accurate right, because otherwise it's just gibberish.


Norma Stanley: Yeah, you see something on TV when the when the captions that’s not what that person said. It's really interesting what they hear as the typing the information.


Nadine Vogel: Right, it’s almost more accurate to just read the lips. It is a challenge, so let me ask you this, for those out there that want to be in this business in the entertainment business front of camera behind camera production doesn't matter. How do they get to you how do they learn more and how did they tell others about what you're doing to say see you can hire me.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Yes, yes, well, we have all well you know we have a contact me, and you can always send us a video. But here's what I found, which is very interesting when I started the network, I went in taking the model of how I got into television and applied it to this new platform, but it did not work, Nadine. Because I had before we launched, we did a nationwide search for talent, we wanted, you know. At least a year of college you wanted strong, basically pulled list of stuff that's over here yeah, my three anchors that I hired out of the gate had none of those things, not one, but they were phenomenal. And so that's when I realized that what was on paper that didn't translate to what's on the screen.


Nadine Vogel: Right.


Karen Graham Sign1News: So, there are a lot of people with that raw natural talent, who know how to tell a story, who can see the news see it see it in English, you do have to have some strong English because you have to translate from English to asl and so to read it a news copy story and say got it and put it out asl that's what that's the strength you can't wait where is that, where do you learn that in school.


Nadine Vogel: Yeah, because, because even though. You know it's more difficult for individuals with disabilities get internships and things like that to your point who's teaching that.


Karen Graham Sign1News: And so, we basically taught our team from the ground up to so that they became who they are. So, we don't have an official hiring right now, because we're full and we're still recovering from covid right now, like the rest of the world we're coming back to full strength. But we're looking always looking for watching always looking for raw talent. And, and a lot of it is someone who knows, someone. So it's really not on call it's hey I’ve got a friend who's pretty good if you trust that person and their personality type rating likely that they are birds of a feather flock together, and so, of the team that we have that's what happened, I know her, and then I know him and I know him and that's how we hired and it was great.


Nadine Vogel: But you know it's interesting for me so I’m starting to think about veterans and veteran employment. There has been and continues to be, this issue of if we have a veteran and let's see served in the field artillery. And now they're going into the private sector HR has difficulty understanding how does that works first. How does that translate to whatever this job is, and you always need to translate? And what I’m hearing you say is I think what the entertainment industry needs some of is exactly that is how do we take these individuals who may not necessarily appear like there's a match right and figure out what you know how we convert what it is they can do that raw talent to this. And I’m sure that that's not easy at all I’m just giving you something else to think about to do but.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Page two now of my notes.


Nadine Vogel: Well, because you know, again we work a lot with the entertainment industry, and I see so much of what's missing, and this is another piece, and this piece specifically is not addressed in anything that I can think of.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Exactly and as someone who, who is in the entertainment field you've heard the term before that X factor it's just something you can't put your finger on it. Again, on paper, but when you. see it, you know it it's that simple pow, Norma when I met you, it was at a school when mark and I first met you, I believe it was. And there was a young man I forgot his name, he's an amazing entertainer Do you know what I’m talking about.


Norma Stanley: It was probably the show ability.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Yes, Show ability, he had that thing I couldn't take my eyes off of him he was like a headliner. So, that's what we look for that thing where you’re good, you’re a natural. 


Norma Stanley: You’re probably thinking of Delvis.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Yes, that’s him.


Norma Stanley: Yeah, he takes on that personality So yes, yes, definitely has that thing, whatever that is.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Whatever it is that's what we look for yeah.


Nadine Vogel: I think that's amazing I mean I’m just hoping that through DLM through disabled lives matter, we can really promote what you're doing even more, you know I recall I don't this is goes back many years I don't know if this still exists, but there was something called deaf chat coffee. And it started in Seattle, where a group of individuals who are deaf wanted to form a social network and how they did it is they met at local Starbucks. So, they could communicate via signing and it started there but it expanded to many cities throughout like the Northwest I don't know where it went from there, but it's my understanding that it really influenced Starbucks to start having baristas.


Karen Graham Sign1News: The signing store in Washington DC, wow.


Nadine Vogel: So, it just you know it's just interesting how one thing leads to another without even necessarily realizing. That you're going to have so, I’m really excited about it yeah, what do you see what's your what's your next you know 1-to-3-year horizon.


Karen Graham Sign1News: We’ve got a lot, it’s huge. Again, for Proprietary reasons I can't but again we keep creating things that don't exist and we're doing it we're about to do it again something like this did not exist before people have been doing def news for years. But as a network affiliation that it never been done before right so and to be on these digital platforms that we're on now, and now we're about to do it again in a different space. I will tell you it is in the entertainment world and again never been done before so.


Nadine Vogel: Well, I’m going to hopefully try to help you with that, so I have a few TV shows that I have and work with the network so I’m going to follow up with you/


Karen Graham Sign1News: Well, yes, we're gonna chat offline definitely for sure. And I encourage everyone to please just follow us download our APP if you have if you can we do persist on the kindness of strangers, and so, if you'd like to the APP is $1.99. You can watch us for free, I mean that's that we can, but if you'd like to contribute, that would be great we'd appreciate.


Nadine Vogel: So tell us all, we want to, we want to promote the heck out of you. People want to find you what's the best give us a website, give us a phone number give us something.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Everything sign one news, Sign1News/Facebook, Sign1News Twitter, Sign1News.com Instagram, Sign1News website


Nadine Vogel: And the number one or spelled out.


Karen Graham Sign1News: It’s the number one good. Thank you, it is the number one so that's S I G N 1 NEWS, is our website that's where you can go if you just like to say hey, we love what you're doing and contribute financially would appreciate that. You can also download our APP we're in the APP store and the Google play store again, you can watch our content free. But you can also. pay for the APP if you'd like just to help.


Nadine Vogel: Well, I love this I mean you clearly, clearly illustrate disabled lives do matter and that's all about Norma anything else you want to add or ask.


Norma Stanley: I’m just so excited that we get a chance to finally talk with you and looking forward to connecting and seeing how we can work together and make sure that everybody is included in this whole process that we call life.


Nadine Vogel: Absolutely well for disabled lives matter podcast this is Nadine Vogel, wanted to say thank you Karen, thank you for everything you're doing this was so exciting chatting with you. Norma, as always, my amazing cohost, love doing this with you. Thank you so much.


Norma Stanley: Thank you.


Nadine Vogel: And we will see everyone on the next episode bye everybody.


Norma Stanley: Thanks, talk to you soon Karen.


Karen Graham Sign1News: Bye.


Closing comment: [Music playing in background.] Thank you for listening to this week's episode of disabled lives matter. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday.  Have a great week!

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advise and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter's site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or Listen Device.



July 1, 2021

transcript coming soon

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