Why Austin Makes the List as a Top Deaf-Friendly City

Overview of Austin

Located in the foothills of central Texas, Austin is the capital city of Texas. This once slow-paced town has blossomed into a bustling metro area in the last couple of decades. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates rank Austin 11th among the most densely populated cities in the U.S., with close to 2 million residents in the greater Austin area. People have been moving here in increasing numbers for several reasons, including the low cost of living, great music scene, ample job opportunities, high quality of life, great food, and low crime rates. Additionally, Austin is a mecca for entrepreneurs and start-ups, particularly in the tech space. Moonraker SEO, a local Austin search optimization company says that the youthful energy of the city makes it a great place to do business. Austin indeed has been the perfect incubator for a long list of start-ups including Main Street Hub, Indeed, SpiceWorks, and Sparefoot.

Austin's residents love getting outside and spending time in nature. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities, like hiking on the Barton Creek Greenbelt pictured here.
Austin’s residents love getting outside and spending time in nature. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities, like hiking on the Barton Creek Greenbelt pictured here.

If these reasons weren’t enough to make you want to pack up your house and move to Austin, this bustling city also ranks among the top deaf-friendly cities in the nation. Here’s a look at why:

1. Home to Texas School for the Deaf

Not only is Austin a great place to do business, it’s also a great place to attend school, with several exceptional educational institutions geared towards the deaf community. A stand out among them is the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), a pioneer public school located in Austin that has served deaf pupils and students since 1857. TSD has programs for infants all the way through high schoolers, and offers some students the opportunity to live on-campus.

2. Accessibility for All Residents

The City of Austin strives to make Austin the ideal place for deaf persons to live and work. This is evidenced by the number of creative accessibility programs made available by the government for deaf residents. Here are a few examples:

  • Tours through the Austin Visitor Center: One incredible example is Austin Visitor Center, which makes a video screen and GPS Ranger available to deaf visitors wishing to take a walking tour. With these helpful aids, visitors can get information on more than 25 notable locations throughout the city.
  • The Austin Airport: The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has TTYs, visual stands, and visual paging to relay messages to hearing impaired passengers. In addition, the airport has plans of installing videophones this Spring.
  • City Streets: City planners also installed call boxes and flashing signals throughout the city to inform deaf drivers of what lies ahead.
  • Government Employment: Most state, federal, and city government jobs are accessible to deaf individuals. A good number of deaf persons work for the State of Texas, local postal service offices, the IRS, Travis County Services for the Deaf, and other governmental organizations.

3. An Embracing Community

For the most part, the Austin community is warm and welcoming to everyone. There’s a general sense of inclusion across the city, especially when it comes to accommodating the needs of the deaf community. A great example of this is the huge plasma screen installed in the football stadium at the University of Texas. On game day, this screen displays captions so hearing impaired fans can get important updates just like everyone else.

UT's Darrell K. Royal Stadium has closed captioning on the jumbotron.
UT’s Darrell K. Royal Stadium has closed captioning on the jumbotron.

4. Several Ways to Get Involved

Austin is also home to several deaf organizations, which makes it easy to get involved with other members of the community. One such organization is the Austin Association of the Deaf. The association was established in 1946 with a purpose of providing educational, fellowship, and recreational opportunities. This is a great way to network and socialize within the community.

Other organizations include Texas Society of Interpreters for the Deaf, which has been offering interpretation services for over 40 years and the Deaf-Blind Service Center of Austin (DBSC).

 

In short, we couldn’t agree more that Austin is deaf-friendly city! If you’re considering moving here, you won’t be disappointed by what it has to offer.

 

Best Resources for Mastering American Sign Language

Learning American Sign Language or ASL is just like learning any new language. It takes time, effort, and repetition to master the vocabulary needed to communicate effectively. Luckily there are a vast number of resources and available information on ASL to help you become fluent. From modern methods that embrace technology to traditional techniques that use proven methods, you are sure to find a resource or two that will meet your needs.

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Modern Learning Resources

Modern technology has brought us some great resources for learning languages, and American Sign Language is no exception. Using online sources and mobile apps can help you learn and practice ASL.

  • Online: From websites to ASL blogs to YouTube channels, there is a ton of information online dedicated to helping you achieve mastery. A huge number of videos exist, covering everything from the alphabet to basic communication to advanced vocabulary. Check out YouTube channels like this one or search for ASL on YouTube.
  • Mobile: There are many free and paid apps available on both Android and iPhone platforms to help you learn ASL. You can choose from top-rated apps like ProDeaf Translator, ASL Fingerspelling, and more. With options ranging from visual dictionaries to interactive quizzes, you’re sure to find something that will appeal to your learning style. Plus, apps let you take your learning with you, so you are more likely to find time to work on it.

Traditional Learning Methods

If you’re looking for a more traditional resource for mastering ASL, taking classes or reading books on the subject might be what you’re looking for.

  • Classes: A variety of venues offer classes on American Sign Language. Colleges, community programs, and training programs are available in most major cities. Classes offer an opportunity to learn from a qualified instructor and collaborate with other learners. For help finding a class, check out the National Association of the Deaf’s
  • Books: There are also a lot of ASL books available in both print versions and as e-books. As a bonus, look for a book that comes with a DVD, so you get a chance to see the associated movements. The website Start American Sign Language has put together a list of their favorite ASL learning books.

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Social Learning Options

With any language, studying alone will only take you so far with ASL. As you increase your vocabulary and build fluency, it is important to find opportunities to test out your skills in the real world. Social learning options can help you accomplish this goal. You can use several methods to find a practice partner.

  • Using Social Media: Social networking sites give you the opportunity to connect with a larger group of people. On many sites, it is possible to join groups based on similar interests, and you can find many groups on ASL. Both Facebook and Google+ offer groups like these where you are sure to meet someone you can work with ASL on via video messaging.
  • In-Person Options: You can also meet people local to you to practice your ASL skills with. Look for a study buddy at a local ASL class, attend events frequented by the deaf community, or try volunteering with someone just beginning to learn ASL.

 

Latest on Ivy v. Morath: SCOTUS to Hear Important Disability Case

As states increasingly use private companies to provide public services, conflicts and questions have come up about the extent to which federal laws and regulations apply to these service providers. One Texas case related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is on the SCOTUS docket and may hold private entities more accountable for meeting federal requirements throughout the United States.

Background of the Case

In Texas, all applicants for a driver’s license who are under 25 must present a certificate from a private driving school. Texas driving schools must be accredited by the Texas Education Agency to issue these certificates. The lead plaintiff, Donnika Ivy, is a deaf woman who was unable to obtain a certificate because the driving schools she contacted were unwilling to accommodate her. The Texas Education Agency argued that short of a Department of Justice action requiring them to enforce ADA requirements against driving schools, they were not obligated to as there was no contractual relationship between the agency and the driving schools.

The Case

Ivy and other plaintiffs filed suit in federal court. Texas moved to dismiss the case, with the court overruling the motion but allowing the state to appeal. An interlocutory appeal by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling. The appellate court noted that because the driving schools were not a “service, program, or activity” of the state agency, the ADA could not be applied. Ivy and the other plaintiffs have appealed to the Supreme Court, and arguments are scheduled for November 7, 2016.

The Issues

The court’s decision in this case may prove to be a watershed moment for disability rights in Texas and the rest of the country. The plaintiffs believe that they were unfairly treated by the state which would not provide sign language interpreters free of charge. The state responded that they were under no obligation to do so since the driving schools were not contractors. The phrase “service, program, or activity” that is at the heart of the case comes from Title II of the ADA, which prohibits the disabled from being excluded from government programs or services because of their disability.

In their 2-1 decision, the court of appeals argued that the fact that the driving schools were state-regulated did not mean that they were required to abide by the ADA. Moreover, they expressed concern that applying the ADA to them could open the unintended consequence of applying the ADA to all regulated industries. Supporters of the plaintiff, on the other hand, argue that the driving schools would not exist were it not for the TEA, even in the absence of an express contract.

The Court’s Decision

The decision of the SCOTUS will revolve around this central question of whether the express contract is necessary to meet the standard of a “service, program, or activity.” The case may have wide-ranging implications for many industries that have some relationship with government programs or mandates.