Saturday, June 20, 2009

Results from the march, June 16

Our Deaf Rights march, which had been a long overdue, finally happened and effectively has awakened the Houston Deaf Community and its surroundings that we can voice our needs and address our lack of accessibility-related issues with a local government board like City of Houston.

The march went peacefully and well cooperative with Houston Police Department – Criminal Intelligence Division, who met with us at the starting of our march. They sent us one police officer in a police car followed us while on a track of marching for our protection.

About 45 of us were involved in our cause this past Tuesday, June 16 (many deaf individuals of diverse colors, two professional interpreters (bless their hearts for supporting us), two deaf individuals from Austin, a deaf couple from College Station, one deaf individual from Texas City, a hearing mother of a deaf adult son, ASL/ITP students, a social worker for the deaf, and friends). At least five of deaf individuals, who experienced discrimination by the city services including HPD and municipal courts, were there. While we marched, we learned that a new case has been filed with Department of Justice against HPD by another deaf individual.

When we arrived at City Hall as an end of our march, there were about 10 more people to join us before we entered the city council meeting. One participant, who was an ITTP student, brought us one Starbuck’s “keg” of iced tea and another one “keg” of iced coffee while we waited outside City Hall before the meeting started.

Not only our issues with the city had been successfully addressed and heard by the city council members, but also this cause had been empowered many deaf and hard of hearing individuals, who were involved in the action.

When we attended a city council meeting, we learned that June 16, the day that we marched, was the city mayor’s birthday! That’s so ironic.

Our spokesperson for our deaf community, who is deaf, was Danny Warthling, one of our co-leaders of the June 16 march. The issues that had been delivered to the city council were 1) a brief re-introduction of the 1998 Department of Justice settlements, 2) Deaf citizens have ongoing complaints that our law enforcement routinely failed to provide effective communication, 3) municipal courts routinely rescheduled 2nd, 3rd, or 4th because of no interpreter, which cost the deaf citizens’ work time 4) City of Houston’s 311 service is not accessible to Videophone users, CapTel users, or TTY users, 5) the city’s emergency preparedness not adequately meet Houston Deaf Community’s diverse modes of communication, 6) things we wanted done from them are a) have HPD and City of Houston review the 1998 DOJ settlements at least once every year, b) ADA/cultural sensitivity on deaf/hard of hearing with qualified instructors becoming a part of Police Academy’s curriculum, and c) we want a deaf person to be on board of City of Houston.

Immediately after the city council meeting, several city council members came to us, and wanted to have a meeting with us to discuss our issues. One of them claimed that she has a hard of hearing Houstonian cousin, who was among the participants of our cause.

Unfortunately, no media showed up, even though several medial companies had been contacted about our cause. We had no idea why none chose not to show up.

We plan to have a post-march meeting sometime for a follow up in July. Anyone is welcome to join us, regardless of an “agreement” status.

Our march was fairly small, but it was successfully out of a first step. For a long time, many deaf citizens or individuals routinely complained about a lack of accessibility provided by a local government or law enforcement, but we either did not know what to do about these complaints or simply ignored them because we were afraid to express them. Some of us filed a complaint with a local legal assistance organization or Department of Justice, but the problem is that is not enough. A large number of filing complaints by deaf and hard of hearing individuals or having our Deaf community involved in an action like an ongoing march or constantly addressing issues to a local government is a key to improve their communication accessibility to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Like most of you already have heard, two deaf individuals had filed a lawsuit with Department of Justice, National Association of the Deaf, and Advocacy, Inc. against City of Houston especially law enforcement and municipal courts. (link at Why was it not effective enough for the City of Houston? It takes our deaf community to continuiously do something like we just did on June 16. And, we need to continue some form of action at least once every year.

On Saturday, May 16, 2009, there was a Houston deaf community meeting for a second time. We realized that there was a seriously ongoing problem that City of Houston routinely has been not very accessible to the deaf so we decided to make an action directed based on other disability organizations’ suggestions. Eventually, we proposed to have a march before we face the city council to address our issues.

We are aware that many deaf citizens claimed that they were not informed ahead of time about our march, but the problem is that it always has been a difficult time to reach every deaf or hard of hearing person throughout the city or county. A couple of weeks ago, when a subject of having a march for the Deaf rights was brought up over the deaf social network. it did work by having waves hitting every corner of scattered deaf communities in Houston area! Our journey to gather all deaf communities from every corner in Houston area to work together to make City of Houston more accessible to individuals, who are deaf or hard of hearing has BEGUN, whether we support or oppose an idea of having a march.

Again, our next meeting (for a post-march/follow up/review) will be held sometime in July.

Brian Determan
Kimberly Mitchell
Ovi Velasquez
Kathy Walters
Danny Warthling

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Announcement for a location of our next meeting

Our next meeting officially is held at Woodhaven Deaf Baptist Church, located at 9920 Long Point Road, Houston, 77055.

Again, it's scheduled on Monday night, June 15 at 7pm (instead of 6:30pm).

Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Don't forget to bring to the meeting (optional) as follows:

-One white cardboard (size 22” X 28”),
-Several markers (black, red, or blue ink is preferred, but if you prefer other colors, that is fine),
-One wood stick (wood sticks must be ¼ inch thick, according to the city’s rules for the march). These are for making signs/posters.

We also suggest a blue shirt to wear for our march in order to be recognized as a group of marchers for our own cause (can be light blue, royal blue, or navy blue).

If you have any questions regarding our march, please email at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Update on tonight's meeting regarding our march

Tonight, we had a meeting that took place at the Memorial City mall. It consisted of many participants who previously were not informed in details on why we are having a march. The meeting went productive since a lot of us expressed our opinions/suggestions/ideas and “debated” over whether we should keep our march on an original date (June 16) or reschedule it to another date.

The main points about the meeting were that some participants expressed concerns about not having much time for a preparation if we plan our march on June 16 while others stated that our action against the city for our rights has been long overdue. Also, many of us shared experiences with communication barriers we approached in a variety of local public settings or services such as HPD, municipal courts, and Dial 311. Lack of accessible to Dial 211 was also addressed.

In conclusion, we decided to keep the march on June 16, but we agreed to have one more meeting, which is scheduled on Monday, June 15 at 6:30pm (location - TBA) to ensure everything is well covered and prepared toward our purpose of this cause. Also, we aim to reactivate or create a local advocate organization for the deaf and hard of hearing afterwards to have an ongoing cause in order to ensure the city‘s compliance with ADA or other laws toward deaf and hard of hearing citizens.

For our next meeting on Monday evening, June 15, we will discuss who will be our spokesperson for the march especially for the city hall meeting, and a final preparation for our march . Everyone is encouraged to attend. Each of us and you all are encouraged to bring to the meeting on Monday evening as follows:

at least one white cardboard (size 22” X 28”),
several markers (black, red, or blue ink is preferred, but if you prefer other colors, that is fine),
at least one wood stick (wood sticks must be ¼ inch thick, according to the city’s rules for the march). These are for making signs/posters.

We also suggest a blue shirt to wear for our march in order to be recognized as a group of marchers for our own cause (can be light blue, royal blue, or navy blue).

If you have any questions regarding our march, please email at

Note: details on why we are having a march is posted as below.

More information on why we are having a march.

That's understandable that those who are not informed on the true agenda of having a march is against the idea of having a march. We had facts that had been addressed at our last Deaf community meeting last month.

We are having another meeting tonight, and the facts or the information on true agenda will be presented for those who previously were not informed.

Also, many deaf service providers in Houston who serves our target population has been aware of how the city treats deaf and hard of hearing citizens.

Back in 1998, two deaf individuals filed a lawsuit against City of Houston as well as Harris County with Department of Justice, Advocacy, Inc., and National Association of the Deaf, and they won. The settlement had been made. NAD's website has an article about this case so you all might want to check it out (

Anyway, even the settlements had been made with DOJ, our deaf citizens have ongoing complaints. Apparently, Houston Police frequently ignored their communication policy based on these citizens' ongoing complaints, and that also applies to municipal courts.

For an example, in fact, this year, there were instances that HPD or Harris County Sheriff failed to provide a communication access to these deaf citizens even they requested for an interpreter when they dialed 911. They got arrested instead because HPD listened to hearing citizens, and didn't even bother to try to communicate with the deaf ones.

Dial 311 and Dial 211 both are not accessible to both of groups of deaf and hard of hearing who use VP or Captel. For TTY users, they claimed that it took them forever.

Currently, some of these deaf victims already filed a complaint against HPD with a legal organization.

Again, thank you for sharing your experiences and providing a suggested guideline of having a productive march, etc.Yes,

I have learned through my recent participation in other disabled activities that our effort to ensure the City's compliance with ADA and other disabled laws related to deaf/hard of hearing has to be ongoing.

Will keep you all posted.

Monday, June 1, 2009

March/Rally on June 16

Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meet at 11:00am

Location: Intersection of Austin Street and Franklin Street (near Harris County's Criminal courthouse click this link at

(For those who can not walk, meet at 12:30pm at a park by Houston City Hall - 901 Bagby, across the street from Tranquily Park - click this link at

Deaf/hard of hearing individuals, members of the Deaf community, and supporters.

Reason for this march/rally:
On May 16, 2009, there was a Deaf community meeting, and we, Deaf individuals, and our supporters decided to do something by planning to have a march-rally since we've had ongoing complaints regarding access to the City of Houston services including law enforcements, municipal courts, and other services. They routinely refuse to accommodate deaf citizens.

So, we are planning the march-rally in downtown Houston to City Hall to address these issues to the mayor and City Council on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 (Again, our march begins at 11:00am, and for who can not walk, meet at our rally at 12;30pm). The city council meeting starts at 1:30pm.

For signs, everybody is encouraged to make their own sign, and bring them over to the march/rally. We suggest the statements on the sign are suggested as follows (no obscence allowed, please, if you are not sure, just email at
- "City of Houston and 1998 DOJ Settlements, what happened?"
- "Don't Forget 1998 Settlements"
-"Stop Repeating History"
-"Enough is Enough!"
-"Deaf Citizens have civil rights, too!"
-"No More Discrimination!"
-"Communication Access Now!"

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to email at or leave a comment here.

Co-leaders of Houston Deaf Community's June 16 March-Rally:

Brian Determan
Danny Warthling
Kathy Walters
Kim Mitchell
Ovi Velaquez