Angie C. Orlando - Deaf-Blind and Determined

contact me at neodba.info@gmail.com.

Friday, October 13, 2017

two introductions

*** In honor of Disability Awareness month, Angie C. Orlando will
read from her manuscript, The Slide: A Poetic Memoir. the reading
will be on October 24th from 4:00 - 5:00 pm in the library Quiet
Study Room, also called the Garden Room. ***

It has been more than a yer since I graduated from the Ashland
University MFA program. During the first two Summer residency
sessions, I kept a journal of my feelings and experiences. I
regret that I was unable to continue this during the lat rescind.
The story, as recorded on my blog, is far from over. It's time to
go back and finish the tale.

In May of 2016, I turned in my final thesis, introduction and
list of 50 books read. My thesis defense was on July 25, 2016.
This began with a ten minute introduction. The two introductions
offered similar information but could not be the same. I wanted
to tell a creative story, the story of my writing, education and
the creation of my thesis. I now invite you to read these two
introductions.

Thesis Introduction

Journey to The Slide

As a child, dressed in one of my ever present tomboy
outfits, I'd skip from the front door, around the corner, charge
down the large stone steps, across our gravel driveway and onto
Gardenview Drive. Ten feet later, next to an orange and black
"Caution: Children at Play" sign, and directly across from my
backyard, the street split in two. I'd take the bumpy, dirt road,
with its huge puddles and large embedded rocks, past the barren
soccer field, around the baseball backstop and step onto the
school playground.
In those days, playground equipment was built on large
squares of black asphalt. Children fell, got bruises, scrapes and
cuts, bled and lived to tell about it. I was tough and rough, too
cool for words. Each day I could be found climbing on top of the
monkey bars, twisting swings round and round to make them higher,
rubbing wax paper on the metal slide and trying to climb up the
slippery surface.
I lived in Kent, Ohio from 1974 to 1997 and 2006 to this
present moment. I attended Longcoy Elementary School, Davey
Junior High School, Theodore Roosevelt High School and Kent State
University. When I returned home after my divorce, I re-enrolled
at Kent State as a post-graduate student, taking American Sign
Language classes. My only goal was to improve my communication
skills. Little did I know that I had begun the journey that would
lead me back to the old slide of my childhood landscape.
It was my brother, Tony, who first said, "Write about it,
tell your story."
I did so, in a 6,000 word essay that got chopped to bits
before being published by the American Association for the
DeafBlind. Later, an E-Zine named Clerc Scar ran the essay in
full.
The fuse was lit, I wanted more. Soon I created "Dotbug:
Deaf-Blind and Determined," a blog about my life as a woman,
mother and student who happened to be deaf and blind. I loved the
praise. I still wanted more, wanted to be better. Before I knew
it, I was enrolled in "Intro to Creative Writing" and I was
scared to death. I liked the part in the course description that
talked about fiction and creative nonfiction. I didn't like the
mention of poetry, or the five poetry books we'd be using for the
class. I didn't like figurative language, meter, form or rhymes.
I nearly dropped the class because of the strong focus on poetry.
What happened next was like magic. I opened the first book,
No Matter How Many Windows, by Jeanne Bryner and began to read.
In this book, Bryner uses poetry to document the lives of four
generations of women in her family. As Bryner explains in the
opening poem, "Rose of Sharon:"



Here's what's at stake in the common comer,

volumes of women's pale voices

bound and catalogued in the living room.

Do you have your card to this still library? (2)



I was captivated by each section, the hardships of the
far-past and not so long ago. Her mother's mental illness struck
me deeply, as I was still grieving for Tony, trying to understand
what made him pick up those pills to end his life.
Most importantly, what I found in those pages of my first
contemporary book of poetry were stories. The way of telling was
different from what I was used to. The emotions, images and
language made each poem pulse with life. But they were stories,
and I was hooked.
I took two more poetry classes at Kent State and began
looking into graduate school. Never in my life did I imagine I
would start an advanced degree in the field of poetry. I think of
myself as an accidental poet. I was following an unexpected path.
The road led me to Ashland University and the MFA program.
It would be a bumpy ride, like riding my bike over the rocks and
through puddles on my way to the playground. Each residency
brought communication challenges and severe pain in my arms. The
online classes were filled with technology problems. With a lot
of support, I made my way past most obstacles but crashed into
others. I got back up and continued the journey.
In my first semester class, we read Winter Stars by Larry
Levis. I loved the narrative quality of his work, and the way in
which he was so open with his life, even telling about affairs or
similar things people usually keep secret. Some of his poems,
most notably "South," were written in a "braided" style, jumping
around in space and time, yet so artfully woven together.
It was at this time that I had the chance to hear Mark Doty
do a reading at Kent State University. I wanted to get a feel for
his writing style and randomly picked a book to read. This turned
into two books of poetry and one memoir about his lover, Wally,
who was dying of AIDS. I was taken by the on-going story, the
arc, and Doty's gift of turning mundane objects into something of
beauty.
I later read Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects
and Intimacy. Although the book is considered an essay, Doty
turns to his own life, as he describes the objects that are most
dear to his heart. A story about peppermint candy animates an
elderly woman with her drab sense of dress and black pocket book.
Inside the purse are a delight of objects, the same type of
treasures my grandmother kept in her own black pocket book.
In another story, Doty tells us of a platter he found at a
yard sale and bought for $5.00. His mother had loved white and
blue china and he inherited that fondness. The platter shows a
cobalt deer with antlers. Despite a chip in its surface, the dish
quickly becomes a favorite decoration. In fact, Doty argues that
the flaw in the platter, or any other object, makes it more
intimate to the owner.
I began to play around with my images. What could I add to
enhance the scene on a bus where I was first kissed? Or the field
while my junior high jazz band warmed up for an outdoor concert?
Or the yellow painted slide that represented the first "dent" in
an otherwise ideal childhood?
I was reading more poetry books outside of class. My
favorites were personal narratives that often had a focus on the
darker side of human nature. I enjoyed Alice Anderson, Julia
Kasdorf, Minnie Bruce Pratt and especially Sharon Olds. I
discovered The Father while writing my long paper for English
633. The topic was about how female, contemporary poets express
grief and loss through their work. Olds stood out with her
ultra-openness and, like Mark Doty, talent with details and
images. It's almost like she unzips herself, letting us view her
inside and out, in terms of the body and in sexual ways, even
when the topic isn't sex..
After I had found my niche as a narrative writer, I made
another discovery that would impact my work -- voice. I first
noticed the power of voice in poetry when I read North of Boston
by Robert Frost. The poems are told as dramatic dialogs. Frost
was concerned with what he called "the sound of sense." This
refers to the raw sounds of speech and how pure sounds can be
utilized in writing. Published in 1914, the book focuses on small
town life in rural New England. Frost sets out to depict the
harsh reality faced by people living in that time and place.
Unlike poetry I had previously read, the poems in North of
Boston include two or three characters as they speak to each
other. The only clues the reader has about what is happening is
through the true conversational sound of the dialog.
I sought out more poetry in voice and fell in love with the
Southern, black voice as depicted by Rita Dove and Patricia
Smith. They don't just write about people, they use common speech
in their portrayal and seem to become their characters.
As much as I liked to rad this poetry, I was skeptical about
my ability to write it. I have lived in Northeast Ohio for most
of my life. My parents were college educated. What is the voice
of a white middle class girl growing up in a small town in Ohio?
I began adding more dialog to my poetry and found my
childhood voice, first as a tomboy, then as a budding teen. The
voice loses confidence as the girl begins to feel the physical
and emotional loss of disabilities. There are more shifts as she
becomes an adult dealing with an abusive relationship, worsened
disabilities and the indifference of the medical community.
I had found the voice, my voice from different moments of my
life. Yet the manuscript needed something more. I discovered the
use of outside voice in Patricia Smith's book Blood Dazzler. To
begin with, the main voice is that of Hurricane Katrina. I've
read plenty of poetry about the devastation of this storm, but
never in the voice of Katrina. I was enthralled by the mere
concept of writing in the voice of something so huge and
destructive. In addition, Smith includes weather bulletins, TV
reports, emails and letters. I admired how the outside voices
offered supporting details that strengthened the main voice and
provided information that would be difficult to include as
Katrina. After all, I'm sure "she" wasn't concerned with FEMA or
the crisis at the Superdome.
Both of these voices are "heard" in the early poems, which
are titled with the time and date. For example, in "5 P.M.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2005," Smith begins with a weather update
from the National Hurricane Center:



"Data from an Air Force reserve unit reconnaissance
aircraft... along with observations from the Bahamas and
nearby ships... indicate the broad low pressure area over
the southeastern Bahamas has become organised enough to be
classified as tropical depression twelve." (3)



We then learn what Katrina has to say:



I become

a mouth, thrashing hair, an overdone eye. How dare

the water belittle my thirst, treat me as just

another

small

disturbance,

try to feed me

from the bottom of its hand? (3)



Finally, I had my tools ready, in the form of an old
braille machine and a structure involving narratives, images,
voice and outside voice. I was fiercely against writing about my
disabilities. I didn't want to be known as a "disability
writer." As I progressed through the MFA program, I began to
understand that I could not write about myself without the
disabilities. Instead of just including them, I embraced them
with open arms, which is why I chose to begin with "Disability
Jam." It's interesting to note that two poems, "The Slide" and
"Ashley" are about my interactions with someone who has a
disability.
This thesis is an introduction to my life, a memoir told in
a unique mixture of poetry and prose. More than 30 years after a
"mad man" had me trapped on a yellow slide, I return to the
playground. Join me now, climb up the ladder, sit down. We'll
make a chain and slide together. I promise it will be a wild
ride.

Thesis Defense Introduction

Good afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to hear my thesis
defense. You have read my introduction, thesis and lit of 50
books. Now I want to share some details about my experience in
the MFA program.
First, let me state a simple fact that has been the toughest
lesson for me to learn here at Ashland University: I am a writer.
What do I write? poetry, prose, flash nonfiction, or essays. It
doesn't matter what you call it.

In my manuscript, I include a poem called "Doubt" that
illustrates my battles with lack of self esteem and confidence in
my writing. There were so many reasons why I couldn't and
shouldn't enter this program. Each class was a step forward in
improving my image of myself as a writer.
English 631 taught me to break down over-done epic poems and cut
back to essential details. English 632 introduced me to
docu-poetics and what I call ultra chatty poetry. English 633
brought about a major break through when I began writing short,
personal stories with conversational voice.

In my thesis semester, I brought it all together and this
manuscript I call The Slide was born. Of course, it wasn't easy.
I felt like Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster. "Oh, no Igor,
you put the brain in up-side-down! Let's try it again this way."

The Slide is a collection of poetry and narratives about my life.
Interlocking themes include loss, grief, pain and survival. Yet
there is a light side to the darkness, unexpected humor and wit
that keeps the manuscript moving forward. My original idea was
to write about burdens, focusing on disabilities, domestic
violence and my brother's suicide. But not all burdens are so
obvious. Through writing, I rediscovered emotions and event from
my past that I barely remembered. As I worked on a piece, I
often didn't know what was going to be reveled. In "Summer
Vacation with Katie's Family," for example, I thought the
narrative was about the first time I had body odor. There turned
out to be so much more. I put the images and details together,
added kid-talk conversation and suddenly I realized this was a
coming of age poem, much like it's companion, "How I Became a
Girl."

Despite my central theme of surviving life's hardships, I didn't
want to write about my own disabilities. I don't want to be type
cast as a disability writer. The early drafts of "First Blow" and
"Leaving" mentioned nothing of my hearing and vision loss. I was
revising "Leaving," and I got the feeling it made no sense. Why
didn't this woman jump in her car and drive away? Domestic
violence is complex, but to truly understand the situation, the
reader needed to know about my disabilities.

I went back into my past to the first hint of what I would have
to endure. That became a poem called "Tinnitus." When I heard
those helicopter sounds, I thought they were real. I wanted the
reader to believe it, as well.
I still couldn't find a way to write about the loss itself. That
was too painful. Yet, as I begin picking poems to further
develop, I discovered the story was already there.

You see it in "Boys." The girl in 7th grade had no disabilities,
the girl in 8th grade couldn't understand kids talk in the
cafeteria. The girl in 9th grade had to write notes and tripped
while walking along the river.

"Faith" is about my struggles to feel a connection to God or
religion. It begins before I had any disabilities and continues
up to the present day. I was writing about faith, and somehow,
that brought out the details concerning my disabilities.

One of my greatest challenges during English 701 was deciding on
how to order the poems. Chronological order seemed like the
obvious way to do it. I took the narratives and placed them in
perfect, chronological order in parts one and three. But what to
do with poems like "Disability Jam, Neuropathy, In the Dark and
The Kent Ohio Blues>" They didn't fit neatly in time. Some, like
"Faith" cover an extended period of time. I put those in section
two, which I thought of as a mixed bag of poetry.
Ironically, my faculty mentor and fellow students felt some of
the strongest poems were in that part. I began playing around
with order, staying roughly chronological while mixing in other
poems. This worked to break up the narratives, and add energy or
humor where darkness threatened to overcome. The new version
seemed like an entirely different thesis, although it mostly
consisted of the same poems. And now I don't think of it as a
monster but more like my baby.

We are here today to talk about The Slide. Let's do it. Thank
you.

Angie C. Orlando

October 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

how IP hurts me

I graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1992. My main
thing, pretty much only thing, back then was band. I was one of
the rare ones who endured four years of marching and concert band
under a tyrant band director. I stuck with it because I loved
the music. I loved the saxophone and is sweet, silky notes.

Can we tell this story without my disabilities? No, I didn't
think so. Some of you are thinking, "How can a deaf, blind and
handicapped person be in the band?"

I'm obligated to explain, as if i'm asking for your permission. I
started playing saxophone in 5th grade, just like most student
do. I had no disabilities then. In high school I was hard of
hearing with low vision. I had no peripheral vision but decent
central vision. No one ever told me I should stop playing, and
the idea never occurred to me.

I would still be playing now, if only I could find braille music.
There's a company named Dancing Dot that offers software that
turns print and audio music to braille, but I can't afford it.
End of story.

My son is a junior at Roosevelt and plays saxophone in the band.
Actually, it's the same alto sax I played. I think he's more
talented than me, but he doesn't practice as much. I feel
something when he plays at home. It's this deep yearning need. I
want the music so bad it hurts.

This coming Friday is the Homecoming football game. They now have
alumni band members play with current students during the
pre-game show. I want to do it. My disabilities won't permit
that, but the urge will not diminish.

Let's pretend I'm not disabled. I'd rent a sax from Woodsy's,
memorize the music and join the band on Friday. I'd feel the
thrill of the music and power of being involved. In the stands,
people would laugh at the middle-age wanna-be reliving her past.
My son would roll his eyes at me. The show would end, and all of
it would be forgotten. No one would bother to think about that
plain, ordinary woman with the saxophone.

Sadly, that would never happen because I do have disabilities. My
attitude these days is tempered by the limitations but the drive
is not dead. I know I can't play with the band or march on the
field. The wanting inside me says there's got to be a way, there
must be something I can do. I don't care what, I just want to be
involved.

Joseph and I were talking about this yesterday. He said, "If you
really want to, I'm sure they can figure out something you can
do, and then everyone would think how amazing you are and cheer
for a super long time."

He killed the drive. He took a knife and slashed it into bleeding
pieces of broken dreams. Joseph wasn't being cruel. He was being
honest, and he was right. What he said was 100% true, exactly
what would happen if I stepped, or rolled, out on the field.
Joseph knew the bitter reality because we've been through it
before.

This is how inspirational porn hurts me. I can't just be an old
fuddy who wants to have some Homecoming fun. I have to be the
disabled person, Joseph's inspiring mom who won't let anything
stop her. And that's what's going to stop me. I won't be anyone's
feel-good moment or a Facebook story, "You won't believe what I
saw at the game on Friday. I don't want to be remembered because
I'm deaf or blind or handicapped.

I'm a very determined person. I like to think that nothing can
stop me. I'll do it even if I have to do it in a different way.
Not on Friday. I'll be sitting in the stands in the special
accessible area, with you other disabled people. I'll sit
quietly, avoiding attention, thanks to inspirational porn. That's
how society hurt me. Can you try to understand?

Angie C. Orlando

October 2017

Permission is granted to share.

Friday, August 11, 2017

deaf, blind and determined

Deaf, Blind and Determined: The Meaning of Disability

Watch the video:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WI6UCfYVD4I

August 4th, 2017

Presented to students and staff at the West Virginia School of
Osteopathic Medicine

North Lewisburg, WV


One

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I was born with no disabilities. There was no family history of
disabilities, and no hint of what was to come.

I was the youngest of three children and the only girl. Tony is
five years older, and Scott is four years older than me.
Naturally, I was spoiled rotten.

I had a good, normal childhood. We lived in Kent, Ohio, in a nice
neighborhood, right beside an elementary school.

"Normal" began to crumble away when I was in first grade and Tony
was in sixth grade. Some classmates were messing around, and he
got hit in the eye with a pencil. While treating him for the
injury, doctors discovered he had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). He
was gradually losing his peripheral vision and could not se in
the dark.

When I was 13, I began losing my hearing. Since Tony had RP and I
was hard-of-hearing, doctors said I must have Usher Syndrome. It
was assumed that I would lose my vision, too.

They were partly right. At 16, I was diagnosed with RP. But
genetic testing would later rule out Usher Syndrome in my family.

At that point, my central vision was still good, and I could
understand speech by combining what I heard with my cochlear
implant and the visual cues of lip reading. I went on to college
at Kent State University and graduated with honors. Then I moved
to Maryland, where I started teaching, got married, bought a
house and had a baby.

My son, Joseph, is the most precious thing in my life. When he
was six months old, I suddenly became very sick. We had no idea
what was going on. I rapidly because totally deaf and blind. I
lost feeling and use of my hands, feet and legs. I couldn't walk.
People had to feed me, dress me, and lift me onto a potty chair.
They communicated by using their finger to "write" letters on my
face. And still, the doctors could not say what was wrong with
me.

As time passed, I got a little better. I regained feeling and use
of my hands and began learning tactile sign language and braille.
My legs regained some strength, but I still have trouble walk and
have no feeling in my feet. My vision did not
improve. I am totally blind. I see nothing, not even shadows or
light. Without the cues of lip reading, I can no longer
understand speech.

I got divorced about 11 years ago. I now live in Kent in a small
apartment with my son. My parents live one mile away. I have full
custody of Joseph, who is now 16 (yikes!)

When I returned to Ohio, I began going to the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Marvin Natowicz has been working hard on my case. For years,
he tested me for what felt like a million different conditions.
The results were always negative and normal. I thought we'd never
get any real answers.

Then, in the summer of 2011, a test came back positive. My DNA
shows a genetic mutation that has only recently been discovered.
The disorder is known as PHARC. (Polyneuropathy, Hearing loss,
Ataxia, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Cataract).

The ironic part is that I finally got this diagnosis... And it's
called "fark." What a stupid name! I was complaining to Joseph
about this and he said, "Mom, it's a stupid disease so it
deserves a stupid name."


Two

When you first encountered your disability, how did you think it
would impact on your life? What did you know/believe about
disability before you experienced any type of disability? What
was the basis for your knowledge/beliefs?

I was exposed to people with disabilities early on. All the
children with any type of disability in the region, were bussed
in to my elementary school. We had special classes for students
who were deaf, learning disabled, had attention or behavior
problems and for those with severe developmental disabilities.
They weren't in my classes, but they were there at the school. I
saw them. I volunteered to help in some of those special classes.

Of course, there was also my brother, Tony, who was partially
blind. He didn't look blind to me. He didn't use a cane, and he
could read print and play soccer. I don't think I really
understood about his vision loss until I began to experience the
same thing.

I was a teenager when I began having trouble with my hearing and
vision. I tried to be strong, but doctors and my family gave me
mixed signals. For example, I was diagnosed with a mild hearing
loss, and they said it wouldn't get worse. It did. They gave me
hearing aids that only made the distortion worse. When I
complained about the hearing aids, I was accused of "being a
teenager." They told my parents I was vain and didn't want to
look different from my peers. My parents were instructed to force
me to wear the hearing aids. Those were bad times. I mostly hid
in my room to get away from the world.

I remember going to a special hearing center. I was hooked up to
a machine that showed something, I don't know what. They told me
not to move because that would mess it up.

I sat there, very, very still, but I could see the doctor as he
turned to my mother and told her I had Usher Syndrome. She broke
down and sobbed. I saw the horrible look on her face and knew my
life was over.

For years, my biggest fear was of becoming totally deaf and
blind. I'd think of Helen Keller in "The Miracle Working." She
overcame so much, but I didn't think I could survive if I had to
live like her.

A big impact about being totally deafblind came from a woman I
met on a hearing loss bulletin board. She'd type just a sentence
or two with so many typos, I could barely figure out what she was
saying. One day she told the story about going to a doctor
appointment. She was there, but everyone talked around her. She
had no clue what was going on and didn't seem bothered by it.
After the appointment, the doctor used his finger to print "hi"
on her palm. She was so excited that a doctor actually talked to
her.

I thought, "no way!" I could never exist like that. I swore to
myself that I would get something out of life. I could not be
like that poor woman I met online.

Truthfully, I wanted to die. At first, I was too weak to do
anything myself. I begged my husband to help, but he wouldn't do
it. Then one day I was alone upstairs. Nobody knew I was awake. I
found some pills. But instead of taking them, I crawled into
Joseph's room. I lay on the floor holding his Pooh blanket and
beloved big Tigger. I could smell his baby scent. At that moment
I realized no matter how awful things were, I couldn't take my
own life. I couldn't do that to him. I loved him more than
anything. I couldn't leave him.

People often ask me where I find the strength to go on. The
answer is Joseph. He's my rock and guiding light. Even multiple
disabilities can't crush the bond I share with my son.


Three

In what ways has your disability impacted your immediate family
members?

Because my condition is genetic, most of my family is affected.
Of course, my parents were carriers. There was no way they could
have know. It was one of those nasty time bombs everyone carries
in their DNA. My parents feel guilty. They want to take care of
and protect me. I want to be as independent as possible. I don't
want to be a burden or treated like a child. That sometimes
causes conflicts. It was especially difficult for them when I
moved into my own apartment.

Then there are my brothers. I believe Tony had PHARC, too. At 38,
he could still read print. He used a white scanning cane. He
struggled with depression. Even though his hearing was normal and
he could walk just fine, he had a much harder time coping with
his limitations. He finally gave up. Tony committed suicide 10
years ago. His funeral was on what should have been his 39th
birthday.

My other brother, Scott, does not have any disabilities. That
doesn't mean he enjoys a free and easy life. I think he' has
survivor's guilt, if that makes any sense. He got lucky. His
brother and sister did not.

For me, the major medical implication had to do with Joseph. I
was worried about whether or not he inherited my disabilities. I
didn't want him to suffer the way I did. I would still love him
if he started having problems, but I want him to have a normal
life.

These fears haunted me for years. I now know what causes my
disease is. That gave us an idea of whether Joseph was at risk.
The chance of him having PHARC is so low Dr. Natowicz says Joseph
doesn't need to be tested. I was finally able to tell him he
won't have my problems. Who knows what life has in store for him?
But PHARC is not part of it, and I thank God for that every day.


Four

Has having a disability changed who you are? Has it changed who
other people think you are?

In some ways, I think having a disability has changed who I am.
What I've gone through has made me stronger and more adaptable.
I'm not the person I wanted to be. I'm not doing what I planned
to do. So much has changed in my life, but I'm still me. I just
do things in a different way.

I do believe other people think I'm different now. Some people
are overcome by pity. They can only see the disabilities. I know
I look pathetic but I don't want anyone's pity.

Having a communication disorder makes it even worse. Some people
assume I have cognitive problems. Give me an interpreter, and
I'll show you there's an awesome brain inside this body.

One thing I hate is when people who don't know me say I'm amazing
or inspirational. Those are like bad words to me. I'm just a
person doing the best I can... Same as everyone else. There's
nothing amazing about that.

I used to think I was the only one who disliked those words. But
I now know this is a concept called "inspiration porn." (Get your
mind out of the gutter, it has nothing to do with sex.) The word
"porn" is used because seeing people with disabilities evokes
good feelings in non-disabled people, what my Kindergarten
teacher called warm fuzzies.

It's okay if you know me and I have truly accomplished something
important. For example, after my thesis defense last Summer at
Ashland University, I posted on Facebook, "I did it, Mom." She
replied, "So proud of you, Gina Bean."

Her praise did not annoy me. She knew what it took for me to get
to that point in life. She was inspired, and that made me feel
happy.

My graduation didn't go as well. I was using a wheelchair, so I'd
have my hands free for communication. As planned, I followed my
MFA classmates but used a ramp to get on stage. The dean finished
calling names and was moving on to the next degree, skipping me.

My interpreter thrust the wheelchair out onto the stage. The dean
gave me an empty diploma case, shook my hand and smile for the
photographer. Several other people did the same. The audience was
clapping loud and long. They continued to clap after I left the
stage. My name was never announced.

All these people who didn't know I existed until they saw me on
stage are feeling inspired, what an amazing woman, they think.
All they know is that I'm deafblind and in a wheelchair. They
don't even know my name, and they cheer and wipe tears out of
their eyes.

It made me feel like an object. It wasn't about me earning a
master's degree. It was about me being a tool to make other
people feel special.

Here's another way to look at it. I'm out grocery shopping with a
friend's help. A random stranger comes over and says, "I feel
inspired watching you." Why? I'm just getting food. Everybody
does that every day. You've all done it. Is grocery shopping
inspiring?

Consider that middle aged woman, average height, average weight,
brown hair and brown eyes, who keeps cutting you off with her
cart. Is she amazing? I'd cut you off with my cart if I could.



Five

Based on your encounters with the medical system, what would you
want medical students to learn in their medical school curricula
in addition to traditional medical teachings?

I want medical students to learn how to "see" people with
disabilities. For example, I walk into an exam room. The doctor
looks at me and sees a deaf and blind woman who can't walk well.
He sees my leg braces and crutch and cochlear implants. Then he
reads a few notes in my chart and thinks he knows me.

Nope! That's not who I am. The doctor needs to look past the
disabilities and find the real person within. I'm a mother and a
writer... a lover of cats. I drink Dr. Pepper and read vampire
novels. This is the real person. This is who I am. You need to
look past the disabilities. Take the time to talk to your
patients. Find out who they really are and what they like and how
they feel.

Also, don't assume you know everything about me because you read
my file. That might tell you about my medical history, but it
doesn't tell you who I am.

Finally, understand that you aren't an expert about my
disabilities. You might know about vision loss or neuropathy or
muscular problems. That doesn't make you an expert about me. I'm
the expert, because I'm the one living with these disabilities.
If we work together, you may be able to help me. But if you act
like you know it all, nothing will be accomplished.


Six

What has been the economic impact of your disorder? How did you
find resources and support services? Do you feel that these
resources and/or support services are adequate or inadequate?

When I got the diagnosis of PHARC, I was eager to research the
condition online. There were only two articles, one referring to
the other, and they were written in such strong medical language
that I couldn't decipher much. I was left feeling empty. Here I h
a diagnosis, I wanted to learn more, but there was nothing
available. Six years later, there's been no change.

The only support network I know about is a PHARC group on
Facebook, and i'm the one who created it. We have seven members
and no one bothers to post anything. We are all waiting for the
same thing -- research and new information.

I want to reach out to other people with PHARC. I don't know how
to find them. The disorder is so rare. There may be less than 100
people world wide who have the condition. Or perhaps it's less
than 50 people. Nobody knows and nobody knows how to find out.

The more general condition of deafblindness is still rare. There
are few options for support, and those programs that do exist are
shutting down. In Ohio, there is no state program for service
providers to assist people who are Deafblind. I'm on SSDI and get
child support, so my income is too high for me to qualify for
help from my country board of developmental disabilities and
services for independent living. That sounds crazy. My main
income is SSDI and I have Medicare and that makes me ineligible
for services. I could purchase a Medicaid waiver, but,
ironically, I can't afford it. I worry about my future when I
lose part of my SSDI and child support, even though my son will
likely still be living with me. That day is coming soon. I don't
know what I'm going to do.


Angie C. Orlando

August 2017

Permission is granted to share

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Harry Potter and me

I was a newlywed in 2000 when I discovered Harry Potter. At
first, I wasn't interested, because I didn't know what it was
about. The stacks of books at Border's had weird covers that
appeared to be in shades of brown. Nothing grabbed my attention.

"You should read it," my husband said. "You are more child than
adult."

I playfully punched Greg's arm as we laughed and walked away.
One day I found Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the tiny
large print section that was, oddly, part of the reference book
area. I had only been reading large print for a short while. I
experienced less eye strain and pain with these books, but there
was hardly any available besides dictionaries and cross-word
puzzles. The cover still looked brown. The book jacket, now that
I was finally reading it, sounded promising.

"Are you 12?," Greg asked, when I placed the book on the
check-out table.

Later, I opened the book and read, "Chapter one: The Boy Who
lived." My life would never be the same. The MAGIC sparkled
through my brain, a world of bright colors, creativity and
beloved characters. Poor eyes be damned! I read The Chamber of
Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire in
regular print.
When I called Greg a muggle, he had to be sure I wasn't making
fun of him. He read the books in five days.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fie was the last book I read with
my eyes. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the last movie
I would ever see.

"Is it worth all the fuss?," Mom asked when I got back from the
movie.

"Read," I commanded.

She did. Another heart was brought over to the Harry side.

The Sorcerer's Stone was the first book I read in braille. It was
like going through a port key to return home after a long
absence. I read the next three books in braille and waited with
the rest of the world for book five.

Mom went to the Harry Potter parade in Hudson, Ohio when The
order of the Phoenix was released. She was on the local news,
dressed like Professor McGonagall. Dad was a muggle. He wasn't
on the news.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released from National
Braille Press at midnight the same day the print book came out.
Joseph and I went to the Hudson celebration with my parents. I
was Hermione, complete with a SPEW badge. Joseph, who was four,
sat on my lap as Dad pushed the wheelchair. He was adorable in a
hand-sewn wizard costume, black hat and round glasses. He tossed
about a Golden Snitch while his bright blue eyes too it all in.
He won a best costume award.

I read The Deathly Hallows on a Braille Note Apex and The Cursed
Child and Fantastic beats on my Braille Sense U2. The electronic
braille felt crisp, as my fingers soaked up the words. We tried
to go to Hudson again but couldn't get near the city. Last year I
attended the first Kent potterFest in downtown Kent, Ohio. They
expected about 3,000 people, but around 30,000 showed up. The
streets were packed, and the energy of thousands of people
celebrating what they love flowed through everyone.

I'll be at the next Kent PotterFest on July 29, 2017. You'll know
me as the middle aged woman in a blue plaid wheelchair, who
communicates using tactile sign language. I'll be wearing a jean
jacket with seven Harry Potter patches on it. Even if it's 90
degrees, I'm wearing that jacket.

my technology has limitations. I can't access the quiz sites that
tell you what house you are in. I don't need to. Like James
Potter and all the Weasley kids, I knew I was Gryffindor before
the sorting hat touched my head. I've lived a harsh life darkened
by disabilities, abuse and death. I've stood in front of a court
judge to plead for custody of my little boy. The judge was no
Umbridge. Maybe he could see the Dark Mark over Greg's head. Or
maybe he sensed my heart brimming with the spell of motherhood,
because I was victorious. Like Harry, I bravely faced my nemesis
and triumphed.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by depression. There are Dementors
lurking in the shadows. You have to have courage to hobble in my
shoes. But I always stumble into someone: Harry Hermione and Ron
or Percy, Annabeth and Grover or Carter and Sadie or Meg, Miranda
and Makenzie. A friend, the silver glow of their Patronus pushes
away gloom and fills my life with light.

Angie C. Orlando
June 2017

Permission is granted to share.

Monday, June 5, 2017

neodba strawberry festival

Remember to rsvP
We need volunteers


Please join Northeast Ohio DeafBlind Association at the Kirtland
Strawberry Festival.

Saturday, June 17, 2017
1:00 to 5:00 PM

The festival is located at Kirtland High School
9150 Chillicothe Road, Kirtland Ohio 44094.

Meet in the main tent

http://www.kiwanisofkirtland.org/Berry-Festival.html

Enjoy the summer with cool, juicy strawberries that burst with
flavor! Fresh strawberry shortcakes, sundaes, and chocolate
covered strawberries, food, rides, midway flea market, crafts and
commercial area.

Free admission to the festival. Bring cash for rides, food and
flea market.

Everyone is invited: Individuals with hearing and vision loss,
volunteers, SSP's, family and friends. The use of and knowledge
of sign language is not required.

To RSVP, ask questions or sign up as a volunteer: contact Angie
Orlando.
email: dotbug3@gmail.com
text: 330-221-6499.

Please respond by June 12th so that we can properly plan.

Share this email to help spread the news.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

neodba and dno summer events

Please join Northeast Ohio DeafBlind Association at the Kirtland
Strawberry Festival.

Saturday, June 17, 2017
1:00 to 5:00 PM

The festival is located at Kirtland High School
9150 Chillicothe Road, Kirtland Ohio 44094.

Meeting place TBA.

http://www.kiwanisofkirtland.org/Berry-Festival.html

Enjoy the summer with cool, juicy strawberries that burst with
flavor! Fresh strawberry shortcakes, sundaes, and chocolate
covered strawberries, food, rides, midway flea market, crafts and
commercial area.

Free admission to the festival. Bring cash for rides, food and
flea market.

Everyone is invited: Individuals with hearing and vision loss,
volunteers, SSP's, family and friends. The use of and knowledge
of sign language is not required.

To RSVP, ask questions or sign up as a volunteer: contact Angie
Orlando.
email: dotbug3@gmail.com
text: 330-221-6499.

Please respond by June 12th so that we can properly plan.

Share this email to help spread the news.

Mark your schedule for Summer Dno!

Last Friday of June, July and August
June 30
July 28
August 25 We will meet at 5:00 in the food court at Summit
mall (Fairlawn, Ohio).

Please share with your friends.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

deaf prom

As the big date approached I couldn't resist playing the drama
queen on Facebook:

It's going to snow on my prom!

Prom jitters... They are serving pasta, and i'm wearing
off-white!

Time to Journey to Neverland. My date is a 19 year old hottie
in a lavender dress. I wear the pants in this relationship.

The 2nd annual Deaf Prom was held on April 8th at Quaker Square
in Akron, Ohio. The prom is an awareness and social event
sponsored by the University of Akron ASL Club.

I didn't attend my high school prom, Homecoming or any other
formal events. Boys tended not to like girls with both hearing
and vision disabilities. I never went on a date or had a
boyfriend.

It didn't bother me that I missed the prom. The 18 year old me
operated in survival mode. the less time out in the big, bad
world, the better to reduce anxiety and humiliation. I had no
desire to attend a normal teen right of passage. It didn't bother
me... and that's what bothers the adult me.

I know what you are thinking, and you are wrong. This isn't a
story about an adult going back to re-do the past she never had.
This is the tale of an adult with a sense of humor who wanted an
exciting night out with people who can speak her language -- sign
language, because, yes, she has some icky disabilities that makes
interacting with the public a challenge.

I was pretty in pink pants... dusty rose jeans, that is. If I'm
going to do something, I'll do it my way. No chance I'd buy and
wear an actual prom dress. But the cream colored sweater I wore
was kind of fancy. With dangling gold and cream earrings, a
little makeup and rose nail polish, I looked like a girl. (My
"lipstick" was Dr. Pepper flavored lip gloss... more doing it my
way.)

Miranda, a Kent State interpreter student, was my "date." She
bought us both flowers made to match our dress colors. Mine had
baby breath, lilies and flowers in purple and pink. I used the
neat magnets to attach it to my sweater. Miranda had a wardrobe
crisis when she knocked hers off and the inner magnet dropped
into her bra.

My friend Greg got dinner for me: rigatoni, a brad stick, salad
and sugar cookies. I did not make a mess of myself. Someone else
spilled his entire plate on his clothes... but the prom went on.

We were given party favors -- each person got a pair of
sunglasses with "University of Akron ASL Club" written on the
sides. A trend-setter put his on for dinner. Soon we were all
decked out in them. But an announcement was made asking us to
take off the sunglasses. They interfered with reading facial
expressions, which is a vital part of sign language.

After dinner, Miranda and I went to the night, starry sky back
drop for formal pictures... and goofy ones with us wearing bright
feather bows and another with me in Mickey Mouse ears and Miranda
in a hat with propellers. (I'm told I am smirking in that one.)

The prom guests were adults and college students, but the
atmosphere was pure high school awkwardness on the dance floor.
Everyone was waiting for someone else to start. I "jumped in" for
YMCA and the worm, plus other fast dances. I sat in my mobility
chair while Miranda and some guys helped me with the moves.

Some things have changed. Nominations for king and queen were
taken via text messages. The top five hearing nominees and top
tow deaf moved onto the final round of voting. Alex and Avery
were voted hearing prom king and queen. Louis was voted deaf king
for the second year in a row. At this point, I told Miranda I
wanted to leave right away. She just laughed.

The deaf prom queen was............... me!

I let out a huge mock, shock reaction as I went forward for my
crown. Louis and I did a slow dance together. It wasn't a dream
come true, I never dreamed I'd be prom queen. It was still pretty
cool. I accepted congratulations from my fans and smiled for
1,000 pictures.

From being a master to a prom queen at age 43... It's not
inspirational, just fun.

Angie C. Orlando
April 2017
Permission is granted to share.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

deaf prom

As the big date approached I couldn't resist playing the drama
queen on Facebook:

It's going to snow on my prom!

Prom jitters... They are serving pasta, and i'm wearing
off-white!

Time to Journey to Neverland. My date is a 19 year old hottie
in a lavender dress. I wear the pants in this relationship.

The 2nd annual Deaf Prom was held on April 8th at Quaker Square
in Akron, Ohio. The prom is an awareness and social event
sponsored by the University of Akron ASL Club.

I didn't attend my high school prom, Homecoming or any other
formal events. Boys tended not to like girls with both hearing
and vision disabilities. I never went on a date or had a
boyfriend.

It didn't bother me that I missed the prom. The 18 year old me
operated in survival mode. the less time out in the big, bad
world, the better to reduce anxiety and humiliation. I had no
desire to attend a normal teen right of passage. It didn't bother
me... and that's what bothers the adult me.

I know what you are thinking, and you are wrong. This isn't a
story about an adult going back to re-do the past she never had.
This is the tale of an adult with a sense of humor who wanted an
exciting night out with people who can speak her language -- sign
language, because, yes, she has some icky disabilities that makes
interacting with the public a challenge.

I was pretty in pink pants... dusty rose jeans, that is. If I'm
going to do something, I'll do it my way. No chance I'd buy and
wear an actual prom dress. But the cream colored sweater I wore
was kind of fancy. With dangling gold and cream earrings, a
little makeup and rose nail polish, I looked like a girl. (My
"lipstick" was Dr. Pepper flavored lip gloss... more doing it my
way.)

Miranda, a Kent State interpreter student, was my "date." She
bought us both flowers made to match our dress colors. Mine had
baby breath, lilies and flowers in purple and pink. I used the
neat magnets to attach it to my sweater. Miranda had a wardrobe
crisis when she knocked hers off and the inner magnet dropped
into her bra.

My friend Greg got dinner for me: rigatoni, a brad stick, salad
and sugar cookies. I did not make a mess of myself. Someone else
spilled his entire plate on his clothes... but the prom went on.

We were given party favors -- each person got a pair of
sunglasses with "University of Akron ASL Club" written on the
sides. A trend-setter put his on for dinner. Soon we were all
decked out in them. But an announcement was made asking us to
take off the sunglasses. They interfered with reading facial
expressions, which is a vital part of sign language.

After dinner, Miranda and I went to the night, starry sky back
drop for formal pictures... and goofy ones with us wearing bright
feather bows and another with me in Mickey Mouse ears and Miranda
in a hat with propellers. (I'm told I am smirking in that one.)

The prom guests were adults and college students, but the
atmosphere was pure high school awkwardness on the dance floor.
Everyone was waiting for someone else to start. I "jumped in" for
YMCA and the worm, plus other fast dances. I sat in my mobility
chair while Miranda and some guys helped me with the moves.

Some things have changed. Nominations for king and queen were
taken via text messages. The top five hearing nominees and top
tow deaf moved onto the final round of voting. Alex and Avery
were voted hearing prom king and queen. Louis was voted deaf king
for the second year in a row. At this point, I told Miranda I
wanted to leave right away. She just laughed.

The deaf prom queen was............... me!

I let out a huge mock, shock reaction as I went forward for my
crown. Louis and I did a slow dance together. It wasn't a dream
come true, I never dreamed I'd be prom queen. It was still pretty
cool. I accepted congratulations from my fans and smiled for
1,000 pictures.

From being a master to a prom queen at age 43... It's not
inspirational, just fun.

Angie C. Orlando
April 2017
Permission is granted to share.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

neodba event flyer

Upcoming event from:
NORTHEAST OHIO DEAFBLIND ASSOCIATION

VISIT COVENTRY VILLAGE

Date: April 23, 2017

Time: 1:00 to 5:00 PM

We will meet for lunch, then hang out and visit the stores. There
is something for everyone at Coventry Village, and things to do
that fit everyone's budget. JOIN US!

1:00 PM Meet for lunch at Mongolian Grill, 1854 Coventry Road,
Cleveland Hts.

After lunch, explore the village! Check out stores; Big Fun, City
Buddha and In the 216. Visit Coventry Library (they have an
extensive ASL and Deaf culture section!) And more!

Anyone with combined vision and hearing loss is invited to
attend, plus family, friends, interpreters, SSP's and volunteers.

To RSVP, ask questions or sign up as a volunteer, contact Angie
Orlando.
email: dotbug3@gmail.com
text: 330-221-6499

Please respond by April 15 so we can reserve enough seats at the
restaurant.
Help us by sharing the attached flyer with friends and on
facebook, and print and pot at colleges, churches and other sites
in the Deaf community. (Information on the flyer is the same as
the above text.)

Monday, January 30, 2017

grief

Grief

NF2 is a terrible disease
Holly has NF2
Her head is full of tumors

NF2 is a killer
Holly is end-stage
She will live forever

On January 22nd, I was reading my Facebook newsfeed when I came
across an odd message. Actually, it was two, because the first
person shared someone else's post.

It was a message I've seen in one form or another, posted by
Holly herself, the kind that drips with grief.

"Damn! Another one gone from NF2"

Not a funny message, but I laughed. The way the woman tagged in
Holly Alonzo, it looked as if Holly was the one who died. Ooops!

The second post was apparently written by Holly Alonzo.

"RIP sis"

What? Holly's sister died? She didn't have NF2. It made no sense.
I'm supposed to be intelligent, but the pieces wouldn't come
together, a puzzle that didn't want to be solved.

No no no no no no

The tears were falling as I read Holly's timeline.

"Goodbye Holly, I will always love you"

"You are in a better place now, no more pain"

"God has called his angel back to Heave"

No no no no no no

Holly has NF2
She is my friend
Holly is invincible

Holly's head is full of tumors
She could die
What about her son?

We are both fully deaf and blind with neuro-related issues. I
have PHARC. People don't die from PHARC. Holly has NF2. People
with NF2 might die in their 20's or 30's. I'm 43. Holly turned 30
on January 5th. I have a son named Joseph, age 15. Holly has a
son named Isaiah, age 9. Mommies don't die.

Neurofibromatosis type 2

Can you say it? Can you spell it? If so, I'm sorry for you.

noncancerous tumors throughout the nervous system vestibular
schwannomas benign, slow-growing tumors changes in vision
changes in sensation numbness weakness fluid buildup in the
brain deafness severe balance problems facial nerve
paralysis spinal cord compression swallowing difficulties
eye function complications Autosomal dominant disorders

Neurofibromatosis type 2

Can you say it? Can you spell it? If so, I'm sorry for you.

As long as the tumors can be removed, a person with NF2 is
not considered in terminal danger.

Holly had surgeries to remove tumors
She had many surgeries
Holly almost died in surgery many times

Holly's head is full of tumors
No more room for tumor growth
Holly is end-stage

She will die.

No, she won't die.

Mommies don't die.

Friends don't die.

Holly is dead.

Please help Holly's family. Edward is blind, and Isaiah is only 9
years old. You can make a donation at any Regions bank

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the
Memorial Fund set up for Holly Gail Alonzo at Regions Bank to
help her husband and young son.

Angie C. Orlando
January 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

action one

It began with an issue that quickly spread. On January 21st,
women marched around the nation and across the world. Their
issues were diverse, but their message and unity were clear. We
will not tolerate injustice.

The movement continues, and it's no longer just women who are
speaking out. We must all join together. I ask you, no matter
your gender, race, sexuality, religion, social status or
disability, to keep the fever burning. It is up to each and every
one of us.

This awesome website proposes 10 actions over 100 days:

https://www.womensmarch.com/100

The March is Not Over! Pick an issue and take action.

THE FIRST ACTION: Write a postcard to your Senators about what
matters most to you - and how you're going to continue to fight
for it in the days, weeks and months ahead.

STEP 1: GET YOUR CARDS

Get the official card printed, design your own, or be one of
10,000 people who can get a free Women's March Postcard using the
Ink Cards App.

STEP 2: MAKE them YOUR OWN

Write down your thoughts. Pour your heart out on any issue that
you care about, whether it's ending gender-based violence,
reproductive rights and women's health, LGBT rights, worker's
rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, religious freedom,
environmental justice disability rights or anything else.

STEP 3: SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD & SEND IT TO YOUR SENATOR

Before you send it, take a photo of your postcard and use the
#WhyIMarch tag when posting it to social media.

Do you live in Ohio?

To help those in my state get started, I have complied this lit
of address for our two senators.

Ohio State Senators

(write to the office location closest to you)

Sherrod Brown (D)

Cleveland:

801 West Superior Ave., Suite 1400 Cleveland, OH 44113

Cincinnati:

425 Walnut St., Suite 2310, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Columbus:

200 North High St. Room 614, Columbus, OH 43215

Lorain:

200 West Erie Ave. Suite 312, Lorain, OH 44052

Rob Portman (R)

Cincinnati:

312 Walnut St. Suite 3075 Cincinnati, OH 45202

Cleveland:

1240 East 9th Street Room 3061 Cleveland, OH 44199

Columbus:

37 West Broad Street Room 300 Columbus, OH 43215

Angie C. Orlando
January 2017
Permission is granted to share this article.t

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

when deafblind people fly alone

Guest blogger, Scott Stoffel, discusses the airline issue.

When DeafBlind People Fly Alone

By S. M. Stoffel

Recently, my DeafBlind friend was rudely informed by American
Airlines that she was not allowed to fly by herself. She had been
flying the exact same route for years without any complaints from
what used to be US Airways airlines. Why did a change in
ownership cause this sudden bias against a DeafBlind passenger?
Similar incidents have occurred with other DeafBlind flying
American or another airline. This situation is not new to the
DeafBlind community.

So what do we do about this injustice? The first step in solving
any problem is to understand the problem itself. Do you know why
some airlines have kicked (or tried to) DeafBlind passengers off
flights? Here's the reason American Airlines gave:

It is crucial for the flight crew on an aircraft to be able to
communicate with all passengers when an emergency occurs. Flight
personnel are not required by law to know Sign Language, nor are
they required to have an interpreter on board (no, the ADA does
not apply). So if a passenger can't hear spoken words and can't
see visual cues, the passenger is at risk of not understanding
and following instructions during an emergency situation. This
failure of the passenger to respond correctly may also endanger
other passengers in a crisis.

That is what the airline says. And how do they address this
issue? Sometimes, they just ignore it and hope nothing bad will
happen during a flight. Sometimes, they deny DeafBlind people the
right to fly alone. In the latter case, a DeafBlind passenger
would be allowed to fly only if a hearing person accompanied the
DeafBlind person. However, neither of these responses are what
the airlines should be doing.

Obviously, ignoring a potential problem is never a good idea. If
an emergency situation does arise, and the flight crew can't
communicate sufficiently with a DeafBlind passenger, things could
go terribly wrong.

On the other hand, denying an intelligent adult the right to
travel without a babysitter is unfair. It is certainly not a
simple matter to find a travel companion to go with you every
time you fly, even if the airline is required to pay for the
extra ticket. It's also unnecessary.

What should the airlines be doing, then? Consider the following:

Airlines should make it clear in their passenger guidelines
that a flight crew must be able to communicate information and
instructions to all passengers during an emergency. It must also
be stated plainly that the flight crew is not required by law to
know Sign Language or have an interpreter on board during a
flight.

The guidelines should encourage DeafBlind (and any other
travelers who can't understand spoken instructions) to prepare a
simple and quick communication system that the flight crew can
use during an emergency, such as cue cards or a paper describing
some tactile cues.

The guidelines should include a list of statements that the
flight crew may need to communicate to a passenger during an
emergency, so that the passenger can prepare a cue system that
covers all of those important statements.

Personnel encountering a DeafBlind passenger attempting to
board a flight should not deny access on the spot. They should
attempt to work out an emergency communication system, if the
passenger does not already have one ready.

What should you, the DeafBlind passenger, do to prepare for
flying alone? Here are some things:

When told you can't fly alone, don't cite the ADA. The ADA
doesn't cover flying. The law you should be familiar with is the
Air Carrier Accessibility Act (ACAA).

Prepare a simple and quick communication system that someone
who doesn't know Sign Language or Braille can use to tell you
things during an emergency on the aircraft. Slow systems, such as
Print On Palm, may not be quick enough in a crisis. Make some cue
cards or a list of tactile cues that allow the flight crew to
quickly tell you things like "Emergency! Stay in your seat," or
"Emergency! Go to the nearest exit," and so on. Cue cards should
have the emergency statements printed in text and Braille form.
Tactile cues described on a paper you give the flight crew could
be things like "Draw an X on my shoulder with your finger to say
'emergency'." Remember that speed is important, so make your cues
simple.

Always request that the flight safety guide be available in
Braille or large print for you. You must make this request
several days before the flight, because they generally don't keep
such materials on hand.

If you have a way to access text, such as an iPhone with
Braille, a Braille machine with a regular keyboard or a dry-erase
board, bring it with you on the flight and explain how the flight
crew can use it to communicate more complex information to you,
such as sending you a phone text to tell you that the plane had
to land at a different airport due to bad weather.

Be sure to identify yourself as a DeafBlind person at every
step of the process (booking the flight, requesting disability
services, getting your boarding pass, etc.) This is an important
step in order to get the law behind you.

If you are prepared for emergencies, but the personnel still
want to deny you access to your flight, demand to speak with a
Conflict Resolution Officer (CRO). It is your legal right to do
this, and just doing it shows them you know the law. When the CRO
comes, request to fill out a formal complaint form and explain
the situation.

Airlines and DeafBlind travelers need to work together to improve
flight accessibility, safety and convenience. Never forget: We're
people, too.

S. M. Stoffel
January 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

american airlines tries to stop deafblind passenger from boarding... again

In October, I experienced insult and frustration when American
Airlines (AA) attempted to stop me from board a flight from
Philly to Akron. I was allowed on the flight and made it safely
home. My father followed up with a complaint and many phone
calls. Eventually, the airline issued an apology and a voucher
for a free flight.

On December 23rd, 2016, I was one of many people at Akron-Canton
airport boarding a flight to Philadelphia. My mind was full of
holiday spirit and the excitement of spending Christmas with
loved ones.

All was well as far as I could tell. Everyone treated me with
respect, as opposed to the usual roughness as airline staff
pulled and pushed in every direction.

The plane was on time... a miracle! Someone started to wheel me
away, and stopped. I didn't think much of it. Finally I was taken
outside and helped to board the plane. We landed at Philly with
no trouble. My friends and I went to IHOP, where I had sinfully
delicious Raspberry and white chocolate chip pancakes. Life was
good.

It's never that easy for me. I should have known something wasn't
right. I found out the next day when I checked email. My father
wrote:

went to board your boarding pass was scanned and the screen said
that your ticket was not paid for. That is impossible since your
boarding pass was issued. I asked for the supervisor and 3 people
hit the phones. The customer relations person that I spoke to
previously told me call Disability Assistance before your next
flight. I did that and the guy told me that it was up to the
ground staff at the airport. Apparently he decided to tag you as
unable to fly alone because they have no way to communicate with
you. He did not tell me that he was going to tag you. As it
stands now you will be prevented from boarding in Philly.

what the Hell? and Merry Christmas! My father was on the phone
that night and the next... and every day after Christmas. Friends
from Pennsylvania were also making calls. Facebook was a-buzz
with messages and ideas. We exchanged emails like holiday
greetings but not so nice. Nobody could ignore what happened or
what was threatened to come. This situation truly put a black
cloud over Christmas.

Let me explain something. I used to make the Akron to Philly trip
On U. S. Airways. They never stopped me from flying. But there
was a merge or a take over. Now I'm flying American Eagle, which
is a contract company owned by American Airlines. The trouble
began with my first flight after the change.

I know what you are thinking. American Airlines suck! I should
fly Southwest or Delta. I can't. The is only one non-stop flight
from Akron to Philly -- American Airlines.

The big day, December 29th drew near. Instead of admiring my new
gifts, I was preparing a mission... trying to get home. But now
my supporters and I were armed with knowledge. For example, don't
company about ADA violations. ADA doesn't cover airline travel.
The law that does is called the Air Carrier Accessibility Act
(ACAA). If there is a problem, don't ask for a supervisor. You
want a Conflict Resolution Officer (CRO). Using proper terms
shows the airline that you know the law.

Since communication is the main concern, I made a communication
card to be given to the flight crew and everyone else along the
way. I made sure to keep it simple. An elaborate plan for
communication would likely cause more confusion than help. I
chose to not include Print on Palm. While this is supposed to be
an easy method that can be used by anyone for communication with
people who are Deafblind, I find it fails half the time. Just
like with regular writing, people "write" in different styles
when they use their finger like a pen to print letters on your
palm.

Instead, I offered directions on what to do in an emergency and
added my cell phone number. I read text messages using an IPhone
and braille Sense U2. Maybe they can't text me while in flight,
but it's a great solution for on the ground.

My entire communication card can be viewed at the end of this
blog. I will also be posting an article and guidelines for flying
alone as a person who is Deafblind.

Back to the story... We arrived extra early at the airport. An
interpreter friend volunteered to join us so I would be
completely informed of what was going on. I am so thankful for
her kindness. Having the ability to answer questions myself and
make comments or suggestions is crucial in proving that I can fly
by myself. When I merely sit quietly in a wheelchair and everyone
talks around me, there is no demonstration of my ability to
communicate. No wonder the airline is concerned.

The woman at check-in was oh, so very nice. She told us about all
her experience with people who have disabilities. But we hit a
snag. In the past, both Frank and Scott were allowed to come with
me to the gate. This time I could only take one person with me,
and it had to be the interpreter. We didn't agree. The woman said
rules have changed. We didn't back down. A supervisor was called
and soon we were all allowed at the gate.

As soon as we reached the gate, another manager was called. My
heart filled with dread. But wait... the supervisor was there to
personally escort me onto the plane to make everything proceed
smoothly. Cool! This royalty treatment might have bee the result
of some connections with people on Facebook.

I was sitting in the front row on the plane when my IPhone
vibrated in my coat pocket. It was the interpreter. American
Airlines didn't have a braille copy of the in-flight safety
guidelines, so they had her text them to me. I read them but did
not reply. They brought the interpreter onto the plane to confirm
that I read the guidelines. We were communicating in every sense
of the word.

The plane took off, the flight was fine, and I made it home to my
two favorite cats. I still have the voucher for a free flight. I
have no intention to stop flying to Philly. We can only see what
the future has to offer. Bring it on, I'm ready to fight for my
rights.

Please share this blog and the two that will soon follow. We need
to educate the world. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Angie C. Orlando
January 2017

This is my communication card.


To: American Airlines

RE: Air Carrier Accessibility Act (ACAA)

1. My name is Angela C. Orlando, and I am deafblind.

2. You can text me at 330-221-6499.

3. I need a braille copy of in-flight safety guidelines.

4. I do not want a snack or drink.

5. In an emergency, draw an X on my shoulder and tug my hand. I
will know to follow you and save questions for later.

6. If there is an emergency, and you want me to stay in my seat,
draw an X on my shoulder and make the hand gesture for "stay."

7. When it is time for me to leave the plane, make sure I have my
forearm crutch and bag, then tug my hand. I will not stand up or
leave my seat unless directed to do so in the above mentioned
manner.

8. I will meet someone at baggage claim.
At PHL, I am meeting frank Stoffel.
At CAK, I am meeting Pete Orlando.

9. If there are any problem, I request to speak with a Conflict
Resolution Officer (CRO).

Thursday, December 22, 2016

day out with my girls

December third was the date of a Deafblind "ugly sweater" holiday
party. I couldn't go because my holiday sweater, complete with a
black ct wearing a Santa hat and tactile scarf, is too beautiful.
Actually, I had other plans with some of my best girls.

Adventure time! Meg and I hit the road at 11:00 AM. After a quick
stop at McDonalds for caffeine, we started the journey to
Columbus, Ohio. At 1:30, we reached our destination: The House of
Japan. There I found my Makenzie, her boyfriend and his two kids.
Yeah, we had boys at lunch. This story focuses on the girls,
including eight year old "Emily."

The restaurant is one of those Japanese steakhouses where they
cook at your table. I could feel, and always flinched at, the
extreme heat from grills at other tables. One flare-up was so
close, I thought Makenzie had burst into flames. Nah, it'll take
a lot more than that to stop this girl.


Emily got me a tiny teal umbrella for my Dr. Pepper. When it
somehow fell out and flew away, she chased it down so I could
keep it forever.

The children were in awe of the chef and the show he put on while
cooking our meal. The server heaped piles of rice on our plates.
I tried to wait for my steak, but the rice was so good, I
couldn't stop eating and knew I'd be full before the meat
arrived. Emily and Meg were also losing the battle.
We heard drums several times when the staff sang "Happy Birthday"
at other tables. It was five days too early for me. Would they do
it? I turned to Makenzie and said, "Don't you dare!" Then I
pointed my finger at Meg and said, "Not you, either." I wasn't a
bit surprised when the drums beat loudly and people were singing
to me. Makenzie interpreted the song. I was given a fresh strip
of pineapple with sparklers and another little umbrella to keep
forever.

Who snitched? It was Emily! That girl is something else. She
proudly told me, signing by herself, that she ate all her food,
even the pineapple, with chop sticks. I love how she held up both
hands when signing to me, exactly the way Makenzie does.

After lunch, we ditched the boys and went across the street to
the mall to do some serious damage to my credit card. I wanted a
Pandora charm bracelet and tried to convince myself that I
deserved a special gift for my 43rd birthday. No one else would
be insane enough to drop that much money to buy me one. Makenzie,
who has hr own bracelet, was great encouragement. The part of me
that believes I spent too much money says she's an evil
influence.

Meg and I had ben looking at a similar type of bracelet a few
weeks earlier. I liked the idea of beads as charms but didn't
feel inspired by what Kay's offered. Most of the Pandora beads we
looked at were tactile. That's all it took, hook, line and sinker
and I was caught.

The hard part was deciding on what beads to buy to get my
bracelet started. I ended up with six: heart with my birthstone,
cat face, treble clef, house that says "Home, sweet, home," heart
that says "Mom" and a graduation cap. Most are silver. All are
tactile. I still feel guilty, but I love, love, love my bracelet.

When Makenzie signed "Starbucks," I thought she was joking. Silly
me. She never jokes about coffee and neither does Meg. I do like
their caramel apple cider but got water instead. (Yes, folks, I
do drink water.) We sat around talking, joking, hanging out. It
doesn't matter that I'm sitting in a blue, plaid mobility chair
or that I use tactile sign language. When I'm with my friends I
forget I'm not normal. That's a lovely feeling for someone like
me.

Makenzie gave Emily $7. How would she spend it? I was the one to
suggest the candy store, one of my favorites. Emily looked but
didn't buy. It was the old lady in the group that took so long to
decide. Cherry gummies, jelly fruit slices or jelly berries? I
bought the berries and a bag of chocolate coal for Joseph.

We stopped at Claire's Boutique, where Emily was in heaven. She
ran around exclaiming "Look at this! Makenzie... look!" Makenzie
helped me find a new pair of fake diamond studs, while Emily
searched for a "best friends" necklace. All three goofballs
enjoyed showing me big, ugly things that I wouldn't be caught
dead in. I was so distracted that I forgot about the studs and
left empty handed.

Girls always go to the potty before a long trip home. Near the
mall exit, we stopped and Makenzie gave me a birthday present -
the earrings I forgot to buy. Underneath was a gift from Emily
that warmed my heart close to boiling. It was half of a "best
friends" necklace. She had been looking for one so the two of us
could always be joined. My mother summed up the situation and
Emily perfectly when she said, "Bless her heart."

It was col outside, but we took forever to say goodbye. Emily was
all buckled in, ready to leave... and then she was out taking
pictures. I would have had a good time at the Deafblind party,
but nothing can beat a day out with my best girls.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

after

This poem is dedicated to my brother, Tony Orlando, who died on
October 19th, 2007, one week before his 39th birthday.

After

First time Mom takes my hand, spells "Tony is dead" without you

First I tell Joseph, age seven, "It was a medication error" but
he just wants ice cream without you

First day in ASL class, friends want details, but I won't gab
without you

First talk-the-talk with a boyfriend, who feels me up in front of
Dad without you

First bout of strep throat, on the couch crying without you

First sign language play, Wonka Jr. at Hubbard High, hands
flying, and Charlie is a girl named Sara without you

Second cochlear implant surgery, and all I'll eat is pretzel M &
M's without you

First drive to Cleveland where Dr. Natt says "Tony's tissue
samples are toxic" and he wants my piss and blood without you

First time I find a guy who really gets me, it's Matt, and that's
all I'll say without you

First Halloween, I want to be invisible without you

-- after Belle Waring

Angie C. Orlando
October 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

american eagle tries to kick deafblind woman off flight

I am a 42 year old woman who happens to be Deafblind. I also have
neuropathy, which makes walking difficult. I don't like being
told that I can't do something. I know my body better than
anyone. I will admit my limits and ask for help when needed. I
don't believe the "I can do anything I want" mind-set. But flying
alone on a direct flight is something I am able to do.

For the pat eight years, I've flown in and out of Akron-Canton,
Cleveland Hopkins, JFK, BWI and Philly international airports.
These days it's the Akron to philly trip, maybe four times per
year. That's because someone very dear to my heart lives an hour
from Philadelphia. Philly International airport is the most
chaotic place I've ever been to. It's endless, confusing and
overall, a pain in the butt.

I can fly on my own, even into a big airport. Here's how I do it:

My father drives me to Akron-Canton. We have the ticket printed.
The airline has already been notified of my disability and
special needs. My Dad does the talking, shows them my ID. I'm
usually back-ended into a wheelchair and I sit down.

I need a pat-down to get through security. No big deal... been
there, done that. "I've been through this dozens of times, so
just go ahead and do what you need.," I tell them. They raise my
arms, have me lean forward, push me back, move my legs and wipe
my hands. I don't need to be able to hear TSA to know what to do.
They communicate perfectly by doing it. Even the breast pat isn't
a concern.

After I gather up my jacket, bag, braille machine, phone and
forearm crutch, my father takes me to the gate. Eventually,
airline staff wheel me to the plane. Getting on is the tricky
part. Sometimes I have to go up a ramp or stirs, and sometimes go
down. There's an awkward moment when I first step onto the
plane. Usually, I get to sit in first class. They indicate for me
to duck my head. I used to hit my head as a sighted traveler. The
message is clear. Finally, I'm pushed into a chair, and someone
buckles my seat belt. That part isn't necessary, but I keep my
mouth shut and let them do it.

For the next 90 minutes, i'm basically ignored. That works for
me. I know when we are taking off because the plane goes fast and
up. I know when we are landing because there's a bumping
sensation when the landing gear is drop. The plane goes down, and
we hit the ground. I know when to get off because the airline
staff come for me, indicate I need to duck my head, and we do
everything in reverse.

Once inside I repeat my mantra, "I'm meeting Frank at the baggage
calm, frank at baggage." Or if i'm returning to Akron, I say,
"Pete at baggage, Pete at baggage."

Mostly, it goes well enough. They haven't lost me yet. It's a
frustrating adventure, but that's true for every other passenger
on the plane.

The worst part is the rough man-handling. I am not a garbage
truck, bus or any other type of vehicle. I do not have flashing
lights or beep when going backwards. Do not back-end me into a
wheelchair or any other kind of chair. They do it every single
time. The fact that I can't feel the chair behind me makes the
situation worse. I will not sit until I feel the chair with my
hand. They won't let go of my hand and push me down.

I have been yanked and lifted out of chairs by two people. They
don't give me time to slide my arm into the forearm crutch. They
won't let me hold onto a rail while getting on and off the plane.
It's mind boggling how people think a moving human body is more
supportive than a metal rail.

Yank, push, pull shove, lift... They hold me tight enough to
bruise. They don't give me room to move. They ignore my protests
and instructions on what to do, how to guide me. I'm a random
piece of baggage they must load onto the plane. I grin and bear
it, concentrating on how wonderful it will be to reach my
destination and get away from these crazy people.

I travel on American Airline, which is now known as American
Eagle. The worst incident, until now, was when I returned to
Akron on September 6th and was trying to get off the plane. For
some reason, they now "unload" me first if i'm in first class.
There is a sense of urgency. We need to hurry so as not to hold
up the rest of the passengers. A male flight attendant was
pushing me from behind. God, I hate that. A female had my hands
and was trying to guide me onto the steps. The crutch dangled
uselessly from my arm, so I couldn't "see" where to put my feet.
The man changed his grip, holding my tightly just under my
breasts. The female pulled my arms forward. The man allowed no
slack, so I couldn't move. I understood I needed to take a step
down, but this guy would not permit it. He lifted me down one
step at a time with his arms around my body and under my breasts.
I'm pretty sure that hold qualified as sexual harassment. I could
still feel his touch in the car as my dad drove me home.

That was the worst until Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 at philly
International. We were doing fine until check-in. Frank can
fingerspell so, unlike with my father, he can communicate with
me. But he mostly does the talking. At last, he told me, "The
bitch at check-in doesn't think you can fly alone. But not to
worry." He's ex-military and doesn't take crap from anyone.

Apparently this one woman decided I would hurt myself and others
if allowed to fly by myself. What would I do if there was an
emergency> She contacted her supervisor, who agreed with her.
They called the gate and told airline staff not to allow me to
board.

The bitch and supervisor made another attempt to kick me off the
flight. The workers at the gate were really nice and outraged by
what was going on. They called their supervisor, and I was
allowed onto the plane. I later learned the woman from check-in
was still making trouble, but nothing came of it.

When I posted about this on Facebook, most of my friends were
shocked. The Deafblind community was not. This wasn't new.
Deafblind travelers have been kicked off flights repeatedly over
the past ten years. There is nothing in ADA about airline travel,
but this violates airline carrier rules. That doesn't stop it
from happening. Air Canada would not allow a world-wide traveler
onto a plane because she is DeafBlind. A Deafblind woman won a
lawsuit against Continental when they kicked her off a flight.
More recently, a Deafblind priest, also a world-wide traveler,
was not allowed to board his plane.

What would I do in an emergency? The same thing I do on the
ground, let airline staff lead the way, or push or yank. I follow
non-verbal directions. They don't need to tell me the nature of
the emergency for me to understand something is wrong, and I need
to go with them. Think about it. Many non-disabled people are
paralyzed by fear and must be pulled out of their seats and
forced to move.

People who are Deafblind are treated like mindless idiots. One
Facebook friend said I should get a t-shirt that says, "I have a
masters degree, do you?"

But the reality is that I was lucky. I had someone to advocate
for me. In the end, I was on the flight and made it home. Now my
father is in communication with American Eagle. He's ex-IRS and
doesn't take crap from anyone.

Friday, August 26, 2016

day at the fair

What makes the Portage County Randolph Fair so good is that half
the county is rural, and 4H flourishes here. All those animals
and shows entice the big rides and best food vendors, plus
tractors, tractor pulls and the annual demolition derby. All of
that together attracts people, people, people.. and me and my SSP
friend.

I can't see or hear, and for events like the fair, I need to use
a wheelchair, but I don't like to miss out on things. The county
fair was a huge part of growing up in Portage County. It's still
huge, even though I'm supposed to be a grown up. I never liked
big rides. I ignore that section, and focus on what I do enjoy.
We went to the fair on opening day. This means the animals don't
smell quite as bad, but the kids are more protective, since the
animals haven't been judged yet. I also noticed a change in the
air and general feel of the environment, a literal lack of
movement. Usually there are tractor pulls going on. I can hear
the roar of the engines, feel the vibration of the motors. I
guess we were too early for that, which is fine, but I missed the
smell of gasoline on the air. People aren't supposed to like that
scent, but everyone does.

We started with the merchants, a whole heck of a lot of them. I
love getting free candy and useless stuff and entering in
raffles. I usually run into people I know, and buy cheap jewelry,
or other things I could live without, but it's the fair, so I
must have it.

Raffles: We only saw one, health supplement from the new
pharmacy at NEOMed. Joseph, who wasn't with us, couldn't
understand why I entered a raffle I didn't want to win.

"Because it was free."

"But you don't want the prize," he insisted.

"But it was free."

Shopping: Sadly, I was under a budget this year. I skipped over
the t-shirts, didn't even try to buy game character stuff for
Joseph and somehow resisted the "Cavaliers Ave." sign that was
calling me name. (maybe because I have no where to hang it." I
was a bad girl on the earrings, buying four pairs of tiny studded
designs that are perfect for my second set of pierced ear lobes.

People: A woman from the Portage County Board of Developmental
Disabilities seemed to know me, but I didn't recognize her name.
Turns out she is the daughter of one of my friends who I hadn't
see in a long time. Her mother and grandmother would be arriving
later. I ran into both of them at different locations. It was a
reunion of sorts... a very good one. It's hard to come to the
fair without bumping into someone you know.

By this point, I was dying of thirst and couldn't imagine how Meg
felt, pushing me around in the wheelchair, describing dozens of
earrings and acting as an interpreter. I was looking for lemonade
and ended up with a deliciously cold cherry slush. Meg got the
same, and said it hit the spot. After a moment, it hit the wrong
spot... brain freeze! That didn't stop us from drinking.

Next, we headed for the animals. My absolute favorite are the
goats. They are brimming with personality, so silly and cute.
Getting them to my side of the cage isn't easy. Some bounced
around all over the place. Others slept in a far corner. I
touched an ear here, a leg there, and I don't know what that part
was.

Meg convinced a boy to bring his goat out for me to meet. It was
love at first touch. This little guy, the goat, not the boy, was
short and stout, very, very wide. I wanted to sing the tea pot
song. "I'm a little goatie, shirt and stout..."

We hit the small animals next. I could hear the general racket of
chickens and ducks, and an actual "cock-a-doodle-doo" from a
rooster. Meg managed to get my finger close to a rabbit. When its
nose touched my fingertip, it seemed startled and quickly jumped
back. The rapid movement startled me, and I almost jumped out of
my wheelchair.

The last excitement of the day was smelling the food: sausage,
hamburgers, french fries, green peppers, corn, pulled pork,
funnel cakes and just about everything deep-fried you could think
of. I wanted fried veggies and fried cheese on a stock, but we
weren't able to stay and eat. I got some of my favorite fudge, I
love fudge!, and we headed to the car. I arrived home exhausted,
the good kind of tiredness that comes from a fun day out. My face
and arms tingled, having been slightly kissed by the sun. I was
wishing I could go back, do it all over again. The county fair is
one of the best places in the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ashland University mfa program

The stage is empty, the curtain drawn closed, scenery covered in
dust. They ask, "Whee is Dot Bug? What happened to the words that
used to grace the pages of this blog?"

There are a dozen ways I could answer that. I'll start at the
end, with this article from Ashland University. More to come
later, I promise.

Seventeen Students Complete Ashland University's MFA Summer
Residency

8/2/16

ASHLAND, Ohio Ashland University culminated its 10th Master of
Fine Arts in Creative Writing Summer Residency on July 28 by
recognizing 17 students who have completed their MFA degrees and
will graduate at the University's winter commencement in
December. A total of 51 students completed the summer residency
program. The 17 students included Ashland's first fiction-writing
MFA graduate, Katlyn Stechschulte, as well as students in Poetry
and Creative Nonfiction.

The 17 graduates hail from Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Michigan,
Missouri, New York and North Carolina. Nine will receive MFA
degrees in Creative Nonfiction and seven earned MFA degrees in
Poetry. Their number also included Angie Orlando of Kent, Ohio,
who is both blind and deaf and has written compellingly about her
experiences while earning her MFA.

"Angie's words exhibited humor and courage," said Dr. Dawn Weber,
dean of AU's College of Arts and Sciences, who honored the
students at last week's recognition program.

Weber noted that the ceremony included faculty thesis advisors'
reading short excerpts from each student's creative thesis.

"Family members also attend, often with a bouquet of flowers in
hand," Weber said. "The written words of our students were at
times powerful, haunting, beautiful and heart-breaking."

Ashland's two-week MFA residency brings students and faculty from
across the nation to Ashland for what has emerged as a nationally
recognized graduate program in Creative Writing.

Poets & Writers, a top creative writing magazine that rates MFA
programs across the nation, found in 2013 that AU's low-residency
program ranked second in job placement, fourth in fellowship
placement and 11th in selectivity among 47 U.S. low-residency
programs.

Ashland's Honored Visiting MFA Graduate Faculty joined students
at Ashland during the two weeks from as far away as California,
Washington State, Colorado and as near as Ohio and Ashland's own
campus. These faculty members have published more than 60
nonfiction books, novels, essay collections, poetry volumes,
chapbooks and books of short stories. Several are widely
recognized as critical writers and/or editors of distinguished
journals or university press book prize series.

An independent agency that ranks higher education degrees for
economic return on investment ranked AU's low-residency MFA as
its top value program:

"Of all the low-residency creative writing MFA's, Ashland
University's is probably the most prestigious," concluded Iris
Stone of Bestvalueschools.com. "AU has a strong reputation for
launching careers in creative writing and publishing."

As evidence, graduates of the Ashland MFA program already have
published some 20 of their own books since completing the program
and the list is growing. Recent titles of graduate publications
may be found at


https://www.ashland.edu/cas/master-fine-arts/student-alumni-publi
cations .

With support from the Ohio Arts Council, the Ashland MFA also
annually brings to campus well-known professional writers during
the MFA residency, each of whom offers readings and workshops, as
well as visiting individual classes. This year's headliners
included Gretel Ehrlich, author of bestselling nonfiction books,
a novel, and two collections of poetry. Ehrlich is both a
Bellagio and Guggenheim Fellow and has been published in The New
York Times Magazine, Time, Harper's, The Atlantic and National
Geographic.

J. Allyn Rosser was the visiting poet for the residency and is
the author of four collections of poetry. She has received poetry
fellowships from Lannan, Guggenheim, the NEA and the Ohio Arts
Council. Her poems are widely published in top journals and
magazines and in four editions of Best American Poetry.

This year's fiction writing guest was Steve Almond, author of
eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including The New York
Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football: One Fan's
Reluctant Manifesto. His short stories have been featured in Best
American Short Stories and Best American Mystery Stories.

Fiction writing has now joined Creative Nonfiction and Poetry as
the third genre to be featured by the Ashland University MFA. The
initial two genres of graduate study were established 10 years
ago and grew out of the University's long hosting of the Ashland
Poetry Press and River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative.

The Ashland MFA's visiting writer program for the MFA is
supported in part by a grant from The Ohio Arts Council, which
announced this week that Ashland University's grant award for
next summer already has been approved and that it will increase
by nearly 50 percent. The grant makes it possible for members of
the Ashland community as well as Ohioans beyond Ashland to attend
the MFA readings and workshops free of charge.

source:
http://news.ashland.edu/article/fifty-one-students-complete-au%E2
%80%99s-mfa-summer-residency-program

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