Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Plea for Clemency: AFA's letter to Gov. Scott to FREE FELIX

11 June 2014

Rick Scott, Governor, State of Florida
cc:  Pam Bondi, Attorney General, State of Florida; Adam Putnam, Agriculture Commissioner, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;  Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services

Dear Governor Scott,

We are writing to you once again to request you undo injustice committed in your state by granting executive clemency/commutation of sentence for Felix Garcia. Mr. Garcia, a partially Deaf man, has served 32 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, a crime his Hearing brother recently confessed to committing. Both his brother and his sister have provided affidavits concerning his innocence.  Additionally, Mr. Garcia never had full access to information during his arrest, his trial, and imprisonment due to the failure to provide him with reasonable communication accommodations. Thus, he was unable to fully assist with his own defense.

Audism Free America (AFA), as well as others in the Deaf community has a grave concern for Deaf citizens in Florida, as evidence by the treatment of Felix Garcia.  AFA is a national grassroots advocacy network working to combat audism.  Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.  Felix Garcia has been a victim of audism in being denied his rights to a fair trial and wrongful imprisonment.  We believe you have the opportunity now to look again at his application for clemency and do the right thing—granting him his freedom.  With the growing inmate population in Florida, you cannot afford to keep innocent individuals imprisoned. 

Please do not let Felix Garcia be an example of the failure of the Florida justice system toward innocent Deaf citizens. 

Let Freedom Roll,

Karen Christie, Patti Durr and Ruthie Jordan on behalf of Audism Free America

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

AFA Stands with CI Survivors and Victims

setting:  Ruthie Jordan standing on the sidewalk in front of the Cochlear America building, she is wearing a blue AFA shirt, glasses and a black hat.  Back of the blue AFA shirt has a painting of George W. Veditz signing love/cherish with the sign for STAND as a frame around George and text at top STAND FOR JUSTICE.  The painting of Veditz and the hand stand is by Nancy Rourke.  T-shirts courtesy of Shawn Elfink)

Today is Memorial Day, the day we honor those who fought and still fight to ensure our Human Rights.  We remember all who suffered physical, emotional and mental trauma and others who paid the ultimate price.  In conjunction with honoring our military, AFA has come to stand, honor, and remember our Deaf children and their parents who have been lied to and taken advantage of by the medical system and cochlear implant companies.  We honor these Deaf children who have been robbed of their human rights, their identity, language, culture, and education.  We remember those who have struggled through the frustrations of educational systems that continually focus on speech and listening while oppressing, denying and isolating them. 
The biggest offender in the spider web of systems is the cochlear implant (CI) industry who continues to profit from Deaf children.  Lately, there has been much discussion about the 12 Deaf children who died from cochlear implant surgeries in the 1980’s.  (see interview with Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Cognitive Neuroscientist  The facts of these deaths were swept under the rug and ignored by cochlear implant companies who continued encouraging the medical community to implant children and the surgeries have become an epidemic. 
On this day, many are communing with family, BBQ’ing, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company while their Deaf family members are left out of conversations, forced to focus on the lips of others and try to follow what is happening around them. We are asking all members of our Community (Deaf, hearing, hard-of-hearing, parents, cochlear implant survivors, interpreters…) to STAND with us and return the rights of identity, language, culture and education to our Deaf children.  Stop Audism.
AFA wants to emphasize, we in no way blame or demean parents of Deaf children for choosing a CI for their child, we recognize the enormity of the medical system and that it is saturated with audism.  We hold the cochlear implant companies (Advanced Bionics, Cochlear America, and Med-El) accountable for the damage they cause by incentivizing their products and disseminating false, prejudicial, and disparaging information.  Together, let us reclaim our roots by working to return ASL, culture, identity and education to our Deaf children, they are our future.  LET FREEDOM ROLL!
(description: camera is panning around the Cochlear America building showing how large it is)
Cochlear America is just one of the companies earning millions from the bodies of Deaf children, they were founded in 1982 and their annual revenue is $500-999 million. 
Description:  Ruthie is dressed in a black long sleeve shirt that says “STOP AUDISM” on the sleeves and a black hat standing next to Heather, who is also wearing a long sleeve shirt that says “STOP AUDISM” on the sleeves.  Heather is holding 2 rolled up banners and some papers. 
Ruthie signing: 
Tonight we are standing against audism and challenging the Cochlear Implant industry to stop robbing Deaf children of ASL, Deaf Culture and identity.  We want Advanced Bionics, Cochlear America and Med-El to acknowledge the cognitive damage cochlear implants cause, expose the facts regarding the deaths of Deaf children from cochlear implant surgeries, and stop taking advantage of Deaf children and their parents. Description: Heather and Ruthie walk to the front door of Cochlear America where they use blue painters tape on the windows, lean AFA cards on the front door, and lay out the AFA STOP AUDISM banner.  There are 12 candles surrounding the AFA logo and Heather is sitting on the ground near them.  Ruthie is standing in the foreground signing and then moves and sits on the ground next to the banner and 12 candles.
Ruthie signing: Tonight we hold a vigil to honor the12 Deaf children who died from CI surgery that the Cochlear Implant industry refuses to recognize. 
Earlier, I mentioned research that has recently come to light that showed in the 1980’s CI surgery caused the deaths of 12 Deaf children and a panel of experts called for the end of cochlear implant surgeries in children.  Sadly, the CI industry ignored the panel’s recommendations and continue making billions of dollars off Deaf children and their families while disregarding the health of the whole child.  Now, we honor those 12 Deaf children who were taken from us along with honoring all CI survivors.

Description:  Ruthie kneels down to light the 12 candles that are in a circle around the AFA logo.
Ruthie signing: These 12 candles represent the 12 Deaf children taken from us, as we light these candles I imagine the experience of their parents as the doctors and audiologist came into their hospital rooms and said, Im so sorry your child is deaf, but we will send the audiologist in to explain a surgery that will cure them”…just like that, the childs light was extinguished before they had a chance to shine.  Tonight, we reignite their flames, so they may shine once again and know they are valued, honored and remembered. We also light these flames in honor of our future Deaf children, those who will carry our legacy, language, culture.  WE stand for them and for all.  LET FREEDOM ROLL!  Feel your spirits rumble and stand up, stop audism, tell the cochlear implants companies NO MORE!  When we free our minds, colonialism has no power and we can inspire Deaf children to be healthy, happy and whole. 
Heather signing: Bless the 12 Deaf children and carry them with us.
Description:  Ruthie and Heather standing while Heather is holding a lit candle. 
Ruthie signing:  Seeing the lit candle is inspiring and makes me laugh at the propaganda cochlear implant companies spread.  Cochlear Americas slogan is Hear now. And always, they try to convince people that the only value Deaf people have is their ears and mouth.  Little do they know, ASL is CHAMP Here now. And Always!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

AFA Looks Back to 2010

Audism Free America 

reflects back on the past 5 years

AFA began in 2009 – to see that year in review go to:

AFA alerted the community about Clarke school removing the Deaf in its name –
Clarke School for the Deaf changed to the Center for Oral Education to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech

We shared information on our video meeting with Nancy Bloch NAD CEO and we issued a Wake Up Call to the NAD.  See and later we put forth five questions about audism to each of the finalists for NAD CEO.

We actively opposed AB 2072 – a bill in California that later was vetoed by the Governor.

We provided a list of resources on audism and linguicism.

We shared our concerns with the community and wrote a letter to the Judge about a Deaf father being court-ordered to force his Deaf daughter to wear her cochlear implants all her waking hours even if they were causing her discomfort or she wanted to have them off or a while. 

We revisited our 3 demands to AG Bell Association – which are still valid and need to be addressed by AGBAD. 

We informed the community about fines and lawsuits against Cochlear Americas and Advanced Bionics.

We sent a letter to NTID President Search Committee identifying the qualities desired for the next president of NTID. 

We expressed our grave concerns about the unjust killing of Native-American Deaf woodcarver, John T. Williams by a Seattle police officer. 

We were involved in advocating for the ICED to rescind the ICED Milan 1880 resolutions and we received a response from the ICED 2010.

We issued a PR web on the Historic Announcement Rejecting the Exclusion of Sign Language in Deaf Education

Friday, April 4, 2014


Greetings All…..
As you may be aware  Felix Garcia, an innocent Deaf man who has spent the past 32 years in prison, is up for clemency hearing in September. There is a Facebook page and petition that goes to the Florida Governor (the state where Felix is being held).  If Florida Governor agrees to grant clemency to Felix, he will finally be free.  YOUR support is NEEDED NOW by signing the petition, joining the Facebook page, and using #FREEFELIX. 

Sign the petition here:

Visit the Facebook page here:

In 2012, AFA wrote a letter to Governor Scott on behalf of Felix (see Below is more information we received concerning recent articles published, a tv spot, an op-ed written by Felix Garcia's pro-bono attorney, and other links.

Felix's freedom is in your hands!! 

Let Freedom Roll
for Felix too!


Gov. Scott and Cabinet have a chance to do the right thing for Felix Garcia
March 27, 2014
By Peter Schorsch
Click here to see the article:

Tallahassee Democrat
Reggie Garcia: Help deaf people be heard
April 1, 2014
By Reggie Garcia
Click here to see the rest of the article:

 WFLA-TB (NBC) - Tampa Bay, FL
News Ch8 Today
March 26, 2014
Click here to watch this video segment:

See also:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

AFA's Letter Concerning Iowa School for the Deaf Supt Search

2 April 2014
Ms. Rose Vasquez,
Search Committee Chair
And Ms. Marcia Brunson,
Policy and Operations Officer
Board of Regents

To Ms. Brunson and Ms. Vasquez,

It has come to our attention that the education of Deaf children in Iowa is endangered and as a national grassroots network of Deaf activists, dedicated to combating audism*, we feel compelled to respond.  It is clear to us that the recent actions of the Board of Regents translates into a systematic effort to ensure that the education of Deaf children in your state is moving toward the closure of Iowa School for the Deaf and resulting forced assimilation of Deaf students in your state.

Is it intentional that you have not included on your search committee for Superintendent significant Deaf representatives nor representatives from vital stakeholders such as ISD alumni and Deaf Community members?

Is it intentional that you have not sought a QUALIFIED individual for the Superintendent position who has an advanced degree in the areas related to the education of Deaf individuals?

Is it intentional that it is not a priority that the Superintendent of a Deaf school can communicate directly with the stakeholders and students she/he is expected to serve and protect?

Is it intentional that you are not actively working with the Deaf Coalition of Iowa to build a stronger relationship between the Deaf community and the Iowa School for the Deaf?

Unfortunately, these efforts will leave the future generation of Iowa Deaf students academically at risk.  Not only is this unjust, there are international documents which your actions violate in principle:

The International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) in 2010 noted that, many Deaf citizens are being prevented from “equal access to decision making, employment opportunities and quality education” and therefore urged all nations to “facilitate, enhance and embrace their Deaf citizens’ participation in all governmental decision making processes affecting all aspects of their lives.”

From the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
Deaf children have the human right to accessible learning which “facilitate(s) their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community.”

At this point in time what is needed is a visionary Superintendent who is dedicated to improving the education of Deaf children in Iowa by putting into practice an innovative challenging educational program at Iowa School for the Deaf that will prepare Deaf students as global citizens.  Relying heavily on a search committee that has minimal knowledge of Deaf culture, ASL, and community accountability within the Deaf-World does not bode well in leading to an Audism-free new Superintendent.

The passion of the members of the Deaf Coalition of Iowa shows a great investment in the importance of the future of the Iowa School for the Deaf and the education of all Deaf children in Iowa. This investment the Board and future Superintendent cannot afford to loose.

Let Freedom Roll,

Karen Christie, Patti Durr and Ruthie Jordan

*Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.

Cc:  Robert Vizzini, Deaf Coalition of Iowa,
       Patrick Clancy, Superintendent of Iowa