Rule 615

Making ethical decisions in a vacuum is like getting lost and only asking yourself for directions.

This is a combination of the Wit and Wisdom of two people, Xenia Fretter and one other reader who asked not to be named. Thanks to both!

Rule 611

When a Doctor’s Office tells a Deaf person, “you have to bring your own interpreter,” I just want to ask the name of the wheelchair user they required to build that wheelchair-ramp in front of their building.

Note from Aunt SuperTam: Real Talk with SuperTam

If you did not know it by now reading this blog, I married an incredible and profound person.

Many people have asked me to share the talk my wife gave at my son Harrison’s funeral.

PLEASE DON’T STOP READING! This is an uncomfortable topic, but we need to accept this discomfit because it is literally about life and death.

I am sharing only part of her longer remarks because it is vitally important. You can find the full transcript on my Facebook timeline.

I am happy that it touched so many people and hopefully opened up some much needed dialog on the topics of both mental illness and suicide.

Please remember that these are the words she spoke over my son’s coffin, in a room with about 600 people watching and listening. I say that not only as a kind of trigger warning, and as a way of letting you know the power and strength possible in the human spirit, but also to highlight the sacred nature of her words.

Please share this. Share her full remarks. Share them with people you love or people you just met, but share this message.

Excerpts of remarks given on July 28, 2018, at the funeral of Harrison T Boam by his mother Tammis R Boam.

“…Harrison asked me to say it like it is today. So, we are going to have what I’m calling Real Talk with SuperTam, (because that’s my nickname).

Harrison killed himself. Very few people want to say that. People don’t want to talk about it. People do want to talk about it but they don’t know how. It’s an unbearably painful topic. People keep telling Dale and myself that we are so brave to talk openly about what Harrison did. We never considered any other option. It didn’t feel brave to either one of us, just truthful. When a person dies of heart disease or cancer or pneumonia, we all grieve, but we don’t fear talking about why they died. Mental illness carries a heavy stigma in our society and I believe we share an obligation to have more productive and proactive conversations about a really scary and difficult topic. Mental illness is physical illness. It happens in the brain. Just like MS or Parkinson’s disease; it can be a chemical imbalance, a failure of synapses to connect properly, or an underdeveloped portion of the brain that limits its proper function. It is not different than any other illness. But it is sooo taboo. When the term ‘Mental Illness’ is mentioned, people think in extremes; severe debilitation, psychosis, the inability to work or leave the house, erratic behavior, frightening delusions – scary, scary words, yet mental illness usually doesn’t look like that. It’s depression – from mild to severe, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Anorexia, Post Partum Depression, Autism Spectrum – it can be an illness or a disorder or a dysfunction. Everyone in this room knows someone who deals with a mental illness every single day. It is often silent and very subversive, and people can feel isolated or hopeless.

Nearly every single person that I talked to, or Dale, or my parents or in-laws or our friends knows someone who has had suicide effect their family. The heartbreaking thing is that suicide is on the rise amongst our youth. Our children are dying and we are afraid to talk about it because it is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for me to stand here today and talk about it.

But I am willing to open the conversation. I am willing to answer questions. I will listen to fears and pains, and I will try to offer comfort. I know I’m not the only one willing to do this, but I think one of the problems we collectively suffer from is fear.

Dale and I always try to teach our kids that the devil dwells in darkness and the gospel spreads light. So they should base their decisions on whether or not they have to hide what they do in darkness or if they can do it openly in the light. This is a good foundation for teaching decision-making. However, people often hide in darkness. Not because they are dark themselves, but because they are afraid. We need to learn how to recognize people who are hiding. We must practice seeing what people in pain look like. We need to commit to ourselves that we will be the person. The one who offers succor, in whatever form that takes. We need to ask questions and develop relationships that allow people to open up and be unafraid… The Lord is asking us to be is hands and help his children. We need to seek the one, and we also need to be the one. Be the one who looks. Be the one who asks. Be the one who sees. We have the power to heal.

Our family has been terribly, irrevocably wounded and changed. We are in agony. But we are being ministered to, every second of every day. Because of that, we are already beginning to heal. We have a long road ahead and we accept that, because we do not walk that road alone. The Savior walks that road with us. And so do every single one of you every time you do something that is motivated by love. The road that we walk, the same road you walk, is the path of the gospel. It guides us towards our Father in Heaven…

He did kill himself, but he also died because he suffered from an illness. We do not need to be ashamed of that or hide that fact. Harrison made a choice I wish he had not. He took an action he can’t take back. I know he would if he could. I know he didn’t mean to do this. But we are the ones who are left with the results of his actions. What do we do with that? Do we live within the atonement of Christ? Do we refuse to let fear keep us from speaking when speaking is necessary? Do we reach out, see a person, offer love and provide acceptance? Do we hide in the darkness, or do we shine in the light? I know what Harrison would have us do, and I know what the Lord would have us do.

Harrison, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

Thank You, and An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda

People keep coming to my door and telling me, “I don’t know what to say.” That is because there are no words. There is only love. It is only you that we needed. We needed you, and here you are.

I cannot express how completely my family and I have felt your love. Emails, texts, cards, calls, flowers, visits and food (so much food). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So many people have shared with me their own stories of grief. I could never have anticipated how deeply comforting it is to hear these stories and to realize the teller is still breathing in and out, getting out of bed, going to work and the store each day. It will be possible to do the mundane and everyday tasks of life, I know that because others who have walked where I am walking are doing it. They told me their stories and so I know it’s possible.

I know I am just at the door of grieving and that it will sneak up on me in months and years ahead and take me out at the knees when I least expect it. But I also know I have a community around me ready to raise me up when I stumble.

Now.

I promise I will return this blog to the purpose for which it was intended, but you may have noticed I write when I am sad or angry or confused or happy or… you get it.

I wrote the following letter a couple of days after my son died and I have been asked to share it here. At the time I was sitting in the darkness and just felt compelled to write. After I sent it to Mr. Miranda’s Facebook page I wondered why I did it. Looking back I remember an episode of M*A*S*H where Dr. Sidney Freedman is writing letters to Sigmund Freud to help himself to understand his own feelings.

I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m a writer and a sometime actor. I don’t write to Dr. Freud. It appears I write to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Dear Mr. Miranda,

I find myself writing to you in this strange public forum because it is the only place I can imagine right now to reach out to you. I could not find an address to send a letter or email.

I have no actual expectation that you will ever read these words, but, gratitude, like forgiveness, is much more for the giver than the receiver. Even if this never reaches you it is still vital for me to say it.

My 13-year-old daughter is a fan of your work, specifically Hamilton, to a point that can only be adequately described as “with the love and obsession possessed by a 13-year-old girl for a piece of art that speaks to her soul.” Thus I have had the opportunity to not only see your masterwork live when it toured through Salt Lake City, but before and after that inspiring performance to hear the soundtrack on an almost daily loop playing in my home and car.

I therefore became a fan as well.

I am compelled now to write you, to thank you for all your work, but specifically for the song It’s Quiet Uptown. That song has played, not in my home or car, but in my head since Tuesday of this week when my eldest son took his own life.

This was not an act which followed a long struggle with depression or crippling mental illness. It happened in a moment when all the ingredients for such a terrible event were present: anger, an argument and a gun. In a moment that he could not take back he let those three elements take him away from his wife, family, brothers, sister and his mother and I.

I was not there when it happened but that does not prevent me from screaming into the past and begging him to stop and breathe and think for just one more moment. That breath and thought will never happen and all I am left with when the screaming grief and tears of his mother and siblings and I fade, is quiet. Quiet in desperate search of peace.

Though it is quiet outside, in my mind I still beg to hold him. I beg to trade his life for mine. But I am left in the end with quiet-where I try to push away the unimaginable. Where I try to live with the unimaginable.

I am searching Mr. Miranda. Next to me is my wife, we are together walking through the unimaginable.

My gratitude to you is for giving me the words, your words, the ones you gave to Alexander Hamilton and to Eliza Hamilton, that you unknowingly gave to my wife and I as well. Those same words you gave to all who are pushing through the unimaginable.

Now I must find my quiet place, my uptown, where I can do the unimaginable and find that grace too powerful to name.

I know it’s there. Because you told a tale that is rooted in truth. Somewhere there is peace. Somewhere there is grace. But right now it seems unimaginable.

I know it is not impossible. I feel the grace of eternity fighting to find a place in my heart. The faith I learned in church from my childhood tells me there is a place of peace beyond this, though I can’t see it now.

The lyrics that, I can tell you, were whispered into your heart by a loving father in heaven, speak to so many people, too many people, who must find a quiet place to look into the void and learn to live with the unimaginable.

Thank you for listening to that still small voice Mr. Miranda. Thank you for following where that voice inside led you. Thank you for giving those words to all of us pushing through the unimaginable. I know it can’t just be me that needs them.

I felt such a great need to tell you that, to express my thanks knowing that you may never hear it. That you may not know I wrote this does not matter when it comes to gratitude. Gratitude must be expressed.

Our great love to you,

Dale H Boam and family

(Thank you for reading this. I’ll get back to the whole interpreting thing now.)

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Borderline.

There was a question posed on social media today by a woman who is Deaf. The very short version of the story involved being stopped by Customs and Border Patrol as they returned from Canada. During the encounter they requested that the Agent communicate in writing.

The Agent refused to do so.

The Agent gave verbal commands to the Deaf couple that they did not understand and as the encounter progressed the Agent became more agitated and the Deaf couple more fearful. The power differential is obvious and the turmoil nationally gave them reason to be anxious.

When this woman who is Deaf posted her story she relied heavily on references to Title II of the ADA. I suggested she may wish to frame this under Section 504 as well.

She asked me to explain why I suggested Section 504, as she understood it to be an education law.

https://uncledalesrulesforinterpreters.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/rule-11/

I find that Rule 11 applies equally to the Deaf Community as well. This past week I presented a workshop at NAD/RID Region I that covers this very topic (just a side note. I gave an “hour and a half” version of a day long workshop where I physically walk attendees through federal laws like each is its own foreign country, with its own customs and language.

I will post a description of the workshop at the end.

I have submitted this workshop to several regional RID conferences but sadly no takers. NAD attendees and State Associations who have asked me to present it rave about it; its the clearest way to understand how the ADA, Section 504, IDEA and the ACA are similar and how each is markedly DIFFERENT. Anyway…)

I have been asked to post my answer to the question “why 504” on the Rules Blog so more people can see it.

Here is my answer:

“I can’t give you legal advice because I don’t have half enough facts. I am just giving a general idea of the differences and similarities between federal laws so you understand why you may want to look at Section 504 when framing the issue with these facts.

Customs/Border Patrol/ICE/Homeland Security are Federal Executive agencies which is one of the two entities 504 was designed to obligate (the other being any entity or business that accepts federal funds) so it seems 504 would be uniquely applicable.

I would still suggest including Title II in any discussion of a possible complaint you have with an attorney. Title II is good because it requires the agency to give “primary consideration” to the request made by the Deaf person (in this case writing). Understand that because Title II requires “primary consideration” when Section 504 overlaps with Title II, then Section 504 cannot be interpreted to provide less protection than Title II-so it would also require “Primary Consideration.”

However, Title II may have complications in enforcement. The more remote possible issue comes from a case called Tennessee v. Lane (and another case out of Georgia) that seem to indicate that there may be a requirement that you prove a Constitutional violation in order to enforce Title II. As this argument stems from an 11th Amendment conflict it may only be a problem if the State Police, not the Feds as it was according to the facts you laid out, were involved. But with the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, almost daily becoming more conservative and less responsive to the rights of individuals it is easy to imagine a Federal Agency making an argument for a more expansive application of the requirement or at least favoring the need for a Constitutional violation; from the brief description you gave I don’t see a Constitutional violation in your case.

Again, the courts have never said you MUST include a Constitutional violation, they have just said that they supported decisions in favor of the person with the disability “because” there was a Constitutional violation. One way or another it’s a possible extra fight you would not need.

The protections of Section 504 are equal in almost every respect to Title II in that Section 504 cannot be interpreted to provide less protection than Title II. In places where Section 504 is not equal to Title II there is an argument that it is better.

504 applies to all Executive Branch agencies and any entity accepting federal funds. As it must be interpreted in equity with (and sometimes better than) the ADA it covers the same ground as Title II but does not have the same possibility of needing to show a Constitutional violation (again the requirement for a Constitutional violation, if it exists at all, likely only applies to actions against States… but better safe than sorry as it were).

The second problem for a Title II action is one of wording and interpretation. Title II says that persons with disabilities are to be given equal access to the “programs, benefits and services” offered by government agencies.

Is the border patrol a benefit to you?

Is being searched a program?

Was searching you a service?

There is case law that goes both ways.

But 504 says:

(a) No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20), shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service (emphasis added).

Applying the facts as you stated them you have a strong case that you were “subjected to discrimination” under the “activity” of Border Patrol conducting a search.

Again. This is not legal advice, just an observation. Talk to a lawyer in your area.

Hope that helps.

(My recent NAD workshop:

Federal Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are complex and confusing. It is vital for both deaf people and interpreters to understand the differences and similarities between, and even within, these laws. It is also vital to know the authorities through which each was passed in order to know which law applies to any specific situation, how a complaint is filed, what is and is not evidence of a violation and what remedies may be available if a violation is proven. There are so many differences it can be hard to keep it all straight! This workshop is presented as a “tour” of the laws as if each was its own country. “Uncle Dale Tours” lays each out like a map of a foreign land and the participants walk through each, see the sights and landmarks unique to each as well as their shared heritage. Each are issued a passport with certain knowledge points needed to earn a “visa” to the next law. It is equally fun and beneficial for the interpreter and community member. [0.125 PS])

Rule 593

So, what kind of conference is this?

Words a Deaf professional NEVER wants to hear when meeting their interpreter.

Seriously! Google is your friend!

(Wisdom of Teresa Blankmeyer Burke)