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April 3, 2003

Sound barrier trips war news

From: Knoxville News Sentinel, TN - Apr 3, 2003

Coverage on TV leaves gaps, brings frustration for deaf

April 3, 2003

Watching the televised war in the Woods household is sometimes a challenge - especially when the closed captions at the bottom of the screen omit some words.

"We don't know if we are missing anything," signed Doug Woods. "Reading the newspaper helps."

Woods and his wife, Ethel, are among those in Knoxville's deaf community who struggle to keep abreast of the news concerning loved ones fighting and receive comprehensive coverage of the war.

The Woods' hearing daughter, Leslie, moved back home to Karns with her two daughters after her husband, Staff Sgt. Johnny Caldwell, was deployed Jan. 24 for the Iraqi war. Caldwell is a career counselor with the 3rd Infantry based at Fort Stewart, Ga.

While Caldwell has been deployed before, this is his first time in a war, Leslie said.

"The emotions are there because you don't know what's going to happen," she said.

Coming home has brought respite from some of the stress of caring for her children alone and anxiously waiting for any news from her husband.

She hasn't heard from or spoken to him since the war began two weeks ago, she said.

"It helps for her to live with us," Ethel said.

It allows the Woods to pitch in and help with the children.

"We give her a chance to go out with her friends," Ethel said.

While they are proud and honored that their son-in-law is fighting for the country, that does very little to negate their fear for his safety, Ethel said. "We're anxious for him to come home," she said.

Until then, the American flag hung outside every time Caldwell is deployed overseas will remain.

Watching the war coverage with the family has taken a central role, said Doug, who spends an average three to four hours a day tuned in.

"Whatever we see on television, we talk about it," he said.

For others in the deaf community, the closed captions cause frustration because of inaccuracies or misspellings, leaving them to decipher the news on their own.

"Sometimes we just make assumptions," Betty Battle said Wednesday. "They just leave us hanging and we're not sure what they mean."

Battle was meeting with other elderly people at their weekly senior citizens gathering at the Knoxville Area Community Center for the Deaf in South Knoxville.

Phrases like "embedded with the troops," and "softening the front lines" cause confusion to the deaf because when translated, they are linguistically different in sign language, said Dale Snapp, community services director for the center. Because sign language uses many pictorial descriptions, these phrases don't make sense when interpreted.

"The deaf language is very conceptual and war language is not conceptually accurate language," he said.

Other annoyances include captions being covered up when other news is announced.

"Breaking news pops up and that blocks the captioning so we don't know what's up," said Ruthalee Dziurzynski.

Though they may have more difficulty keeping up with the war via television news, the deaf are concerned about those fighting it.

"I watch the war and sometimes I see what it's doing to families and it really gets to me," said Christine Arnold, president of Knoxville Deaf Senior Citizens.

For Fern Talley, removing Saddam Hussein from office is needed to stop the oppression of the Iraqi people. In fact, she wishes she could do it personally.

"If I had a Black Hawk, I'd go there myself," she said.

Lola Alapo may be reached at 865-342-6376.

Copyright 2003, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.