Helen Keller Driving School Opens In Tuscumbia, Alabama

TUSCUMBIA, Alabama – Helen Keller Driving School Opens In Tuscumbia, Alabama

John Cadbury has his famous chocolates, William Colgate’s toothpaste is a household name, and now, Helen Keller has a driving school named after her.

The first blind and deaf woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States was author, humanitarian and educator Helen Keller. Born in 1880, Keller overcame the effects of “brain fever” at the age of 2, which left her without sight or hearing.  What would have held others back only fueled Keller to overcome these “disabilities” and inspire millions throughout the world.

“Tuscumbia is her birthplace, and we’re proud of her,” says Margaret Cullen, co-owner of what was known as Cullen’s Learn-2-Drive up until last month.  “She’s always been my hero,” said Cullen, “and I wanted to pay her tribute.”

Cullen’s “tribute” has made headlines at the expense of the 58-year-old driving instructor’s school, and the town of Tuscumbia.

“I never meant for this thing to be taken the way it’s been taken,” said Cullen.  “All of these prank calls and such have started, and I don’t appreciate them, not one single bit!  Helen Keller met Eleanor Roosevelt.  There’s nothing funny about that!”

Prank calls have only escalated as word of the school’s renaming has spread.

“I had a man call up and impersonate a guide dog over the phone.  He asked me if he could come in and help his owner learn how to drive.  He disguised his voice and made a lot of “ruff-ruff woof-woof” words and I heard lots of giggling in the background.  Distasteful and disrespectful, I say.  I hung up but they just called back again, this time pretending to be ‘Toonces,’ that cat that could drive a car on that comedy show I used to watch.  I don’t even know if there is such a thing as that.  Who has the time to train a cat?”

Local CW affiliate WHDF-TV assigned reporter Carl Lucerne to cover the story as a local feature.  “I had no idea this little local story was going to blow wide open,” admitted Lucerne.  “When I mentioned to Mrs. Cullen that the story did have an ironic kind of humor about it, she told me that people had become ‘too mean’ these days.  I asked her what her husband thought about the sudden notoriety brought to the town and to the driving school, and she said that the two weren’t speaking at the present time.”

“My husband and I are not discussing it right now,” said Cullen.  “He thought the calls and attention we were getting were funny, and said ‘I told you so’ when I first came up with the idea of renaming the school.  He said ‘don’t mess with the name,’ but I saw things differently, and just wouldn’t listen.”

“On the serious side, many blind people are asking us if we can teach them how to drive, but we aren’t equipped for that.  I suppose it can be done, but we don’t have that kind of technology to do it,” said Cullen.  “I read in the paper last month that some designer eyeglass company in China named their eyeglasses after Helen Keller. Fancy designer frames that I can’t afford, but I didn’t see that as a joke.  I thought it was a nice tribute.  It was like saying she could see beyond all her limits.  That’s all I wanted to do, but now this thing has turned all wrong.  It’s a shame,” she added.

Cullen plans to turn a deaf ear to the ridicule her company is facing.  “This town and our school are not laughingstocks,” she said.  “I’m just going to pretend I don’t see or hear these mean things.  After all, I have a business to run,” she said.

Cullen has no plans to rename the school or revert back to the original “Cullen’s Learn-2-Drive,” a town institution since 1971.

“The signs and cards have been printed,” she said.  “What’s done is done!”

Fran Drescher-Narrated Audiobook Banned by National Association of the Deaf

HOLLYWOOD, California – Fran Drescher-Narrated Audiobook Banned by National Association of the Deaf

It is not “the best of times” for comedic actress and TV star Fran Drescher, most famous for her role as ‘Fran Fine,’ on CBS’ The Nanny, which ran on CBS from 1993–1999.

The distinctively nasally voiced Drescher decided to self-produce and narrate an audiobook version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, after being turned down by major producers and effectively blacklisted by SAG-AFTRA, The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“I wanted to branch out,” said 56-year-old Drescher from her Hollywood Hills home.  “I’ve done comedy, I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done movies, and so one day I was joking around and I said to my producing partner ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if I narrated a book?’  HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa.  Then I started thinking about it and really decided to do it.  Crazy right?  HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” she said.

Christopher Wagner, President of the National Association of the Deaf, led the movement for a nationwide ban on the audiobook.  “Approximately .4 percent of the United States population is functionally deaf.  That’s roughly 1 million people.  For God’s sake, isn’t that enough?” Wagner asked.

A petition, largely driven by social media, gathered over 6,000,000 electronic signatures in support of the ban within the first hour of its online launch.  “Our mailbox got flooded,” said Wagner, “and our server crashed.  I was afraid we’d never get our website up and running again.”

“It made me really sad because it was my favorite book growing up.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” said Drescher, after hearing about the ban.  “People wouldn’t necessarily think of me as a bookworm, but I really am.  HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa,” added Drescher.  “I love to read out loud.  I can do other voices besides ‘Fran Fine.’  She was a character, not a real person.  I have people who’ve lived around me for years who haven’t gone deaf.  I can prove it.”

Early on in the project, Drescher contacted Audiobooks International Executive Vice President, Joseph Widden.  “I thought I was being punked,” he said.  “It sounded like Fran Drescher on the phone, but I have a lot of friends who do voices.  That’s what I do.  I get to know people who do voices.  Then they do audiobooks.  I thought it was a joke.  I hung up the phone.  She called again.  I hung up again.  This went on for an hour.  She finally stopped.  The tape came out.  She did it herself.  Chris Wagner called.  He got me on board.  That’s what I do.  I get on board.  I got on board.  I made some calls.  That’s what I do.  I called some people.  They owed me favors.  That’s what I do.  I call things in.  I called things in.  We got the ban.  So here we are.”

“He wouldn’t take my call,” said Drescher.  “So I did it myself.  Now I got a garage full of CDs.  What am I going to do, drive around the country putting up a card table?  What can I say?  You gotta have a sense of humor about this business.  HAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

Drescher says that she may donate the audiobooks to schools in developing countries, where it’s possible they aren’t familiar with her voice.

Deaf, Mute Couple ‘Too Loud’ For Amtrak’s Quiet Car

WASHINGTON, DC – Deaf Couple ‘Too Loud’ For Amtrak’s Quiet Car

Amtrak Conductor Charlene Roberts thought she was the victim of an insensitive prank when a commuter on the train’s popular Northeast Corridor route made an unexpected complaint.

Traveling from Washington to New York aboard Amtrak’s high speed Acela Express, attorney Bettina Corning complained to Roberts that the couple seated behind her on the train’s ‘Quiet Car’ were making too much noise.  The couple seated behind Corning happened to be both mute and deaf.

“I’m a very busy attorney, and I had a lot of important briefs to compile for very important clients that I have,” explained Corning from her office in Midtown Manhattan.

‘Quiet’ cars on Amtrak trains were introduced over a decade ago at the request of customers wishing to commute without the usual distractions that accompany train travel – cell phone conversations topping the list.  Growing popularity has led many regional and commuter rail lines to add quiet cars to their standard routes.

“The quiet car is there for a reason, and I shouldn’t have been inconvenienced,” said Corning.  When informed that the couple she had complained about were deaf mutes, she replied, “That’s another issue and doesn’t have anything to do with what Amtrak offers and what I pay for.  I lost valuable time and I consider the matter closed.”

“Many deaf people vocalize,” said Dr. Franklin McLogan, of New York’s Health Care Partnership for the Deaf.  “It depends on the individual.  If deafness has begun in childhood where speech is at an early or evolving stage, some vocalization based on that level of development may take place. These individuals though, also happened to be mute. So it’s really a wonder what kind of noise they could have been making on the Quiet Car that got another passenger so worked up.”

“Personally and professionally,” conductor Roberts recalled, “I thought it was wrong for her to ask me to move the couple, because they weren’t being loud in any way, shape, or form.  I always check the volume level of my cars, and remind customers to speak with ‘library voices’ if I feel they are distracting others. Apparently the couple were signing to each other too loudly? I have no idea what Miss Corning’s problem was, except to say that it’s possible she’s just a heinous bitch. That, by the way, is my professional opinion of someone who works with the public on a daily basis, not that of the Amtrak company itself.”

The couple seated in back of Corning, Bill and Susan Welch, commented through an interpreter. “We didn’t know why the lady in front of us was upset. We were surprised when we found out it was because of us.  The conductor was very polite and apologized, but she didn’t have to. It wasn’t necessary. We never had any problems traveling before. We’ll continue to ride quietly in the Amtrak Quiet Cars and hopefully other people just ignore us, just as we do them.”

All three customers were issued courtesy travel vouchers to be applied toward future trips.

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