The Executive Director’s Pulse – Summer 2020

As parents, teachers, and administrations prepare for the beginning of the school year, there is a lot of apprehension and confusion. My heart goes out to everyone having to make tough calls and those caring for our most vulnerable during this time. One positive outcome of online learning is that I have been able to peek into the virtual sessions conducted by our YETs (Youth Education Transition Services) team. What I am seeing is truly transformational and fuels the fire I have to serve our community even more.

In a Zoom meeting, several students communicated with one another while moving their hands in abstract but highly complex and intricate shapes, creating pieces of beautiful, deep, and rich visual language as they were led by their coordinator. They talked about being oppressed and discriminated because of their ability to use their hands as a means of communication.

  • One student was shocked to learn she could request an OBGYN appointment with a female interpreter. Her last appointment was conducted by a male interpreter who dismissed her anxiety and begrudgingly told her they “wouldn’t look and there was nothing to it”.
  • Another student stated that they recently began crying when the doctor told them they had a brain tumor. When the doctors failed to understand the patient’s emotional response, they realized the video remote interpreter located on the small, sketchy and pixelated screen was not effective. They in fact did not have a tumor.
  • Another young person chimed in to say that they couldn’t take Spanish classes to communicate with their Spanish speaking grandparents, a gap they so deeply wanted to close, because the school told them their staff interpreter didn’t know Spanish. The student asked if they could find a tri-lingual interpreter instead, but the administrators informed them it was too expensive and not a realistic choice. They were forced to stay in a class with novice ASL students and were extremely bored.

These are not seasoned Deaf leaders working with the community and sharing their stories. These are the young faces of teenage students who are learning that some circumstances once considered normal and acceptable should be challenged. They are also learning from Deaf Action Center that society as a whole should start designing systems and civilizations with an inclusive mind to encompass Deaf people, too. DAC’s YETS program is instilling confidence and helping reframe their ideas of how the world should interact with and respond to persons who are Deaf, Deafblind, Deafdisabled and Hard of Hearing.

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