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NAD: 2018-2020 Priority Report on Sign Language Interpreting Profession

As requested by the delegation from the 2018 Council of Representatives on the motion regarding American Association of Sign Language Interpreters (AASLI) and issues on Interpreting Credentialing, the NAD Board shares its 6-month report. We will continue to keep you informed on updates regarding Interpreting credentialing with the timeline as presented in the current Priority on Interpreting. If there are any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your Region Board Representatives or President Melissa Draganac-Hawk.

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Thomas pushes through bill replacing the term ‘hearing-impaired’ in Virginia code

Bennett and Thomas

A bill that unanimously passed the House of Delegates this week changes Virginia Code to replace the term “hearing-impaired” with “deaf or hard of hearing” and “hearing loss.”

Introduced by Del. Bob Thomas, whose 28th District includes parts of Fredericksburg and Stafford County, the bill also renames the Virginia Hearing Impairment Identification and Monitoring System as the Virginia Hearing Loss Identification and Monitoring System. According to Thomas, if the bill is also passed by the Senate, Virginia will be the fifth state to eliminate the term “hearing-impaired.”

“Words matter to our friends in the deaf and hard of hearing community,” Thomas wrote in an email. “They are on a nationwide push to remove the term ‘hearing-impaired’ from circulation. It is a term they find offensive because it defines them in terms of something they lack. I am happy to take up the cause and bring Virginia on board.”

homas worked with ReBecca Bennett, coordinator of the local disAbility Resource Center’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department, to introduce the legislation.

Bennett also directs the summer camp Signs of Fun for children who are hard of hearing.

Bennett is deaf and said the term “hearing-impaired” always made her cringe. However, she kept pushing these feelings to the side.  “I felt I had no right to complain,” she said.

ut once she started working with the Signs of Fun campers and saw how the term “impaired” affected them, she decided she could no longer ignore the situation.

“When my kids started discussing why everyone calls them ‘impaired,’ what does it mean, why do people think it’s politically correct to call someone ‘less than’ and how it affects their faith in themselves, I guess this is where the words ‘hearing impaired’ started slapping me in the face,” Bennett said.

“These kids are brilliant, smart, funny and compassionate. They have all the traits of their hearing peers. They just can’t hear,” she continued. “They want to ‘be all that they can be’ but when the world is already plotting against them, then how can they rise up against such negativity?”

Bennett said she wrote her thoughts in an email to Thomas in October, not expecting a reply.

But in January, she received one.

“A bill was made, HB 2131,” Bennett said. “Now I can sing with Schoolhouse Rock from my past, ‘I’m just a bill, but I know I’ll be a law someday … At least I hope and pray that I will.’”

The bill is being considered by the Senate committee on Education and Health.

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Melissa Malzkuhn on the power of connecting through language

Melissa Malzkuhn was born deaf, and into a deaf family of gifted storytellers. In her brief but spectacular take, Malzkuhn describes how early access to sign language allowed her to connect with humanity. She’s now the creative director of the Motion Light Lab at Gallaudet University.

Melissa Malzkuhn:

When you think about language, it’s something that you were exposed to from birth. It’s assumed that it’s a given, and that language then in turn is your key to opening up doors to different worlds.

It’s your key to understanding who you are, your way of thinking, your self-expression and identity. That’s so integral to having language. If you don’t have access to language, you don’t have access to your humanity.

I grew up as a person who comes from a family with three generations of deaf people. That means my grandparents are deaf, my parents, and my siblings are deaf. I come from a long line of storytellers.

And so I grew up in a family of storytellers, which became a part of who I am. My inspiration goes back to my grandmother. I see her as a pioneer in so many ways. She was a deaf woman who was born in a time when captioning wasn’t available.

She was always pushing for human rights, and she often said: “Don’t wait for tomorrow. Start today.”

And she talked about the human rights of deaf children and asked, who will protect deaf children? Who will speak for them? Who is going to advocate for them?

I acquired language just like any other child acquires their language from their community and family. You start learning single words, and make them into phrases and then sentences. So that’s how I learned to sign.

Having access to sign language from birth is an experience that only 5 percent of deaf people have. The remaining 95 percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. What that means is that language access is not a given. It’s not granted. You have to build it.

It’s just a matter of connecting their parents with the community, so that they can learn to sign and give their children everything. And that can build the bond that all children should have with parents who love them, care for them, and can communicate with them.

I adopted my son when he was 4 years old. He didn’t have any language then. I understood up close and personal the realities of language deprivation in trying to communicate with him. It was a full-on family effort to have him develop language.

I saw firsthand his experiences and how he would copy signs from the story. And to get to see that in my own home drove home the point of what happens when someone doesn’t have language, to see the degree of frustration that they experience and to see how they change as they’re able to use language to engage in conversations with people.

Seeing his experience has been really emotional for me.

My name is Melissa Malzkuhn, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on human connections through language and storytelling.

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Jacksonville Zoo: Baby gorilla with deaf mother doing well

Image result for Jacksonville Zoo: Baby gorilla with deaf mother doing well

Gandai, a 4-month-old gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, weighs 10 pounds and has a mouthful of teeth.

She is working toward baby zoo-gorilla milestones — she is already sitting and crawling but has to master walking and the ability to hold on when being carried, among other things. But Gandai is developing her gorilla skills with the help of human keepers, not her mother.

The human parenting is because of safety concerns about her deaf mother, 22-year-old Kumbuka. She lost two infants at another zoo, likely because her hearing loss prevented her from noticing her babies’ distress calls, said zoo spokeswoman JJ Vitale.

So the Jacksonville Zoo took preventive action.

Since then, Gandai’s keepers have taken turns providing around-the-clock care but hope their intervention is temporary. Gandai is expected to meet her baby zoo gorilla milestones in a few months and be returned to her mother and the rest of the zoo’s Western lowland gorilla troop.

“Gandai has been making great strides in reaching these goals,” Vitale said. ”… Keepers have not just cared for Gandai like a mother would, but have also focused on getting her to a point where she returns to her mother. It has been both a demanding and rewarding journey.”

To teach her all the things a gorilla needs to know to fit in with the troop, the keepers and Gandai went through “baby boot camp.” (Watch a video at https://youtu.be/A_xC5TOIek4.) Strength conditioning was a priority because the keepers were initially concerned about her gripping ability in her right hand.

“Gandai will need to be able to position herself on Kumbuka when being carried and to right herself when being held or sitting,” Vitale said. “It is crucially important that Gandai be able to navigate her habitat by herself.”

She has been taught to take a bottle through the mesh barrier that separates the troop from keeper staff. But after being returned to her mother, she will need to be able to come to the barrier on her own when called to take supplemental bottles and feedings.