Deaf in the Desert

town hall Ruiz
Deaf in the Desert
June 6, 2014 – Palm Desert, CA
The Deaf Seniors Foundation of Palm Springs organized a ground breaking ‘Town Hall’ Meeting sponsored by U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D.

THEME: “Challenges to Accessibility: Issues Affecting Members of the Deaf Community”

Congressman Raul Ruiz extended an invitation to Coachella Valley professionals, educators, district legislators, including the television and print media, to participate in this town hall meeting to…

“…discuss the pressing issues facing members of the Deaf Community and how we can join together to improve accessibility for members of the Deaf Community throughout the 36th Congressional District.”

Sign Language Interpreters were on-site to serve all in attendance.

The following topics were presented by selected speakers:

* What is the Deaf Community?
* Education
* Employment
* Interpreting
* Social Services
* Mental Health Services
* Accessibility/ADA

Congressman Ruiz opened the meeting with his personal history as a Physician….the need for qualified interpreters….and the frustration and potential danger when communication is not clear. He spoke from personal experience and has welcomed suggestions and ideas pertaining to the Valley’s Deaf Population.

Mary Anne Pugin and Philip Rubin spoke on Deaf Culture and the growing Deaf population in the Coachella Valley. For those in attendance who were unfamiliar, they highlighted how the Deaf Community relates to other cultures in their shared experiences, shared perspectives and shared language. Philip and Mary Anne shared examples demonstrating the need for better understanding and improved services to facilitate equal access.

Daria Smith spoke on the topic of Deaf Education. Daria has been a teacher of deaf children for 20 years. Her message was clear and covered many aspects pertaining to her unique experience. Properly providing for the needs of any deaf child begins at home. Language acquisition and clear communication are critical to ensure the deaf child’s needs are being met. Ideally, the family recognizes how language skills impact every facet of a child’s development. Communicating as hearing children do is not an option. The family must be willing to use a language that optimizes the cohesiveness of the entire family- – doing all to prevent the deaf child’s feelings of isolation which are often a by-product of diminished familial relationships.

Highlights of Daria’s message:

• General Education teachers usually have little or no experience working with deaf students and/or interpreters.
• Peer students are unaware of how to behave with a deaf student.
Deaf children can be an easy target for gangs. Deaf teens seek acceptance while gangs often seek new members.
• Parent support groups would help lessen the feeling of isolation families experience.
Family signing classes, with deaf adults teaching parents how to communicate with their deaf child would facilitate a full and satisfying relationship among family members.
• Like hearing students, deaf students could benefit from afterschool programs. Programs which include signing staff, signing tutors, and signing peers would be priceless.
• How about a Big Brother / Big Sister program for deaf children?
• High School students (hearing AND deaf) need classes to learn how to live outside of school – – how to apply for a job, how to interview for a job, and how to keep a job.

Employers in the Coachella Valley need to be encouraged to hire the Deaf. Paper and pencil, texts, emails – – there are many avenues to facilitate communication in today’s work place. It requires willingness on both sides of the communication challenges to create solutions.

As an observer, it seemed all in attendance were thrilled to have this conversation and create greater awareness of the issues and needs in the Coachella Valley. Many Deaf residents were in attendance and shared their own experiences. Also in attendance: The newly appointed Coordinator of Interpreting Services at College of the Desert , a Representative from the Mayor’s office in Rancho Mirage , Richard Ray from the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability………….to name a few.

Additional highlights regarding Town Hall topics will be available in future blog postings.

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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

View all posts by Evelyn

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