Bethany Beach and Dagsboro will celebrate the International Week of the Deaf (IWDeaf) from Sept. 23 to 28.
“There is a growing population of Deaf citizens in the Bethany Beach and surrounding areas. The IWDeaf events are offered for the first time to bring about awareness to our Deaf culture and American Sign Language,” said Barbara White of Ocean View.
Hosted locally by the Delaware Deaf Senior Citizens and the Delaware Association of the Deaf, the weeklong event includes sign-language classes, children’s storytime, a documentary, panel discussions and honoring people who improve access for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.
“Many businesses, neighbors, public safety, political leaders and healthcare providers interact with our community on a regular basis and have expressed interest in learning ASL and having training on Deaf culture,” Barbara White said.
Meanwhile, local advocates are pressing for better inclusion and access. For instance, DDSC members recently met with the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center to discuss the new text-to-911 capabilities and limitations. Area first-responders have also trained on basic ASL and interacting with deaf people in emergencies.
“The topic of access is always near the top of any deaf person’s concerns,” said Bruce White.
“One pressing issue is the dearth of certified ASL interpreters available in our area and no interpreter training programs in the state of Delaware,” Barbara White said.
The people who live, work, volunteer and migrate to the area deserve equal opportunities to interact with shops, doctors and services, she added.
“I have noticed that when businesses and healthcare providers either have an employee who signs, or are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act and readily provide an ASL interpreter without balking, deaf people will … flock to that business or service,” she said. “We share recommendations for ‘deaf-friendly’ doctors and healthcare specialists, and even Realtors.”
On Monday, Joanne Howe of the Clayton Theatre will receive the first DDSC Deaf Ally award for working with the local deaf community to show feature films with open captioning.
The World Federation of the Deaf leads the international movement to promote the human rights of Deaf People worldwide and to support the use of sign language — especially in young children, when language flourishes best.
The theme of the 2018 event is “With Sign Language Everyone is Included,” to highlight the importance and recognition of sign languages and deaf culture, which can strengthen multiculturalism and multilingualism.
The full local IWDeaf schedule includes:
• American Sign Language (ASL) Coffee Chat — Sunday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dagsboro Days Coffee Shop, 33103 Main Street, Dagsboro.
People can get coffee, tea or a snack at Dagsboro Days and learn to place an order in American Sign Language (ASL). Deaf residents will share the unique language and teach guests how to fingerspell or order their favorite beverage. This is the first International Day of Sign Languages.
• Opening reception and “Deaf Culture 101” — Monday, Sept. 24, 2 to 5 p.m. at South Coastal Library, 43 Kent Avenue, Bethany Beach.
Following a reception and welcoming remarks by local deaf leaders, there will be a presentation titled “Deaf Culture 101” by local resident Sherry Duhon, at which people can gain insights into the deaf community and culture, learn about ways of communicating with deaf people, how deaf people use technology in everyday life, and ask questions they may have always wondered about deaf people. Light refreshments will be served. Sign-language interpreters will be present.
• “Through Deaf Eyes” movie and panel discussion — Tuesday, Sept. 25, 5:30 p.m. at the Clayton Theatre, 33246 Main Street, Dagsboro.
As a public service, the Clayton Theatre will offer a free screening of the 2007 documentary “Through Deaf Eyes,” which explores how the deaf community has evolved over 200 years, from education to “cures” for deafness. Gallaudet professors William Ennis and Brian Greenwald will lead a panel discussion. Sign-language interpreters will be present.
• Children’s ASL Story Time (ages 3-5) — Wednesday, Sept. 26, 10 to 11 a.m. at South Coastal Library.
Children’s storytime at the library will include storytelling with basic ASL with Roselyn “Roz” Rosen, an internationally known educator, deaf leader and author of “Deaf Culture Fairy Tales.”
• Introduction to American Sign Language (ASL) — Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 to 7 p.m. at South Coastal Library.
Anyone who has always wanted to learn ASL can come to this introductory class, offered by certified ASL instructors Luanne Kowalski, Dennise Scott and Gerry Francini. The class is open to all ages, and attendees can learn some basic ASL signs and phrases. An RSVP is encouraged, but not required, and can be made by visiting the library or calling (302) 539-5231.
• Introduction to American Sign Language (ASL) — Friday, Sept. 28, 1 to 2 p.m. at South Coastal Library.
A second edition of the introductory course will be offered. Again, an RSVP is encouraged, but not required, and can be made by visiting the library or calling (302) 539-5231.
For more information on IWDeaf see https://wfdeaf.org/iwdeaf2018. The Facebook page for Delaware Deaf Senior Citizens is at www.facebook.com/groups/1724871114214301. The Facebook page for Delaware Association of the Deaf is at www.facebook.com/delawaredeaf.
By Laura Walter