Signing on: Deaf community protests for equal access
BATON ROUGE - The sound of silence surrounded the Capitol on Wednesday, but many local residents may not have been aware. That's because there was protest, with no sound. According to many in attendance, sound was not necessary to raise awareness or to even guarantee success in life. However, accessibility is necessary. The Deaf Grassroots Movement assembled to voice their concerns. Many speakers were present, including the Governor.
"We're here for social justice really, to address the communication access issues, employment discrimination, and deaf education; improving that for deaf children," said Jay Isch in American Sign Language (ASL).
The deaf and hard-of-hearing feel that they are looked over, and not capable of great things.
"A lot of deaf people have given up due to years and years and years of oppression," said Isch.
The movement wishes to help others in the deaf community to realize that they are capable of great things also. Many examples of successful people include Nyle DiMarco, winner of the 22nd season of America's Next Top Model, Derrick Coleman, deaf fullback for the Seattle Seahawks, and Brent Redpath, a deaf pilot at age 20, one of about 200 in the nation.
"With the right tools and resources, deaf people like myself, can do anything we want to do. As a college educator and a private pilot, I and we can prove to you that we can do anything," said Redpath in ASL.
It goes beyond academics ands careers. Emergency communication can be a huge obstacle. During Hurricane Katrina, the deaf were literally left in silence without access to critical information once the power went out.
"You know they put that little [radar] box on tv, that's hard to see. I'd like to see a live interpreter with the weather so they can explain it and I can see clearly what's going on," said Ari Latino of Deaf Focus, in ASL.
The WBRZ Weather Team believes everybody should receive the critical information they need, without excuses. It's why ASL forecasts are provided daily for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
The deaf and hard-of-hearing community wishes for others to help close the gap in communication as well. They want the "hearing" to be aware, and perhaps think about including them, so they can also succeed.
"That's exactly the point. No one should feel less than, but if people would realize, that if you provide the appropriate tools ,resources, access to communication, everyone has an opportunity to thrive," said Paula Rodriguez of Deaf Focus.