Destroying isolation at Deaf Pride Day:
Appeal Staff Writer
Nevada is facing a crisis that is preventing a portion of its population from getting a good education. The problem is based in one of the foundations of education, language.
“California has issued a state emergency because of the lack of qualified sign language instructors and interpreters and while Nevada hasn’t declared it, we are facing an even bigger crisis,” said Cindy Frank, Deaf Studies instructor and program coordinator at Western Nevada Community College.
Frank said the problem most effects school-age children because more than 70 percent of interpreters being used in schools aren’t certified and interpret less than half of what is said correctly to deaf students.
“The deaf children are suffering because of this. A lot of them are graduating without the education or skills they need,” Frank said.
That was one of the focuses of the inaugural Deaf Pride Day at WNCC on Saturday. The event was organized by the college’s American Sign Language Club as a way to bring awareness and support to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
“We were so impressed with the outpouring of support, even from people who don’t know a word of sign language, but wanted to help,” said Julie Balderson, ASL Club president.
The event included a raffle, face painting, games and a 4-H representative with animals on display. The money raised will be used to provide training for interpreters and stipends to allow parents with deaf children to take ASL classes.
Western Nevada Community College was one of the first colleges to offer classes in ASL almost 10 years ago and currently is one of few that offers a two-year degree in Deaf Studies, according to Frank.
American Sign Language is the third most-used language in the United State and Canada, surpassed only by English and Spanish.
Frank said the other purpose of the event was to provide a positive example for deaf children.
“We want to let deaf kids know they are not alone, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and they are not disabled, they just use a different language,” Frank said.
Shannon Archer is a graduate of WNCC’s program and currently serves as an interpreter at Wooster High School.
“I took ASL because I wanted to be a teacher and I thought it would be useful. I found out I loved the language and didn’t really want to teach, so I switched,” Archer said.
Archer said the biggest challenge facing deaf students is their isolation.
“Not being able to communicate with everyone they come in contact with. I’m really the only one, as the interpreter, they can communicate with and because of that they don’t know the little things. They don’t have the incidental hearing to pick up on things like where to buy prom tickets,” Archer said.
Wednesday Snith understands how being deaf can isolate you from others. The 33-year-old is taking advantage of WNCC’s programs to get better at signing.
“It helps a lot, it’s a great program,” Snith said. “I’m learning how to sign better and learning more language. It’s giving me the ability to communicate better.
Snith also had some advice for anyone who meets a deaf person.
“Don’t back off from a deaf person. It’s OK to just introduce yourself, say hello and make a simple gesture,” Snith said.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at email@example.com or 881-1217.
For more information on American Sign Language or the Deaf Studies Program, contact Cindy Frank by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 445-4407.