OKLAHOMA CITY ─ September 20 marks the start of Deaf Awareness Week, celebrated each year during the last full week in September.
The Oklahoma School for the Deaf and Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing participate in various activities and awareness campaigns to celebrate the annual event.
Both programs are administered by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“We want to promote the positive aspects of deafness, encourage social inclusion and raise awareness of the organizations that support those who are deaf,” Services to the Deaf Program Manager Jonathon Cook explained.
Nearly 169,800 Oklahomans or 4.5 percent are hard of hearing, according to U.S. Census-based estimates developed by Gallaudet University.
Gallaudet University, a liberal arts university for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, is located in Washington, D.C.
“Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated as a time when we all come together to celebrate the rich history of deaf people and embrace the future of what deaf people can and will accomplish in the future,” Oklahoma School for the Deaf Superintendent KaAnn Varner said. “It’s amazing to look at how far technology assistance for deaf and hard of hearing people has emerged.”
Varner was named OSD superintendent in 2011. She is the first deaf woman ever named to the top position and the first deaf leader since former superintendent Ralph White left the job in 1990.
“As I. King Jordan, the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University, said, ‘Deaf people can do anything except hear,’” Varner said.
Deaf Awareness Week activities at the School for the Deaf include assemblies for elementary and high school students including an anti-bullying presentation by former NFL and OSU football player Ken “Big Zach” Zachary. Zachary is a spokesperson for OmegaMan and Friends, a school program with a super hero theme to motivate youth to develop positive habits early in life.
Students and faculty are also looking forward to trip to Tulsa on September 25 for a performance by deaf hip hop artist Sean Forbes at the VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education on the Tulsa Community College Southeast Campus.
DRS’ Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff in Tulsa will participate in a week-long series of activities hosted by the non-profit service agency TSHA. Activities include the Sean Forbes performance, a Deaf Awareness Celebration at The Riverwalk Crossing and an experiential workshop called “Deaf, Deaf World.” TSHA will also host a silent dinner at Incredible Pizza, an inter-denominational worship service and open houses hosted by at Tulsa Community College and Northeastern Oklahoma Cochlear Implant Support Group. Visit TSHA’s web site at http://www.tsha.cc/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/DAW-flyer-for-2015.jpg for more information.
Both OSD and Services to the Deaf staff will provide information at exhibit booths during Deaf Awareness Day events on September 24 at the Oklahoma State Fair. Deaf and hard of hearing performers will entertain starting at 10 a.m. in the Capital City Theatre. For more information, visit http://www.okstatefair.com/content/other-events.
“We look forward to Deaf Awareness Week every year,” Varner said. “The hard work done by the National Association of the Deaf and Oklahoma Association of the Deaf promoting the rights of deaf and hard of people has made tremendous progress, but there is still much to be done.”
For more information, contact the Oklahoma School for the Deaf (580) 622-4900, toll free at (888) 685-3323 or visit www.okdrs.org/students/osd or www.osd.k12.ok.us.
Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing may be reached at 405-522-7930, toll
free at 800-833-8973 or on the web at www.okdrs.org/job-seekers/sdhh .
The phone numbers are accessible by phone, video phone and telecommunications equipment for the deaf.
The Oklahoma School for the Deaf provides residential, early intervention and outreach education services at no charge to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The school offers preschool programs at regional sites in Edmond and Chickasha, and partners with the state Department of Education on an early intervention program Enriching Children’s Communication Opportunities for parents of deaf children, ages three to six. The school provides free outreach services for deaf or hard or hearing students attending local public schools. These services include audiological, speech and language, and other assessments; in-service training programs; and recommendations for adaptations to the students’ educational environments.
Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff coordinate with DRS Vocational Rehabilitation staff to help clients reach employment goals. Counselors based in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have specialized training in hearing and speech disabilities enabling them to communicate directly with clients using sign language or other techniques. Clients may receive evaluation, career guidance and counseling, medical assessment, training, rehabilitation equipment or devices, and job placement assistance, supported by sign language interpreters and real-time captioning through the Interpreter Services Program. Services to the Deaf staff manage the Oklahoma Quality Assurance Screening Test program, which evaluates and certifies the proficiency of interpreters for the deaf in Oklahoma.