Deaf, hard of hearing from across Colorado join together in Craig
Deena Armstrong didn’t greet her friends with “hello” or “how are you?” If she had, they might not have heard her. Instead, she ran up to them with an enormous smile and hugged them repeatedly.
Her deaf friends responded just as enthusiastically.
On Saturday, behind Calvary Baptist Church, Armstrong was acting as an interpreter for a deaf social that welcomed the deaf and hard of hearing from across the state.
“We invited hearing people, as well,” Armstrong said. “We really want to bridge the gap between the deaf and the hearing.”
The last social was in February, but Saturday’s event was the biggest so far, event organizer Staci Nichols said.
“It’s nice because everyone can talk to each other,” Nichols said. “And it’s important to expose hearing people to our culture.”
In attendance was Greg Hannah, an American Sign Language teacher at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton.
“Lots of deaf people are coming,” he said, with the help of interpreter Margie Benes. “Because we love to socialize.”
He said he was at the event to learn more about the Lord, as well as meet other deaf and hard of hearing people. He said he was glad that hearing people were invited.
“It’s neat to have them come and learn about deaf people and deaf culture,” he said.
Many of the deaf who attended Saturday acknowledged the rift between the deaf and hearing cultures.
Armstrong said that it was unfortunately common for deaf people to isolate themselves.
“We feel that there are a lot of deaf who are maybe in hiding, and these events help them feel like they are not alone,” she said.
Richard Poulson, of Grand Junction, said the deaf and the hearing can learn to understand one another through education and communication.
“Deaf people see with their eyes and their minds,” he said, also using Benes as an interpreter. “Sometimes hearing people see with their ears, and it just comes right out their mouths, and they talk a lot.
“Some people think that deaf people are dumb. But when they learn to talk to the deaf and communicate, they start to understand.”
Christopher Harvey, the event’s scheduled speaker from Broken Arrow, Okla., is deaf and has been a pastor at a church for 11 years.
He also works with heavy equipment for the city of Tulsa, a job he thinks he is just as qualified for as any person who can hear.
“I don’t need to hear for my job,” he said with the help of Benes. “I am completely equal.”
He said that, at first, his co-workers and superiors had to adjust to his form of communication but that it was important for the hearing to be exposed to and learn about his culture.
“My goal in life is that deaf people are on an even playing field,” he said. “And I have the experience, I can teach them. I believe the Holy Spirit wants to touch the deaf and the hearing.”
Aside from Harvey’s speech, the guests were treated to barbecue provided by the Calvary Baptist Church, family games, and an interactive skit performed by Nichols.
The skit was performed in sign language by Nichols and translated by an interpreter. The story, called ‘The White Owl,” was designed to generate ideas from the deaf and hearing members of the audience about how the hero of the story can go about catching the elusive white owl that he wants to keep as a pet.
Benes said that the deaf community has a strong need for opportunities like this event.
“The deaf really need to socialize,” she said. “Many of them are so isolated. When they learn about an event like this they get in their cars and drive four, five hours so that they can be here.”
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