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Archive for Sunday, April 8, 2001

DEAFVILLE

April 8, 2001

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Participating schools from Lawrence included Lawrence High School, Free State High School and Kansas University.

The three-hour journey through the city, created by 15 American Sign Language teachers, allowed hearing people to uncover some of the frustrations and difficulties that deaf people encounter in their everyday lives.

Participants were greeted at 9 a.m. with a brief explanation of the rules of the city. Each person was given a scorecard, with various stations indicated. The individuals who ran each station were asked to carry on a conversation with the hearing person in sign language, then rank the hearing person's ability to communicate, from one to five, five being the best. If anyone was caught using voice to communicate, a Deafville police officer would send the talker to jail. Some of the various stops in the city included the "Holideaf Inn," a hospital, story-time, a store, a bank, and more. At the Holideaf Inn, for example, the hearing person was expected to communicate to the deaf front-desk attendant that he or she needed a room and then pay the attendant with Deafville money. Each participant was given $200, available through the city bank.

Liddy said she found the ranking system helpful. She said it allowed her to assess which sign-language skills she needed to work on.

"When I just tried to have a natural conversation, without concentrating on every little thing, I found it easier to understand, just as I would having a conversation with a hearing person," Liddy said.

KU sign-language instructor, Kester Marsh, said he encouraged his students to attend Deafville so they could practice using the language and see what it's like to live in a world filled with communication barriers.

"I want them to see it from a deaf person's perspective: Hey, look, this isn't easy for you, imagine what it's like for us all the time," Marsh said.

Marsh's father, Charles Marsh, a deaf studies instructor at the Kansas School for the Deaf, ran a station in the city. He said he thought Deafville was a good chance for deaf people and hearing people to communicate and learn about each other's lives.

"Deaf people are willing to help hearing people because they will help us out - become interpreters, provide better services and make deaf life easier for us," Charles Marsh said.

One station included a chat room where the hearing could sit down and talk with deaf people. A friendly environment was encouraged to invite conversations between the two communities.

David Westerman, a part-time Olathe Medical Center sign-language teacher, said he was patient with the hearing participants who stopped off at the Deafville hospital.

"There were a lot of people signing slowly and occasionally it was hard to follow," Westerman said. "Sometimes it was tough. I would have to ask them to repeat, but it was good."

Kester Marsh said he was pleased with the turnout at the event. He said he expects that by next year a larger facility would be needed. This is the second year for the event.

Liddy said the experience in Deafville helped her understand how hard it can be for deaf people to communicate with the hearing community.

"As the day went on, I became more and more comfortable there," Liddy said. "I would love to have my sign language class at KU make a Deafville."

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