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NIH Record

Awareness Program Says Deafness No Obstacle
to Achievements

By Jo Bagley

Current technology increases choices, removes obstacles and provides endless opportunities not only for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, but for everyone. These points were emphasized during the recent 4th annual Deaf Awareness Day Program entitled, "Enhancing Communication by the Year 2000 -- How Technology Impacts Upon Deaf and Hearing Communities."

Philip W. Bravin

The first speaker, Philip Bravin, president of Yes You Can, Inc., a company specializing in using technology to enable individuals who are deaf or visually impaired, spoke about capabilities of current technology and his projections about what may be possible in the future. "It won't be long before the telephone, television and personal computer will cease to exist as we know them," he prophesied. "We will have something that incorporates them into one unit." Bravin envisions the day when an individual from the United States who is deaf will sign a message in English while wearing sensors on his or her fingertips. That message will be sent, via a computer, to someone in France who will hear the message in French. "Choice, however, is the key word," he cautioned. "Technology will be able to do what you want, but it is up to you, as the individual, to choose." He concluded by urging the audience to "Fear not and have fun!"

Dr. Philip Zazove (r)

Dr. Philip Zazove, a physician who is deaf, was the second speaker. He shared a personal story of how his hearing parents, who were physicians, did not realize he was deaf until he was 4 years old. He explained that this occurred in the 1950's, when there was not much acceptance of diversity or knowledge of what a person could accomplish with a disability. His parents, who were told that there wasn't much hope that their son would have a normal life, would not lower their expectations for him. Zazove credits his parents for his current success because they believed in his abilities, fought for him and provided opportunities. He recounted how it took him 2 years and 30 rejections before he was finally accepted into medical school, despite having high grades and test scores. "Fortunately, people are now more open to what people who are deaf can do," he said. Zazove urged everyone to expect children who are deaf to be successful, help these children develop self-esteem and provide them with chances. He concluded, "Hearing loss does not limit what a person can do. Only the sky will be the limit."

The Gallaudet University Dance Troupe

This conclusion was verified by a repertoire of dances performed by the Gallaudet University Dance Troupe. The performers, who were either deaf or hard of hearing, captivated the audience with intricate dances to songs including "Singing in the Rain," "Do You Love Me?" and "Amazing Grace." Deafness did not limit their ability to dance in synchrony to music.

The deaf awareness program planning committee, intermingled with guests, includes (from l) Joel Kirkpatrick, Kay Johnson, speaker Dr. Philip Zazove, Karen Basnight, Ward Pettis, Frances Cannon, Jerry Garmany, Susan Smith, Patience Sparks, speaker Philip Bravin and Sally MacDougall.


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