DeafWire Edition - 3 September 2022

Weekly DEAFWIRE news recaps
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Deafblind cyclist tours across America

A 61-year-old Deafblind cyclist, Dick Hagan, completed the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail. He rode nearly 5,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon in 85 days, from April 29 to July 22. Hagan rode over 50 miles per day, taking breaks in hostels or tents. He said the overall experience was more mentally draining than physically challenging. 

Hagan didn’t ride to spread awareness about Deaf-blindness; he rode because he’s passionate about cycling. He was diagnosed with Deaf-blindness at 10 when he realised he couldn’t see in the dark; his vision deteriorated and he became officially blind in 2017, at age 55. Hagan hopes to do a few more cycling tours, but might have to move to indoor cycling if his vision worsens.


Signmark on "Dancing with the Stars"

In 2016, Nyle DiMarco, a Deaf model and activist won “Dancing with the Stars.” This year, Finnish rapper, Marko Vuoriheimo, known as Signmark, is hoping to repeat this victory. He is the first Deaf dancer in the “Finnish Dancing with the Stars” competition and his partner, Anniina Koivuniemi won last season with Ernest Lawson.

Marko said his biggest challenge will be his lack of dancing skills and will have to rely on Anniina for guidance. He added that he is competitive and hard-working. They currently use a sign language interpreter to help them communicate but Marko hopes that he and Anniina will be able to figure out how to communicate on their own.


No state-run Deaf schools

Pilar Biolog, a teacher and founder of the La Fe school for the Deaf children in Equatorial, Guinea, a Central African country, said that there are no state-run Deaf schools in the country. There are also no official resources, guidance, specialised units for Deafness, or mental health services for Deaf people. Instead, there are three Deaf centres that are either run by a charity organisation or privately initiated. 

The lack of government support worsened La Fe school’s struggles – no money for building repairs and water leaks; and they are no longer able to provide school bus services, which leads to children staying home because parents can’t afford a taxi ride. Biolog also took seven children into her home because of parental abandonment and isolation. A mother of a Deaf student donated land and Biolog hopes to build a boarding school.


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Edinburgh Deaf Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland hosted the Edinburgh Deaf Festival from August 12 to 19th. It celebrates Deaf culture, language, and heritage through performances, Deaf karaokes, stand-up comedy, and BSL book club discussion. DeafRave provided entertainment with laser lights, music, and deaf DJs.

Philip Gerrard, one of the festival organisers, said there has been a huge shift in societal attitudes and increased Deaf awareness. Historically, access for Deaf people at Edinburgh’s festivals has not been great. Troy Kotsur’s Oscar win, Rose Ayling-Ellis’s Strictly Come Dancing win, and Tasha Ghouri from Love Island normalised sign language and paved the way for progress.


Deaf demand access to emergency info

The Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network, DiDRR Network, in Vietnam, is demanding access to emergency information to make sure that no one is left behind when natural disasters happen. In 2020, Tropical Storm Linfa hit Vietnam, hearing people were alerted through radio, news, and text messages and were able to protect themselves. Deaf people were left behind.

After the storm, there was more information about financial support for older people, poor people, and those with disabilities, but many Deaf people were unaware of this. Deaf Vietnamese are often overlooked because they don’t have the same resources as hearing people. In January 2022, the government organised a meeting to promote inclusivity for disabled people in natural disasters but didn’t invite any Deaf-led organisations to participate.


Speech with sign language interpreter

David Pocock, a newly appointed Senator in Australia, delivered his first federal speech with an Auslan interpreter, Mandy Dolesji, interpreting behind him on a large TV. Senator Pocock said it was important for everyone to be more inclusive. Originally, he wanted the interpreter to stand next to him on the floor in the Senate but the government and opposition denied his request.

Disability advocates criticised the government and opposition; Deaf Australia said the refusal to have an interpreter next to the Senator is very concerning and lacked proper accessibility. They pointed out inclusion and accessibility is never a certainty in political settings. In the Senator’s speech, he stated his strong intentions to make the Australian parliament more inclusive.

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