Deaf Way II: Signs of the Future: The International Conference and Festival in Washington Was a Celebration of the Talents and Experiences of Deaf People. (Life)

Article excerpt

Deaf Way II was a remarkable phenomenon. It was a week-long educational conference and arts festival held at the Washington Convention Center and attended by 10,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from more than 100 countries.

But it was more than that. It was a reaffirmation of the vitality of the deaf community. One of the 10,000 attendees was Summer Crider--tall, blonde and cuter than cute at 19. Her parents are both musicians and educators. Linda Crider educated herself as much as possible about options for her daughter, who was deafened at age 3 from spinal meningitis. When Summer was 6, she was one of the first children in Florida to receive a cochlear implant, the surgically inserted electronic device that made news when it enabled talk-show host Rush Limbaugh to resume his career (see "Limbaugh Learning to Listen Again," Jan. 28).

Most implant centers profess that the goal of the implant is to enable the child (or adult as the case may be) to take his or her place in the "normal world"--that is to say, the world of speaking people. For children, this means that the goal of implantation is that they will be able to attend a local neighborhood school and be "mainstreamed."

Yet, Summer was an eager participant in Deaf Way II. She came along with her boyfriend, Patrick Brant, one of a long line of deaf men who are genetically likely to sire deaf children. The couple met at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. After attending a summer program at Gallaudet University in Washington, Summer decided that her social interaction in her public school just didn't make the cut. With the support of her family, she spent her high-school years at the Florida school. There she learned that she desired both the technology to enhance her hearing and the special camaraderie with other deaf persons.

People such as Patrick are called "Deaf of Deaf" by those in the know in the deaf community. They are the core of an international network which has provided a bulwark of support that has enabled deaf people to survive and flourish despite centuries of efforts to keep them from marrying each other, thereby creating a so-called "deaf variety of the human race," as the inventor of the telephone so aptly put it. …

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