Alaska Deaf Council President informs Fairbanks of the upcoming Deaf Awareness Week

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 5:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This Sunday marks the start of Deaf Awareness Week, a global celebration of the deaf communities around the world.

To let the Fairbanks community know the purpose of the event and how they can participate even during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, we interviewed the President of the Alaska Deaf Council, Jennifer Gates.

“So Deaf Awareness Week is generally the last full week of September on an annual basis, from Sunday until Saturday of the very last week of September and the purpose is twofold. Of course we would like people to know who we are out in the world. To celebrate our identity as proud, culturally deaf people, who use American Sign Language, who are proud of who we are, our history and our heritage.” Gates said.

Gates had this to say about what events will be available this upcoming week.

“I represent the Alaska Deaf Council and we will also have a presence during Deaf Awareness Week. As we are adhering to social distancing procedures we’re not going to have the events like we usually do. But we will have some virtual events so people can access what it is our community does and see what we have here as deaf Alaskans. There is going to be a brief film that’s going to be made on a daily basis by a deaf filmmaker and the films are going to be in regards to different organizations that provide different services to the deaf community. I’d like to take time to recognize an individual named MJ Kielbus who has come here all the way from the lower 48. She owns a film making company called Copper & Water and she has decided that she is going to dedicate her time to help us film all of the events for Deaf Awareness Week, so we are really grateful to her for giving up her time and donating.”

“We like building bridges with our non-deaf allies. We want to have connections and interactions with the non-deaf world. We want to be understood, and we want our desire for communication to be understood. One thing we would like for people to know is that during the pandemic, everyone’s wearing masks, it makes communicating much more difficult for the deaf community. We don’t have access to peoples facial expressions the way we used to. We would like for people to understand how we interact, who we are, what our heritage is and to understand that we are a community. We are a linguistic and cultural minority. We’re humans, we have lives. We would like to share who we are. We would like to share information about our history, and our culture, and be present so people know who we are. We have jobs, we own businesses, we are people like anybody else. The only difference is we use a different language, and we do not have language that is dependent on audio. We would like the non-deaf community at large to be involved in activities this week and learn about us and who we are” Gates said.

For more information you can visit the Alaska Deaf Council website here, or visit their Facebook page here for community events and interaction.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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