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Deaf Awareness Week

Three animated characters, one female and two males, performing sign language

The first International Day of the Deaf was first celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming the International Week of the Deaf. Deaf Awareness Week (DAW), also called International Week of the Deaf (IWD), is celebrated annually during the last week of September and ends with International Day of the Deaf on the last Sunday of the week.

The purpose of IWD is to draw the attention of legislators, policy makers, and the general public to the achievements of deaf people and the concerns of the deaf community. During this week, organizations of deaf people worldwide are encouraged to carry out campaigns to publicize or increase awareness about deaf culture, language, and legal issues on varying levels. The goal of DAW is also to promote the positive aspects of deafness and social inclusion. It is about celebrating culture, heritage, and language as well as recognizing the accomplishments of the deaf community. It is also a time to for the deaf community to highlight their issues and educate the broader community about the misconceptions of being deaf, types of hearing loss, causes of hearing differences, and about the diversity in the community.

When a deaf person from a hearing family is asked the question “What does DAW meant to you?” the answer usually is “I want my family to include me in their conversations.” That is one reason why it is important to spread awareness. One common saying in the deaf community is: “Being deaf is about experiencing the world visually.” Did you know that being deaf can enhance sight? The sense of sight is increased for Deaf people because they cannot hear. In the Deaf community, American Sign Language (ASL) is the primary mode of communication. DAW promotes how ASL provides deaf people access to education. Equality in communication is a big desire for the deaf community.

This year’s Proclamation states:
Whereas, Maryland has a large and vibrant deaf community; and
Whereas, it is important that we as Marylanders work together to ensure that those who are deaf have equal and full access to resources, services and opportunities for participation in all aspects of community life; and
Whereas, the State takes necessary action to support deaf community as evidenced by this year’s passage of two important bills that established the Deaf Culture Digital Library and institute reforms for the Early Hearing Detection Invention program;
Whereas, many State of Maryland agencies and numerous organizations around the State to support our deaf citizens; and
Whereas, for the last 24 years, the American with Disabilities Act has sought to ensure that deaf individuals are respected as equal citizens with equal opportunities to access inclusive education, achieve gainful employment and fully participate in the recreational, leisure and social activities of our communities, all free from discrimination; and
Whereas, individuals who are deaf are respected and valued members of Maryland’s communities and serve as teachers educating our children, nurses helping our sick and everyday citizens sharing their experiences, perspectives and abilities.

Now therefore, I, Martin O’Malley, Governor of the State of Maryland, do hereby proclaim September 21-27 as Deaf Awareness Week in Maryland and do comment this observances to all of our citizens.

The deaf community is as special as any other community in this big world of ours. Happy Deaf Awareness Week!

Please make a note that ODHH is currently working with the Baltimore Orioles and the National Aquarium to set up events for next year’s Deaf Awareness Week!


Maryland Gubernatorial Forum

Picture of Maryland State Flag on a flag pole

ODHH is excited to share that the Maryland Disabilities Forum will be hosting a debate focusing on disability issues for the gubernatorial candidates who are running for Governor. Deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind community members are encouraged to attend the forum to demonstrate the community’s relevance. At this debate, you will have the opportunity to submit questions by preregistering online. Moderators will screen all the questions and select a few to be discussed at the forum. Candidates for Governor will discuss policy issues that directly affect the lives of individuals with disabilities. Interpreters and CART will be provided. ODHH strongly encourages individuals to attend the forum to be informed and be heard. There will be a screen at the end of this vlog with the website to preregister your questions. IT will also have the address, date and time. ODHH hopes to see you there!

Introducing Our New Interns

Image of 6 people jumping in the air throwing their hands with the word Interns in front of people.

Now that summer is over and students are returning to school, ODHH is thrilled to announce four new interns for the fall semester. Please join us in welcoming Shyla Chatlani, Zachary Ennis, Erica Fields, and Kyle Gagahan to the ODHH team. They all bring a variety of backgrounds and interests to the table. Keep reading to learn more about each intern!

  Shyla Chatlani
Shyla Chatlani Hello! I’m Shyla Chatlani. I started interning here at ODHH at the end of August. I am a senior at Towson University in the Deaf Studies program with a concentration in human services. I have been enjoying my time here with ODHH. I have been learning a great amount about the government system, the Deaf community here in Maryland, and how they can work hand-in-hand. The ultimate goal is to provide equal access and services.
  Zach Ennis
Shyla Chatlani Hi, I’m Zach Ennis and I’m a first year social work graduate student at Gallaudet. I’ll be interning here at ODHH for one year and I’m really excited to be here. I’m also looking forward to expanding my social work education and applying it while I’m here.
  Erica Fields
Shyla Chatlani Hi, my name is Erica Fields. Currently, I am a senior at Towson University majoring in Deaf Studies. I’m excited to be interning here at ODHH and I’m eager to learn. My main goal is learn more about advocating for the deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind community.
  Kyle Gagahan
Shyla Chatlani Hi, my name is Kyle Gagahan. I’m a first-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University studying public health. I’m excited to be an intern with the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.