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April 14, 2003

Deaf rally for recognition

From: Brattleboro Reformer, VT - Apr 14, 2003

Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO -- About 30 people held signs promoting deaf culture in front of the downtown post office Saturday afternoon, kicking off what members of the area's deaf community are calling "The Deaf Experience" -- a weeklong commemoration of the 1988 demonstrations at Gallaudet University that spurred the hiring of the school's first deaf president.

The rally also occurred as the Vermont Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing searches for a new president of its own, and as members of the deaf community push for more deaf representation on the board of directors.

The VCDHH is the governing body for the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro.

"It's not just connected to Austine," said Mike Finneran, director of outreach at the Austine School, "but it's connected to people in general."

But he added, "It's good timing to have a rally."

As he stood with the other demonstrators, Finneran said a "plantation mentality" with regard to deaf people still prevailed, in some people's minds, even 15 years after the Gallaudet demonstrations.

David Muise, an Austine graduate who lives in Hinsdale, N.H., said he wanted to wanted to dispel the notion that deaf people were inferior in the minds of people passing by.

"Deaf people are not inferior," said Muise, 37. "We're normal like you -- and we're intelligent. Deaf people can do anything except hear."

Brattleboro resident Britney Schneider, 15, said she wanted people "to give more support to deaf culture, and to acknowledge deafness."

She described this culture as rich in facial expressions, and rich in an emotion embodied by American Sign Language.

© 2003 Brattleboro Reformer