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July 26, 2003

Children of deaf adults bridge gap

From: Montreal Gazette, Canada - Jul 26, 2003

Convention draws 2,000 delegates. 75 nations represented as world federation meets in Canada for the first time


The Gazette

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Usually it's the parents who fret about whether their children will grow up being able to hear and speak properly. But from the time Bo Ladashevska was a boy growing up in Winnipeg, he had to come to terms with the fact that he could hear but both his parents were deaf.

Ladashevska broke the sound barrier by learning sign language before he could talk.

"I'm bilingual. I could sign before I spoke English," he said.

"I belong to a culture known as CODA - children of deaf adults. We're a cultural group just like any other linguistic group, with our own rules, our own vocabulary, our own idioms.

"The only difference is, you can't hear us when we use our language."

Ladashevska, 39, is one of about 70 interpreters who have been working at the Palais des Congrès this week during the international convention of the World Federation of the Deaf.

It is the first time the organization has met in Canada. More than 2,000 delegates from 75 countries are registered.

There are as many sign languages as there are spoken languages, but only three were officially used at the convention: Quebec Sign Language, American Sign Language and International, which is a gesturing system rather than a true sign language.

And just as in oral communication, gaffes can be made when trying to use different sign dialects. The letter T in American Sign, for example, is the equivalent of giving someone the finger in some European sign languages, Ladashevska explained.

People who hear have the advantage of making decisions for those who are deaf - an experience Ladashevska said influenced his decision to become a professional interpreter.

"When I was younger, the technology we have today wasn't there. I had to interpret for my parents. It was not a good situation for them to have to depend on a child to make sure communication happens," he said.

"I don't want to use the word burden, but it was a huge responsibility taken on by me and my brothers and sisters. If my parents had to deal with a lawyer, or a doctor, we would have to be the interpreters."

During the convention, Ladashevska was, for the first time, able to get together with about 50 other CODAs.

"It was my first experience. The oldest was about 90, the youngest 14, and we all have this common bond that few of us had ever been able to share before.

"To be around all these people, all children of deaf parents, and to be able to relate - it just blew me away."

The convention's closing ceremonies are to be held this morning, wrapping up with a farewell luncheon at Windsor Station.

Madrid, Spain, has been selected as the site of the next WFD international convention, scheduled for 2007.

Markku Jokinen, project co-ordinator for Finnish Sign Language at the University of Jyvaskyla, was elected the federation's new president.

About 25,000 Quebecers are deaf.

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