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November 9, 2003

Expo helps deaf people connect with others

From: Kane County Chronicle, IL - Nov 9, 2003

Kane County Chronicle

ST. CHARLES — About 2,500 people were expected to pack the Pheasant Run MegaCenter on Saturday, but there hardly was a sound to be heard.
Not that the convention center lacked people or communication. Most of it was done with sign language and the mouthing of words.
The second annual Deaf Worldwide Expo featured booths advertising the latest technology aimed at the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Janet Suidzinski, 68, of Marengo, attended the event looking for a pager.
"I just wanted to see what's new out there," Suidzinski said through an interpreter. "The best thing is seeing people you can communicate with, meet new people and old acquaintances."
Liz Griffen of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission, said more than 1 million people in Illinois have hearing loss. About 220,000 people have no hearing.
The commission provides advocacy for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Griffen said the expo is an important networking opportunity for the deaf and hard of hearing.
"I think it's very important," she said. "It's a chance for the community to network so they know what services are available. I think it's also very important for socializing and meeting people who are just like you."
"It's wonderful anytime we can gather and get information," added Patty Greene, a spokeswoman for the commission. "It's a social gathering, but it's also a resource they wouldn't have access to normally."
Carmen Aguilar, a deaf services coordinator for the Fox River Valley Center for Independent Living, said she has 35 clients.
"But there is more deaf out here," Aguilar jotted on the back of a yellow pamphlet. "I am working to outreach them. There is a lack of access to get information from us."
Michelle LaCrosse was at the expo to promote "Silent Ears, Silent Heart," a novel she co-wrote with her hearing-impaired husband, Blair LaCrosse.
"It gives a glimpse into the deaf culture," said Michelle LaCrosse, who has normal hearing. "It shows what their needs are, what their relationships are like and how deaf people view things that happen in the world."
She said she learned sign language in high school and has become accustomed to the kind of silence that filled the convention hall.
"For me, it's very enjoyable," she said of the expo. "I've known deaf people most of my life. I feel more comfortable with the deaf."
Ryan Ketchner, a minor league pitcher in the Seattle Mariners farm system who was born without hearing, signed autographs.
Ketchner said through an interpreter that his only difficulty when playing is communicating with teammates about special plays.
"But when I pitch, it's a lot of signals anyway," he said. "A lot of my teammates want to learn sign language. They know the signing alphabet."
Ketchner's manager, Joe Strasser, said Ketchner ignored those who told him when he was in Little League that his lack of hearing would prevent him from being successful.
"A lot of people tried to talk him out of it," Strasser said. "He said, 'I can do it.'"
Ketchner said he should serve as a role model to hearing-impaired young people.
"Look at me as a role model," he said. "Don't listen to other hearing people who say you can't play because you can't hear."

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