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May 9, 2004

Celebrating A Culture

From: Hartford Courant (subscription), CT - May 9, 2004

DeafNation Brings Together A Community And Its Marketplace

Courant Staff Writer

May 9 2004

The hard-beating rock music played so loud at the DeafNation Expo in Hartford Saturday, the thumping of the drums could be felt deep within the chest.

Then, as the music quieted, so did the room. There wasn't the hum of chatter common at conventions. Instead, the sound of individual voices could be distinctly heard.

For much of the day, a portion of the Connecticut Expo Center was converted into acelebration of deaf culture - and a place to find new technology for the deaf and hearing impaired, some helping to bridge the communication gap between the hearing and deaf worlds.

In its second year, the DeafNation Expo has expanded to 12 sites in the country. Saturday's event in Hartford brought in people from across New England and New York, according to Joel Barish, CEO of DeafNation.

Barish is deaf, as is his younger brother, Jed Barish. The two work together at DeafNation, where Jed Barish is the chief information officer and the producer of a side endeavor for the expo, a road trip that is touring the country in a recreational vehicle to raise awareness of deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Joel Barish said there are still misconceptions about the deaf. For instance, he said, many people still think deaf-owned companies don't exist.

If there was any doubt that those in the deaf community can run businesses, or are a target rich for marketers, the expo dispelled them. There were 55 booths that promoted a wide range of items - from crafts that bestowed the "I love you" hand symbol in sign language, to technology that allows deaf and hearing-impaired people to attend a lecture or meeting and read what is being said on a computer.

Arthur Moore was manning a booth set up by Sprint, a sponsor of the event. Even though he was working, Moore was there with his family, including his 11-year-old son, Brandon. Arthur Moore is deaf. Brandon can hear and can communicate with his father through sign language.

"It's quiet a lot" in the house, Brandon said. But there are benefits, especially when he listens to rock music loud.

"My parents don't complain," Brandon said.

Near the recreational vehicle that was parked in the expo center, Jed Barish shared some of the contributions made by deaf people, including giving professional football players the idea for the huddle.

Joan Hanna, a teacher at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, who served as an interpreter for this story, likened deaf culture to an ethnic group with its own language and rich traditions.

One difference, she said, is hearing people will often greet each other with a polite hello, while deaf people are more demonstrative. "In the deaf culture, when you see a friend, it's a hug," she said.

More information about DeafNation is available at

Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant