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June 8, 2004

Speaking without sound

From: Newark Advocate - Newark,OH,USA - Jun 8, 2004

Newark center helps deaf communicate

Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- Perry Jones sat in front of a television screen and camera, hands rapidly signing "Hello, how are you?" to his wife Cheryl.

Cheryl signed her response, and the conversation continued without spoken word via real-time video.

It's a relatively new technology that finally allows the two, who are both deaf, to communicate face-to-face through a telephone service. Last week, Jones made the call from the Southeast Community Center of the Deaf, at 14 Arcade Place in Newark's downtown Arcade, to his home where the same technology is hooked up.

Jones, a Newark resident and member of the center's advisory committee, often uses its services like the translating program. With three employees, the center is a charitable organization that provides not only translators for both the hearing and the deaf, but also assists with advocacy. It provides support for an average of more than 60 clients per month from 10 counties, including Athens, Coshocton, Guernsey, Hocking, Licking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry and parts of Fairfield counties.

The center relocated from Zanesville to Newark in July when grant funding there dwindled, and has since gotten a grant from the Longaberger Corp. to continue operation. Funds are still needed however, according to the Center's staff.

With the video system, when a hearing person gets a call from someone who is deaf, the video operator first explains how the call will work with the operator as a liaison.

The person who is deaf sits in front of the camera and signs to the operator, who translates for the hearing person. The hearing person's replies are then signed to the person who is deaf.

The Center's employees -- Director Tom Atkins, his son Ken and Jenifer Kruzan, a staff interpreter -- are spreading the word about the video technology to local residents who may want to use it.

Meanwhile, translators remain the most-requested service, Ken Atkins said.

Jones sometimes uses translators at doctors' appointments. When a translator is called, the institution, not the person who is deaf, is billed, Ken said. Rates range from $40 per hour minimum if arranged in advance to $50 per hour with less than 48-hours notice.

Ken, a hearing person, learned sign language when he was a child before he learned to speak fluently because his father Tom and mother Charlotte are both deaf.

"Speaking English was the hardest thing for me to learn," said Ken, who started going to his mother's doctors' appointments to translate for her when he was kindergarten age. "I was held back in the first grade because I couldn't communicate with the other kids."

Ken, 33, now travels 53 miles to work -- one way -- from his home in Commercial Point to the Center every day. Kruzan drives 46 miles from her New Concord home to work every day.

"It's not just a job," Ken said. "It's a passion,"

It's also a way of life. Kruzan, a hearing person, taught herself how to sign the alphabet, then went to college to learn the rest. She even lived in a deaf dorm for two years.

"I was fascinated with the fact that you could have a language without speaking," Kruzan said.

Her daughter knows some sign language now, and is able to communicate with deaf children at the center's social gatherings.

On the first Friday of every month, the center plays host to The Silent Zone, a chance for the hearing and deaf to socialize. According to Tom, people who take sign language classes from the center often attend to test their skills.

Every other month, the Center schedules a Silent Mingle for the same purpose.

Reporter Lachelle Seymour can be reached at 328-8546 or

Sign language class offered

The Southeast Community Center of the Deaf plans to offer a sign language class this summer, from July 15 to Sept. 16, for two hours each week. Cost is $65 per person.

To register or get more information, call the center at 349-0791.

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