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September 23, 2004

Sign language interpretation offered at the IMAX Theatre

From: Quad City Times,IA- Sep 23, 2004

By Lynne Voelliger

Imagine that you are sitting in the darkened IMAX Theatre, waiting for the film, "The Coral Reef of Australia," to begin.

As it begins, you experience the sights and sounds of Australia. You feel transported, as if you are actually there at the Coral Reef.

Now imagine the film without sound. Are you still transported? Or are you simply enjoying the beauty of the place? Without words, are you able to understand it?

Those were the questions Brian and Cynthia Byer of Davenport had before attending the first IMAX film in Iowa to offer sign language interpretation earlier this month. Thanks to a grant through Teens for Tomorrow, the couple and other members of the deaf community had that chance.

"It was a grand opportunity for us to enjoy the film with other people," Cynthia Byer said. "Without an interpreter, we don't know what the narrator is saying."

Teens for Tomorrow, a board of 20 student directors sponsored by The Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, provided an $800 grant for interpretation at four films at the IMAX Theatre in Davenport. The second film in this series, "NASCAR 3D," will be shown at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Teens for Tomorrow is responsible for identifying and prioritizing needs within the community. The foundation provides the group with $5,000 to divide and donate to various nonprofit organizations.

"Being teenagers, we don't have money to donate yet," said Hallie Kilmer of Davenport, a two-year board member of Teens for Tomorrow. "That doesn't mean that we don't have the desire to help and make a difference."

"When board members from Teens for Tomorrow interviewed us about the grant, we were impressed with their insightfulness," said Theresa Ruzic, development associate for the Putnam Museum and IMAX Theater.

Interpretation at the films is provided by Heather Stickrod of Moline, who is hired through Deaf Services Unlimited in Des Moines.

"IMAX staff provides me with a script to review in advance," Stickrod said. "Tomorrow's film is a little unusual in that it is presented in 3D. The deaf audience will not only have to keep their eye on me and the screen, they will have to do so in 3D!"

She stands on a platform in front of the screen, off to the side, with a small spotlight on her. The hearing impaired audience members are encouraged to sit in the upper middle of the theater so they can see both the screen and the interpreter.

Diana Kautzky is president and owner of Deaf Services Unlimited. For the past eight years, her company has provided interpretation in a variety of settings such as court hearings, workplaces, at performances, the classroom and even in a hospital delivery room.

"The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures equal access for the handicapped," Kautzky said. "But companies are now discovering that interpretation broadens their ability to reach the public. It is actually a tremendous benefit to their business."

Sign language is second nature to Kautzky, 42, who was born to deaf parents.

"For the first two years of my life, sign language was the only language we used," she said.

Stickrod, who is a freelance interpreter, also became interested in sign language through personal need. "My husband is deaf, which inspired me and my sister to both become interpreters."

Locally, sign language interpretation is offered at Scott Community College. Advanced training is required for the interpretation of Broadway plays and is offered through Julliard School in New York City. Kautzky was one of 20 interpreters to go through the training when it began in 1998. Now Kautzky passes that training along to interpreters that she retains.

Films and show times offering sign language interpreting at the IMAX Theatre in Davenport include "NASCAR 3D" at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16. A fourth film and show time will be announced later.

2004, Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA A Lee Enterprises subsidiary