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November 6, 2004

Miss Deaf America speaks in Winsted

From: Torrington Register Citizen, CT - Nov 6, 2004

KARSTEN STRAUSS , Register Citizen Staff

WINSTED - Reigning Miss Deaf America Erin Casler gave a special presentation to the Northwestern Connecticut Community College Deaf Club Friday evening at the Founder's Hall auditorium. Assisted by an interpreter, Casler, who was chosen Miss Deaf America by the National Association of the Deaf, which sponsors the biennial event, brought advice about coping and succeeding with deafness.

Advertisement "I used to think pageants were ridiculous," she said. "Then I saw one in Washington, D.C., and saw that it was about a talented group of individuals."

Casler went on to say that the NAD pageant is not against women, but rather a way in which to become involved and to promote the association. She feels it is important to reach out to children who cannot hear because the isolation they feel is accentuated by their condition.

"It's important to show deaf children that there are options," she said. "There are some deaf children who have never met another deaf kid."

When asked what she feels is important to accomplish in her future, Casler said she'd like to work to make services and information available to committees on what it means to deal with deaf people. "You don't have to scream at us," she said.

Casler's overall message to the NCCC's deaf club was that there is hope and not to lose heart.

"I have faith," she said. "You have to have faith that things will work out." As she ended her hour-long seminar, the approximately 40 audience members raised their hands into the air and shook them, the sign language translation for applause.

Casler's family discovered her condition when she was not yet a year old. Living in Syracuse at the age of 3, she enrolled in the Board of Cooperative Educational Services program in central New York, then moved to Connecticut, where she attended the American School for the Deaf in Windsor. In her junior year at Windsor High School, Casler decided to enroll at Model Secondary School for the Deaf, where she served as editor of the school newspaper, before returning to Windsor to receive her high school diploma. Casler subsequently went on to earn her B.A. in psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Mass,, and eventually became director of public relations at the Communication Service for the Deaf, based in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Casler was crowned Miss Deaf America in July of this year at the 47th Biennial NAD pageant in Kansas City, Mo., on the platform "Violence Against Women as a Global Human Rights Issue."

Karsten Strauss can be reached by e-mail at

©The Register Citizen 2004