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March 22, 2005

Town for sign-language users planned in US

From: CBC News, Canada - Mar 22, 2005

CBC News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans may soon be able to live in a town built just for them.

A Michigan-based company is holding planning sessions this week for the town, which would be located in South Dakota near Sioux Falls.

Nederveld Associates, the company that is overseeing the project, says the town would have all the regular amenities, including hotels, retail shops, churches and a convention centre.

However, it will cater to deaf and hard-of-hearing people by:

• Using sign-language as the preferred way to communicate.
• Putting strobe lights and sirens in every building to warn hearing-impaired people of fires and other disasters.
• Offering a school that integrates deaf and non-deaf students, with American Sign Language offered as a language-immersion program.
• Building stores and houses within walking distance of each other.

The town would be named "Laurent" to honour Laurent Clerc, the French teacher who pioneered sign language in the United States.

Marvin Miller, who was born deaf, and his mother-in-law M.E. Barwacz have been working for years to create the town.

"We want pioneers, just like those who came to live here way back when," Miller told the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently through an interpreter.

They say 92 families or individuals, from as far away as England and Australia, have signed up so far to move to the town.

They hope people will begin living in Laurent by next year.