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February 2, 2007

Deaf travelers learn Italian

From: Siena School - Feb 2, 2007

Three-week Course in Foreign Language and Arts Offered to Deaf American and Italian Students in Siena, Italy, this June
Course Designed by Italian Educators and Deaf Americans, Including Deaf Columbia Ed.D. Student Will Teach American Sign Language and Italian Sign Language Plus Expose Students to Local Culture
For Immediate Release Contact: Debra Cole New York, NY – Feb. 1, 2007 -- An intensive, three-week course in American Sign Language (ASL) and Italian Sign language will blend language training with exposure to Italian art and opportunities for cross-cultural communications among deaf Americans and Italians at The Siena School for Liberal Arts June 2 – 23, 2007.

Designed to help deaf adults learn a second language while interacting with people from a different culture, the program is sponsored by The Siena School for Liberal Arts in collaboration with the local branch of the Ente Nazionale Sordi and the Mason Perkins Deafness Fund in Rome. It will feature field trips to explore the art of Siena and Florence, evening activities that enable Italians and Americans to learn from one another, and daily classes in American Sign Language and Italian Sign Language. Students will also learn how to communicate in written English and Italian appropriate for art contexts.

“The program aims to meet the needs of deaf people who communicate through both writing and signing,” says Miriam Grottanelli di Santi, the program coordinator.

The students will live and learn in the 18th century villa of Certano, just outside the western gate of Siena, which has been one of the most important centers for deaf education in Europe since the 1800s. The cost for the program – 3,000 Euros, not including airfare – will cover tuition and course materials, housing, two meals a day and all field trips.

“The program is aimed at all deaf people who enjoy traveling, art and developing friendships with citizens of other countries,” said Debra Cole, the Siena School’s U.S. liaison.

Ms. Cole, who, as a Fulbright Fellow in Italy for two years, worked with local schools to enhance language training for deaf students, added that the program is open to all deaf adults who want to learn Italian Sign Language or American Sign Language.

A resident of Bronxville, N.Y., Cole is deaf, an Ed.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a former teacher at Lexington School for the Deaf in New York. She will be one of three faculty members in the program. Roberto Petrone, an Italian Sign Language teacher at The Siena School for Liberal Arts, and president of the Comitato Giovani Sordi Italiani (a national organization for deaf youth) will teach Italian Sign Language and Italian. The third faculty member is Carlo di Biasé, a former Fulbright Fellow in the United States who now teaches Italian Sign Language in Genova. Mr. di Biase also designs curriculum for art education for the deaf in Italy and consults with museums in Italy and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to promote school and museum collaborations.

Additional information about the program and how to register for it can be obtained by visiting or emailing Cole at