Deaf conference to bring awareness to Tri-College system

This weekend, Swarthmore College will be hosting a conference along with Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, entitled “Signs and Voices: Language, Arts, and Identity from Deaf to Hearing” that will include lectures, art exhibits, and discussion panels on issues important to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Donna Jo Napoli, Swarthmore College Professor of Linguistics, is a spokesperson and organizer of the event and helped put the conference together with a large group of students, alums, staff members, and faculty from Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford Colleges. Of the conference, Napoli hopes that people will “marvel at the wonderful art – we’re having an exhibit of sculpture, painting, photography, ceramics, artwork, books – we’re having performances in comedy, poetry, dance, storytelling. I want them to open their minds to a part of our society that is way too often ignored.”

The goals of the conference are not only to showcase deaf talent, but to bring about greater awareness concerning deaf issues to the hearing community. Napoli stressed this second goal, as she commented, “The language barrier has too often allowed the hearing mainstream to walk right by the deaf minority, without considering at all the needs and rights of this part of our society, and certainly without considering what it might take to make a friendship with someone who has hearing loss. After this conference, my hope is that those who attend who had no prior associations with deaf people will leave with a different sense of the responsibilities of society to all its members.”

The conference begins today at Swarthmore, with performances by two deaf comedians in Upper Tarble. Events continue on Friday with an art exhibit in McCabe library lobby, a lecture called “Deaf Communities the World Over: The Past, Present and Future of Deafness”, and a panel discussion on “Practical and Theoretical Issues of Educating Children with Hearing Loss”, both in Science Center Room 101.

Saturday’s events will all be held at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. The conference concludes on Sunday at Swarthmore with artistic performances by deaf artists in Pearson-Hal Theater funded by the Cooper Foundation.

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