The First “Voices Off!” ASL Immersion Experience Gets an A+ from Students

Oct. 21, 2013 - Students from around New England gathered in Allston at DEAF, Inc. in late September. When they walked in the door, they entered a Deaf world. No English, no spoken language for 13 hours. They spent the day inter-acting in the Deaf way with each other, with Deaf and DeafBlind instructors, Deaf and DeafBlind per-formers, and Deaf volunteers, taking meals together, watching special performances, attending workshops, playing games, even while taking breaks. At the end of the day, one student said, “It was a great way to be literally immersed for more than the usual 1-2 hours for an event…It was wonderful that everyone played their part to keep whole day in ASL – no voices! Well done!”

During the day, students participated in workshops on fingerspelling (“I was afraid of fingerspelling before!”), numbers (“This was such a thorough, valua-ble class.”), facial expressions (“It was excellent. Fantastic teacher!”), classifiers (“I was so grateful for this class!”), and DeafBlind communication (“Amazing. In-spiring.”). Between workshops, students got to play games designed to increase their receptivity and communication, including “The Elephant Game,” “Handshape Boggle,” “Gestures,” and “Phone Line.”

Members of the Deaf community came to share Deaf Culture through skits, classic jokes, stories, and social time. “The day provided an amazing opportunity for more experience with ASL, socializing, learning.” Three students from The Learning Center for the Deaf, along with a teacher from the school, helped during the day as part of their school’s community service requirement. They also made an impact on workshop participants. According to one, “[The] young volunteers were awesome
– very enthusiastic about teaching and [they had] good teaching skills.” Another “Voices Off!” participant summed it up for everyone: “The… teenage volunteers were critical…They…reinforce the notion that the language and culture are always evolving.”

Voices Off! would not have been possible without the work of all the wonderful volunteers: Voices Off! planning committee: Kelly Kim, Jim Lipsky, Sharon Applegate, Kendra Timko-Hochkeppel, and Jenn Glinos. Voices Off! instructors: Tim Riker, Andrew Bottoms, Kelly Kim, and Jim Lipsky. Our wonderful volunteer performers, story tellers, and comedians: Scott Shupert, Danny Shupert, Sabrina Dennison, Andrew Bottoms, Elaine Ducharme, and Kendra Timko-Hochkeppel. The teen volunteers from The Learning Center: Louise Applegate, Jasmine Casella, Stephen Corbett, and their teacher, Ashley Thompson. The members of the Road to Deaf Interpreting (RDI), who provided tactile interpreting for Elaine Ducharme: Ornella Bisceglia, Isabella Gentile, Dottie Griffith, Jason Weiland, and Billy Windhorn. Volunteers from Northeastern University’s ASL program gave up part of their Friday night to help setup the space for Voices Off!: Miko Kajan Bedrosian, Meghan McCombs, Krystal Chung.

Special thanks are due to Evelyn Shields, who planted the idea for Voices Off! that grew into an exciting, effective experience for everyone involved.

We are also grateful to our event sponsors for the meals and snacks provided during the day: The Food Recovery Project of Sustaina-ble Arlington and of the Minuteman Parent Association, Blanchard Liquors, Bravo Pizza Allston, Grasshopper Restau-rant, Panera Bread, and Price Chopper. As always, we encourage you to support the businesses who support DEAF, Inc. and the Deaf community by bringing them your business. Let them know you ap-preciate their support.

Janice Hoffman’s Birthday Celebration Celebrates DEAF, Inc.

Janice Hoffman beams as she holds up her birthday cakeSeptember 24, 2013 -Janice Hoffman, long-time friend of DEAF, Inc., celebrated her birthday this September with a party and asked her friends to make a donation to DEAF, Inc. instead of gifts. Janice and her friends raised more than to $2,400for DEAF, Inc.! Thank you to everyone who supported DEAF, Inc. in Janice’s honor. Best wishes and many thanks to Janice from everyone at DEAF, Inc. It’s not too late to make a gift through
Interested in creating your own fund-raiser for DEAF, Inc. like Janice? If you have questions and want some help, contact us at

DEAF, Inc. Staff Challenges Medical School and Wins

September 9, 2013 - DEAF, Inc.'s Michael Argenyi is receiving national attention for challenging the lack of equal access at the medical school he attended in Nebraska. Creighton University refused to provide appropriate and adequate communication access (as directed by the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA) while he was a medical student there. The school would not allow Michael to use interpreters to communicate with patients at the teaching hospital, even when Michael offered to pay the interpreters himself. On September 4th, the jury at the District Court in Omaha returned a verdict that Creighton University violated Michael's right to communication access under the national Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The judgment has an impact on disability rights across the nation. "This decision will set a precedent that will support Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to choose education anywhere, including medical schools," noted Sharon Applegate, DEAF, Inc.'s Executive Director.

According to the National Association for the Deaf, "Every university, college, and school in the country should take note that [D]eaf and [H]ard of [H]earing people can achieve any dream, including becoming a doctor."

Michael, a part-time contract staff member for Project HOPE, started his second year at Boston University, where he is completing a dual Master's degree in public health and social work.

We applaud Michael for standing up for his rights and the rights of Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened people and people with disabilities in education, the workplace, and beyond. Hands waving for Michael for making history!

New Names, New Commissioners in MA State Offices

Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)August 23, 2013 - John Polanowicz (right), who was appointed as the new Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) this year, recently made two appointments that are of interest to our community.

Commissioner, MA Commission for the Blind, seated with his guide dog, a German ShepherdMost recently, Paul Saner (right) was named Commissioner of the MCB (Massachusetts Commission for the Blind), replacing Janet LaBreck, who is moving to Washington, DC, as the new Commissioner for the Rehabilitation Commission at the Department of Education. Paul Saner, who was managing director at Bank of America in Boston, has been involved with the Blind community for some time, as a volunteer vision rehabilitation teacher and Vice Chairman of the Board at the Carroll Center for the Blind and with the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library.

Other appointments made by Secretary Polanowicz include:

Rosalie Edes, Assistant Secretary of Disability of the Office of Disability Policy and Programs
Rosalie Edes was promoted Assistant Secretary of Disability of the Office of Disability Policy and Programs.

Regina Marshall, formerly the chief of staff at the Department of Mental Health, was appointed the Deputy Assistant Secretary, filling the vacancy left by Rosalie Edes’ promotion.

Cheryl Bartlett, Commissioner, Department of Public Health
Cheryl Bartlett, was named Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Cheryl Bartlett, Commissioner, Department of Public Health
Stacey Monahan was named Commissioner for the Department of Transitional Assistance.

Peter Forbes, Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services
Peter Forbes is the new Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services.

Kathleen Betts, Assistant Secretary, Office of Children, Youth, and Families
Kathleen Betts was named the Assistant Secretary for Children Youth and Families.

Join us as we welcome these leaders. We look forward to working with them to improve the health and well-being of Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened people across the state.

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